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Monday, January 31, 2011

Eric Washington for DL Coach; Pete Hoerner for TEs; Skipper Out

Jim Skipper was told he's not in the team's plans at RB coach, but those plans aren't certain to anyone else yet. Chances are, it'll be a younger coach, with around a decade's worth of college experience, and a guy we haven't heard about. The pro market is about tapped out, and the guys with experience are older than we likely want.

Eric Washington, 41, was named defensive line coach. It's the fourth hire on defense, after coordinator Sean McDermott, DBs coach (and outgoing DC) Ron Meeks, and the guy who'll now be Washington's assistant, Sam Mills III. Washington and Mills will be overseeing the defensive line.

Washington was DL coach with Chicago last year, and assistant DL coach the two years before that under now-coordinator Rod Marinelli. A former Grambling player, he learned under coach Eddie Robinson, spent four years at the high school level coaching, then had stops at Texas A&M, Ohio, and Northwestern.

"Eric brings youth and experience to our staff and is a good fit to work with our young defensive line," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "He has coached on all levels of football and we are pleased to have him on our staff."


As I typed this, the story broke that Pete Hoener is now the TEs coach. Hoener was the 9ers TEs coach since 2005, has spent 25 years in the college ranks including having been OC, and has coached both TEs and OL in the NFL.

So what's left?

Carolina has a critical hire at LBs coach to complete the defense, though they may add an assistant DBs coach if the right guy is there.

They need a RBs coach for offense. They have two third-tier assistants already, so there's no telling whether they still have interest in hiring a third (Ricky Proehl). Proehl was rumored to be considered to be the special teams assistant as an added title to assistant WRs coach, and they traditionally do keep an assistant ST coach as well.

There's a continued hope they will hire LBs coach Dave McGinnis, since expected Titans hire Mike Munchak will have to rebuild the rest of the defense anyway. McGinnis was Ron Rivera's position coach, and a former coordinator and head coach.

WR coach: Fred Graves

The Tennesseean reports Titans WR coach Fred Graves is leaving the Titans for the same position with Carolina. Graves has 35 years experience, including 19 at Utah where he was an alum, and coached / recruited Steve Smith. Graves has been in the pros for a decade with Buffalo, Cleveland, TN, and Detroit.

Smith and Graves shared a kinship and a hometown...they are both LA natives. Smith has been on record as having lobbied for Graves before.

Graves is the 6th offensive coach hired so far, including third-tier assistants. The team still has two expected offensive vacancies, at TE coach and RB coach.

It's less clear whether the team will still attempt to hire Ricky Proehl as a coaching assistant. Graves will obviously coach WR, and while Scott Turner's official role will be as a quality control coach, his background is WR as well. Would there be separate room for another coach? I have a hard time believing it, but I would be open to it. I'm always in favor of third-tier assistants helping out.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fisher Out In TN, and our impact

Watching Jeff Fisher in Tennessee, and seeing a little bit of negative feedback from local fans on hiring Norv Turner's son, Scott, as offensive quality control coach, has brought back a bit to mind on the Turner issue and the Schottenheimer issue.

To that, I mean the disagreement between coaches and front office over staff.

*Marty Schottenheimer was fired after 14-2 because of disagreements over staff - they'd lost Cam Cameron, Wade Phillips, and Rob Chudzinski to other teams, along with letting son Brian go to New York. The front office tried to push Ted Cottrell on Schottenheimer, who wanted brother Kurt.

*Turner landed in San Diego instead of Dallas because Jerry Jones had already hired now-head coach Jason Garrett as OC before hiring a head coach. Turner didn't agree to that, so he had to leave dreaem job Dallas behind. It went to Phillips, who never escaped the inevitability that Garrett would succeed him in the job.

*Ron Rivera ended up losing the San Diego job to Turner. Turner was forced into taking Cottrell anyway. Rivera's contract was up in Chicago, and instead of taking the hot hand in Rivera as DC, he took the LBs job.

Cottrell was awful, Rivera was promoted, and they eventually lost him to Carolina. To be fair, Kurt Schottenheimer wouldn't have been any better than Cottrell, but there was no room for compromise in that situation, to the eventual detriment of both sides.

Fisher's staff crumbled because of disagreements over assistant staff, as well. So where is the line between owner and coach supposed to lie? It doesn't seem like it's that hard to work together on these matters.

I'll also commend Marty Hurney once again, after stating the front office would have a heavy hand in the offensive hiring, for taking the Ron Rivera-approved choice of Chudzinski instead of waiting longer for other coaches that may not have been available. Media pushed Tom Clements of the Packers and Bill Musgrave of the Falcons, at at least one would definitely not have been available (Clements has been blocked before; Musgrave moved on with permission, but likely would've had no permission for a move interdivisionally).

The OC job was a point in which a GM with newfound power could've made his own name known, to push power over a new coach, and he made the sensible choice instead.


Adam Schefter of ESPN says that Carolina was turned down on OL coach Mike Munchak early in their process to fill vacancies quickly.

It's uncertain why they targeted a coach that was under contract - I'm sure there's often a call into various teams about various position coaches, since there's not much way of knowing who's available otherwise.

As well, the information is rarely found to be available to the press, so even people that sift through tons and tons of pages of info to find a nugget like this, typically won't.


There's speculation as to whether the team would've been interested in Jim Zorn had he become available before Mike Shula, but squash it.

I guess it's fair to speculate, given that the team has snapped up a number of guys who were outright fired only days before. Sean McDermott and John Matsko were both suddenly and quickly hot candidates in Carolina.

Zorn's a name, not necessarily a talent. Plus, he was actually available. Matsko and McDermott were quality hires because they fit with scheme and were solid coaches, but got fired.

Zorn was apparently fired because he's a pain in the ass. Sometimes the guy whose name you recognize doesn't mean he's the best just means you don't know that many names.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Carolina announced the hiring of coach Scott Turner as an offensive quality coach. He will assist offensive cordinator Rob Chudzinski with tape study and game prep.
Turner coached receivers at University of Pittsburgh, and as son of Norv Turner, grew up around the offense we run.

It's in question whether they will continue to pursue Ricky Proehl as an assistant as they already have 3 third tier assistants and need a ST assistant.

With Jeff Fisher assumed out in TN, Carolina may (and should) talk with Dave McGinnis, assistant head coach and LBs coach there. McGinnis coached Ron Rivera in Chicago, was the head coach in Arizona years ago, and is as brilliant as he is respected. That's a fantastic potential hire.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Asst OL coach Ray Brown hired; Skipper, Shuey?

Ray Brown was hired as assistant line coach today. The former offensive lineman played in 263 games, starting 205, for the Cardinals, Redskins, 49ers, and Lions, with Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors in 2001. He won a championship ring with the Redskins in 1991.

Brown falls in line with what the team wants - a young teacher. He fits with what the Panthers seem to want with Ricky Proehl, a longtime player turned young coach to fit with a more experienced coach. Both Brown and Proehl have significant experience with the Coryell system as well.

As assistant line coach, Brown would assist with the linemen and TEs in practice, as well as aid in game tape and preparation, and quality control type duties. If the team hires Proehl to go with Brown, the pair of third-tier assistants would likely be a replacement for that QC position on offense. The team is still expected to hire an assistant DBs coach to go with Ron Meeks, who would share the third-tier defensive duties with Sam Mills III, and may hire a special teams assistant. Of the five possible positions, they only had a special teams assistant (Sam Garnes), defensive QC (Mills), and offensive QC (TEs coach Geep Chryst).

Jim Skipper interviewed with the new staff this week, which may be a good sign toward keeping him. However, the money won't be right (Skipper had accrued 9 years seniority, along with an assistant head coach title he won't likely have now), and he's 62, much older than the typical profile the team wants. The media is downtalking chances of him staying.

Bill Shuey's contract expired as LBs coach with the Eagles. Like DC Sean McDermott, his only real experience in coaching is with the Eagles. He's been there since 2003, working with the same defense we'll run here, with McDermott.

More personally, the firing must suck given that Shuey met his wife, Maura, with the Eagles; she works in the front office. Uncertain if he'll be a candidate, since he doesn't have much history outside the Eagles, but it wouldn't be unsurprising since he fits plenty of the criteria.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Matsko "fits"

I may have finally figured out why John Matsko likely got hired here so quickly.

Not to say that merit didn't enter into it, or the lack of OL coaches on the market once you took away Tom Cable or Mike Solari.

He's familiar with our offense.

That might not initially seem to matter much, but the methodology with the Coryell-Gillman O is pretty unique. Not unlike running the West Coast offense, it's somewhat interchangeable between coaches, but requires a knowledge of it. You can't just walk in and start calling its plays.

So, Matsko. He was with Cam Cameron for three years in Baltimore. Cameron runs the Coryell O, as he had for years (it was one reason Norv Turner was expected to be a good fit in San Diego). He also recently had on staff Al Saunders, a Coryell staffer (and longtime Dick Vermeil aide).

Before that, Matsko himself was with the St. Louis Rams for their Super Bowl runs. The Greatest Show On Turf, of course, was coordinated by Mike Martz, a Coryell proponent.

And there's the link. He's a career Coryell running game guy. Power running, zone blocking. Give the QB enough time for the precision timing routes.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Scheme and coordinator questions: I have (a few) answers

Coaching-staff junkies (geeks) like me get into the minutae a little harder than most, by design. So the first new staff since 2002 comes with new questions. Here, I'll try to answer (guessing, in most), questions I'd be most concerned with.

Will the coordinators be in the booth or on the field?

Rob Chudzinski will coordinate the offense, and may prefer the coaches' booth. He sat in the booth for San Diego the last two years, though Norv Turner did most of the playcalling (offensive coordinator Clarence Shelmon, who handled the running game and OL protections, was up there as well). I can't find info on Chudzinski's Cleveland tenure or Miami coordinating.

As would be expected, Mike Shula would call the plays to the QB.

On defense, Sean McDermott has called exclusively from the sidelines. He tried it once from the booth, and it didn't work out. Ron Rivera called from the sidelines as well, in San Diego, but did from the booth with Chicago. The only thing that would push McDermott to the sky would be an insistence from Rivera, based on how much/little input he'd want of his DC on the sidelines. Chances are, given the choice, McDermott would put former DC Ron Meeks in the booth, which is what would make an assistant DB coach (preferably a young one) a critical hire.

I prefer coordinators on the field, personally. Most teams put the WRs coach up there, and possibly the OC if wanted; they generally put the DBs coach up there, but some coordinators work from there on defense as well.

Offensive scheme?

Chudzinski is a disciple of the Don Coryell offense, getting it directly - Coryell taught Ernie Zampese, who passed it to Norv Turner. Coryell's offense has additional roots in Sid Gillman from the 60s.

It's a very vertical offense, though Turner's variant is considered more QB-friendly and takes more controlled chances. Mike Martz pilots the other, more open and aggressive form, though that seems to have calmed down more recently in Chicago. It has a lot of timing routes and precision in routes, and relies on a power running game from zone blocking (the last of which shouldn't be much of a departure).

Defensive scheme?

It's expected to be an odd-front 4-3 again, as they have been under John Fox (most 4-3 teams, honestly, do this anymore). Under tackle and nose-tackle combo inside, ends outside the OT. Only difference seems to be using the SLB on the line more.

But don't expect the same passive cover 2, or the disguise-scheme cover 3 base. Jim Johnson used extensive blitz packages and fire zone/zone blitz packages, and there's no reason to expect less of Rivera/McDermott.

Coverage base? Whereas Fox used a lot of disguised cover 3, and then Meeks' Tampa 2 using 2-deep and single high safety looks, the Jim Johnson defense varies things up much more. Expect more varied coverages and man coverage.

As for nickel, expect more 3-3 scheme and less vanilla 4-2 front. At one point, McDermott ran a 4-0-7 dime, putting a safety in the box in lieu of a single linebacker in the dime (he didn't have a Beason/Davis situation, however).

Assistant Update - Now With More Proehl

Carolina's talking with Ricky Proehl about being on its coaching staff for 2011, it seems. Good for Ricky - he's overhyped (so many fans' "favorite receiver", yet never started and played on teams with the two best WR Carolina's been blessed with), but was always a class act and exceptional slot receiver.

Plus, I've never stood behind any future Carolina coaches for a sandwich at a local deli before, and Proehl would give me that odd personal artifact.

All outlets are pushing the Proehl story, but only Steve Reed from the Gaston Gazette is forwarding the potential rumor that the team is interested in him as an "assistant WR coach" or "assistant WR/ST coach", a job that would essentially make him a paid intern with expectant promotion in the future.

Other sites haven't confirmed. All suggest that the team is interested in talking with Jerry Sullivan, the WRs coach with the 49ers last year, who had been considering retirement. The feeling is that Sullivan might not coach long, giving Proehl an inevitable plan of succession.

Carolina interviewed Proehl Thursday. No news on Sullivan interviewing.

The team's only had three WR coaches in team history - Richard Williamson (who batted for Proehl's hiring with the press today) is the patriarch, having taken all but two years worth (2001, when Mike Mccoy was oddly placed there so Williamson could continue as OC, and 2010, after Williamson's retirement).

So what else?

Carolina still has plenty of other needs besides the current WR coach issue.

They need position coaches at TE, RB, DL, LB, as well. They would be expected to hire an offensive quality control coach, possibly an asst. OL coach, and potentially another defensive quality assistant or assistant DBs coach.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Assistant Update

Following the quick hires of good-fit coordinators Sean McDermott (DC), Rob Chudzinski (OC), and Brian Murphy (ST), the team quickly moved to make a few other things happen. Most of this isn't breaking, since I'm just partially functional on a real keyboard again (fingers crossed - I'm on my laptop but running Linux), so most of this includes more commentary than anything.

So before the commentary, to update, John Matsko (Baltimore) is the OL coach, and former Alabama head coach Mike Shula is the QBs coach.


*McDermott - There's room for skepticism, since he was just fired. It would look like his elevation in Philly was all hype, that he wasn't ready. Still, his defenses finished 12th both years he coordinated them, and they were great in turnovers. He fits - he worked with Rivera, and knows the complicated defense we're about to run. If he has major flaws, Rivera and the guy listed next will fix it.

*Ron Meeks (DB) - This is an exceptionally smart hire, and I hope that fans realize this. 2010 wasn't his fault, and for all the defending I did of Mike Trgovac, Meeks' units were a step up from what Trgovac did post-2005 (give him credit for rebuilding in 07, but 08 was a collapse on par with Jake Delhomme). Meeks' units were smart, went after the football, and played hard.

He will make an exceptional DBs coach for us, given that he was responsible for fixing what's become a strong backend of that defense.

*Not getting Mike Singletary - Darin Gantt suggests this was all late speculation anyway, but getting Singletary would've been nice. He knows the game. He'd give us our Sam type presence anyway. But, since we didn't get him? We could've dodged a huge bullet. Mike's already talking to MN press about his next head coaching job, and it's well documented that he's crazy.

Similar thoughts on Dave Wannstedt. Would've been nice to get him as LBs coach and assistant head coach, but there's no requirement. We want young teachers, and he doesn't fit that. Rivera is looking away from cronyism - which runs rampant in the NFL. He could've tried to hire Ron Turner as OC, and Wannstedt as DC, but we've lucked into someone who administratively does less of this than John Fox.

*Sam Mills III - congrats on the promotion. Assistant DL coach is a bit odd, but makes sense (DL and DB generally carry more in both active roster players and preseason players), and gets him on the field a bit more than the previous tape jockey job (a role he'll still play). This is the best form of nepotism, and we wouldn't give him more responsibility if he weren't up to it. I do hope it means we will still hire a 2nd DBs coach/defensive quality control type coach, regardless of Meeks' acumen.


*Rob Chudzinski - Not coincidental that Rivera mentioned TE as a focus on offense. It's a spot where we could actually get younger, or add a free agent, on O without stepping on what Marty Hurney's tried to bring in. And then we hire a TEs coach as coordinator.

Of course, he's only a TEs coach by previous trade - Chud is a realistic option, and a damn fine one. He was the right hand man of Norv Turner's in SD, so he got to gameplan a bit and help with playcalling, a nice step back but good maintenance for a guy who had been a coordinator in the previous job. He was able to see Clarence Shelmon administrate the O, as well, without having to handle it himself. Most importantly, he was a critical piece of the #1 Offense, to go with the DC from the #1 Defense (Rivera), all from one team (and as luck would have it, it worked out - it would never work that way 99% of the time).

