Wednesday, Jan. 11
Jets, LaFleur Part Ways
The New York Jets and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur have parted ways after just two seasons together, NFL Media reported Wednesday evening. The move comes despite the Jets’ desire to retain their coach for a third season, and after receiving inquiries on LaFleur from other franchises, will allow him to pursue opportunities with other teams, additional reporting from ESPN indicated.
LaFleur joined the Jets’ staff in 2021, following head coach Robert Saleh over from the San Francisco 49ers, where he served as the team’s passing game coordinator. LaFleur helped lead the breakouts of rookie receiver Garrett Wilson (1,103 yards) and Breece Hall (681) in 2022, as well as those of rookies Michael Carter and Elijah Moore in 2021.
Things have not clicked as well in LaFleur’s offense for 2021 second-overall pick Zach Wilson, who was benched for Mike White, Joe Flacco, and Chris Streveler this season. With LaFleur, Wilson has completed just over 55 percent of his passes, thrown 18 interceptions against 15 touchdowns, and has had his future with the team thrown into doubt.
Cardinals, Texans to Interview Payton
The Cardinals and Texans received permission from the Saints on Wednesday to interview retired coach Sean Payton, according to multiple reports. Teams can’t interview Payton until after Jan. 17.
Payton stepped away from coaching prior to the 2022 NFL season but is still under contract with the Saints, so teams must secure New Orleans’ permission to interview him. The highly sought-after candidate coached New Orleans from 2006 through 2021 and won Super Bowl XLIV.
Arizona moved on from coach Kliff Kingsbury on Monday. In a complete housecleaning, general manager Steve Keim stepped down from his role as well. Payton would be a major coup for the Cardinals and owner Michael Bidwill — as many consider Payton to be one of the most attractive candidates on the market.
The Texans fired Lovie Smith on Monday, marking the second consecutive year Houston is moving on from a coach after one season. The Texans do have the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft and could give their future coach the chance to select a young QB prospect of their choosing.
Payton also has an interview looming with the Denver Broncos for their coaching vacancy.
Reich Candidate in Carolina
The Panthers will interview Frank Reich for their head coaching job on Wednesday, NFL Media reported. Reich spent one year in Carolina as a player.
In an interview with The 33rd Team in early January, Reich expressed interest in coaching again in 2023 after he was fired by the Colts halfway through the 2022 season.
“But at the end of the day, it has to be the right fit,” Reich said. “It has to be the right fit with the owner. It has to be the right fit with the GM. There has to be the right chemistry. I hope that opportunity comes, but I’ll stay ready regardless.”
Reich joins a long list of candidates interviewing for the Panthers job. Others include interim head coach Steve Wilks, Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero.
>> Full Story on Reich’s Potential Coaching Return
Broncos Interviewing Caldwell
The Broncos are adding Jim Caldwell to their extensive list of head coaching candidates, NFL Media reported.
In an interview with The 33rd Team in December, Caldwell said he wants to be a head coach again, but he acknowledged this might be his last cycle.
“Obviously, I think teams are looking at a different sort of profile at this point,” Caldwell said. “They’re looking for younger guys for the most part. But there’s been enough failures with guys that have no experience in the NFL that perhaps there’s some team owner who’s looking for a guy that’s had some experience and background and knows how to build a team and get them to where they’re winning and winning consistently. So, I do think that opportunity’s going to avail itself at some point in time.”
Caldwell last coached with the Miami Dolphins in 2019 when he was their assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach. However, he has extensive experience as a head coach. As the Lions’ coach from 2014 through 2017, Caldwell finished with a 38-28 record, and he finished with a 26-22 record as the Colts’ coach from 2009 through 2011.
The Broncos are adding Caldwell to a list of candidates that includes Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, former Saints coach Sean Payton, Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris and 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans.
>> Full Jim Caldwell Story on Potential Coaching Return
Panthers Request Interview with Moore
The Carolina Panthers are requesting to interview Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore for their head coaching vacancy, ESPN reported.
Moore has been with the Cowboys since 2018 when he was brought on as their quarterback coach. He was named offensive coordinator the following year and has held that position since 2019. Moore interviewed last year for the Jaguars’ and Dolphins’ coaching vacancies.
Moore’s offense finished fourth in points per game this season and first in 2021. Some of his appeal as a candidate also stems from his experience as a quarterback. He played for the Lions from 2012 to 2014 and then for the Cowboys from 2015 to 2017.
Colts Considering Ventrone as Head Coach
The Indianapolis Colts conducted an interview with an in-house candidate Wednesday for their head coaching position, speaking with special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone, NFL Media reported.
Ventrone, a former safety who spent almost a decade in the league across four different teams, has been with Indianapolis since 2018, spending his entire tenure with the franchise in his current role. Prior to joining the Colts, Ventrone was a special teams assistant with the Patriots, under Bill Belichick.