AFC West: Nick Sirianni
They have hired Craig Aukerman as assistant special teams coach, Andrew Dees as assistant offensive line coach, Chad Grimm and Nick Sirianni as quality control coaches and Byron Storer as defensive assistant-linebackers coach.
Sirianni was the Chiefs’ receivers coach last season. Grimm is the son of Hall of Famer Russ Grimm.
In other AFC West news:
- The Denver Post reports that Denver star left tackle Ryan Clady will need shoulder surgery that will keep him out of a large chunk of the offseason program. However, it is not expected to affect his 2013 season. Clady is a free agent, but Denver is expected to give him the franchise tag if a long-term deal isn’t signed.
- The Lions hired former never general manager Brian Xanders as a senior personnel executive. He was let go by the Broncos last year.
- There are some interesting AFC West connections in ESPN.com’s cool Secrets of the Super Bowl Quarterbacks piece.
The Sporting News named Colts general manger Ryan Grigson the NFL executive of the year. Denver’s John Elway was considered a top candidate as well.
A year ago, the Kansas City Chiefs could have been forgiven if they had buyer’s remorse after drafting receiver Jon Baldwin with the No. 26 overall pick.
The pick was somewhat surprising because the team had other needs, and the supremely athletic Baldwin was considered a player with the potential to be an off-field problem after having some issues while at the University of Pittsburgh.
At the end of his first NFL training camp, Baldwin reportedly was involved in a locker-room scuffle with then-Chiefs running back Thomas Jones. Baldwin suffered a broken thumb in the incident, which severely affected his rookie season. It wasn’t a great start to a career that was being scrutinized anyway.
Now, however, the Chiefs are not questioning the decision to draft Baldwin. They view him the same way they did when they drafted him. They believe he can be a dynamic player who can make an impact on a varied offense because of his ability as a deep threat.
Most important, the Chiefs like the way Baldwin, who turned 23 this month, is developing off the field.
“I think he has matured a lot in the past year,” Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said late in training camp. “I really like the way he has handled himself.”
The team was impressed that Baldwin hunkered down and gleaned as much information and knowledge as possible from veteran receivers Steve Breaston and Terrance Copper. They are two of the more respected veterans on the roster because of their professional approach. For a player who needed to gain his team’s trust, it seems Baldwin has done just that this summer.
“Jon has done a great job of taking to the coaching that has been given to him,” Chiefs receivers coach Nick Sirianni said during training camp. “He takes his weaknesses and turns them into strengths. He comes to practice every day, just like all of our guys. He’s a professional trying to improve every day.”
The key to his success, Baldwin said, has been his study habits.
“I take a lot of notes at night. I study those notes so that I don’t come back and make the same mistake,” Baldwin said. “That is one thing Coach Nick jars on; don’t make the same mistake twice. I just make plays, and if there are any corrections needed, I go make the corrections and get better tomorrow.”
Labeled as a “wide target" by quarterback coach Jim Zorn, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound receiver has made highlight-film catches on a regular basis in training camp. Baldwin, who showed flashes of brilliance late in his rookie season, has one catch in the preseason, but he hasn’t been targeted much. Still, quarterback Matt Cassel has praised Baldwin for stretching the field and keeping defenses honest in the preseason.
Expect the targets to rise dramatically for Baldwin in September. There is no doubt Cassel, who has taken Baldwin under his wing since shortly after he was drafted, is a Baldwin believer.
“Unfortunately, he was out with an injury for the first six games of the season,” Cassel said. “This year we had a whole offseason to work together and also all of camp. I feel very comfortable with Jon. He’s making a lot of progress himself.”
Baldwin credits a strong relationship with his quarterback for helping him becoming a better player.
“We talk a lot,” Baldwin said. “He tells me where he wants me to be on certain things and we talk back and forth. It makes the communication a lot better with him. He understands where I’m going to be on certain routes. I know where he’s going to put the ball on certain routes.
“The main thing is trust. One thing I always say to him is that I’m going to try to make every play possible. He understands that and just gives me a chance to make a play. I try to make as many plays as I possibly can for him.”
If the maturation of Baldwin continues, the Chiefs will never regret their once-questioned decision to draft him.
MD Ellis from Marysville, Calif., wants to know if the Oakland Raiders could trade a receiver such as Louis Murphy because of fifth-round pick Juron Criner.
Bill Williamson: Perhaps late in the preseason, something could happen since Murphy is a free agent after next season. But I think the most likely situation is Oakland will keep all of their young receivers and see how it develops. It’s a good, solid group. But it needs some players to stand out, so the Raiders may be better off keeping everyone and seeing how it plays out.
