NFC South: Perry Fewell

Bucs' search approaching crunch time

January, 23, 2012
I’ve been saying all along the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been wise to move slowly in their coaching search.

They promised an exhaustive search and they’re coming through on that. It appeared to be ending Sunday night when the Bucs reportedly were working out a contract to bring in Oregon coach Chip Kelly. But that changed Monday morning when the news broke that Kelly had decided to pull out and stay at Oregon.

The Bucs have interviewed at least eight other known candidates and only one of them, Joe Philbin who wound up with the Miami job, is off the market. It’s possible the Bucs could want to interview some more candidates that have been tied up with the postseason and New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell could be one of them.

But the Bucs are approaching a point where continuing to be exhaustive can be counterproductive. The week of Senior Bowl practices starts Monday in Mobile, Ala. It’s not imperative the Bucs have their new coach there to see the college prospects. The scouting department can handle that.

However, the Bucs are getting close to running the risk of putting their new coach at a big disadvantage. For those who haven’t been to the Senior Bowl, let me describe it a bit.

Sure, it’s about the players. This is the first real step in beginning to determine where they’ll be ranked on draft boards. But the Senior Bowl is more than that. It’s also a convention for coaches and there’s as much networking going on there as there is at a job fair.

When John Fox was about to get the Carolina job back in 2002, I watched him on the sidelines during Senior Bowl practices. Coach after coach walked up to him and handed him their business card or a piece of paper with their name on it.

Later in the week, I sat with Fox and his agent in the Mobile airport, waiting for a flight to Charlotte. As we talked, Fox pulled out the stack of cards, he had received. I’m guessing the total amount of cards was somewhere around 200. A day or two later, Fox was hired and there’s no doubt he called some of the numbers on those cards as he filled out his staff.

Cards are being handed out in Mobile right now as teams with new coaches try to fill their staffs and other teams try to patch holes on existing staffs and the supply of coaches without jobs is going to dwindle very soon.

The Bucs, Raiders and Colts currently still have vacancies for head coaches. If the Bucs don’t hire a coach soon, he’s not going to have a deep pool of candidates to hire as assistants. Putting together a strong staff is one of the most important things a coach does.

Former Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris hired an initial staff that included Jeff Jagodzinski as offensive coordinator and Jim Bates as defensive coordinator. Jagodzinski was fired before the end of Morris' first preseason and Bates was gone by the middle of that season. One of the knocks on Morris in league circles was he didn't have a very good group of assistant coaches.

The Bucs have pledged to learn from past mistakes. But, if they don't hire a coach soon, they may once again end up with a group of assistants that's less than stellar.

Around the NFC South

January, 22, 2012
Before the conference championship games get going later Sunday, let’s take a look at some of the top headlines from around the NFC South.

There was at least one report that said Joe Philbin was a finalist for the Tampa Bay job before he became Miami’s head coach. If so, that may be a sign that the Bucs are getting around to narrowing their list and potentially bringing back a few candidates for second interviews. But I’m not sure the report about Philbin is true. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Bucs still interview a candidate or two still involved in the postseason. There has been a lot of speculation that the Bucs may want to interview New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.

Roddy White has been recognized by the Atlanta chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America with the Good Guy award. The honor is supposed to go to the player who is most helpful to the media in doing its job. I think the writers got this one right. As someone who has spent a fair amount of time covering the Falcons, I can verify that White is accessible after wins and losses. More importantly, he’s a guy who is almost always willing to speak candidly.

There’s a lot of excitement in New Orleans about the hiring of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. But Jeff Duncan notes that former coordinators Gregg Williams, Gary Gibbs, Rick Venturi and Ron Zook also arrived with a lot of excitement and left without big production. He notes the last defensive coordinator to leave New Orleans on good terms was Monte Kiffin in 1995. In other words, Spagnuolo has a great reputation, but he’ll have to get the defense to produce to keep that reputation.

Here’s an overview of Carolina’s linebacker situation for 2012. The Panthers have James Anderson, a quality player at one outside spot. But middle linebacker Jon Beason and outside linebacker Thomas Davis missed most of the 2011 season with injuries. Beason’s return should boost this unit considerably. But there are no guarantees. His lengthy history of injuries and the structure of his contract make it likely the Panthers will cut Davis. They eventually could bring him back at a lower salary, but Davis has torn his ACL three times and it remains to be seen if he still can be anywhere close to the player he used to be. Jordan Senn did some promising things last season and could factor into the mix going forward. But backup middle linebacker Dan Connor is a potential free agent. The Panthers may have to add a little linebacker depth in the draft or free agency.
Scratch Joe Philbin off the list of candidates to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He reportedly is headed to the Miami Dolphins.

