Transactions

Jets Hire Nathaniel Hackett As OC

Nathaniel Hackett will receive an immediate opportunity to bounce back. The recently fired Broncos HC will be hired as the next Jets offensive coordinator, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. The Jets have since announced the move.

This represents a quick turnaround for Hackett, who became just the third head coach to be fired before his first season ended since the 1970 merger. But Hackett brings extensive experience as an OC, having held that title for the Bills, Jaguars and Packers over the past 10 years. The Jets are also hiring Keith Carter as their offensive line coach, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

The Jets conducted an expansive search to replace Mike LaFleur, and considering Hackett’s recent past, this is a rather surprising hire. The Broncos submitted a bizarre season under Hackett, falling to last place offensively despite trading for Russell Wilson. Hackett both hired a game management coach and removed himself as Denver’s play-caller this season, and the Broncos cut the cord after the Rams’ Christmas Day 50-spot.

But Denver experienced a run of injury issues as well. The team lost starting wideout Tim Patrick in training camp, was down Javonte Williams and Garett Bolles by October and regularly played without multiple starting offensive linemen. Wilson also missed time due to injury. Hackett worked with Wilson to redesign Denver’s offense, and the results produced a spectacular failure. But this Jets hire will undoubtedly be connected to the quarterback many thought the Broncos were trying to lure last year.

Aaron Rodgers has spoken highly of Hackett, who held a non-play-calling OC role in Green Bay for three seasons. The Jets are among the latest teams connected to the all-time great, who is now in a third offseason of trade rumors. The Broncos were unable to lure Rodgers from the Packers to pair him with Hackett, but the rumblings about the 18-year veteran being on the move persist. Jets-Rodgers connections will intensify with the Hackett hire.

Hackett, 43, worked as Doug Marrone‘s OC in Buffalo and Jacksonville. Both jobs featured play-calling duties. While he was not gifted much at quarterback during these stints, four of the five offenses he oversaw ranked outside the top 16 — three of those finishing outside the top 20. The outlier came in 2017, when the Jaguars made a surprising run to the AFC championship game behind a strong defense and the No. 5-ranked scoring offense. The Jags upset the Steelers in the divisional round, scoring 45 points in that game, and held a two-score lead on the Patriots in the second half the following week. Jacksonville reached that stage despite losing Allen Robinson early in the season. The team crashed back to earth in 2018, with Blake Bortles regressing and Hackett being fired. But Hackett landed the Green Bay job soon after.

The Jets were the only team to interview Hackett for their OC gig this year. The Jets will now have employed both Nathaniel and Paul Hackett as OC; the elder Hackett worked in this role from 2001-04. Hackett and Robert Saleh were also on the Jaguars’ staff together in 2016, when the current Jets HC coached Jacksonville’s linebackers.

The Jets are placing a bet Wilson and the Broncos’ spate of injuries were the cause of Hackett’s shortcomings and/or that Hackett’s presence will appeal to Rodgers, who should have multiple suitors. The Packers have not committed to trading Rodgers, but GM Brian Gutekunst did say Jordan Love is ready to start. Jets owner Woody Johnson was in place when the team traded for Brett Favre before his age-39 season back in 2008. Rodgers turned 39 last month. Even if Rodgers is not bound for the Big Apple, the Jets should be expected to acquire a veteran passer. Johnson said he is prepared to pay up for one, after the team’s Zach Wilson experiment busted early. Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo are also set to be available, complicating a Rodgers path that may take longer to form.

The Titans axed Carter when they jettisoned OC Todd Downing this month. Carter served as Tennessee’s O-line coach for the past five seasons; that time overlaps entirely with Derrick Henry‘s surge and the team’s run of solid play with Ryan Tannehill. Other teams pursued Carter, SNY’s Connor Hughes tweets, but he will go with Hackett to New York.

