Todd Haley did not coach in the NFL this past season and has been off the radar since the Browns fired him midway through the 2018 campaign. But the former NFL head coach will return to the sideline in an unexpected role this fall.
Sarasota head coach Josh Smithers said, via Fernandes, he and Haley watched film together last year. That preceded Smithers’ offer to Haley to return to coaching. Haley, 52, has a home in the area and attended college in Florida.
The 2018 season marked Haley’s 24th consecutive year coaching at the NFL level. The former Cardinals and Steelers OC ended up in Cleveland after his six-year run as the Steelers’ play-caller came to an end. However, the fit with then-Browns HC Hue Jacksonproved to be poor. The Browns fired both Jackson and Haley in October 2018. While Jackson resurfaced on Marvin Lewis‘ Bengals staff soon after his Browns ouster, this marks the first bit of Haley news in nearly 18 months.
In firing Hue Jackson and Todd Haley, the Browns axed the top two voices behind their offense on Monday. This came after reports of friction between the two, accounts that turned out to be very real and ones that could’ve been envisioned for anyone who saw Hard Knocks.
“The message today is we’re not going to put up with internal discord,” owner Jimmy Haslam said, via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. “… We had some concerns going into the game, obviously (Sunday’s) performance was disappointing. We had several of our key people involved in this conversations last night and this morning and did what we think’s best for the organization.”
Haslam said he met with John Dorsey on Sunday night, and actions came down Monday morning. Although Jackson went 1-31 in his first two seasons with the team, Haslam opted to give him a third year because the aggressive rebuild — put forth by former GM Sashi Brown — put Jackson in a “difficult spot” (Twitter link via Cabot). Gregg Williams was the only person the Browns considered to be the interim HC, Haslam said (per Nate Ulrich of ohio.com, on Twitter).
Some Browns began to question Jackson’s credibility, as a result of the third-year HC following through on his intent to give Haley autonomy to run the offense, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. After running the offense in 2016 and ’17, Jackson wasn’t nearly as involved this season. Jackson, in turn, was frustrated Haley would “do his own thing,” Breer adds. Jackson’s message grew stale as the losses mounted, per Yahoo’s Terez Paylor. This is obviously not uncommon for teams in losing situations, and that descriptor might not be strong enough to describe the state of the Browns under Haslam. The seventh-year owner’s now fired four head coaches, and the Browns have won more than five games just once under his watch.
Baker Mayfield‘s development shifts to front and center, and Breer notes the Jackson firing probably won’t bother the rookie quarterback much. They didn’t exactly see eye to eye, per Breer. Though, the No. 1 overall pick now has to finish a season without a proven offensive voice in the building and will have to learn a new offense in 2019.
Williams is technically still defensive coordinator, in addition to becoming a first-time head coach at age 60. But some around the league believe he will promote his son, Blake Williams, to that post, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Blake Williams has been Cleveland’s linebackers coach for two seasons.
As far as a possible Jackson/Williams successor, Breer points out Dorsey has “the highest respect” for what Iowa State coach Matt Campbell‘s done. Campbell, 38, is from the Cleveland area (Massillon, Ohio) as well. While Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley may well get a look, since he’d be a natural fit given his mentoring of Mayfield with the Sooners, he doesn’t envision leaving Oklahoma (video link). Gregg Williams will also be a candidate for the full-time job, Haslam said (via Cabot, on Twitter). But such a scenario would be hard to envision.
Initially, when Jackson was fired, it sounded as though Browns ownership had chosen Haley over Jackson in the wake of their rift. As it turns out, both men have been told to pack their bags.
Haley delivered results as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator, but his brash personality has been both a positive and a negative throughout his career. In Cleveland, his approach clearly did not jibe with Jackson, and his results did not inspire confidence among the Browns’ decision makers. This year, the Browns have averaged 342.4 yards per game, good for just 24th in the league. Meanwhile, their 65 offensive penalties (2nd highest in the NFL) have cost them 511 yards.
October 28th, 2018 at 5:52pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
As the Browns continue to rack up losses, there’s been more and more discussion about possible changes to the coaching staff. Things really started to heat up after last week’s game, when coach Hue Jackson publicly questioned offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Jackson and Haley have done their best to downplay the feud, but it’s clear there’s some dysfunction there. Ian Rapoport vaguely hinted at possible changes that could be coming soon before the team’s loss to the Steelers today, and now we have even more details.
It’s quite possible we see the “firing of offensive coordinator Todd Haley and/or head coach Hue Jackson, if the team continues to lose games” sources told Pat McManamon and Dan Graziano of ESPN. “Jackson and Haley have been at odds, and their respect for each other is not good enough for the team to be successful” a source said.
