AROUND THE NFL

Unless there is a late dismissal, the Browns can hire Josh McDaniels or anyone else they desire.

 

Washington – Ron Rivera

Dallas – Mike McCarthy

Carolina – Matt Rhule

NY Giants – Joe Judge

 

Doug Pederson of the Eagles is the senior coach in the NFC East by leaps and bounds.

 

NFC NORTH

 

DETROIT

The Lions are doubling up on the offensive line.  The AP:

 

The Detroit Lions on Tuesday promoted assistant coaches Hank Fraley and Billy Yates to lead their offensive line.

 

Fraley had been Detroit’s assistant offensive line coach the previous two seasons. Yates was on Matt Patricia’s coaching staff the last two years.

 

Patricia fired six members of his staff shortly after finishing his second season with a 3-12-1 record. He later announced defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni was leaving the team to be closer to his family in Connecticut, and offensive line coach Jeff Davidson was taking an indefinite leave.

 

The Lions finished 3-12-1 this year and have the No. 3 pick in the draft.

 

 

MINNESOTA

An availability update for the Vikings:

 

Minnesota Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander will have arthroscopic surgery for the small tear in his lateral meniscus, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported, via a source. That will keep him out of Saturday’s game against the 49ers but Alexander could return if Minnesota advances, Pelissero added.

 

Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs (illness) did not practice Tuesday due to an illness, but Pelissero noted that Minnesota held a lighter walkthrough because of the short week.

 

Defensive tackle Linval Joseph (knee) and safety Jayron Kearse (toe/knee) also did not practice.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

Mike McCarthy wants Kellen Moore back as OC (or Jerry Jones wanted Mike McCarthy to want Kellen Moore back).  Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:

 

After bringing in his own defensive coordinator, new Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy is expected to retain Dallas’ in-house offensive coordinator.

 

Cowboys OC Kellen Moore is leaning toward remaining with the team under McCarthy’s leadership, sources told NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport on Tuesday.

 

The 31-year-old offensive mind had been courted by McCarthy to stay in Dallas but also by the University of Washington to return to his home state and the offensive coordinator under new Huskies coach Jimmy Lake. But it appears Moore will stay in Frisco, where he has climbed the ladder from backup QB to QB coach to offensive coordinator over the last three seasons.

 

Moore guided the Cowboys to a league-best 431.5 yards per game and 27.1 points per game (sixth-best in NFL) in 2019, his first season as offensive coordinator.

 

Moore would be the second assistant to join McCarthy’s staff in Dallas; Saints linebackers coach Mike Nolan is expected to be hired as Cowboys DC.

 

McCarthy’s introductory press conference on Wednesday will herald in a new era of Cowboys football, but one with a familiar voice on offense.

 

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com on what might have been going on while the Cowboys kept Jason Garrett hanging around:

 

Sometimes, a spitball lands in reasonable proximity to the bull’s eye.

 

On Tuesday, we suggested that the screwball timeline of the Dallas Cowboys’ hiring and firing practices could have been the result of a fairly simple strategy: “Maybe the explanation is hiding in plain sight. Maybe Garrett, who reportedly wanted desperately to remain the Cowboys coach, persuaded Jones to see if he could find a better option before officially parting ways with Garrett. Maybe Jones agreed to give it a try.”

 

A story from Todd Archer of ESPN.com regarding the events that culminated in the seven-day delay firing of Garrett and immediate hiring of Mike McCarthy contains this nugget from an unnamed “high-ranking” team source: “[H]ad the Cowboys not been overwhelmed by McCarthy or any other candidates, there was a chance Garrett could have returned as coach.”

 

This sort of conflicts from the January 2 ESPN report that the Cowboys had decided to move on from Garrett; if it’s true that there was a chance Garrett could stay if the Cowboys weren’t blown away by other candidates, they didn’t decide to move on from Garrett until they decided to move in with McCarthy.

 

Archer’s story also conflicts (without saying so) with Adam Schefter’s report that McCarthy and Jerry Jones hit it off so well that McCarthy stayed at Jones’ house on Saturday night, conjuring images of a Johnny Walker Blue sleepover followed by pancakes and eggs in the morning. Archer writes this, without mentioning the necessarily refuted Schefterism: “McCarthy spent the night at Frisco’s Omni Hotel, which is connected to Ford Center at The Star; not at Jerry Jones’ Highland Park home.”

 

There’s one final bit of news from Archer that we’ll weave together with a little something of which we caught wind on Tuesday. Per Archer, Jerry and Stephen Jones became convinced that McCarthy was the guy on Sunday, January 5, which caused them to set in motion the firing of Garrett and the hiring of McCarthy.

 

Given that the firing of Garrett came just before halftime of the Seahawks-Eagles wild-card playoff game — and, thus, after the conclusion of Vikings-Saints — it’s possible that the final domino for the Joneses fell when Minnesota extended its season by at least six days. A source with knowledge of the dynamics told PFT on Tuesday that Jerry Jones had planned to pursue Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, as some had speculated.

 

With the Vikings winning and McCarthy drawing interest elsewhere, the Cowboys apparently decided not to risk losing McCarthy by waiting for a chance to choose between a pair of Mikes from the NFC North.

 

We put news of John Fassel’s hiring with the Rams, but it’s a big hire for McCarthy to shepherd the Dallas special teams.

 

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

The Giants, spurn by and spurning Matt Ruhle, hire New England’s little-known special teams coach Joe Judge.  Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times captures the reaction:

 

@LATimesfarmer

New York sports fans:

 

Aaron Judge out of right field

 

Joe Judge out of left field

 

Or there is the take of Holiday Scott:

 

Holiday Scott

@slewis3775

Replying to @MMehtaNYDN @gregauman and @NYDailyNews

I think the Giants were too quick to Judge…

 

Greg Auman of The Athletic notes the presence of a certain Alabama WR as an elite draft prospect.

 

@gregauman

Kinda hoping Giants take the Alabama receiver at No. 4 so they have Judge/Jeudy as their biggest offseason additions.

 

Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com with news that Jason Garrett is a candidate to be Judge’s OC, as well as some background on the new coach who has been mentored by Nick Saban, as well as Bill Belichick:

 

The New York Giants are finalizing a deal for New England Patriots wide receivers coach Joe Judge to become the team’s next head coach, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Tuesday.

 

Judge, 38, was the youngest of the seven known candidates mentioned for the Giants’ vacancy and has been mentored by Alabama coach Nick Saban and Patriots coach Bill Belichick. He is considered a no-nonsense guy who isn’t afraid to ruffle feathers with players if necessary.

 

The Giants received permission from the Dallas Cowboys to speak with Jason Garrett regarding the head coaching position, a source told ESPN’s Dan Graziano. Once the team decided to hire Judge, sources told ESPN’s Ed Werder that the Giants requested to interview Garrett as a candidate for the position as offensive coordinator.

 

Judge would replace Pat Shurmur, who was fired by the Giants on Dec. 30 after two seasons, as the 19th coach in franchise history.

 

The deal was in the works as of Monday night, sources told Schefter, which is another reason Matt Rhule took the head-coaching job with the Carolina Panthers.

 

Rhule was among the favorites for the Giants job at the start of the search. He was expected to interview Tuesday, but he never made it to New Jersey after accepting a deal that could be worth up to $70 million over seven years, according to Schefter.

 

A source told ESPN that Rhule called the Giants before accepting the deal with the Panthers and was informed they still wanted to speak, although there was another candidate seriously in the running.

 

Judge, who interviewed with the Giants on Monday, follows the John Harbaugh model to the top of the coaching profession, from special-teams coordinator — before adding a position coach stint to his résumé — to NFL head coach. This is his first head-coaching job.

 

He’ll have his work cut out for him in New York, where the Giants are an NFL-worst 12-36 since the start of the 2017 season. But they do have a young starting quarterback in Daniel Jones who was an attractive piece for candidates, according to sources. Belichick was also high on Jones coming out of Duke last year.

 

Cowboys passing game coordinator/defensive backs coach Kris Richard, former Packers coach Mike McCarthy, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale also interviewed for the Giants job. Rhule was supposed to be scheduled for Tuesday and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for Wednesday.

 

McCarthy accepted the Cowboys’ head-coaching job on Monday, sources confirmed to ESPN.

 

Garrett had been the coach in Dallas since 2010. The Cowboys announced Sunday that he would not return as head coach, but he is under contract though Jan. 14, so the Giants need permission to interview him.

 

Garrett is well thought of by Giants ownership and was on the roster from 2000 to 2003.

 

The news of the Giants’ interest in interviewing Garrett was first reported by NFL Network.

 

Judge, a Philadelphia native, was in the running for the head-coaching job at Mississippi State. He joined the Patriots in 2012 after three years as a football analyst under Saban at Alabama. He also assisted with the special teams units.

 

Prior to going to Alabama, Judge spent a season at Birmingham-Southern, where he served as special teams/linebackers coach in 2008. He began his career as a graduate assistant at Mississippi State in 2005.

 

Judge has been with the Patriots since 2012. He became the special-teams coordinator in 2015 and added wide receiver coach duties last year.

 

The grades from ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler:

 

New York Giants to hire Joe Judge

Judge’s background: Eight seasons as an assistant for the New England Patriots (special-teams assistant or coordinator from 2012 to 2019, and wide receivers coach in 2019); three seasons as an assistant at Alabama (special teams coach from 2009 to 2011)

 

Fowler: Hey, maybe Judge is the next John Harbaugh, a special-teams coach who is great at game-week planning and bringing people together. His reputation is good. But it feels like the Giants fumbled here. Matt Rhule was a natural fit in New York. He’s from there, coached there, wanted to be there. They probably could have closed this deal. And the Giants need two things — someone who can maximize Daniel Jones’ potential, and fixing the defense. Judge doesn’t have extensive experience on either side.

 

Graziano: I don’t know, man. Maybe I’m just travel-weary or sleep-deprived or both, but … I like this move! Judge has coached under Bill Belichick for nine years and Nick Saban for three years before that. He has pedigree. I know from talking to people in the Giants organization the last couple of weeks that they were especially enamored with the job former Belichick assistant Brian Flores did in Miami this year with nothing, and so I wasn’t surprised when Judge showed up on their radar. I expect them to look for some coordinators who have head-coaching experience, though. Wade Phillips, anyone?

 

Fowler: Agree with the pedigree, but boy that has been a mixed bag. For every Flores, there is Matt Patricia or Josh McDaniels — not the modern version, but the one who thought trading up for Tim Tebow was a sound football move. You could argue Belichick should groom his assistants better. Phillips would be good for the short term, but Judge would need an exit strategy. On offense, Jason Garrett is a capable playcaller, if he gets the job. He’s not the sexiest pick for offensive coordinator, but I would expect him to emphasize play-action with Jones, get him on the move.

 

Graziano: Jones is really the key to the whole thing. Whoever they hired as coach, along with holdover general manager Dave Gettleman, was always going to rise and fall with the success or failure of Jones. If he’s a franchise quarterback, they’ll last, and maybe thrive. If not, they’ll all get fired in a few years and the team will start over. Way of the world. Judge’s job will be to create a culture in which the entire roster can grow and thrive, but Jones in particular. Whether it’s Garrett or someone else, whoever the choice is for offensive coordinator has to be able to click with Jones — and iron out those fumbles!

 

Grading Judge to New York:

Graziano: B. As I said, I like the move. But as with Matt Rhule (see below), can’t go up to the A range for a guy who has never done the job before. Full credit to the Giants, though, for going outside the box and their comfort zone.

 

Fowler: C-plus. I’m open to being wrong here, and it’s hard to knock the Giants for avoiding groupthink. His special teams units have been awesome. I just liked other candidates in this spot — Rhule being one, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy another.

 

 

WASHINGTON

Ron Rivera is bringing in Scott Turner from his Carolina staff to serve as OC.  John Keim of ESPN.com:

 

The Washington Redskins will have a new offensive coordinator — and it’s a familiar name for the franchise. New Redskins coach Ron Rivera will hire Scott Turner, son of former Washington coach Norv Turner, to be in charge of the offense, a source confirmed.

 

SI.com first reported Scott Turner’s hiring.

 

Kevin O’Connell, who was the offensive coordinator last season, remains under contract but has been told he’s free to pursue other opportunities, a source said. He had interviewed twice with Rivera about remaining as the offensive coordinator.

 

Turner will have the coordinator title for the first time in his career. He did serve in that role for the last four games this season with Carolina — after Rivera had been fired. Turner was Rivera’s quarterbacks coach in 2018 and ’19 and was a quality control coach under him in 2011 and ’12. Turner also coached receivers for one year in Cleveland and the quarterbacks for three years in Minnesota.

 

Turner will be entrusted with developing quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr., who just completed his rookie year.

 

O’Connell helped Haskins improve late in the season, taking a more active role in his development. In the last two games Haskins played, he had a 72.9 Total QBR and a passer rating of 131.3.

 

Because O’Connell remains under contract, the Redskins would have to grant permission for him to interview with another team. He coached the quarterbacks for two years before being named the coordinator for 2019. He did not call plays until after coach Jay Gruden was fired following an 0-5 start.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

David Tepper, steeped in Steelers lore, makes a comparison to his hiring of Matt Rhule.  Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:

 

Matt Rhule will be introduced this week as the fifth full-time head coach in the short history of the Carolina Panthers.

 

Owner David Tepper, less than two years removed from taking control of the franchise, hopes Rhule will build something to last for decades.

 

“I think Matt Rhule can come in here and build an organization for the next 30 or 40 years,” Tepper told the team website, hours after agreeing to terms with Rhule. “He can build it.”

 

Courted by Tepper’s Panthers as well as the New York Giants, Rhule, Baylor’s coach for the past three seasons, had his pick of coaching vacancies and the leverage to hand-pick his contract. The Panthers eventually offered a monster seven-year, $62 million deal with incentives, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, and Rhule accepted Tuesday.

 

The sizable offer reflected not only Rhule’s value as one of the hottest college candidates in recent memory but Tepper’s vision for and deep investment in the coach and the Panthers franchise. A former minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tepper invoked the legacy of one particular Steelers skipper as a standard by which to judge Rhule: Chuck Noll.

 

“He built a program that has lasted through three coaches,” Tepper said of the four-time Super Bowl-champion coach. “That’s what I hope Matt Rhule can do for us here. He’s a program builder.”

 

Case in point: Rhule’s resume includes two significant program turnarounds in the span of seven years. A longtime Temple assistant, Rhule was hired as the Owls head coach in 2013 and turned a 2-10 team into a 10-win outfit in two seasons. Hired by Baylor in 2017, Rhule led the sanctioned Bears to a 1-11 record before eventually piloting the program to an 11-3 record and a Sugar Bowl appearance this season.

 

Carolina finished 5-11 in 2019, the franchise’s worst record since 2010 when the Panthers closed 2-14, hired coach Ron Rivera and selected Cam Newton with the first overall pick in the ensuing draft. The Panthers are back in the NFC South cellar with a new coach and potentially a new quarterback.

 

It’s deja vu all over again, except this time Tepper is the owner and he’s picked his man.

 

In addition to listing how impressive Rhule is as a “people manager,” a player developer and a “head coach,” Tepper pointed out that his connection with Rhule runs deeper than football.

 

“He dresses like (expletive) and sweats all over himself. He dresses like me, so I have to love the guy,” Tepper said with a laugh. “I was a short-order cook, he was a short-order cook. Nobody gave him anything, nobody game me anything.”

 

It will take time to see if Tepper and Rhule can cook up another Super Bowl contender, but the owner will be patient. A 30-year plan isn’t executed overnight.

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

The 49ers think they might get LB KWON ALEXANDER back Saturday against the Vikings.  Kyle Madson of USA Today:

 

Not only did Kwon Alexander make a somewhat unexpected recovery from a torn pectoral, he made that recovery in an even quicker timeline than initially anticipated.

 

Alexander returned to practice on Tuesday in a limited fashion after participating in the team’s bonus practices over their playoff bye week. His early return was unexpected, and head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters prior to Tuesday’s session that the linebacker’s return to action wasn’t necessarily expected at all when he went down on Oct. 31.

 

“I was told long ago that maybe there was an outside chance he could be ready for the Championship Game,” Shanahan said. “That’s what I’ve gone with in my mind. Kwon has been trying to get back since the day after he was hurt. He’s been trying to prove us wrong on that. He’s more ahead of schedule, a week ahead of schedule than we anticipated. He’s been cleared by the medical staff. Now it’s just about how he looks out on the field, things like that. We’ll have a padded practice tomorrow that will help give us a little bit better idea.”

 

Typically a torn pectoral is a season-ending injury, and the prevailing thought was that the 49ers would be without their starting Will linebacker for the duration of their season – regardless of how long it lasted.

 

Rumors of Alexander’s possible return surfaced when 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne posted a video on Instagram of the linebacker working out at the team facility. Bourne also told 95.7 The Game in San Francisco that Alexander was telling his teammates he planned on playing in the playoffs.

 

Texans star defensive end JJ Watt’s return for Houston’s wild card game only strengthened momentum behind the rumors that Alexander could make an appearance for the 49ers in the postseason. Watt suffered a torn pec four days before Alexander.

 

It’s worth noting San Francisco still hasn’t officially activated Alexander off Injured Reserve. Doing so will mean cutting a member of the 53-man roster to make room.

 

Since Alexander has been cleared, Shanahan said the decision to play him and how much to play him will be up to the coaching staff. They may insert him into the starting Will spot right away, which was previously occupied by Dre Greenlaw, and move Greenlaw back to Sam linebacker. Or they could use Alexander at Sam, or use him situationally at Will.

 

Madson also says the 49ers are going to paint the town, er end zones, red:

 

There aren’t a lot of better playoff traditions in football than the 49ers’ end zone makeover for the playoffs.

 

A crew on Tuesday went to work painting the 49ers’ end zones red with the familiar gold saloon-style font and old-school 49ers helmet. It’s the first time the 49ers have painted the end zones red for January football at Levi’s Stadium.

 

David Lombardi of the Athletic had a photo:

 

 

David Lombardi

@LombardiHimself

Saloon font and red end zone paint, a playoff tradition of the dynastic 49ers, is back.

 

The last time the 49ers played at home in the postseason was the 2013 wild card round when they knocked off the Packers 45-31 at Candlestick Park. They also painted the end zones red for the final home game at Candlestick in Week 16 of the 2013 season. The 49ers won that game as well, 34-24 on the strength of a NaVorro Bowman pick-6 near the end of regulation.

 

Levi’s Stadium doesn’t quite have the same electric, historic feel that Candlestick Park had, but painting the end zones red and playing a postseason game there should help it earn some of the history that makes a stadium great.

– – –

WR EMMANUEL SANDERS is the first player ever to catch passes in 17 different regular season games in one season.

 

Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Emmanuel Sanders got last week off, after being the only player in the NFL not to get a week off during the regular season.

 

Sanders, who was traded from the Broncos to the 49ers before the Broncos’ bye but after the 49ers’ bye, played 17 games during the regular season, so he was glad the 49ers earned a bye in the wild card round of the season. He doesn’t want to see any other player have to play 17 regular-season games like he did.

 

“It was definitely tough,” Sanders said today. “If the NFL wants to change the season to 17 games they should ask me, and I say no. Because my body was hurting and I needed that break.”

 

Sanders avoided major injuries during the season but said he definitely needed the rest after 17 straight games.