NFL Reserve/Futures Deals: 1/26/23

Today’s reserve/futures deals:

Chicago Bears

Dallas Cowboys

Houston Texans

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Panthers Hire Frank Reich As Head Coach

The Panthers will make this year’s first head coaching hire. They have decided on Frank Reich, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero (on Twitter).

Reich joined interim coach Steve Wilks as Carolina’s finalists. A quarterback on the Panthers’ inaugural 1995 squad, Reich will have a second head coaching opportunity following a midseason Colts dismissal. The Panthers have announced the hire. Following Matt Rhule‘s seven-year contract, Joe Person of The Athletic notes this is a four-year agreement (Twitter link).

Carolina had been zeroing in on offense-oriented coaches for a while, but Wilks’ performance as interim HC interfered with that plan. Wilks, who went 6-6 in his chance as the Panthers’ interim boss, joined Reich in interviewing twice for the position. The latter’s experience as a play-caller won out. Reich also interviewed for the Cardinals’ HC post, and a few teams wanted to speak with him about their offensive coordinator positions. But Reich said shortly after his Indianapolis exit he wanted a second chance as a head coach.

Reich zoomed onto the HC radar in 2018, after he played a central role in helping the Eagles win Super Bowl LII after losing their starting quarterback. Nick Foles‘ virtuoso finish to the 2017 season led to Reich becoming the Colts’ head coach, though he was Indy’s second choice following Josh McDaniels‘ infamous about-face. Reich ended up being a solid choice for the team, coaching two Colts squads to playoff berths.

The 2018 Colts edition did not face high expectations, but Reich led a turnaround that ended in the divisional round. Andrew Luck bounced back with a 39-touchdown pass season under Reich, but another run of injury trouble during the 2019 offseason led the standout passer to announce his retirement just before the season. Reich navigated that setback for a bit, reuniting with ex-Chargers pupil Philip Rivers in 2020, but the Colts are still dealing with the fallout from Luck’s retirement. After the 2020 playoff berth preceded Rivers’ retirement, the wheels gradually fell off for the Colts. Their 9-8 2021 season — ending with an ugly Week 18 loss to the two-touchdown underdog Jaguars — prompted Jim Irsay to insist on sweeping changes, and that process soon led to Reich’s firing.

Reich, 61, had advocated for Carson Wentz in 2021, and the Colts bypassed a draft move to reunite their HC with his ex-Eagles charge. Wentz had moments in 2021 and ranked in the top 10 in QBR, throwing 27 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions. Wentz was inconsistent down the stretch that year, and after a COVID-19 contraction, he struggled mightily in the Colts’ final two games — losses that knocked them out of the playoff race. Irsay demanded Wentz be traded, leading to an Irsay-endorsed Matt Ryan partnership. Ryan’s woes in his age-37 season led to Irsay demanding Reich bench him for former sixth-round pick Sam Ehlinger. This run of owner-mandated moves eventually led to Reich being canned in November — not long after the Panthers axed Rhule. Irsay later said he reluctantly extended Reich in 2021, putting a bow on an eventful 2022 for the Colts owner.

A longtime Bills backup who led the greatest comeback in playoff history — a 32-point rally past the Oilers in the 1992 wild-card round — Reich played the 1995 season with the Panthers. Arriving in Carolina as a free agent in ’95, Reich took the first snap in team history. He moved into coaching in the mid-2000s and began his rise as the Chargers’ OC under Mike McCoy nearly a decade later. Reich will come full circle with the Panthers, who recently hired one of his daughters to work in their marketing department, per Person. Frank’s brother, Joe, has also been the head coach at Charlotte-area Wingate University for 22 years.

Wilks has deeper ties to the Panthers. He is a Charlotte native who coached in Carolina as a Ron Rivera assistant and then an interim HC. Players advocated for Wilks, who did one of the better jobs in interim coaching history last season. With Reich beating him out for the full-time gig, Wilks intends to coach elsewhere in 2023, Pelissero tweets.