Jon from Fort Dodge, Iowa wants to know if I think the Denver Broncos have a realistic chance to make the Super Bowl.
BW: If Peyton Manning's neck issues are behind him, I think Denver has a chance to be very competitive and they should be a fairly strong team. But there are more talented teams in the AFC West and Denver has the second toughest schedule in the NFL. For Denver to get to the Super Bowl it will need its defense to continue to make huge strides, have great health and some good fortune.
Kurt from Seattle wants to know what I think about Kansas City Chiefs receivers coach Nick Sirianni.
BW: Sirianni has been highly regarded in Kansas City. He was the offensive quality control coach for the past three years. He helped in several different areas and he was credited for helping Matt Cassel during his strong season in 2010. I think Sirianni certainly can be a coach to look for as an offensive coordinator candidate in the coming seasons.
Many of the new additions have already been announced. Here are the new additions to Romeo Crennel’s staff: Jack Bicknell Jr. (offensive line), Jim Bob Cooter (offensive quality control), Brian Daboll (offensive coordinator), Tom McMahon (special teams coach) and Derius Swinton (special teams quality control).
Offensive quality control coach Nick Sirianni was promoted to wide receivers coach. Here are the other coaches who were retained from Todd Haley’s staff: Maurice Carthon (assistant head coach), Mike Clark (strength & conditioning), Gary Gibbs (linebackers), Bernie Parmalee (tight ends), Anthony Pleasant (defensive line), Brent Salazar (assistant strength & conditioning), Otis Smith (defensive quality control), Emmitt Thomas (defensive backs), Adam Zimmer (defensive assistant/assistant linebackers) and Jim Zorn (quarterbacks).
“We were able to add a handful of strong additions to an already talented group of coaches, and I am excited to get started,” Crennel said in a statement. “I am looking forward to sitting down as a staff, evaluating what we have, what we need and moving forward towards the 2012 season.”
This announcement formally means Crennel will serve as his own defensive coordinator. He had said he was leaning toward it. Crennel was the defensive coordinator in Kansas City the past two years and the unit was playing at a high level at the end of last season.
The key moves here are the hiring of Daboll and the fact that Carthon and Zorn were retained. The Chiefs’ defense is in good coaching shape, but Crennel needs to rely on his offensive coaches. Daboll has a history with Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel and Carthon and Zorn know the team well. I think there is a nice mix on this staff.
Denver: John Fox
Dennis Allen, defensive coordinator
Mike McCoy, offensive coordinator
Jeff Rodgers, special teams coordinator
Clancy Barone, tight ends
Keith Burns, assistant special teams
Brian Callahan, quality control/offense
Adam Gase, quarterbacks
Sam Garnes, assistant secondary
Justin Lovett, strength and conditioning assistant
Dave Magazu, offensive line
Ron Milus, secondary
Wayne Nunnely, defensive line
Jay Rodgers, quality control/defense
Greg Saporta, strength and conditioning assistant
Richard Smith, linebackers
Eric Studesville, running backs
Tyke Tolbert, wide receivers
Rich Tuten, strength and conditioning
Kansas City: Todd Haley
Romeo Crennel, defensive coordinator
Bill Muir, offensive coordinator/offensive line
Maurice Carthon, assistant head coach
Richie Anderson, wide receivers
Mike Clark, strength and conditioning
Gary Gibbs, linebackers
Steve Hoffman, special teams
Bernie Parmalee, tight ends
Pat Perles, assistant offensiveBe Line
Anthony Pleasant, defensive Line
Brent Salazar, assistant strength and conditioning
Nick Sirianni, offensive quality control
Otis Smith, defensive quality control
Emmitt Thomas, defensive backs
Adam Zimmer, defensive assistant/assistant linebackers
Jim Zorn, quarterbacks
Oakland: Hue Jackson
Al Saunders, offensive coordinator
Chuck Bresnahan, defensive coordinator
John Fassel, special teams coordinator
Greg Biekert, linebackers
Chuck Bresnahan, defensive coach
Willie Brown, squad development
Adam Henry, tight ends
Sanjay Lal, wide receivers
Brad Roll, strength and conditioning
Kevin Ross, assistant coach, safeties
Kelly Skipper, running backs
Mike Waufle, defensive line
Steve Wisniewski, assistant offensive line
Rod Woodson, assistant coach, cornerbacks
Bob Wylie, offensive line
San Diego: Norv Turner
Clarence Shelmon, offensive coordinator
Greg Manusky, defensive coordinator
Rich Bisaccia, special teams
Cris Dishman, assistant secondary
Steve Gera, coaches assistant
Hal Hunter, offensive line
Jeff Hurd, strength and conditioning
Don Johnson, defensive line
Charlie Joiner, wide receivers
Jason Michael, tight ends
John Pagano, linebackers
John Ramsdell, quarterbacks
Vernon Stephens, assistant strength and conditioning
Mike Sullivan, offensive line
Steve Wilks, assistant head coach-secondary
Greg Williams, assistant linebackers
Ollie Wilson, running backs
Will the Broncos get enough defensive help?
