Vic Fangio

Poll: Which Team Made Best HC Hire?

With the NFL now in the two-week waiting period until its final meaningful game, 30 of the 32 teams are going through offseason motions. And some of those teams are still deciding on coordinators.

Unless another Patriots assistant reneges on an agreement post-Super Bowl, or Zac Taylor makes an 11th-hour decision to remain in Los Angeles rather than taking over in Cincinnati, the eight NFL teams in need of head coaches made their choices.

So, which franchise best positioned itself for long-term success?

The trend being offensive innovation to keep up with some of the ahead-of-the-curve offenses, six of the eight teams hired offensively oriented coaches.

By a substantial margin, the Cardinals won the outside-the-box trophy. After washing out as an NFL quarterback in the mid-2000s, Kliff Kingsbury spent more than a decade as a college coach. The 39-year-old groomed some sought-after NFL talent in Patrick Mahomes, Case Keenum and Davis Webb, while also bringing Baker Mayfield to Texas Tech for a short stay. But he finished his stay in Lubbock, Texas, with a sub-.500 record. The Cards added Vance Joseph and Tom Clements to be his top assistants. Because of their unconventional hire, the Cardinals will be one of the most interesting teams in 2019.

Bruce Arians‘ CBS stay lasting one year will bring one of the more interesting coaches in modern NFL history back to the sideline. Tampa Bay’s new coach is the oldest ever hired, at 66 years old. Arians will be tethered to Jameis Winston, and it does not sound like he has issues with that. Arians hired several former Cardinals assistants to help him attempt to snap the NFC’s longest active playoff drought. Arians led the Cardinals to their best season, record-wise (13-3 in 2015), since the franchise has been in Arizona but is also barely a year removed from retiring.

The Packers and Browns opted for OCs, the former seeing a major difference in Matt LaFleur‘s vision than those of the other coaches that interviewed. Cleveland made the biggest continuity move of this year’s HC-seeking octet,promoting Freddie Kitchens over candidates with more experience.

LaFleur’s Titans offense regressed from Mike Mularkey‘s final unit, with Tennessee ranking 27th in points scored last season. But the 39-year-old coach, who will be working with ex-Jaguars assistant Nathaniel Hackett in overseeing the back end of Aaron Rodgers‘ prime, trained under Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan. Kitchens rose from position coach to head coach in less than three months, but Mayfield’s performance in the second half of the season was obviously different from his play under Hue Jackson and Todd Haley.

Taylor and Adam Gase round out the offensively geared hires, the former being perhaps the highest-variance candidate among the non-Kingsbury wing.

Although Taylor was the Dolphins’ interim OC in 2015 and McVay’s quarterbacks coach this season, he spent 2016 running a Cincinnati Bearcats offense that ranked 123rd (out of 128 Division I-FBS teams) with 19.3 points per game for a 4-8 team and was the Rams’ assistant wideouts coach as recently as 2017. Gase led the Dolphins to the playoffs in 2016, but Ryan Tannehill‘s issues staying healthy and living up to his draft slot limited the former Broncos and Bears OC. The Jets saw enough to add the formerly in-demand assistant, who may be ready to bring longtime coworker Dowell Loggains with him to the Big Apple.

Denver and Miami went with defense, with the Broncos having no competition for 2018’s assistant coach of the year and, arguably, this decade’s top DC.

The Dolphins cancelled their Vic Fangio summit, and he will be in charge of elevating a Broncos team that finished with back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since the early 1970s. John Elway‘s plan to reinstall Gary Kubiak as OC also hit a snag, with the longtime friends’ disagreement on staffing leading to the Broncos hiring 49ers QBs coach Rich Scangarello. The Dolphins will become the fifth franchise to hire a Bill Belichick-era Patriots defensive coordinator (or de facto DC, in Brian Flores‘ case), following the Browns (Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini), Jets (Mangini), Chiefs (Crennel) and Lions (Matt Patricia). Flores helped the Patriots to yet another top-10 ranking in points allowed — their 15th in the past 18 seasons — and another Super Bowl berth.

Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Coaching Notes: Bengals, Browns, Broncos

When the Rams’ postseason run comes to a close, the Bengals are expected to offer quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor their head coaching position. With the expected move, Cincinnati cleaned house on Friday, dismissing the previous staff of Marvin Lewis, including offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, ESPN’s Katherine Terrell writes. Among the other assistants let go include running backs coach Kyle Caskey and tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes.

This move, of course, is not unexpected. Most head coaches will bring in their own guys and Taylor — or whoever ends up with the job — is no exception.

A longtime NFL assistant, Lazor began his tenure with the Falcons as an offensive quality control coach in 2003 before moving to the Redskins as an offensive assistant in 2004. After a handful of other jobs, including a stint in the college ranks with Virginia, Lazor landed the offensive coordinator role with the Dolphins in 2014. After serving there two seasons, he joined the Bengals as quarterbacks coach in 2016 and was promoted to offensive coordinator the following season. In two seasons running the show in Cincinnati, Lazor ranked in the bottom 10 in yards and bottom half in points both seasons.

Here’s more from the AFC’s coaching carousel:

  • Sticking in the AFC North, Browns new head coach Freddie Kitchens cleaned house after getting the job. Once person he didn’t let go, however, was Ryan Lindley, who will serve as his quarterbacks coach next season, AZCardinals.com’s Mike Jurecki tweets. Lindley, who played in the NFL from 2012-15 as a quarterback, served as the Browns running backs coach in 2018.
  • Also with the Browns, the team added former Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer as its special teams coordinator, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero [Twitter link]. Priefer filled the same role in Minnesota from 2011-18, but declined to re-sign with the team after his contract expired after this past season. Priefer was born in Cleveland and coached two seasons at nearby Youngstown State in the 1990s.
  • New Broncos head coach Vic Fangio is bringing back special teams coordinator Tom McMahon, News9 in Denver’s Mike Klis tweets. McMahon concluded his 12th season in the NFL this past season, his first as special teams coordinator with the Broncos. He previously held the same position with the Colts, Chiefs and Rams.

Broncos Hire Vic Fangio As HC

The Broncos have a new head coach. On Wednesday, Denver reached agreement with Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, sources tell Adam Schefter and Dan Graziano of ESPN (on Twitter). As is the usual standard, the deal will be a four-year contract with a team option for a fifth year. 

[RELATED: PFR’s 2019 Head Coaching Search Tracker]

On Thursday, the Broncos made it official.

Vic really impressed us with his attention to detail — His focus is on teaching the fundamentals, technique and playing disciplined football,” GM John Elway said. “Going through this process and talking to many qualified candidates, it became clear that Vic was the best choice to lead our team. There are few things that Vic has not seen in 40 years of coaching. He’s been great on the defensive side of the ball for a number of years with a simple, detailed approach that gets results. With his intelligence and experience, Vic is as good of a football coach as you can find. He’s the perfect fit and exactly what we need as head coach of the Denver Broncos.”

The Broncos are hoping that Fangio will help restore the defense to its former glory. Meanwhile, they’ll have to pay special attention to how they fill out the rest of their staff.

Fangio is experienced, but the 60-year-old has never served as a head coach at any level. And, despite all of his defensive acumen, they’ll need a sharp and seasoned offensive team to handle the other side of the ball. Shortly after agreeing to terms with Fangio, the Broncos took a big step in that direction by appointing Gary Kubiak as the team’s offensive coordinator.

Fangio was largely overlooked in last year’s cycle, but the Bears’ success in 2018 vaulted him to the top of Denver’s list. Despite their early playoff exit against the Eagles, the Bears’ D thrived – they ranked No. 1 in scoring defense and allowed just 17.7 points per game.

Fangio has spent the last four year as the Bears’ DC. Before that, he had four years as the 49ers’ DC and also had DC stints with the Panthers, Colts, and Texans.

The hiring leaves the Bears with a DC vacancy of their own. This also means that runner-up Mike Munchak will have to evaluate other options. Munchak interviewed for the Broncos, Packers, and Browns’ head coaching jobs, but they have all been filled. The Dolphins reached out to Munchak, but he turned down their interview request earlier this month.

The hiring of Fangio coupled with the Browns’ hiring of Freddie Kitchens on Wednesday leaves the Dolphins, Bengals and Jets as the only teams with head coaching vacancies.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Deciding Between Vic Fangio, Mike Munchak?

The Broncos’ head coaching search may soon be coming to a close. Denver is GM John Elway appears to be deciding between Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak, according to Mike Klis of 9News

[RELATED: PFR’s Head Coaching Search Tracker]

Fangio was largely overlooked in last year’s cycle, but he’s high atop the Broncos’ list this year. The two sides met on Monday and Elway was said to be seriously mulling him on his flight home. Fangio is 60 and has never been a head coach his 40 years of coaching, but his resume and recent results are impressive. In 2018, the Bears ranked No. 1 in scoring defense and allowed just 17.7 points per game. For all of the Broncos’ offensive woes, they’d be doing a lot better if they got back to being one of the league’s scariest defenses.

Munchak, meanwhile, is widely regarded as one of the best offensive line coaches in the NFL. Since taking the job in Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger‘s sack rate has been cut roughly in half, which is no small feat. Unlike Fangio, Munchak boasts previous head coaching experience, though he’s also in the same age range. Munchak will turn 59 in March, but Elway does not seem afraid of bucking the league’s youth-forward trend.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins Call Off Vic Fangio Interview

Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio won’t be interviewing with the Dolphins after all. A chat was originally slated for Monday, but the Dolphins did not schedule the interview despite doing significant research on him (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com).

For now, the Broncos are the only known team with interest in Fangio, but one of the other six teams (not counting the Dolphins) could always add him to the list. Fangio offers experience in five different locations as a defensive coordinator and guided a Bears defense that dominated up until Sunday’s heartbreaking loss to the Eagles.

Fangio is out of the picture, but there are still plenty of intriguing candidates on their list, including Ravens head coach John Harbaugh.

Coaching Notes: Vikings, Fins, Bills, Broncos

When Mike Zimmer signed a Vikings extension in the 2016 offseason, the terms were not disclosed. But the sixth-year Minnesota coach revealed Thursday 2019 is the final year of his contract. While another extension could be on the way, Zimmer is, as of now, a lame-duck leader. The 62-year-old coach said he would not resign nor retire until his contract was up. It’s not unheard of for a coach to venture through a contract year, but it is obviously abnormal. The Vikings have qualified for the playoffs twice in Zimmer’s five years but were one of this season’s most disappointing teams, falling short of January football despite a roster full of extended veterans.

Here is the latest from the coaching circuit:

  • Elsewhere on the Vikings’ staff, the team is working to re-sign special teams coordinator Mike Preifer, Alex Marvez of Sirius XM Radio reports (on Twitter). Minnesota is, however, exploring alternatives in case a re-up is not finalized. Preifer has been Minnesota’s ST coordinator since 2011. Preifer did not sign the rollover option after last season, per ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin (Twitter link), making him a coaching free agent next week.
  • Brian Flores is set to meet with four teams in the coming days, and the Patriots linebackers coach’s first stop appears to be Miami. The Dolphins are making Flores their first interview, which Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald tweets will begin Thursday night and last into Friday. Flores is slated to meet with the Browns, Broncos and Packers as well.
  • Another coach up for the Broncos‘ job, Zac Taylor is not the favorite going into the interview process, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets. That could be expected of a 35-year-old position coach, and it could indicate the Broncos are serious about bringing Gary Kubiak back to the sideline as their OC. John Elway said a coaching role for Kubiak was being considered. A Taylor hire would seemingly impede this, but former Broncos running back C.J. Anderson said the similarities between the Rams’ offense and Kubiak’s Denver attack helped him assimilate quickly in Los Angeles. Mike Klis of 9News wonders if this could make a Taylor-Kubiak setup possible, with Klint Kubiak moving up to quarterbacks coach.
  • Flores’ Broncos interview will occur Monday. So will Vic Fangio‘s, per ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold. Taylor and Mike Munchak will interview for the job on Friday. The Broncos finished their Chuck Pagano meeting Wednesday.
  • The Bills are moving on from two assistants, including special teams coordinator Danny Crossman, per ESPN.com’s Mike Rodak (on Twitter). As ESPN’s Seth Walder notes (via Twitter), Buffalo finished this season with the NFL’s worst special teams efficiency rating. Buffalo also fired wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie, Marvez tweets. Twice an interim head coach, with the Redskins and Browns, Robiskie just completed his 37th season as an NFL coach. He’s been a wideouts coach for five teams; Crossman was a pre-Sean McDermott-era holdover, joining the Bills’ staff as ST coordinator in 2013.
  • Detroit will move on from another offensive assistant, firing Derius Swinton, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (on Twitter). Just 33, Swinton has already been an NFL assistant for 10 seasons, serving as the 49ers’ ST coordinator in 2016. Although he helped in that area in Detroit following Joe Marciano‘s midseason firing, his primary role was on offense. The Lions and OC Jim Bob Cooter parted ways this week. Despite serving under Cooter, Swinton was a Matt Patricia hire.