 

“Certain things were just aching, my ankles were sore, my big toe was sore, just everything. Now I had the little bye, I had the opportunity to get a little break,” he said. “My body feels good and ready to go.”

 

As the NFL owners and players continue to negotiate a Collective Bargaining Agreement that might expand the season to 17 games, Sanders could provide some expert testimony about how that feels.

 

Of course, under any collective bargaining agreement there would be at least one bye and maybe two.

 

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Wade Phillips isn’t the only key assistant leaving the Rams.  Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:

 

Dallas’ skeleton coaching crew, meet Bones.

 

The Cowboys are expected to hire Los Angeles Rams special teams coordinator John Fassel in the same capacity, sources told NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport on Tuesday.

 

Fassel, nicknamed “Bones,” has been with the Rams since 2012 when then-coach Jeff Fisher hired him after four seasons with the Raiders. When Fisher was fired during the 2016 season, Fassel took over as interim head coach before being retained as special teams coordinator by new Rams coach Sean McVay.

 

Fassel’s contract was up following the 2019 season and is the second high-ranking assistant to part ways with the Rams this offseason (Wade Phillips).

 

The highly regarded Fassel, three days out from his 46th birthday, will round out what Pelissero termed a “super-staff” in Dallas. New Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy is expected to hire Mike Nolan as his defensive coordinator and Fassel as his ST coordinator, and hot-shot offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is leaning toward staying in Dallas despite being courted by his home-state Washington Huskies.

 

AFC WEST

 

LAS VEGAS

RB JOSH JACOBS was once homeless.  Now, his father has a house.  Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:

 

At times homeless as a child and living with his siblings out of his father’s car in Tulsa, Okla., Raiders running back Josh Jacobs capped off his rookie season by surprising his dad, Marty, with a home of his own.

 

Jacobs purchased a house for his father on Monday night, posting pictures and footage of the surprise on social media.

 

@iAM_JoshJacobs

Blessed just bought my pops a house 🏠🤞🏽💯

 

The rookie out of Alabama was drafted 24th overall by the Raiders in the 2019 draft. An Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate, Jacobs racked up 1,316 yards from scrimmage on 262 touches and seven total touchdowns in his first campaign. His 88.5 rushing yards per game ranked third in the league behind Titans RB Derrick Henry (102.7) and Browns RB Nick Chubb (93.4).

 

“I remember seeing him not sleep,” Jacobs told NFL Network’s Jeffri Chadiha ahead of the draft about his father. “It’s crazy because I didn’t notice that I was sleeping in a car. I was just thinking that I was falling asleep and waking up. I didn’t think anything about it because I felt safe. He would just drive around until he found a place to sleep and then I’d get up the next day and go to school.”

 

Marty Jacobs told Chadiha in April, “One of the things that I’m proudest of with Josh is that he trusted the process. There are a lot of things he experienced as a child that he doesn’t want his son to experience. I tear up when I talk about it because God trusted me with those kids and he trusted me not to leave. That’s why I’m glad to see Josh embracing the positive stuff from what we went through.”

 

Jacobs and his family have come a long way since his humbling beginnings in a Suburban in Oklahoma.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

A setback for RB MARK INGRAM? NFL.com:

 

Will Mark Ingram play this Saturday against the Titans? The question lingers on.

 

The Ravens running back was not spotted by reporters at Tuesday’s practice. Ingram was essentially full speed last week but felt some tightness in his calf and has pulled back to avoid re-injury, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source. The Ravens later announced Ingram did not officially practice.

 

Ingram sat out Week 17 after suffering a calf strain the week before. Rapoport added there’s still a chance he plays in the Divisional Round. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said last Friday that Ingram was on track to return and was expected to practice at full speed this week, so his lack of involvement just four days before kickoff is a concern.

 

The ninth-year veteran was a key member of the NFL’s most prolific rushing offense, topping 1,000 yards while averaging 5.0 yards a carry this season.

 

 

CLEVELAND

Jim Schwartz?  Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

 

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will have come full circle if lands the Browns head coach job.

 

The Browns have requested permission to interview Schwartz for their vacancy, a source confirmed for cleveland.com. It was first reported by Tom Pelissaro of NFL Network.

 

Schwartz, 53, began his career NFL career with the Browns from 1993-95 when Bill Belichick hired him as a scout and jack-of-all-trades, and worked his way up to head coach of the Lions from 2009-13. In Cleveland, he was one of many young scouts and coaches who learned under Belichick and went on to have long and successful careers.

 

Belichick’s all-star staff during his five seasons with the Browns featured the likes of Thomas Dimitroff, Scott Pioli, Ozzie Newsome, Phil Savage, Michael Lombardi, Mike Tannenbaum and George Kokinis. It included future head coaches in Nick Saban, Schwartz, Kirk Ferentz, Mangini, Al Groh and Pat Hill.

 

Schwartz is the second defensive candidate along with 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh on the Browns’ slate, and the eighth overall. They’ll interview Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on Friday and Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski this week.