I don’t think that’s left the Bucs suddenly hopeless. As I mentioned Thursday, I had Philbin at No. 7 on my rankings of the eight candidates known to have interviewed for the Tampa Bay job. Yes, the Bucs interviewed Philbin and may have liked him, but I don’t think he was all that high on their list.

As we’ve mentioned many times, the other known candidates are Mike Sherman, Mike Zimmer, Tom Clements, Marty Schottenheimer, Jerry Gray, Brad Childress and Rob Chudzinski. In fact, I don’t think a sudden exit by any of those candidates would shatter Tampa Bay’s plans.

I believe the Bucs think several of the candidates could be good fits for their job and are just trying to figure out who they think is the right guy. I also think it’s entirely possible Tampa Bay’s list could grow after this weekend’s championship games.

There’s a school of thought out there that the Bucs could be waiting to interview New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bucs also want to interview another candidate or two that’s been tied up with the postseason.

The only way this development hurts Tampa Bay is that Philbin will start hiring his staff for the Dolphins. That will narrow the pool of assistants available to the Bucs whenever they do hire a head coach.

NFC South chat Friday at 1 p.m.

January, 20, 2012
A quick reminder that the weekly NFC South chat will be held Friday at 1 p.m. ET.

We can talk about Tampa Bay’s coaching search -- is it getting closer to ending or are the Buccaneers waiting to talk to New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell or some other coaches still involved in the postseason? Or could they be looking at other mature coaches? I have heard Don Shula was seen in Florida recently.

We can chat about who got the better defensive coordinator -- the Falcons with Mike Nolan or the Saints with Steve Spagnuolo.

Atlanta fans can say what a bad hire offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter was, because that’s what Atlanta fans seem to be doing, and I’ll defend him.

And Carolina fans can vent their frustration about the possibility of losing offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski and I’ll try to comfort them, but can’t make any guarantees. And just about anything else related to the four NFC South teams is fair game as well.

If you can join us, here’s the link.

Are Buccaneers going for the record?

January, 17, 2012
I’m just looking at the latest on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ coaching search and starting to wonder if the Bucs are trying to set some sort of record.

The latest is the Bucs will interview Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin and quarterbacks Tom Clements at some point soon. The Bucs are interviewing Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and Carolina offensive coordinator Rob Chudzkinski on Tuesday.

The Bucs previously interviewed former NFL head coaches Mike Sherman, Marty Schottenheimer and Brad Childress as well as Tennessee defensive coordinator Jerry Gray.

Check my math here, but assuming the Bucs do interview Clements and Philbin, that will bring the number of interviews to eight. And that also is assuming the media as reported every coach who has interviewed. We chase these things like crazy, but sometimes an interview or two can slip through the cracks. The Bucs also could decide to interview more candidates that are still involved in the playoffs. There’s been some speculation about New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell possibly being a candidate.

But, for now, the number will stand at eight, probably later this week. I seriously think that might be some kind of record. ESPN Stats & Information does a wonderful job, but does not keep numbers on how many candidates have interviewed for any given job throughout history.

I’ve been through a few coaching searches in my day. Generally speaking, most teams interview three or four candidates and I think five is the highest number I’ve ever seen.

But I’m not seeing any huge drawback with Tampa Bay’s methodical approach. Indications are, the Bucs could narrow their list and bring back a few candidates for second interviews. That makes it sound like we might not see a hire for at least another week.

Assistant coaches are being hired all over the league and the Bucs may be missing out on some good candidates. But there still are lots of other assistants available. The East-West Shrine Game is this week and the Senior Bowl is next week.

Ideally, you’d like to have your full coaching staff in place for those two events, so the coaches can get a good look at the college prospects. But any assistant that’s available will be at the Senior Bowl and will be watching players on their own.

Besides, the coaching staffs aren’t the ones who do the bulk of the work at the college all-star games. The scouting staff does that.

Yeah, there comes a point when coaches need to start evaluating the current roster and getting ready for free agency. But, as long as Tampa Bay has its staff in place by the end of the month, there’s plenty of time for that.

I know a lot of Tampa Bay fans are looking at the candidates and saying there’s no one with a “wow factor." That’s true, but was there anybody with a “wow factor’’ out there to begin with? Maybe Jeff Fisher, who ended up in St. Louis. But Fisher is a good, but not tremendous coach and his stock was elevated in a year when Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy and a few other big names refused to join the league-wide candidate pool.

The Bucs aren’t going for the “wow factor" and there’s nothing wrong with that. The deliberate approach might be the right thing. Maybe the Bucs will get a coach who is the right fit. Then, two years down the road or so, maybe fans will say “wow’’ at what that guy has done.

Other options for the Buccaneers?

January, 13, 2012
As we told you Thursday night, Houston Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has pulled out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers' search for a head coach.

But that doesn’t mean Tampa Bay’s choice will come straight from a list of Mike Sherman, Marty Schottenheimer, Brad Childress and Jerry Gray. Those four have interviewed for the job and any of them could end up as the next coach. But a league source said Tampa Bay’s list of candidates goes deeper than that.

The source wouldn’t specify if other candidates have interviewed or if the team is waiting to talk to candidates that are still involved in postseason play. It’s possible the Bucs could want to talk to some coaches still involved in the playoffs.

Let’s take a look at some coaches still in the postseason that could be candidates:

Tom Clements, Green Bay Packers, quarterbacks coach. His name has been tied to a lot of jobs in recent weeks. Clements hasn’t been an NFL head coach, but he’s looked very good as Aaron Rodgers' position coach. He’s very experienced and respected around the league.

Winston Moss, Packers, assistant head coach/inside linebackers coach. His name is getting tied to the Raiders’ opening. But Moss also could make some sense for Tampa Bay. He played linebacker for the Buccaneers.

Darren Perry, Packers, secondary-safeties coach. Another hot name on Green Bay’s staff. He is considered a rising star. Even if he doesn’t get a job as a head coach this year, he could be in line for a job as a coordinator.

Gregg Williams, New Orleans Saints, defensive coordinator. He’s been a head coach before. He’s a strict disciplinarian, which appears to be a quality the Bucs look very favorably upon these days. If the Bucs are going to compete in the NFC South in the immediate future, they have to go through the Saints. Williams knows New Orleans’ offense as well as anyone because he has to practice against it every day.

Pete Carmichael, Saints, offensive coordinator. This is probably a long shot because Carmichael has been in the shadow of head coach Sean Payton. But Carmichael started calling the plays when Payton broke his leg and has done a nice job. Carmichael has a very low-key personality and the Bucs might be looking for someone more dynamic.

Perry Fewell, New York Giants, defensive coordinator. He has experience as an interim head coach. He has been a candidate for other jobs in the past and some teams that have met with him say Fewell interviews extremely well.

Mike McCoy, Denver Broncos, offensive coordinator. More than head coach John Fox, McCoy is the one who has adjusted Denver’s offense to suit quarterback Tim Tebow. McCoy is viewed as a rising young star and has an outgoing personality. He also shares the same agent as Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik.

Cam Cameron, Ravens, offensive coordinator. His previous stint as a head coach in Miami did not go well, but Cameron probably learned some things from that experience. He’s had lots of success as a coordinator and could get another look as a head coach.

Panthers closing in on Ron Rivera?

January, 10, 2011
Although Charlotte is getting hit with a winter storm, it hasn’t stopped the Carolina Panthers from moving ahead with their coaching search.

The Panthers reportedly are holding a second interview with Ron Rivera. The location of the meeting isn’t known and it’s unclear if team owner Jerry Richardson is involved in this meeting. General manager Marty Hurney and team president Danny Morrison previously met with Rivera, San Diego’s defensive coordinator, in California.

Last week, Richardson said he would let Morrison and Hurney narrow the list of candidates before he got involved. The Panthers also have had interviews with Perry Fewell, Rob Ryan and Greg Manusky.

The second interview for Rivera could be a sign the Panthers are closing in on him. When John Fox was hired in 2002, he was the only candidate to get a second interview.

Speaking of Fox and the weather, he had to postpone his interview with the Denver Broncos because he was unable to fly out of Charlotte due to the storm.

Hitting the NFC South links

January, 7, 2011
SEATTLE -- As we count down the hours until Saturday's playoff game between the Saints and Seahawks, let's take a look at what else is going on around the NFC South.

