NFL executives in need of new head coaches flew hither and yon in the week after the end of the regular season, conducting interviews with what seemed to be everyone and anyone. Now comes the hard part: actually deciding on a new head coach. Here’s where the eight coach-less NFL teams stand.
THEY GOT THEIR GUY
Fired: Todd Bowles
Hired: New York is keeping Adam Gase in the AFC East, according to multiple reports Wednesday evening. Gase was fired as head coach of the rival Dolphins at the end of December after going 23-25, plus 0-1 in the playoffs, over three seasons in Miami.
The Dolphins went 6-10 and 7-9 in their most recent two seasons, but those records are better than what Bowles posted (5-11, 5-11, 4-12) in the past three. More significantly, New York is hoping it has landed the offensive-minded coach it had been seeking to help young quarterback Sam Darnold fulfill his considerable potential.
More than a few Jets fans might be disappointed with the hire, though, in part because of Gase’s work in Miami and also because the team had been reported earlier Wednesday to have been close to an agreement with Baylor Coach Matt Rhule. According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, a sticking point arose as the Jets wanted more input in the staff Rhule would have hired, and in that light, the selection of Gase could be seen as something of a Plan B for Gang Green.
Or even Plan C, given reports that the Jets had been keen on Kliff Kingsbury before he got the Cardinals' job on Tuesday. On the other hand, many Jets fans were also less than enthused about the possibility their team might go with former Packers coach Mike McCarthy, so there’s that.
Fired: Vance Joseph
Hired: Denver GM John Elway has made up his mind, hiring Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, according to an ESPN report published Wednesday.
At 60, Fangio bucks the NFL’s trend toward younger coaches, but he has been in the running for head coaching positions the past few years. He’ll be Denver’s fourth coach in six seasons, and Elway reportedly believes he can deliver the stability that the Broncos need.
Fired: Hue Jackson
Hired: The Post’s Mark Maske reports that Cleveland will hire Freddie Kitchens, the team’s offensive coordinator after Jackson’s firing (ESPN’s Chris Mortensen is reporting the same thing). Kitchens, 44, interviewed Monday and now will complete his ascent from somewhat obscure assistant to an NFL head coach: Until this season, he never had even been a coordinator in an NFL coaching career that began in 2006.
Interim coach Gregg Williams, former Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell, former Vikings interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski (now expected to return to Minnesota), Saints assistant head coach/tight ends coach Dan Campbell, Patriots defensive play-caller Brian Flores and Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus also were in the mix, per reports, with Stefanski considered the other finalist.
Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot reports that Williams has been relieved of his duties.
Fired: Dirk Koetter
Hired: Bruce Arians will be returning to an NFL sideline as Tampa Bay’s coach, the team announced Tuesday. Arians stepped down as coach of the Cardinals after the 2017 season in part because of his health, and Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported Monday that the Bucs made Arians, 66, undergo a complete physical at a Tampa hospital Saturday and talked with his personal physician as part of the interview process.
Here’s the Post’s Mark Maske on the hire:
“[H]e is a respected offensive mind and a quarterback whisperer in his own right. So the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hope he will be the coaching remedy to whatever has ailed their would-be franchise quarterback, Jameis Winston, throughout his NFL career.”
Arians technically was still under contract with the Cardinals, because when he retired Arizona still held an option on him for the 2019 season. After initially deciding that the Cardinals were entitled to no compensation from the Bucs, the NFL switched course when Arizona argued that it still held his rights. To settle the matter, the Bucs and Cardinals agreed to swap sixth- and seventh-round picks in this year’s draft, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Tampa Bay will get Arians and Arizona’s seventh-round pick, while the Cardinals will get the Bucs’ sixth-round pick.
It’s been reported that Todd Bowles, fired after four seasons as the Jets’ head coach, will be Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator under Arians, the same job he held in 2013 and 2014 when both still were in Arizona. But according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, Bowles has yet to reach an agreement with Tampa Bay and also has spoken with Bears Coach Matt Nagy about becoming the defensive coordinator in Chicago. Nagy’s father coached Bowles in high school.
Fired: Steve Wilks
Hired: Kingsbury is the new man in Arizona, the team announced Tuesday night.
Kingsbury, whom Texas Tech fired as its head coach after this past season, had accepted the job as Southern Cal’s offensive coordinator, but it’s unclear whether he remained in that role this week. The school originally had blocked Kingsbury from interviewing with NFL teams but apparently relented.
As for why the Cardinals would take an interest in a 39-year-old coach who compiled just a 35-40 record at the NCAA level, MMQB’s Albert Breer talked to an unnamed AFC scouting director.
“I’m not surprised at all,” the person said. “He’s a really innovative offensive coach, he’s charismatic, he has that kind of feel to him. I think he’s kind of what the new age of these offensive coaches are now. Everyone’s trying to find the next McVay. … He produced a really good offense every year, and fell victim to the same thing the rest of the conference falls victim to. And try and get a kid to go to Lubbock.”
Fired: Mike McCarthy
Hired: Matt LaFleur, who spent this past season as the Tennessee Titans’ offensive coordinator. Only a little more than four years older than Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay quarterback who will seek to re-energize a Hall of Fame career under his guidance, the 39-year-old LaFleur has worked alongside Kyle Shanahan in Washington and Atlanta and Sean McVay with the Rams but has spent just the one season in Tennessee as his team’s play-caller. Still, just about anything will be more innovative than McCarthy’s “rudimentary stuff,” as described by USA Today’s Doug Farrar.
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio posits that Green Bay moved so fast on LaFleur perhaps because the team feared some other team would swoop in, but a league source told him no other team had formally requested permission to interview LaFleur.
LaFleur’s hiring in Green Bay seemingly means that Josh McDaniels will remain in New England as Bill Belichick’s offensive coordinator. McDaniels’s only known head coaching interview was with the Packers, according to Ian Rapoport, who adds that Bucs offensive coordinator Todd Monken “was the other really strong candidate” in Green Bay.
“I’ll be here moving forward,” McDaniels said Tuesday, adding that “the book is closed” on his interviews for 2019.
Fired: Marvin Lewis
Candidates: Per various reports, Cincinnati has cast a wide net, interviewing eight candidates, including in-house applicants Hue Jackson (who served as a special assistant to Lewis after getting fired by the Browns), Darrin Simmons (special teams coordinator) and Bill Lazor (offensive coordinator). Former Broncos coach Vance Joseph, Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor, Rams passing game coordinator Shane Waldron, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and Bucs offensive coordinator Todd Monken also reportedly have interviewed.
Candidates: Bieniemy, Cowboys defensive backs coach Kris Richard and Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen all have interviewed, but Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald says Flores “is near if not at the top of the Dolphins’ list.” The Patriots’ defensive play-caller interviewed with the team Friday and reportedly made a strong impression on owner Stephen Ross and GM Chris Grier. But Miami will have to wait until after the Patriots’ season is over to make any sort of announcement on Flores, if he is indeed whom it’s targeting.
While they wait, Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post reports that the Dolphins will interview special teams coach Darren Rizzi on Friday. Rizzi has been with the organization since 2009, serving under five head coaches for a franchise that has just one playoff appearance over that span, and seems to have the support of the locker room.
“Riz is the ultimate players coach,” running back Kenyan Drake said, per Schad. “He has a way of balancing the personality of his players while getting the most from them. He’s intense but compassionate and that’s what makes him a great coach.”
Said linebacker Kiko Alonso: “I wish I could use Kenyan’s words. I can’t say it better myself.”
Read more from The Post: