The Packers kicked off the hiring cycle on Monday by tapping Titans OC Matt LaFleur to be their new head coach. On Tuesday, the Cardinals and Bucs followed suit and found their guys with Arizona nabbing former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury and the Bucs hiring old Cardinals boss Bruce Arians. All three teams have hired offensive-minded coaches who plan to call their own plays. That’s the new way teams are going in today’s NFL, and it makes a ton of sense. The upside of hiring an offensive coach who calls his own plays is when/if those coaches have success and other coach-needy teams come looking to raid the staffs for their own coach, the offense will remain the same and a new system will not have to be installed every time an OC leaves.
LaFleur just came off his first year calling plays after being the QBs coach in Atlanta under OC Kyle Shanahan from 2015-2016 before then being coach Sean McVay’s OC with the Rams in 2017. LaFleur’s first season as the head man on offense didn’t go all that great with the Titans, but he wasn’t dealt a great hand with an oft-injured Marcus Mariota and Blaine Gabbert as the fallback plan. He should find much more success with Aaron Rodgers, even if LaFleur is a bet-on-scheme unknown. He comes with McVay’s seal of approval. Kingsbury’s hiring in Arizona is much like the LaFleur one; bringing in a young coach with little experience but an exciting offensive background. Kingsbury ran an outrageously productive Air Raid scheme at Texas Tech and is part of the Mike Leach coaching tree. He also played for coach Bill Belichick after being drafted by the Patriots as a former quarterback. The upside is off the charts with both new coaches, but they could also be massive flops. Kingsbury has a second-year former first-round pick at quarterback at least, and also has other building blocks with David Johnson, Chandler Jones, and Patrick Peterson.
Arians is the old-school guy who also believes in an all-out offensive assault via downfield bombs and aggressive defense. He’s getting the old Arizona band back together, hiring DC Todd Bowles to run the Bucs’ defense, and pairing up Harold Goodwin and Byron Leftwich as run- and pass-game coordinators, respectively. Bowles was Arians’ DC in Arizona before he got the Jets’ head gig. Goodwin was Arians’ longtime OC, while Leftwich got his coaching feet wet as Arians’ QBs coach. The offensive personnel in Tampa Bay already fits well with the vertical scheme Arians runs.
The remaining head-coaching jobs left to be filled are the Bengals, Broncos, Browns, Dolphins, and Jets. Cincinnati’s search has been mostly kept under wraps and has stalled out in recent days. Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy and ex-Bucs OC Todd Monken are in the running following recent interviews. Hue Jackson also might still be in contention, along with ex-Broncos coach Vance Joseph, but neither would be a particularly exciting addition. The Broncos have narrowed it down to either Steelers OL coach Mike Munchak or Bears DC Vic Fangio. Neither screams off the page, but Fangio would at least be deserving of his first head-coaching gig. The Browns have two finalists — in-house OC Freddie Kitchens and Vikings OC Kevin Stefanski. Odds are in Kitchens’ favor at the moment after his amazing job with Baker Mayfield the second half of the season. Miami appears to be waiting on Patriots DC Brian Flores, but Cowboys defensive assistant Kris Richard, Saints DC Dennis Allen, and Bieniemy are all also part of the interview group. All are still in the playoffs. The Jets lost out to the Cardinals for Kingsbury. Ex-Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he’s only interested in the Jets’ gig, and he seems to have a shot. Monken and formers Dolphins coach Adam Gase are also in the mix, along with Baylor’s Matt Rhule. The Jets may be the next to make a hire.
The Falcons settled on ex-Bucs coach Dirk Koetter as their new OC and also hired former Titans coach Mike Mularkey as TEs coach. … Tyler Eifert (ankle) has resumed running. Heading into free agency again, Eifert should be full go for offseason activities. … The Patriots sent TE Jacob Hollister (hamstring) to I.R. and signed Stephen Anderson off the practice squad. … Sammy Watkins (foot) was limited in Tuesday’s practice. … T.Y. Hilton (ankle) and Eric Ebron (hip) did not practice Tuesday. … Todd Gurley (knee) will practice Wednesday. … Cole Beasley (ankle) did not practice Tuesday. … Melvin Gordon (knee) is expected to play in the Divisional Round against the Patriots. … Former Seahawks OC Darrell Bevell will interview for the Jaguars’ play-caller job.
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