With Andrew Luck out of the draft, Brian Linder writes the Panthers should use the No. 1 overall pick on Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers. Makes some sense. He’s a local kid, and the last time the Panthers used a high pick on a local kid was Julius Peppers. That didn’t end well, but the Panthers got some very good years out of Peppers.

It’s the bye week for the Falcons, so things are a little quiet. But Atlanta Journal-Constitution beat writer D. Orlando Ledbetter is a veteran, and he knows where to turn when things start to get dull. He got this gem out of receiver Roddy White: “Every time you catch the ball, I feel like it's money.They are just throwing me money. In big bundles, too. You have to just keep catching them. Everybody likes money, so you want to catch it."

Oliver Luck, the father of Stanford quarterback Andrew, said his son’s decision not to enter the 2011 draft was not a slight on the Carolina Panthers, who hold the first pick.

Although there have been reports that the Denver Broncos are interested in New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams as a possible head coach, there has been no contact between the parties. That’s because league rules prohibit teams from talking to Williams while the Saints are in the playoffs, although there is a potential window in the bye week between the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl, if the Saints keep playing that long. But Williams sounds like a man who is pretty happy where he’s at.

Although he frequently was portrayed as a malcontent in his Cleveland days, tight end Kellen Winslow sounds very happy in Tampa Bay and already is looking forward to next season.

Carolina general manager Marty Hurney and team president Danny Morrison are doing their first wave of coaching interviews on the road. They were in New York on Thursday to meet with Perry Fewell. They’ll spend the weekend with Greg Manusky and Ron Rivera in California, and Cleveland defensive coordinator Rob Ryan also is in the picture. Team owner Jerry Richardson said there could be more candidates, and Hurney and Morrison will narrow down the list before bringing two or three candidates to Charlotte for interviews.
The Carolina Panthers have added another name to their search for a head coach. The team reportedly has asked for permission to interview Cleveland defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

Add him to a list that includes Ron Rivera, Perry Fewell and Greg Manusky and it sure sounds like the Panthers are going with another defensive coach to follow in the footsteps of John Fox, George Seifert and Dom Capers. I still think there’s a chance the Panthers could interview an offensive-minded coach or two.

But, let’s say they do go with a defensive coordinator. Whoever that guy is will have to convince owner Jerry Richardson, general manager Marty Hurney and team president Danny Morrison that he’s open minded about offense and it probably wouldn’t hurt a candidate to say he plans to bring along a very strong offensive coordinator.

Richardson, Hurney and Morrison have realized from painful experience that the days of winning with dominant defense are over. You have to at least have a competent offense and whoever the new coach is better be prepared to deliver that.

Hitting the NFC South links

January, 5, 2011
Time for a morning trip through the headlines across the NFC South.

Stephen Holder ponders the future of center Jeff Faine with the Buccaneers. It’s a very valid question. Faine is 30 and he’s missed a lot of time with injuries the past two seasons. With some young linemen showing promise, Faine might not fit into Tampa Bay’s youth movement.

The Bucs signed the eight guys on their practice squad to futures contracts.

The Panthers reportedly have asked for permission to interview San Francisco defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. They also are expected to interview New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and San Diego defensive coordinator Ron Rivera in the near future.

Jeff Duncan has his weekly film review on the Saints and attributes their loss to the Buccaneers to some bad breaks, injuries and a few questionable calls by the officials.

New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma has been added to the Pro Bowl roster. Vilma initially was a first alternate, but an injury to San Francisco’s Patrick Willis cleared a roster spot.

D. Orlando Ledbetter has a list of the Falcons’ 10 most memorable plays of the season. You can’t argue with his choice for No. 1 – Roddy White’s strip of Nate Clements against San Francisco. That play saved the Falcons from what would have been an embarrassing loss.

Richardson not optimistic about CBA

January, 4, 2011
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, one of the leaders in labor talks between the NFL and its players, said negotiations are not going well.

“I personally am not as optimistic as some are that we are making much progress,’’ Richardson said as he held his first press conference in nine years to discuss the departure of John Fox and the coaching search that has just begun.

Richardson’s words come just days after commissioner Roger Goodell sent an e-mail to an estimated five million fans saying he was optimistic a deal could be worked out. But a source close to the situation said Goodell had knowledge of what Richardson planned to say and didn’t discourage it.

Richardson drew a chart to display how money has been divided between teams and players in recent years and said teams are operating with a negative cash flow. He said lawyers for the players’ association have repeatedly asked for “more money and less work’’.