 

McDaniels’ interview with the Browns will mark his third go ’round, having been passed over for the job in favor of Eric Mangini in 2009 and then taking himself out of the running in 2014 to remain with the Patriots.

 

Browns will interview Josh McDaniels Friday in Cleveland

 

The first candidate the Browns interviewed in this initial wave, former Packers coach Mike McCarthy, signed a five-year contract with the Cowboys on Monday.

 

They’ve also interviewed Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, Saleh, and Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.

 

Schwartz is also one of three candidates on the list with head coaching experience, having gone 29-52 from 2009-13 with the Lions, including 0-1 in postseason. The others are McCarthy and McDaniels.

 

When the Browns moved to Baltimore in 1995 and became the Ravens, Schwartz went with them and moved over to the coaching side full-time, tutoring outside linebackers from 1996-98.

 

He moved onto the Titans in 1999, serving as coordinator from 2001-08. After his stint with the Lions, he was Bills’ defensive coordinator in 2014 and then took over that role with the Eagles in 2016.

 

But no matter where he’s gone, he’s always credited Belichick with his success.

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

Coach Sean McDermott wants continuity with the Bills.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Head coach Sean McDermott and General Manager Brandon Beane have spent a lot of time overhauling the Bills roster since joining the organization in 2017, but McDermott’s hope for this offseason isn’t centered around bringing new faces to Buffalo.

 

McDermott said at a Tuesday press conference that a team picks up a different identity every year, but that he hopes to “keep as much of this team intact as possible” heading into next season. He said that his experience with the Panthers after Super Bowl 50 has colored his thinking on the subject.

 

“One of the things that happened when we came off the Super Bowl in Carolina is we probably let too many of the leaders out of the building,” McDermott said, via the Buffalo News. “Some of that comes with retirements and other factors. That’s part of what I meant with keeping as much of this team intact as possible. Each team is different but you give yourself a better chance if you keep the team intact.”

 

Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander has already announced his retirement, so that’s one leader that won’t be back with the Bills for the 2020 season. Running back Frank Gore said after the playoff loss to the Texans that he’s not sure if he’ll play this year. Defensive linemen Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson and left guard Quinton Spain are other impending free agents of note in Buffalo this offseason.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

A WORLD WITHOUT BRADY

Jay Busbee of YahooSports.com looks at a world where QB TOM BRADY never got his chance:

 

By this point in our shared NFL history, the New England Patriots’ greatness is less a notable data point and more an everlasting fact of life. You know the stats: six Super Bowl championships, nine AFC championships, 17 AFC East championships, 19 straight winning seasons.

 

So, yeah, the Pats are (or were) great, and Tom Brady is one of the best ever to play the game. But as the dynasty marches toward its inevitable end, and as Brady weighs his future, let’s cast our eyes back to the beginning. Let’s go full Butterfly Effect and make one tiny change: what if Touchdown Tom had never started at all for the Patriots? How would one single personnel decision change the course of NFL history and a dozen franchises? Join us as we look back through 10 crucial New England seasons….

 

2001

 

With five minutes remaining and the Patriots down 10-3 to the Jets in the second game of the season, Drew Bledsoe tries to stretch an awkward third-and-long run into a first down. But rather than hitching up halfway through his run, Bledsoe runs straight, and darts out of bounds just before a Mo Lewis hit that, under other circumstances, would have surely knocked him out for several weeks.

 

Bledsoe’s backup, Tom Brady, watches from the sidelines as Bledsoe guides the Patriots to an 8-8 record — an improvement from the year before, but not good enough to make the playoffs. The Oakland Raiders, who had no need to visit New England in January and thus never got tuck-ruled out of the playoffs, knock off the St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl.

 

2003

 

In their fourth year under Bill Belichick, the Patriots reach the playoffs, but don’t last long. Peyton Manning’s Colts decimate them en route to defeating the Panthers for Manning’s first Super Bowl.

 

Brady, having reached the end of his rookie contract, opts to leave New England after the 2002 season, since Bledsoe continues to block his path to the field. Brady decides to sign with Washington, hoping that he’ll be able to win a starting job against Tim Hasselbeck and Patrick Ramsey. With little competent coaching guidance to redirect his talent, he isn’t.

 

2004

 

Again the Patriots reach the playoffs, and again they fall to a superior foe — this time the Pittsburgh Steelers, who’d gone 15-1 during the regular season. The Steelers absolutely thrash the Eagles in the Battle of Pennsylvania. Boston fans, meanwhile, are openly starting to wonder whether Bill Belichick has what it takes to win in the NFL.

 

Brady stumbles through another mediocre season with Washington. After long months as a free agent — there’s little clamor to sign a sixth-round career backup — he signs with Houston. He’s grown skilled at holding a clipboard behind his coach, but not much more.