The Panthers were also quite impressed with Cowboys OC Kellen Moore, Rapoport tweets, but they will go with experience in Reich. Moore, 33, just finished his fourth season as Dallas’ play-caller and interviewed over a two-day period with Carolina this week. Although David Tepper met with Sean Payton this week, a trade between two NFC South franchises was never likely.

Tepper’ssecond hire will be a first for the Panthers, who have never seen their head coach double as their offensive play-caller. The Panthers have either employed defensive-minded leaders (Dom Capers, George Seifert, John Fox, Rivera) or a CEO-type HC (Rhule). Tepper’s seven-year, $62MM Rhule contract backfired, leading the owner to prioritize NFL experience this time around.

Cowboys Move On From Joe Philbin, George Edwards, Four Other Staffers

Coming off their second straight 12-win season, the Cowboys will still make some notable staff changes. They are parting ways with six assistants, including senior defensive assistant George Edwards and offensive line coach Joe Philbin.

The Cowboys jettisoned Edwards, Philbin, running backs coach Skip Peete, assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett and assistant Rob Davis, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Clarence Hill (all Twitter links). The staffers’ contracts were all up, per Todd Archer of ESPN.com, who adds (via Twitter) offensive assistant Kyle Valero will also not return. But this still marks a fairly significant shakeup for the resurgent NFC East team.

A former Dolphins HC, Philbin was a Mike McCarthy staffer for much of the latter’s Packers tenure. Hired before McCarthy arrived in Green Bay, Philbin stayed on under McCarthy through 2011 and returned to Green Bay after his Miami stay ended. McCarthy rehired Philbin as his OC in 2018, and the Packers named him interim HC following McCarthy’s firing later that year. Philbin, 61, oversaw a position group that featured some moving pieces this season. Tyron Smith‘s injury led to first-round pick Tyler Smith sliding to left tackle in late August, and the All-Decade blocker played right tackle when he came back. Jason Peters also transitioned to guard during his age-40 season.

Edwards joined McCarthy’s staff a year before Dan Quinn‘s arrival, but the ex-Vikings DC served as Micah Parsons‘ position coach. Edwards expressed confusion at the Cowboys’ decision, CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson tweets, noting that Quinn — upon returning from his second Cardinals interview — was also caught by surprise by the move. A defensive coordinator for three teams before coming to Dallas, Edwards joined Lett in assisting with unleashing Parsons’ unique skillset over the past two seasons.

Lett, who enjoyed a memorable playing career in Dallas, has been with the team since 2011. The Cowboys added the former D-lineman to their staff early in Jason Garrett‘s tenure. Peete initially joined the Cowboys’ staff upon Wade Phillips‘ arrival back in 2007, staying six seasons, and returned upon McCarthy’s hire. He played a rather important role in Tony Pollard‘s development into a Pro Bowler. Davis worked with McCarthy for most of his Packers run, residing as Green Bay’s player development director before coming to Dallas in 2020.

Jerry Jones has repeatedly endorsed McCarthy and did so again Sunday, indicating the 49ers’ divisional-round win will not impact the three-year HC’s job. But the team moving on from multiple multi-stint McCarthy staffers, along with other experienced assistants, represents an interesting decision after going 24-10 over the past two seasons. Sean Payton has been linked to being interested in a Dallas return for several months, and a recent report said a mystery team loomed for the high-profile coach. Dot-connecting could point to the Cowboys, but NFL.com’s Jane Slater tweets McCarthy’s job is safe. The team has not contacted Payton, nor has it discussed any trade with the Saints, Slater adds (on Twitter). McCarthy’s fourth Cowboys staff stands to look remarkably different, especially if Quinn lands one of the three jobs for which he has interviewed.

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/24/23

Today’s minor transactions:

Cincinnati Bengals

Lammons was a special teams ace for the Chiefs, leading the team in ST snaps and finishing the regular season with seven tackles. He earned his walking papers the other day with the Chiefs preparing to activate at least one of running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire or tight end Jody Fortson. The Bengals swooped in with the claim, but the team won’t get any immediate intel on their AFC Championship opponent. The claim is deferred until February 13, which means the only competitive advantage Cincy got was preventing Lammons from rejoining Kansas City’s practice squad.

NFL Reserve/Futures Deals: 1/24/23

Today’s reserve/futures deals:

Carolina Panthers

Dallas Cowboys

  • FB Tyler Coyne

New England Patriots

Philadelphia Eagles

  • OT Jarrid Williams

Pittsburgh Steelers

Patriots To Hire Bill O’Brien As OC

The Patriots’ search for an offensive coordinator has come to an end. New England is reuniting with Bill O’Brien to fill the vacancy, as first reported (on Twitter) by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. O’Brien will also serve as the Pats’ quarterbacks coach, the team announced.

Both during and after New England’s season came to an end with the team sitting outside the postseason (in large part due to their offensive struggles), it became clear that O’Brien was the Patriots’ preferred choice to help the unit rebound in 2023. The 53-year-old spent the past two seasons at the helm of Alabama’s offense, but his next NFL gig will be in a familiar place.

O’Brien began his pro coaching career in New England in 2007 as an offensive assistant. Over time, he took on a larger role on Bill Belichick‘s staff, working with the team’s wide receivers and quarterbacks before being promoted again to offensive coordinator in 2011. While he only held that title for one season, he operated as the team’s play-caller after Josh McDaniels departed in 2009.

Following that time, O’Brien took a two-year head coaching gig at Penn State, which led him to the same role with the Texans. He operated as the team’s bench boss – and, for part of that stretch, the general manager as well – from 2014 to the one-quarter mark of the 2020 campaign. Overall, the Texans sported winning records in five of his six full seasons at the helm, though his firing came as little surprise by the time it happened in the wake of an 0-4 start and several missteps in terms of managerial moves.

O’Brien returned to the college ranks after that, working under Nick Saban and with the help of current Patriots quarterback Mac Jones. The latter helped O’Brien, a Massachusetts native, get acquainted with the Crimson Tide’s scheme, one which allowed Bryce Young develop into a Heisman winner and a serious contender to be selected first overall in the upcoming draft. O’Brien and Jones working together on a full-time basis could be beneficial to unlocking the latter’s potential.

After a rookie campaign in which Jones earned a Pro Bowl nod, the former first-rounder took a step back statistically. Overall, the Patriots finished below-average in almost every offensive category in 2022, a season in which Belichick drew criticism for his arrangement with Matt Patricia calling plays and Joe Judge having a key role in the unit as well. Both ex-head coaches had plenty of experience in New England, but not on the offensive side of the ball.

O’Brien’s hire comes not long after he interviewed for what will be a much more traditional OC role. New England also spoke with their TEs coach Nick Caley, Vikings WRs coach Keenan McCardell, Cardinals assistant head coach Shawn Jefferson and Oregon associate head coach Adrian Klemm in a more expansive, outward-looking search process than many others Belichick has overseen. O’Brien and the Patriots will enter 2023 with expectations for a significant step forward in offensive production to compliment the team’s highly-regarded defense.

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/23/23

Today’s minor moves:

Baltimore Ravens

Kansas City Chiefs

New York Jets

Mullen was a second-round pick by the Raiders back in 2019. Despite starting 31 of his 37 appearances through his first three seasons in the NFL, he was traded to the Cardinals for a seventh-round pick prior to the 2022 campaign. He got into eight games for Arizona before getting waived, and he caught on with the Cowboys in December. The 25-year-old won’t officially join Baltimore until the day after the Super Bowl (February 13).

NFL Reserve/Futures Deals: 1/23/23

Today’s reserve/futures deals, mostly featuring teams recently eliminated from the postseason:

Buffalo Bills

Dallas Cowboys

Jacksonville Jaguars

New York Giants

Pittsburgh Steelers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans