Here’s a look at where the eight NFL teams with openings stand after a busy period of tire-kicking.
We have a hiring! The Green Bay job is the first one off the board, as the team has “offered the job” to Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, The Post’s Mark Maske has confirmed.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who added that other candidates for the Packers' job “have been notified that they’re out,” first reported the news. Those contenders included Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken, described by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport as “the other really strong candidate,” and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who had been thought by some to have been the front-runner for the gig.
Instead, McDaniels, who nearly took the Colts head coaching job last year before backing out, is likely “back in New England for another year," per Rapoport. The Packers were also believed to have been interested in Jim Caldwell, who was fired as head coach of the Lions after going 9-7 in 2017, Saints tight ends coach/assistant head coach Dan Campbell, Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. and Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores.
LeFleur apparently impressed Packers officials enough while meeting with them that “they moved quickly” to lock him up, rather than engage in a second round of interviews and risk losing him. The 39-year-old former quarterback is coming off a one-season stint in Tennessee in which he wasn’t quite able to get the most out of oft-injured Marcus Mariota, but he worked under Rams Coach Sean McVay in 2017 and, before that, he was Kyle Shanahn’s quarterbacks coach in Houston, Washington and Atlanta, so LaFleur has had opportunities to learn from some of the brightest offensive minds in the game.
LaFleur is reportedly expected to keep Green Bay’s incumbent defensive coordinator Mike Pettine on his staff, and his primary responsibility will be to get most out of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’s considerable talents. Rodgers had become disenchanted with the offensive schemes run by former head coach Mike McCarthy, who went 135-85-2 in 12-plus seasons in Green Bay, including a Super Bowl triumph in 2011, but who was fired with four games left in the regular season.
Vance Joseph, recently fired by the Broncos, traveled to Cincinnati last week to interview for the Bengals’ head coaching job. His discussions continued in the ensuing days (via ESPN’s Josina Anderson). Joseph spent two seasons as Cincinnati’s defensive backs coach in 2014 and 2015 and reportedly has a “strong relationship” with team owner Mike Brown. Cincinnati is searching for its first new head coach since 2003.
But what if the Bengals already have made up their mind to hire Hue Jackson, who came to Cincinnati as an assistant to Marvin Lewis after his midseason firing by the Browns? Would that mean Joseph interviewed to become the Bengals’ new defensive coordinator, as Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio posited last week? The Bengals already interviewed in-house candidates Darrin Simmons and Bill Lazor, according to Rapoport.
The Bengals sat down with very busy Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy already (via Tom Pelissero). Bieniemy has spent just one year as Andy Reid’s top offensive assistant but seems likely to follow the path of Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy — his predecessors in Kansas City — in landing a head coaching job.
Per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Cincinnati also has requested to interview Monken, who spent last season as under the recently fired Dirk Koetter. Monken started the season calling plays, had that role taken away from him midway through the season, then had that power restored to him later on.
Last week, the Bengals brass flew to Los Angeles to interview two Rams assistants: quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor and passing game coordinator Shane Waldron, Pelissero reported.
One coach not in the running for the Cincinnati job is McDaniels, who declined the Bengals' request to interview (Mike Garafolo).
Cleveland is looking for its ninth full-time head coach since 1999, and one prospect already has had an extended audition: Gregg Williams spent the second half of the season as interim head coach after Hue Jackson’s firing. He interviewed for the permanent role last week (via Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot). Plus, the Browns will interview Freddie Kitchens, the team’s offensive coordinator after Williams replaced Jackson.
The Browns aren’t alone in wanting to chat with Kitchens: Per Rapoport, a number of other teams have asked for the Browns' permission to interview him for their vacant coordinator jobs. But Cleveland has declined that permission because he still is under contract, and the team would like whomever it hires as head coach to have the chance to retain him.
Cleveland is casting a pretty wide net, reportedly reaching out to at least six candidates, including Caldwell. Kevin Stefanski, the interim offensive coordinator in Minnesota, interviewed with Cleveland officials last week. Campbell was scheduled to interview Friday (via NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero). Mike McCarthy, deposed as Packers coach toward the end of the regular season, will sit down with the Browns this week (via ESPN’s Rob Demovsky).
Whoever takes the reigns in Denver will be the Broncos’ fourth head coach in six seasons. Chuck Pagano, who spent six seasons leading the Colts before being fired at the end of last season, interviewed last week and made a “strong impression” on team officials (Mike Klis). Denver interviewed Taylor, according to the team, and had Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak scheduled for Friday and Flores for Saturday. Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was to sit down with John Elway and Co. on Monday (Rapoport).