The source also added that “any decision the team makes would be with [Baker] Mayfield and his development as the highest priority” and that “it’s hard to know which way Browns ownership would lean if it had to choose between Jackson and Haley.” It’ll be interesting to see who wins the power struggle between Jackson and Haley, and right now it seems totally up in the air.
While the two clearly don’t get along, Jackson would have to go owner Jimmy Halsam in order to get Haley fired, and “Jackson has not yet brought it up” to the Haslam’s, according to McManamon and Graziano. The article makes it clear that GM John Dorsey’s primary concern is not harming Baker Mayfield, and he could ultimately decide that any in-season coaching change would be bad for Mayfield’s development. There could be changes as early as this week, so stay tuned.
Browns head coach Hue Jackson created plenty of waves earlier this week when he suggested that he may take over play-calling duties from OC Todd Haley. And while Jackson quickly walked back those comments, he may have done serious damage to his chances of remaining in Cleveland.
Albert Breer of TheMMQB, who appeared on 92.3 The Fan on Wednesday, said, “I don’t think that [Jackson’s] comments went over all that well in certain corners of the building” (audio link). Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports agrees, going so far as to say that Jackson’s comments “flabbergasted and confounded” his coaching staff and players. Breer noted that team owner Jimmy Haslam and GM John Dorsey are prioritizing the development of No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield, and they are not very receptive to anything that may stunt his growth as a player. Although Cleveland’s offense has not been particularly good overall, Mayfield has shown enough flashes of brilliance to suggest that he can ultimately live up to his draft status.
Breer tweets that nothing has changed in the team’s offensive meetings rooms over the last week, so Haley is still running the show for now. However, Breer concedes that what happens after the team’s divisional contest against Pittsburgh this afternoon is uncertain, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com writes that change could be coming soon. Rapoport says that several people within the organization have “battled” to improve the working relationship between Jackson and Haley, but to no avail. He adds that if the two men cannot reconcile their differences, the team will likely make a move.
In fact, Rapoport suggests that Haley could be the one getting the ax, because while Jackson has compiled a horrible record while at the helm, he is still in charge, and Haley’s interactions with his boss may amount to insubordination. It would be surprising to see Haley fired before Jackson, but Rapoport indicates that option certainly remains on the table.
Even if both men survive the year, the Browns could go in a different direction at the end of the season. After all, Dorsey did not hire Jackson, and with Mayfield under center and a legitimate GM calling the shots, Cleveland may very well be a desirable destination for some of the top head coaching candidates next offseason, which is a rarity for the franchise.
One way or another, things could be coming to a head. It is just a shame that, even in a year that has seen real signs of improvement, the Browns still cannot seem to get out of their own way.
October 26th, 2018 at 6:27pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
Rumors of clashing egos within the Browns’ coaching staff have been swirling ever since HBO cameras picked up some internal disagreements on Hard Knocks, and coach Hue Jackson recently added fuel to the fire. After a pair of disappointing Browns losses, Jackson hinted he was going to take back more control of the offense, seemingly taking shots at offensive coordinator Todd Haley in the process.
But Haley is pushing back on reports of a feud, saying he and Jackson are on the “same page”, according to Pat McManamon of ESPN. It’s highly possible, if not likely, that Haley is just saying that to the media and that there actually is bad blood behind the scenes. Haley and Jackson have never seemed like a perfect match for the Browns, and tensions are high with everyone’s jobs in danger. Jackson is backing off his initial comments and expressing more confidence in Haley, McManamon writes, but it will still be something to monitor going forward, and firings could be imminent.
Here’s more from around the league:
In addition to working out former Raiders second round pick Obi Melifonwutoday, the Patriots also had a pair of other players in for tryouts. They had “TE Ben Koyack (Notre Dame), S Dexter McCoil (Tulsa) in for free-agent workouts today”, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN (Twitter link). Koyack has been with the Jaguars the past few years, and caught the game winning touchdown in Jacksonville’s first playoff game last year.
Seahawks linebacker Mychal Kendricks has been suspended indefinitely by the league, and while he’s working to negotiate an agreement with the league office, there’s still no word on when he’ll be able to return. Coach Peter Carroll “says he has been in communication” with the league and while there’s been no “definitive word” they’re “hoping for more clarity early next week”, according to Bob Condotta of The Athletic (Twitter link). Kendricks was suspended due to being charged with insider trading, which led to his release from the Browns earlier this year.
Damon Harrison was traded from the Giants to the Lions earlier this week, and now we have more details on the trade. It was reported that Harrison was traded for a fifth round pick, but that pick is apparently conditional, according to veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer (Twitter link). Balzer doesn’t state what the conditions are, but it’s fair to assume they’re related to snaps or games played.
October 23rd, 2018 at 10:13am CST by Zachary Links
After the Browns’ 26-23 overtime loss to the Buccaneers, head coach Hue Jackson did not rule out the possibility of taking play-calling back from offensive coordinator Todd Haley (via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com). Jackson later walked back his comments and said that he would not resume play-calling duties, but he indicated that he might take on a larger role within the offensive staff.
“It’s not going to be about butting heads,” said Jackson when asked about the possibility of clashing with Haley. “I’m the head coach of the football team. I will do what I feel I need to do to get this team where it needs to be….I’m the head coach of the football team, period. Period. There’s nothing else that needs to be said. Nothing. I’m the head coach of the football team.”
Jackson may be the head coach of the team, but GM John Dorsey is the new boss in Cleveland, and he hired Haley for a reason. If Jackson tries to pull play-calling responsibilities from Haley this season, he could face pushback from team brass.
Sunday’s loss dropped the Browns to 2-4-1 on the season and 1-2 in overtime games. Next up is a divisional showdown against the Steelers, a game in which Haley may have some extra motivation.
Tom Brady‘s career will soon be coming to an end, but the future Hall of Famer still wasn’t willing to give a definitive timeline in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. The Patriots quarterback acknowledged that retirement would be coming “sooner, rather than later,” but he also noted that he’ll still play if he has the passion and drive.
“As long as I’m still loving it,” Brady said (via Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com). “As long as I’m loving the training and the preparation and willing to make the commitment. But it’s also, I think what I alluded to a lot in the docu-series, there’s other things happening in my life, too. I do have kids that I love, and I don’t want to be a dad that’s not there, driving my kids to their games . . . my kids have brought a great perspective in my life. Kids just want the attention. You better be there. And be available to them.”
The five-time Super Bowl winner will be turning 41 next month, but he hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down. He completed 66.3-percent of his passes for a league-leading 4,577 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, and eight interceptions.
Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the AFC…
The Jets have a number of relatively popular running backs on their roster, including IsaiahCrowell, BilalPowell, and ThomasRawls. However, running backs coach StumpMitchell decided to gush about 2017 sixth-round pick ElijahMcGuire, who is currently buried on the depth chart. “He has the skill set to be a LaDainianTomlinson, if he was given that opportunity,” Mitchell told Zach Braziller of the New York Post. “That’s not what presents itself to him at this point in time. The skill set, he can do it all. He can catch, he can run as a running back and he can run routes as a receiver. He just happens to be here, and I’m glad we got him.”
Once Jets quarterback Sam Darnold signs his rookie contract, the Jets will have around $16MM in cap space. ESPN’s Rich Cimini doesn’t believe the front office will end up using any of that money for extensions, but he notes that it could provide general manager MikeMaccagnan will the ability to pull off a pricey preseason trade. Cimini also writes that the Jets could simply roll their open cap room into next season, which will add to their projected league-leading $88MM in space.
During his tenure as Steelers offensive coordinator, ToddHaley worked with quarterbacks like BenRoethlisberger, ByronLeftwich and MichaelVick. However, the current Browns offensive coordinator say he may be working with the best grouping of signal-callers throughout his career. “This is probably one of the best – if not the best – quarterbacks rooms, in general, that I’ve had,” Haley told Patrick Maks of ClevelandBrowns.com. “The group, in general, is what I’m excited about. I think that it’s an intelligent, intelligent group, with ability to throw the football and make plays with their legs, some of them. When you have that, I think that good things happen. Competition is created in the room, even though they’re working hard together to help each other and get better as a group.” The Browns are currently rostering a trio of quarterbacks in TyrodTaylor, Baker Mayfield, and DrewStanton.
While the Baker Mayfield/Browns noise didn’t intensify until draft week, the newly assembled front office viewed the Oklahoma product well independently before arriving in Cleveland. John Dorsey, Eliot Wolf and consultant Scot McCloughan all had Mayfield atop the quarterback class, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes, with Alonzo Highsmithsubsequently joining them. Using the Packers’ grading system the Browns do now, Dorsey, Wolf and McCloughan — who has long praised the 2017 Heisman Trophy recipient — each put Mayfield atop their respective lists prior to coming to Cleveland. While a report emerged earlier this week indicating Sam Darnold may well have been more teams’ top-rated QB in this class, Cabot reports four teams — three AFC squads and one in the NFC — had Mayfield as this class’ No. 1 quarterback. Two other teams, per Cabot, provided strong indications he was their top QB choice.