 

2007

 

Belichick had selected Matt Cassel in the seventh round of the 2005 draft, and within a season Cassel has replaced Bledsoe in the starting lineup. However, early in the 2007 season, the Patriots are caught recording a New York Jets practice. Belichick, with an unremarkable playoff record, is deemed expendable, and the Patriots fire him and promote the 31-year-old Josh McDaniels to emergency-interim head coach. Under McDaniels, a deep Patriots team that includes Randy Moss, Vince Wilfork and Asante Samuel, meets the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. A late prayer of a pass from Eli Manning to David Tyree bounces off the turf as Tyree tries to haul it in, and New England clinches its first Super Bowl victory.

 

Brady, meanwhile, had retired the year before. He’d returned to his hometown in California and hooked on as a stockbroker with Merrill Lynch, where he’d interned during college. They’re happy to have him on board, and they’ll mention his short stint as an NFL quarterback in his bio for five years, until he asks them to stop

 

2011

 

The last vestiges of that 2007 championship team fade away as New England loses in the playoffs to a Tim Tebow-led Denver Broncos. Tebowmania sweeps the nation as Denver knocks off the Giants in the Super Bowl.

 

Bill Belichick spent one grumbly season on the CBS NFL set before heading back to the sideline, this time for the Buffalo Bills. Belichick’s presence in the same division as the team that had fired him does not elude anyone.

 

Brady creates the most complicated plays possible for a group of middle schoolers playing Pop Warner football near his house. They execute his ideas to perfection.

 

2014

 

Under McDaniels, whose wunderkind aura has worn off, the Patriots drift, watching from home as Seattle runs the ball from the 1-yard line to ice their second straight Super Bowl win, this one over the Indianapolis Colts. Peyton Manning, who retired three years before because John Elway wasn’t willing to trade Super Bowl hero Tim Tebow for him, helps call the game for NBC.

 

Belichick, putting the pieces together in Buffalo, drafts Jimmy Garoppolo.

 

Brady, hanging at a Buffalo Wild Wings with his Merrill Lynch buddies after work one night, catches hell for staring too long at an Entertainment Tonight feature on the supermodel Gisele.

 

2016

 

The Patriots are an NFL afterthought, and Boston sports fans are disgusted that they’ve only brought home one title as the city’s other three teams are racking up rings and playoff trips.

 

Roger Goodell, his power unchecked and unmocked since there was never any deflate-gate absurdity to sully his office, stands up to both President Trump and protesting NFL players, decreeing that The Shield’s word is law and that protests during the anthem will not be allowed, and criticism of the NFL will be disregarded. Both sides have no choice but to back down.

 

Belichick’s Bills make the playoffs but get knocked off by the eventual AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs. The Atlanta Falcons take a 28-3 lead over the Chiefs in the Super Bowl … and go on to win 42-3.

 

2017

 

Belichick’s Bills have beaten the Patriots nearly every time they’ve faced one another. But they can’t quite get past Jacksonville in the playoffs. The Jaguars win one of the most unexpected titles in NFL history, defeating the Eagles when Jalen Ramsey sniffs out a special Philadelphia trick-play throw to Nick Foles just before halftime and returns it the length of the field for a touchdown.

 

Tom Brady watches half the game and goes to bed early. He has work the next day.

 

2018

 

At long last, Belichick’s master plan pays off. Led by Jimmy Garoppolo, Julian Edelman and a mismatched cast, Belichick’s Buffalo Bills defeat the Los Angeles Rams for Buffalo’s first-ever Super Bowl title.

 

Brady drafts Garoppolo as his quarterback in the office fantasy football league.

 

2019

 

Patriots quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick leads 4-11 New England to a Week 17 upset of Baltimore, giving Belichick, Garoppolo and Buffalo the No. 1 seed. They’ll ride that to a second straight Super Bowl championship.

 

At a Super Bowl watch party, Brady scrapes the last of the mango-strawberry salsa from a bowl and wonders, out loud, how much longer we’ll have to put up with Buffalo dominating the league.

 

 

LANDING SPOTS FOR TUA

Gil Brandt of NFL.com has five spots where QB TUA TAGOVIALOA might land.  #5 is interesting:

 

We don’t know when Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will be drafted this April, but one thing we can do while we wait to find out is consider which teams would be the best fits for him in the NFL.

 

First, here’s a quick scouting report. Tagovailoa has elite arm strength, which allows him to make all the NFL throws, and athleticism equivalent to that of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. He’s a very competitive and grounded person who has a real natural feel for football; he has a great sense of anticipation when throwing the ball, and he makes good decisions to keep plays alive.

 

Of course, one issue to consider is his continued recovery from the hip injury that knocked him out for the season in November. How his health status will impact his NFL future remains one of the biggest questions following his decision to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft.

 

Modern medicine is such that players are able to recover quickly from injuries that would have ended careers even 10 years ago; think of Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith. A devastating knee injury knocked Smith into the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft and forced him to miss his rookie season, but he’s now coming off his third straight 16-game campaign. For his part, Tagovailoa said this week that “everything looks good” and expressed optimism that he’ll be ready for the 2020 season, but he also cautioned that much still depends on how his rehab progresses. One thing teams can take comfort in is the knowledge that Tagovailoa will work hard to get right. In this kind of a situation, you’re betting on the man, and in Tagovailoa’s case, it’s a good bet.