Richardson and Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen are the co-chairmen of the league’s labor committee. Richardson is the only owner to play in the league. He was with the Baltimore Colts and Johnny Unitas in the late 1950s. Richardson and Bowlen were also the point men for the league in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that was reached in 2006.

Owners made the decision to opt out of the deal in 2008 and the agreement ends at the end of this season. There is a March 3 deadline for a deal to be reached and owners have said a lockout will follow if there is no agreement.

“I’m not optimistic we are making a lot of progress,’’ Richardson said.

Richardson didn't go into much detail on the coaching search. He and general manager Marty Hurney said the team will consider all avenues, but indicated they would prefer to hire a coordinator from another team. The Panthers already have asked for permission to interview Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and San Diego defensive coordinator Ron Rivera. Richardson also said there has been no contact with Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Add another name to the list of candidates to coach the Carolina Panthers.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports the Panthers have asked for and received permission to interview Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera. The report said the team and Rivera are working to set up an interview in the coming days.

The Panthers already have asked the New York Giants for permission to interview defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. It is believed the Panthers are in the process of trying to set up interviews with several other possible candidates.

Rivera helped San Diego’s defense allow the fewest yards of any team in the league this year.

Carolina owner Jerry Richardson, general manager Marty Hurney and team president Danny Morrison are scheduled to meet with the media Tuesday morning to discuss general plans for the coaching search.

Hitting the NFC South links

January, 3, 2011
Time for a quick afternoon trip through some headlines around the NFC South.

Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman said he plans to spend a lot of time working with young teammates Arrelious Benn, Mike Williams and LeGarrette Blount in the offseason. That sounds great in theory. But here’s one thing to keep in mind. If there is a lockout, there will be no official offseason program. That could hurt a young team like the Bucs a lot more than some veteran teams.

D. Orlando Ledbetter writes about how Atlanta cornerback Dunta Robinson is looking forward to playing in the postseason for the first time in his career.

Jeff Jagodzinski, who was offensive coordinator for Tampa Bay for a few minutes, has been fired by a United Football League franchise.

The Panthers reportedly have requested permission to talk to New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell about their head-coaching position. Makes sense because Fewell is a hot name and he grew up near Charlotte. Fewell also is getting some interest from Cleveland. It’s likely the Panthers are in the process of setting up interviews with several other candidates. General manager Marty Hurney, who will lead the search, is generally very thorough and doesn’t rush into decisions.
John Fox is king of the NFC South when it comes to replay challenges.

According to ESPN’s Stats & Information, Fox has been successful on five of the eight replay challenges he has used this season. That’s 63 percent, which puts him way ahead of the rest of the NFC South and not all that far from the top of the league.

Indianapolis’ Jim Caldwell has been successful on all three of his challenges and the Buffalo tandem of Dick Jauron and Perry Fewell has combined to succeed on each of their two challenges. After those three, only four coaches have a better percentage than Fox.

Atlanta’s Mike Smith is second in the division, succeeding on 45 percent (five of 11) of his challenges. New Orleans’ Sean Payton and Tampa Bay’s Raheem Morris each have succeed on three of eight (38 percent) challenges.

Posted by’s Pat Yasinskas

My vote for guy I’d least like to be in the NFL this week goes to Buffalo defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. He’s got to worry about Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints coming to town Sunday and that’s not a pleasant thought for any coordinator.

But give Fewell credit for taking a little time away from building a bomb shelter to speak to the Buffalo media on Wednesday. The comparisons of Brees to New England’s Tom Brady and Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning have been flying for several weeks already and I’m one of those who thinks Brees is the league’s best quarterback right now.

The Buffalo media asked Fewell specifically to compare Brees to Brady, who is part of Buffalo’s division.

“When I watched the tape I thought about that and I said 'wow’,'’’ Fewell said. “It was a day that you just kind of were in awe to a large degree because that offense is so efficient and they are clicking on all cylinders. They do have that powered offense like the Patriots did two years ago.’’

So how do you counter that? Well, Fewell isn’t going to give away his game plan, but it sounds like the blitz might not be a big part of Sunday’s package.

“Not very many people blitz against this guy,’’ Fewell said. “When you look at it, this quarterback is really a cerebral guy. He knows where it’s coming from and he gets it out quick. I think in two ball games there might’ve been a total of 17 pressures against him because he just beats you and hurts you with it. I’m still studying how you solve this efficient quarterback because he’s a coach on the field with a great arm.’’