*Mike Shula - QBs coach was designated a critical hire before the Panthers finished their head coach process. Is Shula the technique-laden problem solver? Maybe not. I don't know his record of molding young talent - his recent pupils were Jay Fiedler and David Garrard. I do know that he's got his (failed) experience as OC and head coach. He's going to be great at teaching the rest of the game, and helping Chudzinski with the O. Other options were quickly dissolved, but Carolina lucked into finding Shula without a contract (with our regards, overzealous Alabama front office, for giving him the security to not need a long term contract with anyone else - since he has yours still).

*John Matsko - He's a good fit on the OL, and the Panthers snapped him up quickly once he came available. The Ravens' OL wasn't without its problems, but looks like Matsko is fired to save Cam Cameron. Matsko's the veteran of the group so far, and aside from Meeks the only one over 45 to be onboard.

ST - Brian Murphy's already done his time as an assistant ST coach. He's broken in, had his success, but he's still young. Solid hire. Were it me, I'd have been more in tune with former Panther and Patriot Brad Seely, personally.


*CBA - it's no surprise that the labor agreement is a critical part of the thought process of owner Jerry Richardson. It's possible the Panthers, as one of the few teams starting over, will pay a price more heavily than other teams if there's a holdout/lockout until closer to August. Teams won't practice, so no one can install their plays and schemes - deadly important for new teams like Carolina's.

But consider this - Rivera's hiring of coordinators who are highly esteemed, yet run the exact schemes he likes and knows extensively? It's as important and critical as any other choice we could've made.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Panthers Hire Coordinators

Doing this from my phone, so sorry for the lack of detail.

You win some and lose some, but Carolina won big on their coordinator choices.

They landed recently fired Philly DC Sean McDermott, who runs the same defense Ron Rivera runs here. The pair worked together for five years there.

They also landed Rob Chudzinski, San Diego's assistant head coach/TEs, who was Rivera's choice but not likely Marty Hurney's initially. Apparently, that other still in the playoffs.

They also officially announced retaining Ron Meeks, coordinator 09-10, as DBs coach, a coup given secondary play over the last two years, and added former Minnesota ST coach Brian Murphy.

But they lost Tyke Tolbert (WRs), Dave Magazu (OL) to Denver along with targeted coach Wayne Nunnally (DL). They pursued former 49ers coach Mike Singletary (LBs) to Minnesota as well. So they didn't win all their battles, but caught their big names.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A New Assistant Name

"Sources told that former CFL assistant coach and head coach Mike Kelly is on Rivera’s list of possible assistant coach hires. It’s believed that Kelly is being considered for a job as an assistant on the offensive side of the ball."

Kelly is an interesting option for position coach. He was head coach with the Blue Bombers of the CFL in 2009, was OC in the CFL for years, and was a third-tier assistant and advance scout for the Philadelphia Eagles during the last two years Rivera was there. Looks like he's coached receivers and quarterbacks.

Assistant Update

Looks like the assistants are up for grabs at this point - Greg Manusky may be in Dallas, Rob Chudzinski is still in Miami but is expected to interview here Thursday, Dave Wannstedt may be here or San Diego. Looks like Marc Trestman may be favored for the San Francisco job instead of here as rumored.

Only new mentions? Chicago assistant special teams coach Chris Tabor is rumored as a 'likely' candidate here. Tabor works under Dave Toub, a contemporary of Ron Rivera's in Chicago and Philadelphia (Toub assisted John Harbaugh there, and takes a lot from that time). Rivera has no direct connection to Tabor himself, but the background is apparently appealing.

So, Chudzinski looks to be their top OC choice. Wannstedt, Manusky, and Ryan are looking to fall in somewhere, and one will probably be DC. Time will have to sort it all out.

Without much else to say in this post, here's what I hope for, regarding an assistant staff.

OC - traditional coordinator, calls the plays, is on the field instead of the booth. Does most of the gameplanning but reports from assistants on their specialties are relied upon. Runs the offensive practice and
QBs coach - assists in running the offensive practice, helps in gameplans. No combo OC/QBs coaches. Traditional concentration on gameplanning 3rd down and v/s nickel. Input on play calls.
OL coach - hard nosed, heavily technique based drill instructor. Resident expert on attacking fronts.
WR coach - always in the booth on gameday, helps with passing game and how to attack defensive secondary.
RB coach - handles adjustments and aids in run game development
TE coach - true position coach, no "assistant line/TE coach".
No running game/passing game titles. Up to two third tier coaches, one that does quality control/tape preparation and one that primarily helps with, for instance, the OL and TE.

DC - DCs don't vary much compared to OCs. You run the defense, there's not a lot to it.
DL - also aids in rush skills for LB, fine tunes blitz packages
LBs - tackling czar. No ILB/OLB coach split in 4-3.
DBs - two coaches, but one primary and one assistant. Assistant is quality control and nickel defense.

ST - one primary, and always one secondary. Secondary aids in coaching scout team as well.

Any assistant head coach - traditionally expect one, max two. No two on same side of ball. No associate HC type titles. Hierarchy should be very simple. Head coach, this coach, all other coaches. Preferably not a title held by coordinators.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

TE: A Factor Again?

Ron Rivera's press conference included the following words about the position:
“The tight end is by committee. There are three guys there I like and they each have a quality of their own. But if there is a guy out there whether through the draft or free agency or on our roster that can become that guy that does it all of the time we have to find him. I think that will help us as an offense.”

TE is one of a very small number of places that Carolina could actually get younger at; Dante Rosario and Jeff King are free agents, and it's the only position that doesn't have a rookie or second year player as of the end of 2010.

The tight end used to be storied for Carolina - its first regular season TD was scored by former Bills TE Pete Metzelaars, one of their first signings. Wesley Walls succeeded him in 1996, riding him to the NFC Championship game, and almost making the playoffs in the wildly successful offense of 1999 (Walls' 12 TDs tied a record at the time).

Carolina dropped Walls in the banner year of 2003 for slot WR Ricky Proehl; there was never really much reason as to why there wasn't room for both. When Carolina traded out OCs to get Jeff Davidson in, the committee approach came together, but still without one guy. The 2 TE run formations worked for the run, but playaction never went to the TE and it was never a good outlet option other than this year (where Rosario led the team in 3rd down targets and receptions most of the year).

It seems that the new offense will include more one-tight end sets, allowing more creativity with other positions. San Diego typically used one tight end, All-pro Antonio Gates, in their run-first offense.

As well, the team's leading option for OC, Rob Chudzinski, is a former TE and coaches tight ends. Current TEs coach Geep Chryst has a past with Rivera, as the team's Director of Research/Quality control, while Rivera was a player. Rivera would succeed Chryst in the role with the Bears under Dave Wannstedt.

Early Coordinator Options

ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter report that Dave Wannstedt will be a candidate for both the Carolina and San Diego defensive coordinator spots.

San Diego needs to replace Ron Rivera, and Wannstedt has a long history with head coach Norv Turner. Wannstedt, who gave Rivera his first coaching job in Chicago, is close with Rivera as well. Mortensen/Schefter's source, which sounds like it's from Wannstedt's camp, states he's a candidate for DC in both situations. The former Bears and Dolphins head coach was recently released as head coach of his alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh.

Chargers assistant head coach Rob Chudzinski, who worked there as TEs coach twice in between a stint as Browns OC, is available. Assistant coaches aren't traditionally available when under contract to make lateral moves (the NFL determines titles as coordinator, or asst. HC, to still just be "assistants"), but Chudzinski allowed his contract to expire.

The former Miami Hurricane TE won two championships there and ended up coaching there 1996-03, the last three of which he called plays as offensive coordinator. With his first of two years with Cleveland, he coordinated the 8th overall offense.

Wannstedt coached there as defensive coordinator the first three years Chudzinski played there, if you need a connection between the two. Chudzinski, as a position coach and coordinator, has never directly coached quarterbacks, but I'm not typically of a mind to double up tasks like OC and QBs coach, nor seemingly does the front office or Rivera - each mentioned the two as separate ideas in discussion, thankfully.

Various sources suggest that the team could fall back on Ron Turner as OC. The former two-time Bears OC and Illinois head coach would be an awful option I'd rather not continue commenting on.

Pat Yasinskas notes a third option, Montreal Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman. Yet another coach with a university of Miami background (graduated with a law degree while coaching there in the mid-80s), Trestman was OC with the last of the Seifert era 49ers, was QBs coach under the Jon Gruden Raiders and OC with the year-after Super Bowl team, coached QBs under Wannstedt in Miami in 2004, went to NCSU for two years to be an overly conservative OC for Chuck Amato, and finished this narrative with three years with the Alouettes and two Grey Cups.

Trestman isn't being rumored elsewhere, but is an interesting choice. Since it looks like the front office will have say in the offensive hires, it's possible this has validity from within the team itself.

Post-Presser: Rivera impressions

Jotting down a quick series of thoughts, after having watched Ron Rivera

*Rivera doesn't speak in cliche. To make analogies to him as a defender, he makes no false steps. When he speaks, and hopefully when he acts, it's with purpose.

*He impresses with his knowledge and how easily it flows out. The season's been over a week, and Rivera seems up to speed enough to know where he wants the core players already, quoting names (and when blanking, jersey numbers) on offense and defense.

*He has a clear vision for this team. Good buzzwords (aggressive, active) without

*He seems to be overly interested in working with the defense, already the strength of the team. Be mindful in a half-hour of reasons why he'll be different than John Fox, that Fox had this same problem. A head coach must know how to delegate, and not get overly wrapped up on details of the play to play action. A great coordinator must think a play, two plays ahead. A great head coach has to be mindful of thousands of plays in the past and future.

*This quote stood out, so I'll just leave it:
"As a college player, my goal was to be drafted into the NFL. I did that. As an NFL player, my goal was to be on a superbowl winning team. I did that too. As a defensive coordinator, my goal was to have the best defense in the league. I did that twice. As a head coach, my goal will be to build a championship team that is a threat year after year. There's a lot of work to be done, and I don't plan to sit on my past accomplishments, but I haven't failed a goal yet. Try me."

*Jerry Richardson is just not good at his most public role. Marty Hurney, Danny Morrison are paid to do this for a living - let them. I understand the want, even the need, to be the front man, but at least let someone write down what you need to say.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bad Puns And New Coaches

With the dawn of the newest head coach upon us, the obvious questions will make their way out as well - staff, roster, draft, what type of coach Ron Rivera will be,

Obscured in that? The little things, like what sort of corny nonsense the team website will use when titling Rivera's comments. For years, fans were , and before that, fans were outright abused with their title for press conferences: "Comments, by George." I'm sure that someone's grandmother is eagerly anticipating putting down her knitting to come up with something "clever" right this minute.

So, while the Dom Capers era escaped the terrible puns of the team website, and Andrew Luck himself escaped a nuclear winter of corniness, Ron Rivera just won't be that lucky.

Potential Press Conference Titles:

In A Van Down By The Rivera
A-Ron-ic Comments
How The Rivera Flows

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Rivera It Is?

Conflicting reports are coming out (including some very irresponsible 'journalism' quoting Peter King as twitting something he hasn't), but we know this - Ron Rivera will get a 2nd interview.

There aren't rumors about Ryan or Manusky, but Perry Fewell has been rumored to not be asked back. It's hard to say how accurate that is - it suggested Fewell won't get a 2nd look in Denver either, and it came around while Fewell was still interviewing with Denver.

As well, it looks like Brian Schottenheimer isn't a candidate. It didn't mention whether the team was unwilling to wait, or unimpressed. Hopefully, they were unimpressed.

So, absent of another candidate, Rivera may be the guy. And given that one candidate has made it to round 2, hard to believe too many coaches are left to start round 1.

For reference, John Fox received a second interview after a reported 5 interviews in the first round of 2002 interviews - he was announced the next day as the 3rd head coach of the Carolina Panthers. There's no date for Rivera's 2nd interview, but it's worth betting that there's a press conference to follow.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Rivera Staff

So, with Rivera as the 'early leader' - who would he bring in as staff?


If Rivera could have a San Diego staffer, he would. They can't force San Diego to allow coaches to leave on lateral moves (which is clarified by assistant coach v/s head coach - coordinators and Assistant Head Coaches aren't considered promotions). If John Ramsdell is available - current SD QBs coach - he might be the next OC. But the Chargers could still block the move. Ramsdell has been a part of the growth of Phillip Rivers and Kurt Warner.

On the other hand, expect the front office to have a lot of say in this hire, as they've indicated.

Rivera coached in Philadelphia with Brad Childress (99-2002) - LBs coach and QBs coach, respectively. Childress is a big name on offense that should have some autonomy, but also would be forced to take orders without having the keys like in MIN.

QBs coach: Brian Daboll - former Browns OC, Jets QBs coach. Daboll's available as a coordinator, but may not have the clout to get another job. No ties to Rivera.

OL coach: Mike Solari - last with the 49ers. Great lines of the Chiefs for years, has coordinator experience. Best available, but without ties to Rivera.

DC: First guess is that the Panthers' front office will take advantage of their interviews, and hire either Rob Ryan or Greg Manusky as defensive coordinator if Rivera would mesh with either. Ryan, the more outspoken assistant, wouldn't see as much media here, and has coordinated the 4-3 before.

With either of those coaches comes potential assistants: Ryan would probably include DL coach Bryan Cox, with Manusky might come DBs coach Johnnie Lynn.

Other possible staff?

*Greg Williams - current Assistant LBs coach, San Diego. College coach since 03, joined the Chargers in 09 - Rivera's first full year as coordinator. Williams was a WR/DB for UNC in 94-97. He's availble because he's a third-tier assistant - an assistant-assistant if you will. Could get a job as Safeties coach with a more experienced DBs coach.

*Cris Dishman - current Assistant DBs coach, San Diego. Has only 3 years experience at tiny Menlo college before joining the Chargers, but was a Pro Bowl player for years. Like Williams, he's a 3rd tier assistant who joined in 09. Another option to help coach a position on defense, would be familiar with the defense.

*Geep Chryst, late with the Panthers, has coached QBs and TEs, along with being an offensive coordinator. He was one of the league's first quality control coaches with the Bears at the end of Rivera's playing career (91-92). It would make sense to work him in somewhere.

King: Rivera "Early Leader"

Days after it was rumored that NYG defensive coordinator Perry Fewell is Carolina's favorite for the head coaching job, SI's Peter King updates with this:

@SI_PeterKing: I'm hearing SD D coordinator Ron Rivera's the early leader in CAR.

It makes sense - Rivera led the league last year with that defense, fits with the cover 2/4-3/odd front defense we'd likely ask him to run, and he's not available otherwise - he can't move to our team as a DC, whereas other candidates can.

There's the feeling that the Panther brass would like to make some splashes in the assistant market, and may push DC candidates Manusky or Ryan on Rivera. Both are available as assistants, whereas Rivera and Fewell are with teams with intact staff.

Control A Major Issue For Panthers

It seems that, right or wrong, John Fox did a number on Jerry Richardson.

Control, both over the roster and apparently the offense, will be more in the hands of the front office than before. Apparently, these were sticking points in the later years of the Fox era, both in the lack of playing of young players and in how the offense works.

This was something Carolina owner Jerry Richardson almost seemed to not concern with, before recently. He recently stated the team didn't give as much concern to what they wanted, apparently not worrying as much about whether they liked what the coach would do as much as how likely it seemed it could be accomplished. Now, it's what they want, which is good - but why wasn't that the case before?

The new head coach, therefore, while still looking to be a defensive minded guy, will have to focus more on offense to the front office's liking, whereas Fox seemed less likely to be involved in what had been the lesser side of the ball the last few years.

It's obviously too soon to tell if this approach will net success, but it looks like Richardson has over-reacted to a point. It's his right and his team, but punishing the next coach for disagreements with the last coach seems to punish the wrong guy.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Coaching Search Not Complete

The Charlotte Observer notes that Jerry Richardson has confirmed the four guys they're talking with - but that it's not over. That suggests at least one more candidate, orobably with a playoff team.

That most likely points to Eagles DC Sean McDermott, who would be an attractive possibility. The Eagles also occasionally allow promotions outside their own team for our OC job, and former MN head coach Brad Childress worked with McDermott for years.

It could also mean Jets OC Brian Schottenheimer, though the team has made it clear so far that defensive coordinators make great problem solvers (and it comes with a decree that the team will have a heavy hand in who hires the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coaches), and that they'll value a strong defensive head coach/offensive coordinator duo.

Based on the team's criteria, high-value coordinators Mike Mularkey (Falcons) and Gregg Williams (Saints) are out because of their previous head coaching experience.

The Seahawks likely don't have anyone of interest, nor would the Colts. There's always the off chance that the Patriots do, but Bill Belichick wields so much power that it's hard to get a read on anyone who's good. Green Bay's Dom Capers has obviously been here already, but assistant head coach Winston Moss could be an outside possibility. Moss is a former player, and assistant head coach duties do somewhat prepare a coach for the head coach role.

As an aside, I don't know whether I like the extra power that the front office is wielding. I like that they're not going to let a coach dictate everything he's doing, but there's a balance. Hiring a coach and guiding him toward what you want is different from the more extreme - say, hiring a coordinator before a head coach, like Jerry Jones has, or meddling in the day to day ways of the team.

But, the team having apparently not put enough into what they felt they wanted in a coach is bizarre. If Fox was the best candidate but they wanted a more forward-thinking approach to the offense, they could've dictated that, either in 2002, 2007, or even without staff change. If Richardson didn't have the power to suggest what the team should do, or shouldn't do, on a yearly basis - why not?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Thoughts On Rob Ryan

Greg Manusky was announced last night as the 3rd interview; Rob Ryan was announced today as the 4th. It looks like this pair join the other pair of defensive coordinators as the four interviews the team will allow.

Rob, 48, defensive coordinator for the Browns this year and for the Raiders for years before that, has football in his blood. It's harder to say that it hasn't made him crazy, and he's no less so than twin brother Rex, head coach of the Jets, or father Buddy, architect of various great defenses and bad teams throughout my lifetime.

Greg, 44, is DC for the 49ers. They had trouble filling the job last (Mike Nolan was the coach then, and had issues with getting the right DC). He worked with Marty Schottenheimer as LBs coach starting in 2001, went with him to San Diego, and joined the 49ers in 2007. He played in the league for 12 years before that, with the Redskins, Vikings, and Chiefs. He was with the Redskins when GM Marty Hurney was a staff assistant there.

Of the two, Ryan's by far the better coach. Had, at one point, dominating defenses in Oakland. He comes from the Patriots system, can run the 4-3 (which is necessary for this team), and is an aggressive coach. He'd be an exciting, strong coach who seems to make sense running a team.

Manusky, in comparison, doesn't have the name recognition as a player or coach, doesn't have the resume, and hasn't accomplished much. He brings strong communication skills, but the rest is essentially unknown.

Ryan's biggest detraction is his mouth - he was insubordinate to then-Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin at times, and his family has a long history of speaking their minds in distasteful ways. That might be too much for Jerry Richardson, fond of quieter coaches in the media as far as negatives or criticism.

So, with four coming in, I like Ron Rivera and Rob Ryan of the group. Hopefully, the hire will be between those two.

Hue Jackson

Tom Cable was fired, so maybe Hue Jackson is available. He's by far the best OC available.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Darin Gantt Talks Me Off The Ledge

I spent last night until 2am sweating over the head coaching job.

My worries included whether or not Andrew Luck would come out, and whether or not we'd pick him if he did - which is still a concern.

But moreso, it's that we didn't seem interested in Jim Harbaugh, according to the national media. The locals said, don't panic, they are.

But it was tough to believe. I could only see worries of hiring a Russ Grimm thanks to his Steeler and Redskin past, and watching it go up in flames, with or without Andrew Luck - though possibly without. The Hogs had few line changes but won with 3 different QBs in the Super Bowl, right? Hey let's change things up and trade Luck away for some linemen!

So around that point I'm on the ledge, considering ending it all. I lived through 2010, I can't wait four months worth of draft after having hired a freaking line coach as head coach, and then seeing him flush that pick down the drain.

Well, tonight, Darin Gantt saved me.

They've been talking to Harbaugh "for weeks". That's what I'm talking about. That's how it should be and should continue to be.

Then he popped that about Bruce Arians. This team is going to kill me.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Available Assistants

In the modern NFL, assistants are hard to come by. Teams now need permission to move around for any 'lateral move', which includes coordinator jobs.

Which makes the trash heap the way to find guys. Coaches that are on fired staffs are the only ones you know you can get.

With five teams having fired staff, there's already some to choose from. And while assistants don't matter until there's a head coach, staff is a critical component to success.

San Francisco:
Mike Solari - former architect of tough Kansas City OL, was a coordinator there for a year, and is a master of the WCO style running game. Fits with anyone, but has ties with Brian Schottenheimer through years with his father, Marty.

Tom Rathman - former fullback and 49er hero, is a fine WCO technician. More likely to stay than not, however.

Johnny Lynn - DBs coach that has coordinator experience, succeeding John Fox in New York. Entirely possible he coaches under Fox wherever he lands.

Eric Mangini - was a solid defensive coordinator. Players seem to rally around him but not consistent enough. Probably not a head coach by any means.

Brian Daboll - not an exceptional offensive coordinator, but has experience in the same system Carolina just finished up. Experience coaching QBs as well, and former Patriot coach.

Brad Seely - good ST coach, was here in 1995-98.

Rob Ryan - steely twin to Rex, no less crazy than his brother. Has some background in 4-3 but coached the 3-4 more recently. Very good defensive coordinator, potentially the best available that won't be a head coach.

Bryan Cox - former asshole linebacker in the NFL, now a solid defensive line coach. May follow Ryan and/or Mangini somewhat blindly.

Wade Phillips - he's a good DC. Fits with Brian Schottenheimer, having both been on staff in San Diego. A 3-4 only guy, with baggage. The rest of that staff likely stays.

Tennessee (projected staff change):
This is an "if" Fisher is fired.
Fisher is a head coach or nothing, so doesn't apply to this list. Getting any of these coaches means persuading the coach not to follow Fisher wherever he's going.

Dave McGinnis - former head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, assistant head coach. Excellent tactician and player's coach. Isn't a cooordinator, so might want one more shot at running a unit.
Geep Chryst, current Panthers TEs coach, was his offensive coordinator.

Perry Fewell A Candidate

Perry Fewell, defensive coordinator of the New York Giants, has been requested for interview by the Carolina Panthers.

Fewell (48) has been with the Giants just this year, and finished 2009 as the interim head coach of the Bills after starting there as defensive coordinator in 2006.

He's from Gastonia and played at Lenior Rhyne.

Fewell's defense in 2010 finished 7th overall, #1 in takeaways, and 6th in net yards. It did fade down the stretch, with the late collapse against Philadelphia (38 points) and Green Bay (45 points). His Buffalo defenses weren't exceptional - 18th, 31st, 14th, 19th, but did finish 2nd in pass defense in 2009.

Cleveland also requested Fewell, and will likely interview him as well.

So - my thoughts? Fewell may very well be a fine coach - and he fits, in that he runs a 4-3. I haven't seen much if at all that suggests he is above average, or that he's an exceptional coordinator or motivator. He doesn't have many flaws, either. He seems like a good communicator, well liked, and

And I could care less that he's from Gastonia.

Who could he bring?

Since Fewell is on an existing staff, he can't count on anyone from the Giants to come along. He coached with current/former Panthers WR coach in 2009 with Buffalo, and current/former Bills DB coach George Catavolos is still in Buffalo (which could be a staff that's let go soon).

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Rivera To Interview

So who is Ron Rivera, in a paragraph?

First Puerto Rican player in the NFL. Born in California, 48 years old (49 this month). Linebacker, Bears, 1984-92. 97-98 as a coaching intern with the Bears after being in the media, 1999-03 with the Eagles as LBs coach under legendary coach Jim Johnson, 04-06 with the Bears as Tampa 2 (4-3) defensive coordinator under Lovie Smith. 05 and 06 were 2nd and 5th respectively in the league, but Smith let him go under concern for what looking for a head coaching job would do to his preparation for the playoffs.

07 as LBs coach under Norv Turner, 08-10 as defensive coordinator (3-4). 2010 defense was top in the league.

Most likely a Rooney Rule hire, Rivera fits the mold of what Carolina wants. This probably isn't the only guy we contact before Jim Harbaugh coaches the Orange Bowl.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Media Sitting On Stories

The John Fox era ends tomorrow, and with it plenty that we will eventually find ended with it.

And along with the stories of the good times (it's amazing how suddenly it's remembered how personable he is with players, and how they fight for him), a regime change brings the inside stories of where they failed.

But why does it take change of that magnitude to bring that level of story?

It's coming out this week (story by Darin Gantt) that the rift between John Fox and Marty Hurney had been present in scouting over a year ago.

I guess it's no surprise, with Fox not getting a contract extension in 08 or 09, and with Hurney reportedly getting a quiet contract extension this year.

And this week Pat Yasinskas stated that the reason for the exodus in assistant coaching was at Fox's urging, stating his own job wouldn't be extended.

So why does it take this long to bring this up? Why does it take the media until now to bring up how damaged things were between Hurney and Fox, or to state why a number of assistants straight-out decided to leave?

You could say it's about not damaging the relationship with the coaches or front office, but I'd say the relationship was already fairly damaged. The bottom line? The media holds stories, willfully choosing to not tell the whole story while a head coach is still employed.

Fox Official: Fired; What It Means For Assistants

Jerry Richardson announced today that John Fox and staff would not return.

It's not a new suggestion - Fox has been in contract dispute since 2008, has had significant turnover on staff since, and more recently has been in conflict with GM Marty Hurney.

But the firing of all the assistants - none of which were technically under contract anyway - is more a sign of what's to come.

In the past, new staffs here included holdovers - Richard Williamson stayed with Fox in 2002, and George Seifert inherited four offensive coaches in 1999. This makes the job more attractive, in theory, to someone who might have a staff already.

So, who already has a staff? Certainly not assistant coaches - it's very rare in this league you can get promoted to head coach with a new team and take teammates with you. It wouldn't impact former head coaches who haven't been coaching, since they don't currently employ assistants.

So, obviously, it's a move you'd imagine would involve guys who are head coaches already.

Or, Jeff Fisher and Jim Harbaugh, each of which have viable NFL assistants on board already.

It also doesn't mean the team won't want to keep some current assistants - Brian Baker, for instance, shows promise, and the team would be interested in others if it fit the coach's philosophy.

But, for now, it looks like the idea might be to get established quickly. If the team wants to attract Andrew Luck (and who knows if they do), having a friendly staff (or lacking Harbaugh as an option, just a complete, winning staff) would go a long way.

And, with plenty of pending Panther free agents, it's clearly time to see who will fit (and be asked to stay) so negotiations can begin.