AFC West: Bruce Arians

Anyone who was around the Arizona Cardinals on a daily basis last season knew their relationship with strength coach John Lott wasn't going to last much longer than last season.

In a statement released Friday, the Cardinals said: "Coach Arians let John know this morning that he's making a change and going in a different direction in that role. Everyone at the team is certainly grateful to John for his contributions and wish him nothing but the best moving forward. The search for a replacement is underway."

All it took was a look at Lott's T-shirt.

When Arians took over last January, he made T-shirts for all the players and coaches, mainly for offseason condition, with three words on the back: "Trust, Loyalty, Respect." They were the tenets upon which Arians built his coaching philosophy.

Everyone wore them -- except Lott.

He continued to wear his shirt from the days of Ken Whisenhunt, with the phrase "Get your mind right" on the back. It was clear there was a disconnect but for whatever reason, Arians couldn't part ways with Lott last season when he let the remaining coaching staff go.

Lott was best known for his role as the spotter on the bench press at the NFL combine. He had done it for 16 straight years before he missed 2013's combine. Lott was back this year.
Jack Del RioJohn Leyba/The Denver Post/Getty ImagesJack Del Rio aims to keep the Broncos on the same routine in John Fox's absence.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It is one man's opinion, but the man just happens to be a quarterback headed to the Hall of Fame five years after his last season in the NFL. Peyton Manning has an impact on everything and everybody inside the Denver Broncos' complex most days. He believes following John Fox's leave of absence due to open heart surgery, Jack Del Rio will be everything the Broncos need him to be as the team's interim coach.

And that people will see that in how the Broncos perform in the coming weeks and months as Fox recovers from surgery to replace his aortic valve.

"It's very easy to see why he's been a head coach … he's got great leadership, good command of the room," Manning said following Wednesday's practice. "Jack's a good leader, guys will answer the bell for him. He's pointed out some things he wants us to improve on, offensively and defensively, added a couple of situations to practice that he thinks we need to focus on and emphasize. I think guys will answer the bell and rally around him."

Fox's and the Broncos' season took an unexpected turn Saturday when Fox experienced dizziness and light-headedness during a round of golf in Charlotte, N.C. After multiple tests, Fox had surgery Monday and remains in ICU, Del Rio said, in a Charlotte-area hospital.

Del Rio was formally named the team's interim coach Monday morning, just before the Broncos took the practice field for the first time since Fox's health troubles. Wednesday Manning, who said he had spoken to Fox's wife Robin on Tuesday and had spoken to Fox both Saturday and Sunday, said the Broncos were ready to get to work for Del Rio.

"Coach Fox is in our thoughts and prayers, it is probably impossible to replace Coach Fox's high-energy charisma, personality," Manning said. " … All the players, everybody, has to try to step that up in that department … He wanted me to make it known after he got light-headed and sort of semi-fainted, he did chip it to two feet and made par."

Manning added; "We're following Coach Del Rio's lead."

Del Rio said he made it a point to keep the Broncos on the same schedule they've used in the team's third year under Fox. Unlike some other teams who have recently faced the prospect of an interim coach, like the New Orleans Saints during Sean Payton's suspension last season or the Houston Texans with Gary Kubiak's current leave of absence, the Broncos still have their offensive and defensive play-callers in place. And that stability should help them.

Del Rio has said he will continue to call the defensive plays on game day and the Broncos' offensive staff, led by offensive coordinator Adam Gase, will handle things on that side of the ball. Del Rio will also leave special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers to his work as well.

Asked how much input he would have on offense, Del Rio said with a laugh; "very little." And while he will make the fourth-and-1 decisions, Del Rio said he looks to Gase and Rodgers to do what they've done all season.

"I'll do the head coach duties," Del Rio said. " … I'm not going in and tinkering on anything on special teams or offense. We have good people there, they're doing their job and again I'll be in charge of game-day decisions and that type of stuff, but beyond that, no I'm not going to go in and say ‘we're going to go out this week with a brand new punt team approach, we're going to do rugby style and run all over, [that] I've had these ideas in my mind for a long time so here they come'."

As a result, though Fox's office is empty at the moment and his absence is certainly noticeable, the Broncos' actual day-to-day routine looks the same on all fronts. Del Rio has also spoken to Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians this week to see how Arians juggled play-calling duties and game-week preparations when he was the Colts' interim coach last season.

Del Rio said he's also carved out some time each day to handle the administrative things that come with filling in for Fox. Asked if he has had to change his own routine some to keep everyone else's the same, Del Rio said;

"Little bit, little bit, basically add a little time to organize head coach thoughts. Mainly staying in our routine, we've got a good routine, [we] believe in the routine, we have good people, just trust good people to do their jobs well.

" … We were very business-like," Del Rio added. " … I think, really, that's what it's about, something occurs, you've got to adjust and how do you handle it, and can you get your focus back, get back in the groove and do the things you need to do and I feel really good about the way things started this week."
Andy Reid likes using the fullback. Bruce Arians doesn’t use it.

The importance? The Kansas City Chiefs just got a potentially valuable player.

It has been widely reported that the Chiefs have acquired fullback Anthony Sherman from Arizona on Wednesday morning. The trade terms have yet to be reported and the Chiefs have not confirmed the deal.

Sherman will fit in with Reid’s version of the West Coast offense. He will use the fullback in several sets. Sherman, a fifth-round pick out of Connecticut in 2011, becomes the most accomplished fullback on Kansas City’s roster. He had 243 snaps with the Cardinals last season.

He is considered a good player. He is tough and a strong blocker. He also can help on special teams. Don’t expect Sherman to be a offensive weapon, though. He has one career carry and 13 catches. He is in Kansas City to block and to bring toughness.

This is an important addition for Reid. The fullback is a dying breed, but Reid still uses it and Sherman has a lot to offer.

UPDATE: Cornerback Javier Arenas is reportedly being sent to Arizona in Sherman trade. I will have another post upcoming.
The San Diego Chargers' need for a cornerback remains after Jerraud Powers signed with the Cardinals.

The Chargers had targeted Powers, who played in Indianapolis while new San Diego general manager Tom Telesco was in the front office there. But Powers followed former Colts interim coach Bruce Arians to Arizona. He was to visit with the Chargers after going to Arizona, but signed with the Cardinals.

San Diego cornerback Antoine Cason is also visiting Arizona. Carolina could also show interest. While it is not out of the question that Cason returns to San Diego, it doesn’t seem likely.

The Chargers need two cornerbacks and more offensive lineman. The cornerback market may yet see some bargains. The Chargers are not spending wildly, so expect them to watch that market closely.
USA Today is reporting the Kansas City Chiefs are close to signing tight end Anthony Fasano.

Fasano, 28, had 41 catches with Miami last season. He is considered a solid second tight end. He has good hands and blocks well. The Chiefs’ starter is Tony Moeaki. He has big talent, but he has had difficulty staying healthy.

The Chiefs cut Kevin Boss because of health issues. So a Fasano signing makes sense for the Chiefs.

Meanwhile, the agent for Jets defensive lineman Mike DeVito said he will visit the Chiefs. DeVito played for new Kansas City defensive coordinator Bob Sutton with the Jets. DeVito is considered a stout defensive lineman.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting Pittsburgh running back Rashard Mendenhall may choose between the Denver Broncos and the Arizona Cardinals and he will visit both teams. He has a history with new Arizona coach Bruce Arians in Pittsburgh.

Schefter is also reporting the Broncos will visit with cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He’d be a pretty nice get for Denver.

NFL Network is reporting Colts cornerback Jerraud Powers will visit the Cardinals and the Chargers. The Chargers have expressed a lot of interest.

*UPDATE: Schefter reports the Fasano deal is done in Kansas City.
I’ve been asked often in the past few days whether the San Diego Chargers could target Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald in a trade.

I get the reasoning.

Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald is tied to new San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. He was Fitzgerald’s longtime head coach in Arizona. New San Diego quarterbacks coach Frank Reich was Fitzgerald’s position coach last season. Fitzgerald’s father tweeted Friday that his son was a fan of Reich, and it was a good hire for the Chargers.

Also, the Chargers could badly use an offensive weapon like Fitzgerald, a future hall of famer. He’d be a perfect gift to quarterback Philip Rivers, who has seen so many talented offensive teammates leave him in recent seasons.

So, those are all the reasons why it could work.

Getting Fitzgerald wouldn’t be so easy, however. He signed a monster contract with the Cardinals two years ago and the Cardinals have not shown any indication they want to get rid of Fitzgerald. I’d imagine Fitzgerald was a major reason why Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians took Arizona’s head coaching job.

Even if the Cardinals wanted to deal Fitzgerald, he’d cost the Chargers a ton in trade compensation and cap money. The Chargers have a lot to do. They are not one player away on offense. So, fitting Fitzgerald in wouldn’t be easy.

In a perfect world, this paring makes sense, but there are way too many obstacles to make this an easy connection.

Rivers is key for McCoy hire

January, 15, 2013
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The San Diego Chargers won on Tuesday morning.

Will it result in more victories when it counts? That’s the goal, but it is clear the Chargers want to take a young, refreshed approach as they move away from the long tenure of GM A.J. Smith and coach Norv Turner that ended with a three-year playoff drought.

[+] EnlargeDenver's Mike McCoy
Byron Hetzler/US PRESSWIRENew San Diego head coach Mike McCoy's biggest job will be getting quarterback Philip Rivers back on track.
And the Chargers want to do it by fixing their 31-year-old quarterback.

Less than 72 hours after Mike McCoy landed on the market, the Chargers plucked the grand prize of the remaining head-coaching candidates by agreeing to terms with the Denver offensive coordinator. San Diego was one of five open jobs when it agreed with McCoy. McCoy had interviewed with four of the five, and the fifth -- Jacksonville -- was hoping to line up a visit.

San Diego finalized its deal with McCoy while Arizona tried to get a second interview with him Tuesday. The Cardinals were his most aggressive pursuer, and they were considered one of the few teams that would have waited for McCoy if Denver had ended up in the Super Bowl. However, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Monday -- the day of McCoy’s only interview with the Chargers -- that McCoy wanted the Chargers’ job.

And he got it.

His first task will be working with quarterback Philip Rivers.

Heading into the 2011 season, Rivers was considered the best active quarterback without a Super Bowl ring. But Rivers has since become a turnover machine. Still, he is far from a lost cause. He threw just one interception in the final six games of the 2012 season and none in the final four games.

Rivers has seen the talent dwindle around him at essentially every offensive position. It will be up to new San Diego general manager Tom Telesco -- who, like McCoy, is 40 -- to help in the talent area. It is up to McCoy to give Rivers a new life and to give him new philosophies. Rivers has worked closely with Turner since 2007.

Now, McCoy will get a chance to infuse his energy and knowledge into Rivers. This must be the main reason McCoy has been hired. Nothing can turn around a franchise like a top quarterback. Rivers can be that guy again.

Rivers is clearly the reason McCoy wanted the Chargers. Rivers was considered the best quarterback among the five teams without a coach, including Jay Cutler in Chicago. Cutler is younger than Rivers, but he is considered a more difficult personality to work with.

McCoy enters his relationship with Rivers on the heels of two unbelievable quarterback coaching experiences in the past two years. In 2011, McCoy coached Tim Tebow. In 2012, he guided Peyton Manning. He went to the playoffs with both QBs.

McCoy got on the radar as a head-coaching candidate with his Tebow work. In midseason, simply as an act of survival, McCoy scrapped a pro-style offense and scripted an option-based offense that suited Tebow. It worked. Then, in 2012, McCoy got a year into the mind of Manning, the greatest quarterback mind of all time.

McCoy comes to San Diego with quite a résumé and playbook.

For the second time in less than a week, I applaud San Diego for a key hire. The Chargers hired Telesco over longtime A.J. Smith assistant Jimmy Raye. Telesco is known as one of the bright young minds in the league. Going outside of the organization was a smart move for the stale Chargers.

The Chargers talked to several older coaches, including Lovie Smith and Ken Whisenhunt, and the team was planning to talk to Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who worked with Telesco.

But when the young, fresh McCoy became available, he clearly became the Chargers’ target. There’s no doubt the Chargers won the coaching sweepstakes with McCoy, and the reason why is the presence of Rivers. Now, they all have to make it work.

Chargers deep in coaching battles

January, 14, 2013
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There is going to be some jockeying in the coming days between the five teams still without a head coach as they maneuver to get the best candidates.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports Colts’ offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is a finalist for the Chicago head coaching job. He is set to interview in San Diego on Wednesday. The Eagles announced Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is getting a second interview Tuesday.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier Monday that Bradley may be a favorite for the San Diego job along with Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, who interviewed with the Chargers on Monday. Schefter reported the San Diego job is the one McCoy, who has interested from all five teams, wants. Arizona, believed to be highly interested in McCoy, and will interview him for a second time Tuesday.

The Chargers have been interviewing candidates for the past several days. With the process heating up around the league, we may see some decisions made soon.

In other AFC West news:
  • New Kansas City coach Andy Reid confirmed the expected -- the Chiefs will stay a 3-4 defense and that he will call the offensive plays. Also, the Kansas City Star reports defensive staff holdovers Gary Gibbs (linebackers) and Emmitt Thomas (secondary) may remain on the staff.
  • Kansas City front-office man Ray Farmer is a finalist Cleveland general manager job, according to Fox Sports. He probably doesn’t have much of a future in Kansas City, anyway. He was bypassed in favor of John Dorsey for the general manager job.
  • The Broncos’ brass stands by its late-game decisions in a double overtime loss to the Ravens on Saturday.
Now that the Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl dreams have been derailed, they act as a coaching feeder outlet for the AFC West again.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is interviewing with the Chargers on Monday, and he may be a top candidate for the job. Schefter reported McCoy and Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley (he interviewed with San Diego on Thursday) could be the two candidates the Chargers are zoning in on.

Also, Schefter reported that the San Diego job is the job McCoy is really shooting for. McCoy is arguably the hottest head-coaching candidate this year, as essentially every team with an opening has or will interview McCoy.

McCoy is popular because he is a young offensive mind and he's had success with both Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning in Denver. The Chargers’ offense needs both a new philosophy and more talent. If Bradley gets the job, the Chargers will be enhancing their top area of need, but they will still have to find a way to improve the offense.

San Diego is talking to several candidates including Lovie Smith, Bruce Arians and Jay Gruden and Ken Whisenhunt.

If McCoy gets the San Diego job, it will be the second straight year an AFC West foe has plucked Denver’s staff. Last year, Oakland hired Denver defensive coordinator Dennis Allen as head coach.

Chargers' John Pagano is in limbo

January, 12, 2013
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John Pagano is in a tough spot.

He is under contract with the San Diego Chargers, and there is a chance he will be kept as defensive coordinator. However, the Chargers’ coaching search is still full swing, so Pagano must wait.

In the meantime, he is missing out on opportunities. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Cleveland wants to hire Pagano as defensive coordinator. Former San Diego head coach Norv Turner is likely going to be Rob Chudzinski’s offensive coordinator. The three men worked in San Diego together. However, the Chargers aren’t letting Pagano out of his deal, because they might have plans for him.

Schefter also reported that Pagano had a chance to interview in Kansas City. Andy Reid hired Jets linebackers coach Bob Sutton to run his defense. Pagano did an excellent job in San Diego. If Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is the hire in San Diego, I expect Pagano to stay.

In other AFC West news:

Schefter reports former Chicago coach Lovie Smith wants to hire Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton as his offensive coordinator if he gets the San Diego job. Hamilton coached for Smith in the past. I think Hamilton could interest Oakland as well.

Denver had three first-team players on the Associated Press’ All-Pro squad. They are: quarterback Peyton Manning, left tackle Ryan Clady and linebacker Von Miller.

Evening AFC West notes

January, 11, 2013
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Catching up on the happenings of the AFC West after a long travel day:

The Chargers interviewed Lovie Smith on Friday and Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley on Thursday. Former Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt is expected to interview Saturday.

Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden are also candidates. There have also been reports Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy could be a candidate in San Diego. He has had several interviews already. The Chargers will likely fill the job by the end of next week.
  • As expected, Denver ruled backup cornerback Tracy Porter out of Saturday’s game against Baltimore because of a concussion. Everyone else on the roster is expected to be available to play.
The San Diego Chargers coaching search is kicking into high gear.

New general manager Tom Telesco is interviewing former Chicago coach Lovie Smith on Friday, according to U-T San Diego. Smith has long been expected to be a favorite for the job, along with Colts’ offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. Arians is supposed to interview in San Diego on Monday.

I think Smith would be a great choice, but the problem is he was fired in Chicago because his offense sagged. San Diego needs more help on offense than on defense.

Still, Smith’s experience is impressive.

U-T San Diego also reports former Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt will interview for the job Saturday.
Bruce Arians has said it will take a great situation for him to want to leave his job in Indianapolis.

Reuniting with Tom Telesco in San Diego might qualify.

Arians, the Colts’ offensive coordinator, was the interim head coach for much of the season in Indianapolis while head coach Chuck Pagano received treatment for leukemia. Arians worked closely with Telesco in Indianapolis. Wednesday, Telesco was hired as the Chargers’ general manager.

Arians is a hot coaching prospect. He said in a radio interview that he’d be interested working with Telesco. The radio interview was conducted Wednesday evening prior to ESPN’s Adam Schefter reporting that Arians has a tentative interview set with San Diego on Monday.

“I would be now that Tommy’s there,” Arians said. “I think so much of [the] success that teams have are great relationships between general manager and head coach. And it’s not who has control of the roster, it’s how do we get the best players? … I had the opportunity to work for 12 weeks as a head coach this year with Ryan Grigson and Tommy Telesco, and it was a fantastic relationship. And I wouldn’t want to work in any other situation as a head coach, unless it’s that type of relationship where nobody’s got a power play [and] we’re all in this together trying to win.”

San Diego will go through the process, but I see Arians being a top candidate.
Now, that the San Diego Chargers have hired former Indianapolis executive Tom Telesco to take over as general manager, the search is fully focused on finding the team’s new head coach.

The plan is to make a hire by the end of next week. The Chargers, who fired general manager A.J. Smith and coach Norv Turner on Dec. 31, have started the coaching search, but Telesco takes over.

There have been several names connected to the job including former Chicago coach Lovie Smith, Indianapolis offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, UCLA coach Jim Mora and former Seattle and Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren.

I think Smith and Arians may be the favorites of that group, although anything could happen.

Two more names could be part of the team’s list as well. Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden could interest the team. Telesco played at John Carroll University with San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer could also be part of the process.

While the Chargers’ immediate ends are on offense, Telesco has worked in programs that have been led by both offensive and defensive-minded head coach.

Arians has long been considered a favorite for this job. the fact that he and Telesco were key parts of the team’s wonderful turnaround likely won’t hurt his chances. But I’m not sure if it increases the chances of Arians being hired because I think Telesco will be open minded.

Telesco is also connected to Smith in a round-about way. Telesco was with the Colts when Tony Dungy coached there. Smith is part of Dungy’s coaching tree. Overall, I think everything is one the table for San Diego as it fully concentrating on replacing Turner now that Telesco is in place.

UPDATE: ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports Arians will tentively is set to interview with the Chargers on Monday.
Well, six days into the San Diego Chargers' coaching search and we have our most intriguing name: Mike Holmgren.

CBS Sports is reporting that the Chargers could talk to Holmgren.

That would be quite the pursuit.

It makes sense in some areas because Holmgren is an offensive mind, he’d likely be intrigued to coach quarterback Philip Rivers and he is from the West Coast. Ron Wolf is consulting the Chargers during their general manager and coach search. Holmgren and Wolf won a Super Bowl together in Green Bay.

But the Chargers want to continue with a more traditional power structure where the coach reports to the general manager and the team is near the end of its general manager search. Would Holmgren, 64, listen to a young general manager? Would he want to be part of that structure?

Perhaps he’d simply be interested in coaching and be happy with the Charges’ setup. If that is the case, he would certainly be an interesting candidate.

Other candidates are expected to be former Chicago coach Lovie Smith, Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and UCLA coach Jim Mora.

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