NFC North: Bobby April

NFC North at night

January, 14, 2010
Catching up on Thursday’s news in the NFC North:

We haven’t had much injury-related discussion for either Dallas or Minnesota this week, primarily because we’re very nearly in an all-hands-on-deck situation.

The only player for either team who sat out of practice Thursday was Vikings fullback Naufahu Tahi, who developed a back condition after practicing Wednesday. Dallas tailback Marion Barber (knee), who missed practice Wednesday, was on the field in a limited capacity Thursday. It’s hard to imagine him missing a game in front of hometown fans in Minnesota.

There was never any evidence to suggest a connection between Detroit firing special teams coordinator Stan Kwan at a time when one of the game’s best special teams coaches was available, but now we can close the book. Former Buffalo assistant Bobby April signed on Thursday with Philadelphia. If he spoke with Detroit officials, it went unreported.

There has been no official confirmation, but Jason La Canfora of has joined ESPN’s Adam Schefter in reporting that Chicago will lose out on the bidding for defensive coordinator candidate Perry Fewell. It’s expected that Fewell will join the New York Giants instead.

Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier declined to rehash his awkward interview for Seattle’s head coaching job, one that came after it was reported Pete Carroll would get the job. “There will be a time to talk about what happened a week ago,” Frazier said, according to a transcript distributed by the team. “But I don’t necessarily know if this is maybe the most appropriate time. But there will be a time.”

Updating April's status

January, 13, 2010
Our SportsNation chat Tuesday provided fodder for a number of future posts, as well as a reminder to follow up on old one. With Detroit seeking a special teams coach to replace the fired Stan Kwan, Joe of Utica, N.Y., asked about the status of former Buffalo assistant Bobby April.

As you recall, April opted out of his Bills contract last week after a six-year stint as the Bills’ special teams coach. During that tenure, the Bills finished first in Football Outsiders’ special teams rankings three times and No. 2 once. April is considered one of the best in his profession and has already interviewed with two teams: Pittsburgh and San Francisco. His name has also surfaced in connection with the job in Washington, but no interview has been scheduled.

If the Lions have interviewed April, it’s gone unreported. I’m curious to see if they try to fill this job before their staff coaches the Senior Bowl later this month. The practices for that game usually double as a job fair for assistant coaches, but the Lions' staff will be busier than most.
I wonder if Detroit coach Jim Schwartz has taken note of this news. According to’s John Clayton, one of the best special teams coaches in the NFL is now on the market.

Buffalo Bills assistant head coach/special teams Bobby April has exercised a clause to terminate his contract, which had two years remaining. It’s always possible that April could return under the Bills’ next coach, but for now he is free to sign with another team.

Schwartz retained special teams coordinator Stan Kwan last offseason, but I don’t think there’s any doubt April would be a substantial upgrade. It's difficult to measure special-teams play, but our friends at Football Outsiders do as good of a job as anyone. In the final 2009 rankings, the Lions' special teams were rated the second worst in the NFL.

Asked Monday if he expected any staff changes this winter, Schwartz said: "There are always changes in the NFL. I don’t want to lock into one way or the other because there are some things that happen for a lot of different reasons. That’s part of the evaluation. Right now we’re still working on players and things like that, but there are a lot of stages to the evaluation of players and coaching staffs and scheduling and schemes and things like that. That stuff will come through."

In other words, changes could occur if the right events fall into place. I don’t know if April would have interest in the Lions, or vice versa. But it sounds a good idea to me.