Here’s the latest from Cleveland, including more about the Browns’ signal-caller situation.
While the Browns are certainly higher on Mayfield than they were on DeShone Kizer or Cody Kessler, the memories of neither rookie winning a game are still fresh with Hue Jackson. And he reiterated this weekend he’s not going to deviate from Tyrod Taylor atop the QB depth chart. “I’m not going to back off of this,” Jackson said, via Cabot. “We can keep writing this narrative, Tyrod Taylor’s the starting quarterback of this football team, and that won’t change. … Tyrod has demonstrated every day what it’s like to be a starting quarterback in the National Football League. I want some of that to rub off on (Mayfield) so he can see firsthand what it means to play quarterback in the National Football League. Baker doesn’t know.”
The Browns had close to the same grade on Mayfield and Saquon Barkley, Pat McManamon of ESPN.com notes. While this could mean the Browns placed a slightly higher grade on the Penn State-produced running back, Dorsey felt the need at quarterback and the fact he could land a promising running back prospect in the second round (Nick Chubb went to Cleveland at No. 35) tipped the scales for Mayfield. Cleveland was long connected to a quarterback at No. 1, and Barkley was not believed to be a serious consideration.
The Browns had Denzel Ward and Bradley Chubb ranked equally on their board, and need won out, Dorsey said during a radio interview on 92.3 The Fan (via Cabot). Ward’s ability to play press coverage well made him DC Gregg Williams‘ preference, too.
John Harbaugh confirmed the Ravens were interested in Torrey Smith last offseason, and Joe Flacco called his former deep threat while he was a free agent, Jeff Zreibec of the Baltimore Sun notes. Smith ultimately decided to sign with the Eagles, and it’s unclear what the Ravens offered (if one was made) for a reunion. Smith, who the 49ers cut prior to free agency last year, was interested in a Ravens return as well. But he didn’t recall the Ravens and his camp getting far on a deal.
“I don’t really think so. We talked, but with the way the timing was going, I kind of just had to make a decision,” Smith told Zreibec about the sides’ 2017 discussions. “For me, this time around, it wasn’t about finances at all. It was about the right situation and the right time and that’s really kind of how it’s going to probably end up being for the rest of my career.
“… Obviously, I had interest in coming back. That’s home. I have a lot of respect for everyone over there. They know that. It’s love forever. But to have the opportunity to come up here with some guys I was familiar with and to play in my wife’s hometown, that was pretty cool as well.”
However, with the now-two-time Super Bowl champion wideout a possible free agent again soon — the cap-strapped Eagles hold a team option for his $5MM 2018 wages — he may have another decision to make. And with Baltimore’s post-Smith deep threat, Mike Wallace, also a UFA, the sides could potentially revisit a reunion. Smith’s best seasons came with the Ravens, and he hasn’t come particularly close to matching his Baltimore work over the past two seasons.
Here’s the latest from some of the Ravens’ top rivals.
The Browns‘ offense may like quite familiar to a certain fanbase next season. Todd Haley will be bringing over his offensive system from Pittsburgh, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes. The longtime OC and new Browns play-caller will be implementing his scheme, complete with new terminology, so it will mark a significant adjustment from a team that operated without an OC the past two seasons. However, some of Hue Jackson‘s previous concepts will be retained, Haley said.
While Ryan Shazier continues his rehab from the spine injury that has his NFL career in danger of ending, the Pro Bowl linebacker is working out at Steelers facilities daily. Kevin Colbert said Shazier works out at the team’s headquarters and attends meetings in addition to his rehab performed at an outpatient facility. Guaranteed $8.7MM next season, Shazier has been working with coaches watching film and observing scouting meetings, Joe Rutter of the the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Owner Art Rooney said last week Shazier would have a role with the 2018 Steelers even if he can’t play next season. The linebacker was recently released from a Pittsburgh hospital after at two-month stay and displayed progress at a recent Pittsburgh Penguins game by standing up, with assistance, and remaining on his feet to a standing ovation.
The Steelers have already restructured two starters’ deals to create 2018 cap space and may well continue to do so. Even after they reorganized David DeCastro and Stephon Tuitt‘s contracts, the Steelers have barely $7MM in projected space. Pittsburgh used to be against this tactic, but Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports team VP of football and business administration Omar Khan is believed to have convinced ownership to proceed in this fashion years ago. Khan serves as the franchise’s chief negotiator. While Tuitt and DeCastro’s 2019 cap numbers rose because of last week’s transactions, Bouchette notes the Steelers believe the cap’s continuous rises will help absorb those figures — the 2019 cap could well surpass $190MM — and keep the team from having to cut essential personnel to cover for their accounting tricks.