What coaching changes will teams make for 2019?

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How the coaching carousel looks on the dawn of Black Monday:

Cleveland: It’s a more wide-open field now. With the Browns showing so much promise in a 5-3 second half, this is a far more attractive job than it was two months ago. With the success of Freddie Kitchens as offensive coordinator—Baker Mayfield loves him and responds to him—my sense is the Browns feel they don’t have to get the next great offensive brain to work with Mayfield and develop an offensive identity. They might have that guy now. So that could put a defensive presence like Vic Fangio of Chicago in play, or even a special-teams guru like Dave Toub—well known to GM John Dorsey from their days in Kansas City. Gregg Williams will be interviewed for the gig, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be a serious candidate. I still think McDaniels and Lincoln Riley will be vetted by the Browns too.         

Green Bay: The Pack is rounding up some different suspects. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald is an interesting name; he’s done a lot with less at the strong academic school, which could be appealing to GM Brian Gutekunst because so many marginal players need to play roles for NFL teams to win; roster churn in the NFL is a way of life. I’ll be surprised if the Packers don’t interview Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who I believe will be interested only in the best jobs on the market because he knows he has a bright future in New England. If I were McDaniels, those jobs this year would be Cleveland and Green Bay.  

Arizona: No Mike McCarthy? Hmmmm. I said last week McCarthy could be interested in Arizona (for football and family reasons); CBS’ Jason LaCanfora said Sunday that McCarthy would not be a candidate there. This is an interesting job—assuming, today, that Steve Wilks is let go after one season—because Cards have had a talent drain and have not had impact drafts the last couple of years. Even though they have the first pick in the draft, GM Steve Keim could be on thin ice with one more bad season. So a head-coach candidate in Arizona could wonder: Who will my boss be in a year?

Denver: Vance Joseph could never stop the bleeding. Broncos had an eight-game losing streak last year, and Joseph vowed to be better at turning around the bad runs. This year, Denver had a four-game losing streak early, and finished the year losing four in a row. You just never got the feeling he could turn it around. That plus game-management issues (such as kicking the field goal, down four with 4:39 left at the Cleveland 6-yard line, and losing by one to the Browns Dec. 15) doomed Joseph, who will leave with an 11-21 record. The Broncos thought briefly of dumping the offensive coaching staff—John Elway wants to emulate some of the more imaginative offensive schemes in football—and pairing Joseph with a bright young offensive coordinator; I’m told Elway would not have brought Gary Kubiak back to run the offense. But Denver is more likely to blow it up today and start a wide search. Elway is most likely to try to find the best available offensive mind and build a staff around him.

New York Jets: Discipline, or a lack of it, killed Todd Bowles. Three straight seasons of 5-11, 5-11 and 4-12 are the obvious reasons Bowles will get fired. But this one play from Sunday’s desultory end of his reign crystallized how Bowles couldn’t get through to some undisciplined guys. Midway through the second quarter, defensive lineman Henry Anderson of the Jets had the harebrained penalty of the day, shoving Tom Brady after he threw the ball away on third down, giving the Patriots, already up 14-3, a fresh set of downs and, as it turned out, an easy third touchdown of the day. “There’s a reason why the Jets are 4-11,” Ian Eagle said on CBS. Yes there is. Bowles has railed against the lack of discipline, and now someone new will see if they can get through to players committing stupid fouls. I’m told it’s likely GM Mike Maccagnan will get one more coach to hire. If I were him, I’d try to convince Mike McCarthy to be interested. Not sure McCarthy would come—he is widely reported to be considering taking 2019 off—but control over the roster and the specter of coaching Sam Darnold should tempt him.

Atlanta: Beware, coordinators. The bloated Falcons coaching staff will likely be overhauled, with head coach Dan Quinn changing lots at the top. Endangered: offensive coordinagtor Steve Sarkisian, defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel and veteran special-teams coordinator Keith Armstrong. Owner Arthur Blank will give GM Thomas Dimitroff and Quinn 2019, and maybe not much longer, to clean up this 7-9 mess.

Baltimore: Strange days in Maryland. As I wrote last week, I’m not sure John Harbaugh will sign an extension; he might, but it’s no sure thing. If he doesn’t sign, and if the Ravens decide not to proceed with a lame-duck head coach, it’ll be interesting to see where Harbaugh would land, because he’d easily be the hottest commodity on the market. First things first, though. The Ravens will be a tough out in the playoffs, and that’s got to be everyone’s first priority now, of course.

Cincinnati: Marvin Lewis out? Does it matter? Jay Glazer had Lewis out on FOX Sunday, and I don’t doubt it. I know Bengals owner Mike Brown, and I know how much he likes regularity, and I also know this would not be a widely sought job. I remember a few years ago discussing the Bengals job with a league executive, who said, “You mean the 33rd franchise?” The Bengals are not progressive, and they are not an attractive franchise, and I can’t imagine a coach who’d have other options wanting to succeed Marvin Lewis.

Tampa Bay: Dirk Koetter couldn’t fix Jameis Winston, and so he’s gone. With GM Jason Licht staying and lording over the coach search, it’s obvious the Bucs are going to give another coach the chance to save Winston’s Tampa career in 2019, year five of Winston’s time with the Bucs. The Buc job is somewhere far south of Green Bay and Cleveland on the coach-desirability meter and north of Cincinnati. It’ll be interesting to see how much interest Licht can drum up among premier candidates.

