AFC West: Steve Wilks
NFL.com reported that former Kansas City coach Todd Haley is talking to the Cardinals about joining the staff. Haley talked to Arizona earlier this month, but there were reports he likely wouldn’t go there. Monday, former Oakland coach Hue Jackson reportedly also interviewed with Cardinals about their quarterback-coaching job.
It is feasible that Haley and Jackson could both end up on the Cardinals’ staff, but I’d be surprised to see that happen. I would think Haley and Jackson would both like to be in a situation where they can stick out. Incidentally, Jackson was not thrilled with Haley after the Chiefs won at Oakland last season.
In other AFC West news:
The Chargers promoted special teams coach Rich Bisaccia to assistant head coach. He received interest from the University of Tennessee. Bisaccia was hired last year and he helped turn around the NFL’s worst special teams in 2010.
“Rich was a great addition to our staff a year ago and made a real impact on our team last season,” San Diego coach Norv Turner said in a release. “He has a lot to offer our team and I’ll be leaning on his years of experience in all areas of our football team.”
As expected, the Chargers announced former Carolina defensive backs coach Ron Meeks took the same job in San Diego. He replaces Steve Wilks, who, coincidently, is the new secondary coach in Carolina. The Chargers are still looking for a linebackers coach.
If Childress is on the Colts’ list, Jackson – who was fired last week after one year at the helm in Oakland – should be, too.
Jackson wasn’t fired in Oakland because he can’t coach. I think Jackson, 46, is one of the bright, young offensive coaching minds in the league. His work with Oakland’s offense the past two years shows how capable a coach he is.
His problem in Oakland was that he took on too much power after the death of owner Al Davis — and that he talked too much. But those are issues he can quickly resolve. The Colts have a strong power structure in which Jackson would simply be asked to coach. And whether the Colts’ quarterback in 2012 is Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning, Jackson would be a good leader for either.
Jackson is a candidate to be the offensive coordinator in St. Louis. If he gets that job and the Rams offense rebounds in 2012, Jackson will likely be a hot head-coaching candidate next year. Still, if the Colts are looking at a retread like Childress, they might as well take a gander at Jackson, who’d still be the head coach in Oakland under the right circumstances.
In other AFC West news:
The San Diego Union Tribune is reporting that former Carolina secondary coach Ron Meeks has been offered the Chargers’ secondary coaching job and he is expected to decide by the end of the weekend. Meeks would replace Steve Wilks — who went to Carolina to work for former Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, who is now Carolina’s head coach.
The Raiders denied a report that new Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie has hired former Raider Sean Jones as assistant general manager. The team's search for a new head coach continues, meanwhile; Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was reportedly set to interview Friday.
The new coach in Miami could further increase the chances of Dolphins offensive coordinator Brian Daboll ending up in that role with Kansas City. Daboll worked in New England with new Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel.
On the necessity for a change like this:
“When the season ends, you go and evaluate the things that you feel are critical. Moving forward, I just thought this was the best opportunity for our team to go do the things we’re capable of doing.”
“I just think right now, for where our team is he’s the right fit. We spent a lot of time with John last year when we were in this process. John’s continued to grow as a coach. He has a great understanding of what we need to do. Particularly on the defensive front, but also on our overall defense, it was a great fit for us.”
On what does the defense need to improve on:
“A year ago we were one of the elite teams on third-down defense. It was a big part of the success we had. This year we were 32nd out of 32 on third-down defense. Certainly it’s getting back to our standards on third down, playing better in the red zone and then we just have to continue to try to create more turnovers.”
On whether the UCLA rumors influenced the decision:
“I think anytime you’re in a process of making a decision, a lot of things go into it. Certainly we considered everything that was involved.”
On the relationship between Pagano and the players:
“As I said, I think John has certainly a track record with our guys and obviously I think it’s going to be a real good fit. That’s why we put him in that position.”
On whether the defense needs to improve personnel-wise:
“Someone asked me about where we rank in our division. Obviously our teams were 8-8 in our division and 7-9. The biggest key for all the teams in our division is who is going to improve the most. There’s a number of ways you can improve. Certainly the first way you get better is add elite players. You have an opportunity to do that through free agency, you have a chance to do that through the draft like all the other teams in our division. Obviously the next way you improve is you continue to get better in terms of the things you’re doing; coaching and all three phases.”
On where Turner is in the evaluation stage of the rest of the coaching staff:
“Again, it is a process. We’re in the middle of it. I don’t think we’ll have major changes. Again, part of it is my conversation with coaches and where they’re at. So it’s an ongoing process.”
On Manusky being a scapegoat:
“That’s always the question that’s asked when you make a change. That’s always what’s insinuated. I don’t believe in that. I think, as I said, I’m not looking back. I’m looking forward and looking for the things we need to do to get better in the future.”
On what immediate changes need to be made:
“First and foremost, we've just got to go out as a staff and coach better and we've just got to go to play better. We’ve had many opportunities to get off the field. With our type of offense and the things that we can do offensively, we have to give them the opportunity to go score. The easiest way for us to do that is try and get as many three-and-outs as we can to put the ball back in our offense. For the most part, we as a coaching and defensive staff have to coach better and we have to go out and play better.”
On whether the team has the right player personnel:
“I believe so. Looking at all our personnel and seeing it over the years — I’ve been here through the good times and the bad times — and seeing the type of defensive players. Can we improve in everything? Sure we can. With the right mixture of guys we have on this team right now I believe we can do some good things here.”
On being a candidate for this job last year and what’s different now:
“I don’t know. That’s a real good question. You sit here, you wonder and you’re always waiting for your opportunity. But I didn’t really ever look into things about that. Just so excited for the opportunity that they are giving me. The good thing was I learned. Every year I’ve been here I’ve learned. I’ve learned from some great defensive minds here. That’s something that I really took a hold of. Last year was a great learning experience because I thought we did, at times, some great things there defensively. Just the interaction and being a part of having the type of players and this coaching staff.”
On the rumors of the players wanting him to get this position:
“It’s an honor to have them say that. I don’t know, no one has texted me or called me. This phone’s been buzzing but it’s nice to know that. Our job here, and I’ve been saying this for a long time, is put them in position to make plays. That’s our job and that’s what we have to do. When they go out there and they’re successful, good things happen for us so that’s what we want to do.”
On appeasing fans’ desires for a high-powered defense:
“I’m not big on styles. We’re going to go out and be fundamentally sound. We’re going to play smart football. I believe that’s the most important thing. We got to be able to create turnovers like everybody says. We have to pressure the quarterback because over the years that I’ve been here, we’ve seen those things and I’ve been a part of those things. So, we need to just keep building, keep doing what we’re doing, have the games that we’ve played well in, take from those learn experiences on the things we didn’t do well and move on from there.”
On what happened with the UCLA discussions:
“It was a nice honor to have coach (Jim) Mora be able to want me for that job. It wasn’t a factor of taking this job or that job. I don’t know how my name got out there. I don’t know if it was a recruiting ploy or not. But like I said my family loves it here in San Diego. I love it here, I love this organization, I’ve been a part of this organization for a long time and I’m really excited about the opportunity I have ahead of me. “
On whether he was frustrated he didn’t get this job in the past:
“Everybody’s going to be disappointed if there’s things you want out there in life that you’re not going to get. But the one thing, it made me better. It made me grow into the position I’m in now. I thank the Lord every day that those things happened to me so I could grow, learn, watch and listen and be in a part with a guy like Coach Turner. But also learning for Ted Cottrell, Ron Rivera, Wade Phillips being the mentor and Coach Manusky. All those guys and just being around them. Guys like Steve Wilks and Don Johnson. We have a great staff. We have a great defensive staff. We just got to go out there and get these guys playing better. That’s our job.”
On the likelihood of bringing most the coaches back:
“That’s up to Coach Turner. I hope so. This thing is about us. Those guys have their thumbprint on this defense just as much as I have. I’ve been here just a few years more.”
On communicating with specific player(s) regarding the promotion:
“You always want to reach out to the veterans, but this thing kind of moved so fast that I haven’t really had a chance. I had an opportunity to talk to my dad. It’s humbling. He’s just so happy. Now he’s got another son he can worry about the most with my brother (Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck) being in Baltimore. It’s just family. I’m always proud of my dad bringing us up in these roots. I’m proud of my brother for what he’s accomplished. I’m really excited and happy about the opportunity that’s come up on me.”
Two days after San Diego ownership made the controversial decision to keep coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith, the team fired defensive coordinator Greg Manusky after one season, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. There will likely be other tweaking on the staff.
It had long been thought that if Turner did survive, Manusky wouldn’t. In San Diego, the hiring of Manusky was considered the biggest mistake the team made in 2011 along with allowing running back Darren Sproles to leave and go to New Orleans as a free agent.
Manusky’s defense never caught fire. Last year, the Chargers were the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL under coordinator Ron Rivera., who left to become the head coach in Carolina. However, San Diego’s defense fell to 16th under Manusky.
Manusky, a former San Diego linebackers coach, promised an aggressive defense, but it never developed.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports linebackers coach John Pagano is a favorite to replace Manusky. Pagano reportedly was in line to become the defensive coordinator at UCLA. This opportunity would very likely sway that decision.
Another name to keep an eye on is secondary coach Steve Wilks. He is a player favorite who has drawn comparison to Rivera for his style. Wilks was brought to San Diego by Rivera.
Expect San Diego to stick with the 3-4 defense. The next defensive coordinator will be Turner’s fourth in his six seasons in San Diego. Ted Cottrell was fired midway through the 2008 season.
Whoever the new coordinator will be, improvements will be needed in San Diego. The Chargers need some pass-rushing linebackers, a starting safety and backups at cornerback. Expect improving the defense to be a focal point of the offseason. The move Thursday was just the first step.
Meanwhile, there will likely be three new defensive coordinators in the AFC West. Oakland is expected to fire Chuck Bresnahan. A new defensive coordinator will be brought into Kansas City regardless of whether Romeo Crennel is given the head-coaching job.
What to build upon:
Quarterback Philip Rivers: This is an elite quarterback. Yes, he didn’t have his greatest season. Yes, he made crucial mistakes in all eight of the Chargers’ losses. But he is a player than can lead the Chargers deep into the playoffs. He finished the season strong and threw just three interceptions in the final six games.
Running back Ryan Mathews: Smith’s big trade to move up to get Mathews with the No. 12 pick in 2010 looked to be a good decision in Mathews’ second season. He ran for 1,091 yards and averaged 4.9 yards per carry. Mathews should only get better and offer the Chargers’ offense great balance.
The trio of Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd and Antonio Gates: It was no shock that Rivers settled down when his three receiving weapons were healthy together late in the season. If these players (Jackson is a free agent and he may be franchised) can stay healthy next year, the Chargers will be in great shape.
Changes may be needed:
Defensive coordinator: Don’t be surprised if defensive coordinator Greg Manusky is fired. I know there was some disappointment in San Diego over the unit’s lack of success under Manusky. The Chargers were the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL last year under Ron Rivera, who was hired as the head coach in Carolina. Manusky didn’t get the same results as Rivera did and I could see change. I know San Diego’s players like secondary coach Steve Wilks and he could be a possibility. Another option could be Miami defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.
Offensive line: With plenty of needs on defense, San Diego may have to use some resources on the offensive line. Guard Kris Dielman, tackle Marcus McNeill and center Nick Hardwick all may consider retirement. There is a chance all three players will return, but the odds are the Chargers are facing some change on the line. One potential solution is re-signing tackle Jared Gaither, who shined after being claimed off waivers from Kansas City.
Front-line help: This is the year the Chargers need to open up their pocket book. It is not Smith’s way to do much in free agency. That may need to change this year. The Chargers’ roster needs some fine tuning and spending for reliable help may be the answer whether it was Smith’s past philosophy or not. This is a do-or-die year in San Diego, so a change in philosophy may be needed.
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
“Steve has done an outstanding job with our secondary since he’s been here and now we’re going to be asking even more of him,” San Diego coach Norv Turner said.
Often an assistant get promoted after another team pursues the coach. Wilks is well liked by his players and the San Diego secondary was a big reason why the Chargers had the No. 1 overall ranked defense in the NFL last season.
Meanwhile, the Chargers have added depth at fullback by adding former Pittsburgh practice squad fullback Frank Summers. He could have a chance to make the roster depending on what other running backs the Chargers add this offseason.
Turner has already interviewed current defensive assistants John Pagano and Steve Wilks. San Francisco defensive coordinator Greg Manusky will interview with the team on Thursday. Meanwhile, San Diego tight ends coach Rob Chudzinski could be headed to Carolina to be Rivera’s offensive coordinator.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that St. Louis offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur could be named the head coach in Cleveland by Friday.
If so, that could clear the way for former Denver coach Josh McDaniels to end up as the offensive coordinator in St. Louis. McDaniels is extremely interested in the St. Louis job but has also interviewed in Minnesota. Carolina could be interested in McDaniels if he doesn't end up with the Rams.
Schefter also reports that, if the Shurmur talks break down in Cleveland, the Browns could turn to former Carolina coach John Fox. He interviewed in Denver on Wednesday.
Don’t be shocked if Cleveland defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is a candidate to return to Oakland as defensive coordinator if Hue Jackson is promoted to head coach. There has been talk Ryan could be a head-coaching candidate and that may be the case. But he could still possibly return as a coordinator.
After his dominant performance in the BCS Championship game Monday, Auburn defensive lineman Nick Fairley has moved up on Mel Kiper’s draft big board . Denver would likely target Fairley with their No. 2 pick. There is more than three months left before the draft, and a lot can happen, but expect Fairley to stay near the top of the draft list.
Could the secondary-hungry Houston Texans make a push for Champ Bailey or Nnamdi Asomugha? Both Asomugha and Bailey are unrestricted free agents. Will the AFC West see two of its top defenders leave the division? I still say Oakland will do what it takes to keep Asomugha and Bailey’s future will be revisited in Denver soon.
San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers and Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel chime in on Tom Brady’s stellar season.
The Chiefs have re-signed all eight of their practice squad players.
Bisaccia replaces Steve Crosby. He was fired after a terrible season on special teams in San Diego. The Chargers were ranked No. 1 on offense and defense in the NFL. But they finished 9-7, partly because of several issues on special teams.
Bisaccia has a strong reputation around the league. While his challenge is big, the Chargers did improve on special teams at the end of the season. If the team is healthy in 2011, this unit can turn around rather quickly.
With this job filled, San Diego now has to find a new defensive coordinator to replace Ron Rivera. He was hired as the head coach in Carolina on Tuesday. Among the candidates expected to be considered are former NFL head coach Dave Wannstedt, San Francisco defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and current San Diego assistants Steve Wilks and John Pagano.
Yes, Ron Rivera will be missed by the Chargers. But San Diego has to take pride in the fact that he is on his way to Carolina, becoming the Panthers’ head coach.
It’s like sending a student to an Ivy League school. The Chargers have to be proud of their former defensive coordinator.
After having nine interviews for head-coaching gigs in the past six years, Rivera has finally landed in the big chair. It’s well deserved. Rivera did an outstanding job in San Diego. The Chargers were ranked No.1 in total defense this season.
Rivera helped save the Chargers’ season in 2008. As inside linebackers coach, Rivera replaced Ted Cottrell as the Chargers’ defensive coordinator at midseason. The Chargers caught fire after the move and went on to the playoffs. The unit has been strong ever since.
The Chargers have to be thrilled with the production they got out of Rivera. He led a defense of two playoff teams and his unit was the best in the league, statistically speaking, in his final season there. Rivera did his part in San Diego.
Quiet, intelligent and dedicated, the former Chicago linebacker was known as a detailed-oriented player’s coach. There’s no question San Diego’s players responded well to him and there’s no question he will be missed.
San Diego now must find Rivera’s replacement. Because Rivera had such an impact on the team, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of his defensive assistants will be considered in an attempt to keep continuity.
San Diego, which will continue running a 3-4 defense, could look at secondary coach Steve Wilks, linebacker coach John Pagano and defensive line coach Don Johnson. There has been a lot of talk that San Francisco defensive coordinator Greg Manusky could be a candidate. Dallas has also shown interest in Manusky.
UPDATE: ESPN.com is reporting Dave Wannstedt will be a candidate in San Diego. This makes sense. Wannstedt and San Diego coach Norv Turner are very close and have a long history together. I could see this pairing happening.
The signing has been expected for the past two days. Vasher was recently cut by the Chicago Bears and is expected to provide depth in San Diego's secondary. The team also signed free agent Donald Strickland since Antonio Cromartie was traded to the Jets earlier this month. Vasher and Strickland are expected to backup starters Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason, who is poised to replace Cromartie.
Vasher, 28, had early success in his career, but has been injured in recent seasons. He played for San Diego defensive coordinator Ron Rivera and secondary coach Steve Wilks in Chicago.
“In Nathan Vasher, we’re adding a proven NFL player with experience in the league,” San Diego general manager A.J. Smith said in a release sent out by the team.
Vasher, 28, was recently cut by the Bears. He was an explosive ball hawk early in his career, but he has been hampered by injuries in recent seasons. This is a worthwhile endeavor for San Diego.
Vaster will likely not be expensive and he will add depth to the cornerback position. If he can have a career resurgence, it will be a steal. At the very least, he solidifies the cornerback position and will allow the Chargers to look at other positions in the draft.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
San Diego coach on the spot: Defensive backs coach Steve Wilks.
Wilks, who worked with San Diego defensive coordinator Ron Rivera in Chicago, is a new coach in San Diego.The reason why he was brought to San Diego was simple: to shore up a talented unit.
It is all about defense for the Chargers in 2009. San Diego general manager A.J. Smith said last week during the team's minicamp that defense will be the key to the Chargers' success, especially the pass defense.
San Diego's defense rebounded late last season after Rivera took over as defensive coordinator. Still, the pass defense struggled at times.
Wilks' job should be made easier with pass-rush superstar Shawne Merriman returning from injury and because of the presence of top pick, pass-rush linebacker Larry English. Still, cornerback Antonio Cromartie needs to rebound from a poor 2008 and the team needs better safety play opposite Eric Weddle. Wilks has some vital coaching ahead of him.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
The San Diego Chargers just announced the hiring of two defensive assistant coaches with ties to defensive coordinator Ron Rivera.
The team announced the hiring of defensive line coach Don Johnson and secondary coach Steve Wilks. Both Johnson and Wilks worked with Rivera in Chicago when he was the team's defensive coordinator. Johnson had spent the past two seasons with the Raiders and Wilks was let go from Chicago.
Johnson replaces Wayne Nunnely and Wilks takes over for Bill Bradley. The San Diego Union Tribune reported Nunnely took a job with Denver on Monday. Bradley was one of four assistants let go by San Diego coach Norv Turner last week, two days after the Chargers were dispatched from the AFC divisional playoffs in Pittsburgh.
The hiring shows Rivera is putting his personal touch on his defense. Rivera did interview for the head coaching job in Detroit last week a day before Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz took the job. Don't be surprised if Rivera finalizes a new contract to reflect his new position in San Diego.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
- Josh McDaniels received a rich contract to coach the Broncos.
My take: Denver owner Pat Bowlen is a fair man and it is no surprise that McDaniels was given a competitive contract. The word is that McDaniels had long had the attention of Denver's owner, and after the interview process Bowlen was certain that McDaniels was the man to lead his team in the future. So, clearly McDaniels was going to be paid well to become the next head coach in Denver.
- Coaches are getting antsy in Kansas City.
My take: It's been 23 days since the season ended and Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards and his assistants -- those who haven't taken other jobs -- are still in limbo. It is expected to change at any time. New general manager Scott Pioli has been mulling the situation for a week. He is expected to make a decision soon.
- The Raiders added a couple of assistant coaches.
My take: This situation is as intriguing as what is going on in Kansas City. While Edwards is in limbo, the Raiders are currently the only team without a head coach. Yet, assistants are being hired. Only in Oakland.
- The Chargers' new secondary coach worked with Ron Rivera in Chicago.
My take: Steve Wilks' hiring shows that defensive coordinator Ron Rivera has some juice on this staff. And he should. It looks like Rivera will be back as the team's defensive coordinator. He did a stellar job in the second half of the season after taking over. Now that he is getting his own coaches in, Rivera should be even more effective.