 

Based on what we know at this point, I’d expect Tagovailoa to fully regain the athleticism he showed in college, but even if he were only half as mobile as he was, he’d still be more mobile than half the quarterbacks in the NFL. While further clarity on his medical timeline could have an obvious impact, and plenty might change between now and draft day, I still see Tagovailoa going in the first round.

 

While practically any team could use a quarterback of Tagovailoa’s talent, I see him fitting exceptionally well with the five organizations listed below.

 

NOTE: This is not meant to be a projection or prediction of where Tagovailoa will be picked, or even necessarily a reflection of which teams have a realistic chance to add him. Rather, I’m zeroing in on the teams that could best use his services at quarterback, regardless of how much draft capital they possess.

 

1) Miami Dolphins

When I chose the Dolphins (who hold the fifth overall pick) as the most likely team to jump from worst to first in 2020, I highlighted the presence of some real talent on Miami’s roster, including receiver DeVante Parker and tight end Mike Gesicki, who served as bright spots (72 catches for 1,202 yards and nine scores by Parker and 51 catches for 570 yards and five scores by Gesicki) during a challenging season. Tagovailoa’s scrambling ability and arm strength should make Parker an especially appealing target, given that the former first-rounder finished with the fifth-most receiving yards (412) on deep passes (20-plus air yards) in the NFL in 2019 despite working with a quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick who ranked 17th in deep passing attempts (53). Parker was open on just 4.2 percent of deep targets, according to Next Gen Stats, tied for fifth-worst among those with 10-plus deep targets, while a league-high 70.8 percent of his deep passes were thrown into tight windows. Imagine what a reliable deep threat he could be for Tagovailoa.

 

Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, could serve as an ideal mentor and/or placeholder, depending on how quickly Tagovailoa adjusts to the NFL game. Head coach Brian Flores has the flexibility to get the most out of whichever rookie QB the Dolphins end up with. I’ve known new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey a long time, and I think he was a great hire. Smart and patient, Gailey knows how to coach young players and would serve as an effective mentor for Tagovailoa.

 

2) Los Angeles Chargers

Like the Dolphins, the Chargers have some dynamic weapons on offense, including Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. There is the question of what will happen with Philip Rivers, who, at age 38, just posted the third-worst passer rating (88.5) of his career as a starter, while throwing 20 picks, and is headed for free agency. Rivers is a great competitor, but I think he showed signs of slippage, and it would be better for the Chargers to part ways with him as they try to further entrench themselves in Los Angeles during their first season in a shiny new stadium. Taking Tagovailoa sixth overall could provide a serious jolt to the organization and inject life into the fan base.

 

3) Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars already have a veteran (Nick Foles) and an up-and-comer (Gardner Minshew) on the depth chart at QB, but Foles was both injured and benched during the course of the 2019 season, while Minshew alternately showed promise and scuffled while filling in for Foles. Minshew’s resume (including an 11-win season at Washington State) and ability to provide a spark after Foles’ Week 1 injury should not be overlooked, but I’m not sure he’s the kind of quarterback who can lead you to the playoffs. Depending on how the Jaguars feel about Minshew, it would not be unreasonable to restart at quarterback and take a swing on a premium-tier prospect if they have the opportunity (Jacksonville currently picks ninth overall). Tagovailoa has more upside than Minshew and — though it might be hard for anyone who witnessed Minshew Mania to believe — could bring even more hope and happiness to the fan base. Yes, the last QB drafted by Jacksonville in the first round — Blake Bortles — didn’t exactly pan out, but Tagovailoa is a better player than Bortles was coming out of college.

 

4) Carolina Panthers

The Panthers are in a sort of quarterback limbo until they decide whether to bring Cam Newton back as the starter in 2020 after a lost season. That said, Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel are the kinds of young pieces that could help make Tagovailoa an instant competitor and grow with him as he continues to get a feel for the NFL game. I’m not sure Newton will ever reach the heights of his MVP 2015 season again, given that he’s coming off a foot injury at age 30. I think it would make sense to turn the page and let new coach Matt Rhule start his Carolina tenure with a new QB, especially with McCaffrey being in his prime right now as a dynamic, athletic source of offensive mayhem in both the run and pass games.

 

5) New England Patriots

Tom Brady’s future is the immediate concern in New England, but whether he’s on the roster in 2020 or not, it’s safe to say the Pats could use a quarterback, unless they really think that fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham has serious long-term upside. Highly sought-after quarterback prospects tend not to fall to New England’s draft position; I wouldn’t expect a prospect like, say, Joe Burrow to still be on the board when the Pats’ turn comes around later in the first round. But Tagovailoa’s injury history might push the Nick Saban acolyte into the range of Saban’s former boss. Should Bill Belichick have a chance to land the quarterback who threw 87 touchdown passes against 11 picks for his good friend, I could see him changing his offense to accommodate Tagovailoa.