Jacksonville: Should Doug Marrone be safe? He is, according to owner Shad Khan, despite another afternoon of player misbehavior that has been shockingly consistent for the most disappointing team in the NFL. “Stability should not be confused with satisfaction,” Khan said after the game in a statement confirming coach Doug Marrone, EVP Tom Coughlin and GM Dave Caldwell would return in 2019. Eleven months after the Jaguars blew a 20-10 lead with 10 minutes left in the AFC title game at New England, they finished 2018 as the NFL’s most disappointing team with a woeful 20-3 loss at Houston. I’m a bit surprised, though clearly Khan is doing this only because he knows disruption to the status quo could do more harm than good. But the leadership trio was also forewarned about 2019 thusly by Khan: “I will not overlook how poorly we accounted for ourselves following a 3-1 start. There were far too many long Sundays over the last three quarters of the season, with today’s loss in Houston being the final example, and that cannot repeat itself in 2019. That’s my message to our football people and players.” Right about the time that statement circulated, Coughlin ripped into de-activated backs Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon for sideline behavior he deemed “disrespectful and selfish.”

Miami: Should Adam Gase be safe? I was surprised, too, to hear the respected Jay Glazer say this about the Miami coach on the FOX pregame show: “If he’s out, he will skyrocket to the top of a lot of lists.” Gase is 23-26 in his three seasons in Miami, with no playoff wins; he was hired to develop Ryan Tannehill into a prime NFL quarterback, and though Tannehill has missed 23 games due to injury during Gase’s tenure, the quarterback play between Tannehill and Jay Cutler has been mediocre at best. In his last 21 starts, Tannehill has not thrown for 300 yards in a game. Not once. The Miami Herald reported that EVP of football operations Mike Tannenbaum is likely to be fired, so that lends credence to Tannenbaum being the sacrificial guy, with Gase and GM Chris Grier staying. But we’ll see. Owner Stephen Ross isn’t happy with consistent irrelevance, so I bet he’ll knock on Jim and John Harbaugh’s doors before Gase can feel secure for 2019.

Carolina: Ron Rivera is safe. Good move, David Tepper.

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Two teams are set to dominate the 2019 NFL Draft: Patriots and…the Raiders?

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The owner of the 2019 NFL Draft? Oakland, with rookie GM Mike Mayock, who counts Bill Belichick as one of his best friends in football.

The power broker, potentially, of the 2019 NFL Draft? New England, which will have the ammo to move up, down and sideways—and Belichick has always loved wheeling and dealing on draft weekend.

The Raiders have four picks in the top 35. The Patriots have one pick in the top 55. But that’s a misleading part of the story. There’s great depth in this draft from pick 25 to 100 and even deeper, some scouts at the Senior Bowl thought. So there could be fine value in the Patriot picks when they are slated to choose five times in a 45-pick span from 56 to 101.

Raiders and Patriots picks in the top 110 overall choices of the draft, as of today:

• New England: 1st round, 32nd overall; 2-56; 2-64; 3-73; 3-97^; 3-101^

• Oakland: 1st round, 4th overall; 1-24; 1-27; 2-35; 3-66; 4-106

^ Projected compensatory picks for the losses of Nate Solder and Malcolm Butler in free agency, as calculated by Over the Cap’s Nick Korte.

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Bengals coach Zac Taylor has had no time to process the Rams’ crushing Super Bowl LIII loss

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Don’t you always wonder what it’s like for a man to coach in the Super Bowl, then, a day or two later, get introduced as the new coach of Team X? It’s crazy. Happened twice last week. The Patriots found it odd that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was in their Atlanta lobby at 9 a.m. Monday, 5.5 hours after the Super Bowl victory party ended, to ferry new coach Brian Flores (ex-Patriots defensive coordinator) to south Florida to be introduced as coach Monday afternoon. Zac Taylor had a few more hours to get his family to Cincinnati. The former Rams quarterback coach’s introductory press conference was Tuesday.

So it was interesting to hear Taylor’s reaction over the weekend when I asked him: “How disappointing was it to play the way your offense played in the Super Bowl?”

“I haven’t had a chance to process it, quite honestly,” he said from Cincinnati. “There just hasn’t been time. I haven’t watched the game. Honestly, I’m conflicted. It’s devastating to work so hard to get to the championship game, and for your entire team to pour everything they’ve got into it, and then to lose like that.

“But five or six hours after the game, I’m on a plane to Cincinnati, on the way to fulfill a dream I’ve had for so long—to be a head coach in the NFL. And then your brain goes there. It’s just … it’s just the way it is, and you’ve got to turn the page.”

There was some discomfort in his voice, bordering on pain. It’s easy to sit back and say, Buck up, buddy. You’re about to make millions to coach a football team. True, but if you’ve been a football coach for a while, and you help your team get to the Super Bowl, regardless of the outcome, it’s got to be odd to just walk out the door a few hours after the biggest game of all of your lives, no time to process or adjust, and you move on while everyone else wallows.

One other question. I asked Taylor if he’d had much of a chance to consider how close the Rams came to taking a lead with four minutes left in the third quarter, when Jason McCourty, panic-stricken, ran 20 yards in 2.4 seconds (per NFL Next Gen Stats) to bat a decisive touchdown away from Brandin Cooks in the back of the end zone. If Jared Goff was a millisecond quicker with his throw, the touchdown would have given LA a 7-3 lead and put huge pressure on New England. Instead, the Rams settled for a field goal to tie it, 3-3.

Taylor: Sigh.

“In football, you just miss by inch sometimes,” he said. “You can be an inch from … “

Sigh again.

“That’s football in a nutshell. That’s football.”

I thought that would be it from Taylor, but he brightened, as his mentor Sean McVay would have. Taylor continued, “Criticism, pressure, adversity. We want our staff and our players to understand that this is the NFL. This is why you do this job. The energy, the camaraderie, can’t be duplicated, except maybe at the craps table in Vegas when you’re on a roll.”

The Bengals have needed some energy, and an offensive spur. I’m looking forward to seeing what Taylor can provide.

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