Bears’ Vic Fangio To Interview With Broncos, Dolphins

Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has two interviews lined up. He’ll meet with both the Broncos and Dolphins on Monday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter).

The Broncos and Dolphins submitted interview requests for the Bears DC earlier this week and they were quickly granted, even though the Bears are gearing up for a playoff showdown against the Eagles. Their interest is understandable – Fangio produced a top-10 defense without a Pro Bowler in 2017 and now has the top DVOA unit with three Pro Bowlers. Khalil Mack has certainly boosted the Bears D, but Fangio has a track record of results.

Fangio was largely overlooked in last year’s cycle, but things should be different this time around. Assuming the experience works in his favor, Fangio’s five career stints as an NFL defensive coordinator should make him an attractive candidate for even more teams.

Broncos, Dolphins Request Vic Fangio Interview

Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has long been a top-level defensive leader, but a head coaching job has eluded him in 30-plus seasons in the NFL. That may change.

The Broncos and Dolphins have submitted interview requests for the Bears’ DC, NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero reports (on Twitter). The Broncos have received such permission, per 9News’ Mike Klis (Twitter link).

Fangio, 60, cannot interview for any HC jobs this week because of the Bears’ first-round game against the Eagles. He has been an essential part of Chicago’s resurgence. Beginning his tenure with the Bears in 2015, Fangio produced a top-10 defense without a Pro Bowler in 2017 and now has the top DVOA unit with three Pro Bowlers (highlighted by trade acquisition Khalil Mack).

He received scant HC interest last year but ended up staying in the Windy City. Fangio’s career included five stops as a DC, also stopping in San Francisco under Jim Harbaugh, and featured a stay in the USFL in the mid-1980s. It will be interesting to see if a team gives the veteran coordinator an opportunity.

North Rumors: Bears, Nagy, Ravens, Vikings

It’s still unclear if Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will be available to face the Giants on Sunday, but Chicago is confident Trubisky’s shoulder injury won’t turn into a long-term issue, as Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com tweets. Trubisky missed the Bears’ Thanksgiving Day matchup against the Lions, but Chicago was still able to manage a victory with backup Chase Daniel under center. The Bears have a 98% chance of earning a postseason berth and an 83% chance to win the NFC North, so they may not want to risk Trubisky’s health in what could be another easy win against New York. Trubisky did practice on Wednesday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link), although it was in a limited fashion.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two North divisions:

  • While Trubisky might be healthy enough to play on Sunday, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco almost certainly won’t be ready for Week 13. Flacco, who is still dealing with a hip issue that has cost him two games, didn’t practice on Wednesday and appears likely to sit out Sunday, per Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com (Twitter link). First-round rookie Lamar Jackson, who has led Baltimore to two victories in his first two starts, figures to be under center again when the Ravens take on the Falcons. Meanwhile, offensive lineman James Hurst returned to practice on Wednesday after being sidelined since mid-October, reports Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • Matt Nagy will lead the Bears against the Giants on Sunday, but New York never showed any interest in hiring him as a head coach during the offseason, as he told reporters — including Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com (Twitter link) — on Wednesday. That’s in line with PFR’s 2018 Head Coaching Search Tracker, which shows Nagy only interviewed with the Colts and Bears. The Giants, meanwhile, met with Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia, Steve Wilks, Eric Studesville, and Steve Spagnuolo before hiring Pat Shurmur. Nagy, for his part, could take home Coach of the Year depending on how Chicago’s season ends.
  • Speaking of current Bears coaches, Chicago is worried it could lose defensive coordinator Vic Fangio this offseason, as Jay Glazer of The Athletic writes. Fangio has interviewed for two head positions in the past, but both have been with clubs that already employed him (Bears in 2018, 49ers in 2015). While he didn’t land either of those gigs, Fangio could be in line to move into a head coaching role after that’s currently ranked first in DVOA by a relatively wide margin. As Glazer writes, however, Fangio’s age (60) could work against him as many clubs are searching for younger coaches.
  • By going over the 100-catch mark on Sunday, Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen triggered an escalator in his contract, tweets Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Thielen, who inked an incredibly team-friendly extension last spring, will now see his 2019 base salary increase from $3.85MM to $5.85MM. If he tops 90 receptions in 2019, Thielen will boost his 2020 salary from $5.35MM to $7.35MM.

Coaching Rumors: McDaniels, Arians, Marrone

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels seemed to irreparably damage his future head coaching prospects with every team in the league except New England when he infamously jilted the Colts last offseason. But he has already been mentioned as a candidate for the Browns‘ head coaching job, and as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes, there will be no shortage in interest in McDaniels when the head coaching carousel starts spinning in 2019. La Canfora does not specifically name any teams who are expected to pursue the 42-year-old, but his sources indicate that McDaniels will be under strong consideration despite the fiasco in Indianapolis.

Now let’s take a look at other rumors concerning current, and possibly future, head coaches:

  • Speaking of the Browns, former Colts and Cardinals HC Bruce Arians recently said he would only consider becoming a head coach again if he were hired by Cleveland, but he walked those comments back shortly thereafter. However, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com says Arians was serious the first time and that he will contemplate returning to the sidelines if he can become the Browns’ head coach. Arians indicated that he will not consider overtures from any other clubs, but that if he does land the Cleveland gig, he would keep Freddie Kitchens as offensive coordinator and would consider keeping defensive coordinator Gregg Williams — currently the Browns’ interim HC — as well.
  • It remains to be seen whether Arians’ interest in the Browns is mutual, but La Canfora reports that the team is expected to reach out to Iowa State coach Matt Campbell, who is very much on the NFL’s radar as a legitimate head coaching candidate. We have heard previously that Cleveland GM John Dorsey is a big fan of Campbell.
  • Although the Jaguars are in the midst of a hugely disappointing season, Rapoport says that head coach Doug Marrone is not on the hot seat and is in no danger of losing his job at the moment (video link).
  • Despite unceremonious ousters from Oakland and Cleveland, La Canfora writes that Hue Jackson could become a head coach again as soon as next year. Jackson is back in Cincinnati as special assistant to Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, and if Lewis were to retire or transition to an upper-management position, JLC suggests that Jackson could take the reins. Team owner Mike Brown, who does things his own way, is a big fan of Jackson, and league sources say they would not be surprised if Brown goes that route.
  • The Bears‘ defense is excelling in 2018, which means that Chicago defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will once again garner significant interest from teams looking for a new HC this offseason, per La Canfora. Fangio has interviewed previously for the head-coaching jobs in Chicago and San Francisco, and the Bears paid him very well to keep him aboard as Matt Nagy‘s DC when they hired Nagy to be their head coach earlier this year. There is a general bias against defensive-oriented coaches these days, but Fangio is regarded as one of the best defensive minds in the game and has a strong reputation for being able to connect with troubled players and to get the most out of his units.