Many Denver fans want to know if Tim Tebow or Kyle Orton will be the starting quarterback. That, of course, will be a huge question, but it likely won’t be answered until minicamps unless the Broncos decide to trade Orton by the draft to grab an extra pick. But the early offseason question in Denver will be what the Broncos will do to cure a defense that was last in 2010 in total defense and points allowed.
New Denver coach John Fox is a defensive specialist, so expect him to get as much defensive help as possible. I could see Denver acquiring five to seven new starters on defense. While Denver will likely be active in free agency in its attempt to build defense, the key will be what the Broncos will do with the No. 2 overall draft pick. Expect Denver to look at players such as Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers and LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson with the pick. Any one of those players would surely be a strong starting option for this defense. Denver, which has two second-round picks, could also look to trade the pick to compile more draft picks. But the No. 2 pick hasn’t been traded in 11 years, so it won’t be easy.
Another interesting piece of Denver’s offseason defensive puzzle will be whether it re-signs cornerback Champ Bailey, 33, who is still playing at a high level. He will be pricey. If Bailey leaves, Denver will have another hole, but it will have more financial means to address defensive areas. (Update: Bailey re-signed with Denver on Tuesday.)
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Will the Chiefs be able to continue the development of quarterback Matt Cassel?
The Chiefs have a good thing going. They went 10-6 in 2010 and won their first division title in seven years. The team’s running game is top notch (it was ranked No. 1 in the NFL) and its 3-4 defense is a strong unit, but the key is Cassel. The Chiefs must do what it takes to ensure Cassel -- who slipped in the final two games of the year after making great strides in 2010 -- doesn’t take a step back now that offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has departed. Head coach Todd Haley, new quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn and assistant Nick Sirianni will work closely with Cassel.
One of the Chiefs’ biggest offseason needs is a No. 2 receiver to help Cassel. The Chiefs are in good shape with Pro Bowl receiver Dwayne Bowe and tight end Tony Moeaki, who built a terrific chemistry with Cassel as a rookie in 2010. If the Chiefs can find a legitimate No. 2 receiver to catch 50 to 60 passes, this offense will be in great shape, considering how strong the run game is. The Chiefs, who have the No. 21 pick in the first round, could find a receiver through free agency or through the draft. However they find him, getting a starting-quality receiver is a priority this offseason in Kansas City.
Will the Raiders sign their key free agents?
The Raiders have several free agents. They probably can't re-sign all of them, but there are some priorities.
The biggest priority is Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha now that defensive lineman Richard Seymour has a two-year, $30 million deal to make him the NFL's richest defensive player. Asomugha’s contract voided unexpectedly after the season. He will be a highly valued player on the open market. Oakland signed Asomugha to a deal that paid about $15 million per season two years ago. He would have been paid $17 million in 2011 if his deal didn’t void. Asomugha, who can’t be franchised, likely won’t be paid $17 million by any team, but some team will gladly pay him a truckload. Oakland owner Al Davis has said he wants to keep Asomugha, but he did indicate the team might be better off spending that $17 million on two or three quality players. Seymour's deal -- especially if there is a salary cap in the new collective bargaining agreement -- could affect Oakland's ability to keep Asomugha.
Other key free agents include guard Robert Gallery, running back Michael Bush, cornerback Stanford Routt, safety Michael Huff and potentially Zach Miller. This is a good, young team, but Oakland will have some tough decisions to make, starting with Asomugha.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
What will the Chargers do to ensure their Super Bowl window doesn’t close?
The Chargers are entering a crossroads this offseason. They saw their four-year reign of AFC West titles end in 2010.
This is still a quality team. Teams don’t lead the NFL in offense and defense without talent. But the truth is, San Diego slipped from 13-3 to a 9-7 playoff-less mark in 2010. This team has been considered a Super Bowl contender for the past several years and it has not made a legitimate push.
Quarterback Philip Rivers, 29, is in the prime of his career. He is a top-tier quarterback and good enough to lead a team to a Super Bowl. It's time for San Diego to do what it takes to not waste Rivers’ talents.
San Diego doesn’t need much, but this is no longer the time for the team to simply hope it has enough. It needs another pass-rusher on defense, and maybe a couple more starters on defense. It may also need to add another receiver even though Vincent Jackson was given the franchise tag. Receiver Malcom Floyd, who caught 37 passes for 717 yards in 2010, is a free agent.
The Chargers clearly have a good nucleus, but it is obvious that is not enough. San Diego, which has extra picks in the second and third rounds, may need to move up from No. 18 to find a true blue-chip player, and it may need to sway from its usual plan of not spending in free agency in an attempt to keep its Super Bowl window open.
First, the 49ers won’t be alone. Many teams will consider pursuing Asomugha. My second thought is reports of potential interest by San Francisco will only make Oakland owner Al Davis want to keep Asomugha more. I can’t see Davis letting Asomugha walk to a rival.
In other AFC West evening news and notes:
- Kansas City coach Todd Haley was on ESPN’s Rome is Burning on Tuesday. He would not say for certain if he will call plays this season or not. He promoted offensive line coach Bill Muir to offensive coordinator. Meanwhile, there has been talk that Chris Palmer could become Kansas City’s quarterback coach. That is now not expected to happen. Haley could promote Nick Sirianni to quarterback coach. He worked closely with Matt Cassel last season.
- Kansas City standout center Casey Wiegmann is considering retirement. He is 37. He is expected to tell the Chiefs of his plans by the draft.
Muir will be the offensive-minded Haley’s third offensive coordinator in as many seasons in Kansas City. Haley fired Chan Gailey – a holdover from the previous regime -- in the preseason in 2009 and Haley took over as offensive the rest of the season. Charlie Weis departed after a successful 2010 season to become the offensive coordinator at the University of Florida.
The promotion of Muir, he'll still coach the offensive line, to offensive coordinator took 24 days for Haley to make. His search was very quiet and few candidates emerged before Muir was promoted. The general consensus was if Haley was going to promote a current assistant it would be Maurice Carthon.
However, this is not to say that Muir is a bad choice. He has a terrific coaching resume.
Muir was Jon Gruden’s offensive coordinator/offensive line coach from 2002-08 in Tampa Bay. Muir ran the meetings and oversaw the offense, and Gruden called the plays on game days. Thursday, Haley wouldn’t say who would call the plays, and earlier in the day ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Haley hasn’t decided who will call the plays. Last month, Haley said he wouldn’t be the offensive coordinator. But he also said he wouldn’t rule out calling the plays.
I bet Haley ends up calling the plays. But I also bet he gets input from Muir and his entire staff.
"I think that really good play calling is the result of a staff that works very well, not only offseason, but specifically in the season," Haley said Thursday.
Weis called the plays in 2010 and the Chiefs were successful. However, in Week 3 prior to a 31-10 win against San Francisco, the rest of the staff worked together on the game plan while Weis was ill. The Chiefs ended up having one of their better offensive days of the season, so there is confidence that this group effort could work.
I know it is key for Haley to have good chemistry with his staff and he feels Muir and he can work well together.
The on-field key is for Kansas City, which had the No.1 ranked run offense in the NFL in 2010, is to continue its ground success and for quarterback Matt Cassel to continue his development. Weis and Cassel had a good relationship. Haley said Muir has a good relationship with Cassel. Assistant Nick Sirianni and Cassel work well together, and Sirianni will remain. Sirianni could be a candidate to be quarterback coach – to replace Weis – if a veteran coach such as Chris Palmer isn’t added.
So, there are reasons to believe the Chiefs’ offensive strides made in 2010 can continue.
Haley clearly thinks this setup can work, and he is comfortable with the arrangement. If that changes and Muir doesn’t last long as offensive coordinator, it will end up being a damning indictment on Haley.
It all starts with him.
The Chiefs’ search has been very quiet in the 10 days since Weis officially left the team. There has been speculation, but there has been no official word on interviews. There was talk Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy could join Todd Haley’s staff, but he is staying in Denver. Among the other names that have been speculated about include in-house candidates Maurice Carthon and Nick Sirianni, Arizona assistant Mike Miller and Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Greg Olson, who is under contract and would be difficult to hire.
I expect Haley to make a decision sooner rather than later. I know he is studying candidates and is working to get the hire done.
Haley is looking to find the right fit. He fired Chan Gailey during training camp in 2009 and Weis lasted one year. Haley doesn’t want to look for another offensive coordinator next year, so he’ll looking for someone who’ll mesh with him and his staff well. Chemistry is key for this hire.
Haley is also looking for someone who can continue the nurturing of quarterback Matt Cassel. Cassel, who was named to the Pro Bowl on Thursday, made terrific strides in 2010. It has to continue in 2011 and the new offensive coordinator will clearly play a big role.
I think Haley is taking his time to ensure he gets this choice right. While Haley said last week that he wouldn’t rule out calling his own plays, I think Haley saw the benefits of his freedom in 2010 and it allowed him to be a better head coach opposed to in 2009 when he was the offensive coordinator after he fired Gailey.
Haley wants to find the right fit. It’s just taking time.
The feeling is understandable. Cassel made major strides in 2010, Weis’ one season in Kansas City.
But fans need to take solace in the fact that assistant coach Nick Sirianni is remaining. Kansas City insiders say that Sirianni had a huge influence on Cassel this season. He worked very closely with him and the two have a good working relationship.
So, there’s no reason to think that Cassel will take a major step backward, because Sirianni will continue to work with him.
Sirianni’s name has surfaced as a possible candidate to replace Weis. Even if he doesn’t get the promotion, Sirianni will still work with Cassel on day-to-day basis. So, while Weis’ departure is significant, Cassel’s future success is not in major peril.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Mike McCoy will remain the Broncos’ offensive coordinator. He was also getting interest in Kansas City and in Cleveland.
This move makes complete sense for Denver. McCoy worked for new Denver coach John Fox in Carolina prior to coming to Denver and working for former Denver head coach Josh McDaniels.
The biggest personnel question in Denver is the future of quarterback Tim Tebow. Fox is a defensive specialist, so he’ll need to have a coach who believes he can develop Tebow.
The fact that McCoy decided to stay in Denver rather than go to the Chiefs or the Browns is an indication that he believes he can make it work with Tebow. McCoy called plays after McDaniels was fired, and Tebow made strides when he started in the final three games of the season under McCoy’s guidance.
This continuity will only help Tebow moving forward.
Names that have surfaced for Denver’s defensive coordinator include Ron Meeks, Sal Sunseri and former Atlanta and Seattle coach Jim Mora.
Meanwhile, Kansas City will have to adjust its offensive coordinator search now that McCoy is staying in Denver. Other names that have been mentioned to replace Charlie Weis, who is now the offensive coordinator at the University of Florida, include Tampa Bay’s Greg Olson (who is under contract there and who could be difficult to hire), Arizona’s Mike Miller and Kansas City assistants Maurice Carthon and Nick Sirianni.
The Kansas City Star reports that Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Greg Olson could be a target. Haley liked him last year, but he wasn’t available. He is under contract and could be difficult to hire. Other candidates include Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, Arizona assistant Mike Miller and in-house candidates Maurice Carthon and Nick Sirianni.
In a radio interview, San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers supported the team’s decision to bring back coach Norv Turner.
Cleveland may want to keep defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. There has been talk he could be a candidate in Oakland.
In a radio interview, Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel talks about what went wrong for the Chiefs in their 30-7 home playoff loss to Baltimore on Sunday.
Three nuggets of knowledge about Sunday’s Chiefs-Ravens wild-card game:
Ready to bounce back: The Chiefs are coming off one of their worst games of the season, a 31-10 regular-season finale loss to the Raiders. The Chiefs have prided themselves in bouncing back from bad losses this season, although they did lose back-to-back games twice (Weeks 5-6 and 9-10). Still, the Chiefs have come up big with convincing wins to avoid a three-game skid. Kansas City guard and leader Brian Waters said this week that it is not in the Chiefs’ “DNA” to recoil after tough losses. He expects the team to bounce back from the Oakland beatdown and play tough against the Ravens. Really, what choice do the Chiefs have? If they lose back-to-back games for a third time this season, there will be no more chances for redemption.
History is not on the Chiefs’ side: The Chiefs have not won a playoff game since the 1993 season, when they were led by Joe Montana. Kansas City has lost six straight playoff games. If the Chiefs lose Sunday, it will be an NFL record of seven playoff losses in a row.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Engram would likely vie for the No. 2 or No. 3 receiving job in Kansas City and be eased into new coach Todd Haley's system.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs have added two more coaches to Haley's staff.
The team has hired former Denver special-teams coach Ronnie Bradford to be a defensive assistant and Nick Sirianni as the offensive quality control coach. This is Sirianni's first NFL coaching job.