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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Jeff Davidson the new OC

Jeff Davidson, former Patriots staffer and former Cleveland Assistant Head Coach, is the new offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers. Davidson, 39, was up for consideration for the Cleveland OC job, which he held for the last ten games of 2006 on an interim basis; he was also up for the coordinator position in Arizona that's not currently filled.

Davidson hasn't officially been announced or signed, but rumors have contract negotiations under way.

As a Patriots staffer (TEs coach/assistant line coach), Davidson ran the offense for a few games and preseason of 2002. He was a favorite assistant of Charlie Weis', and was Weis' assumed successor but was passed up by Bill Bellichick. Davidson left for Cleveland with Romeo Crennel in 2005, and was named Assistant Head Coach in 2006 after the Browns blocked a move for Davidson to become Eric Mangini's offensive coordinator in New York.

Seemingly very well liked by his contemporaries, Davidson is noted as having players "go to the wall for him", and former co-workers have noted him with things such as "he lights up a room" and "players respond to him."

Among the first things known about his offensive style: he likes an open dialogue with his other offensive assistants about decision making, and the rumors have Mike McCoy taking an active role in the offense; his offensive playbook is a direct copy of Charlie Weis' book in New York/New England; his philosphy will mean much more audible changes at the line for Jake Delhomme; and chances are the team will have the same approach with a more innovative means toward that same goal.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Davidson, Shurmur

Pat Shurmur (QBs coach, Philadelphia) and Jeff Davidson (former OL coach, interim offensive coordinator, Cleveland Browns) are apparently two, and possibly the only two, new interviews in Mobile, Alabama as John Fox prepares to finish the 2007 staff before the Senior Bowl kicks off this week. Mobile tends to be a hotspot for coaching hires, as pro and some college assistants go in search of employment.

Shurmur's name is a new one, and unverified rumor; as quarterbacks coach with the Eagles, Shurmur has taken up some of the slack with the exit of Brad Childress to Minnesota (though Marty Morhinweg became the OC). Shurmur has an eleven year background coaching line in college and has coached with the Eagles as an offensive assistant, and then QBs coach, since 1999.

Davidson's name has come up in the past unverified, and appears to be up for all available jobs. Were the Panthers to not hire him as offensive coordinator, the team may look at him as a line coach, or if they promote TEs coach Dave Magazu, they may push Davidson to that role.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

New DBs coach

In the last few days, a strong lack of news has been concerning. Three coaches fired, not much news from the team, and only two outside candidates for the three jobs mentioned. Meanwhile, other teams were busy trying to tie up loose ends, and the Steelers job nearing completion meant most of the pieces would fall very soon.

Luckily, one of those two candidates signed Friday - Tim Lewis will be the DBs coach. Lewis has been in mention of a few head coaching jobs in years past, and has been the defensive coordinator of some fairly high ranked defenses with the Steelers and Giants (though 2005's Giants were certainly shown to be weak by Carolina in the playoffs), but had a bad year in 2006 and was released. Lewis, thought by some to be a scapegoat, was shown the door.

Now, as the only candidate rumored for the defensive backs job, Lewis has been hired. The team has apparently kept assistant DBs (safety) coach Mike Gillhamer, a former Fox assistant in New York (leaving a year before Fox, and never working with Lewis in NY) as the other secondary assistant. It's assumed, as with Perry, that Lewis will be the primary coach for the secondary.

"Tim's experience as both a player and coach in the NFL provide him with a sound knowledge of the defensive backfield," said Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox. "Our staff is familiar with him, and we think he will make a strong contribution to our defense."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The rumored fallen: Pope and Fassel?

The first rumored interview outside of the existing staff was Giants TEs coach Mike Pope, a somewhat innovative position coach and friend/former colleague of John Fox and Jim Skipper. Pope had been an initial candidate for the position in 2002.

First, rumors of an interview already placed had come out; then, rumors were that an interview could happen. By Wednesday, Giants president John Mara had denied the team had been contacted about Pope at all.

Jim Fassel was the second rumored; while he may be biding time to see what happens in Oakland with Al Davis, an owner Fassel admires (and most of the league community loathes or simply doesn't understand anymore), he had been rumored by Pro Football Weekly to join the Panthers' staff for 2007 as early as November 2006. Fassel has worked with a lot of the offensive staff remaining that has any prior pro experience - including working with Fox, Skipper, and third-tier assistant Geep Chryst in Arizona. Fox and Skipper were immediately hired on Fassel's staff the next year (Dave Magazu and Mike McCoy have no other pro experience, Richard Williamson has no prior experience with Fassel).

Despite a report by KFFL, it seems nothing has been mentioned about Fassel since. The only recent mention was from Keyshawn Johnson on Sirius Radio questioning why the team would want to hire Fassel "since he just got fired".
A complete lack of interviewing for the offensive line coach spot may be viewed as concerning, but the timing seems to be the only major problem at this point. The only offensive line coach hired so far in the season has been in Atlanta, where newly hired coach Bobby Petrino brought along his OL coach from Louisville, Mike Summers.

At this time, it would seem that the OL coach will be determined by Fox and the new OC; it hasn't been determined if TEs coach Dave Magazu, a career line coach whose only pro coaching position has been his current one here, will be a candidate. There are no current signs either way that the team has interest in moving Magazu, but one rumor has current Colts offensive assistant and former Bills/Panthers TE Pete Metzelaars coming over to fill the TEs coach position if Magazu did move over.

With only a handful of vacancies this year, there aren't many line coaches out there who would have the ability to move around, and all of them would come from fired staff around the league.

  • Atlanta no longer has use for Tom Cable, who coached the Falcons' OL for 2006 and had been the head coach at his alma mater, Idaho (2000-03) and offensive coordinator for UCLA (04-05) before joining the pro ranks.
  • The Cardinals likely have no use for OL coach Steve Loney, who manned the position for one year after coaching the line for Minnesota (2002-2005) and being their offensive coordinator as well (2005). Loney's Cardinals line was problematic, but he'd built a fine Viking line that included All-Pro center Matt Birk. Loney, however, may be on the lookout for what Denny Green does; Green may not have a chance at a position, given his cavalier attitude toward the Raiders.
  • Oakland's awful line merits no attention to their coaches, and while there was hope for former Pittsburgh and Kansas City assistant Irv Eatman, who had understudied Russ Grimm and Mike Solari respectively, there seems no hope now. Also, Jackie Slater, who like Eatman was titled Offensive Line Coach, may be a Hall of Fame inductee, but with one year under his belt as a coach, it's hard to assume there's promise.
  • Hudson Houck, storied line coach of the Cowboys and now the Dolphins, looks to be under a solid lock by Miami and isn't expected to leave.
There's also the chance a college assistant could present as a candidate.

Coaching Vacancies

It seems as if the DBs coach and OL coach vacancies are simply waiting for the OC position to resolve. Only one candidate for the DBs coach position has been rumored; no OL coaches have been even rumored at this point.

The Charlotte Observer states that the replacement OC will be named by Tuesday; this is likely to mean that interviews will be winding down this weekend, and that while there may be a name or two that hasn't leaked, the team will probably only have interviewed a handful of coaches for the job.

That would seem to give the edge to recently leaked candidate Ken Zampese, unless the team really feels like continuity and keeping the playbook the same are the top goals. If so, the team will likely turn to Skipper, and will leave little room for improvement of the talent of the coaching staff in general. One possible downside to a Skipper or McCoy promotion is the greater likelihood of in-house promotion to fill the OL coaching vacancy; it's not that Magazu isn't qualified, he just shouldn't be the default opportunity for a new OC who wants to gain favor of his former contemporaries.

Other candidates have not been identified publicly, but rumors do have the team looking at other progressive candidates, a positive step considering the outdated and predictable offense that had emerged from a simply conservative approach. It's not expected the team will be that much less conservative, but the methods as to how and to what extent the running game is figured as part of the equation should be re-established as a centerpiece.