There’s now momentum, according to Rapoport, for bringing Bruce Arians out of retirement to coach the team. Arians was instrumental in Andrew Luck’s early success when he filled in as interim coach early in Luck’s career. Although he retired last January after five years as head coach in Arizona, he presumably is making the case that he can straighten out Jameis Winston.
One of the more intriguing names to emerge on this year’s coaching carousel popped up last week, with David Haugh of 670 the Score in Chicago reporting that Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly is “a coach of interest to the Buccaneers.” Kelly interviewed with the Eagles after the 2012 season, when he led the Fighting Irish to the BCS title game, and his stock again is high following Notre Dame’s appearance in the College Football Playoff semifinals this season.
But Rick Stroud, longtime beat writer for the Tampa Bay Times, threw some water on the Kelly report, writing on Twitter that “Kelly is not someone they plan to interview for the HC job.”
The Buccaneers have been down this path before, hiring Greg Schiano away from Rutgers in 2012. Two years and an 11-21 record later, they moved on.
Tampa Bay sat down with Bieniemy last week (Rapoport) and was expected to do so with Campbell, as well (Pelissero). Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards was scheduled to travel to meet with Bucs officials on Friday (Anderson). Tampa Bay also planned to meet with Cowboys defensive backs coach Kris Richard once he’s done with the team’s wild-card game on Saturday (Richard calls the defensive plays for Dallas, and Rapoport called him a “hot candidate”).
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, meanwhile, reported that the Bucs might be slow-playing their hire so they can wait and see whether they can get Ravens Coach John Harbaugh via trade, which is about the only viable way to make it happen considering he’s under contract through next season. However, the Ravens announced just before Christmas that Harbaugh would be back in 2019 and that the two sides were working on a contract extension. In any case, it’s something to keep tabs on.
Southern Cal offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury was said to be in the mix for Arizona’s head coaching job (via Yahoo’s Charles Robinson), but USC reportedly denied him an interview (along with one with the Jets). Just 39, Kingsbury spent the last six seasons as head coach at Texas Tech but was fired in November after the Red Raiders’ third straight losing season and a 35-40 overall record. Less than two weeks later, USC hired him to be its offensive coordinator. Despite his lackluster record as a college head coach, Kingsbury is seen as a coach with a keen eye for spotting and/or developing young quarterbacks (Patrick Mahomes, Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum come to mind), and one whose offensive skill set could work well in the modern NFL. Despite USC’s denial of Kingsbury, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio writes that he might “simply resign his position as Trojans offensive coordinator and move on.”
With the Miami job seen as one of the least-desirable openings, whoever accepts the position will come into the role knowing that owner Stephen Ross has had something of an itchy firing finger over the years. One candidate certainly knows all about this: Darren Rizzi, who has been a Dolphins assistant since 2010 — working under three head coaches — and will interview for the top job at some point soon (via MMQB’s Albert Breer).
Bieniemy interviewed for the Dolphins job (Schefter). Fangio was expected to interview Monday (Rapoport). Among the other reported candidates: Richard, New England’s Flores, who conducted his interview on Friday, the team announced; Pittsburgh’s Munchak; Dallas’s Richard; and Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen (Rapoport), who led the Raiders to an 8-28 record in two-plus seasons as head coach from 2012 to 2014.
And then there’s the other Harbaugh, the one coaching at Michigan (Ross’s alma mater). Jim Harbaugh’s name usually pops up at this time of year, and former NFL scout and executive Mark Dominik tweeted last week that Miami will be the team “that will try the hardest” to lure Harbaugh back to the NFL.
On the one hand, Harbaugh has been pretty adamant that he has no plans to leave Michigan. On the other hand, he’s never stayed more than four years at any of his previous head coaching jobs, and he recently finished his fourth season in Ann Arbor, one that ended with disappointing losses to Ohio State and Florida.
With a promising young quarterback in Sam Darnold, the No. 3 pick in the upcoming NFL draft and lots of salary cap room, the Jets have plenty to offer their new head coach. Bieniemy interviewed with New York officials on last week, the team announced, and interviewed Kingsbury on Monday, despite reports that USC had denied the team an interview. (Bruce Feldman)
Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News tweeted last week that Jets fans also should “keep an eye on” Matt Rhule, who got scandal-ravaged Baylor back to a bowl game this season, his second in Waco after a four-year run at Temple. Rhule, who spent his early life in New York City, has spent nearly all of his coaching career in the college ranks but does have one season as an assistant offensive line coach with the Giants in 2012.