There is a strong sense among various executives involved in ongoing NFL coaching searches that Matt Rhule is either the next coach of the Giants or staying at Baylor. The Panthers definitely want an audience with him if possible, and the Cowboys surely will too once they get around to letting go of Jason Garrett, but it just may be the Giants or nothing.
Rhule has extreme leverage, with the rest of the Giants candidates list not exactly full of sure things, and with another new extension from his school already in his back pocket as he catches rays in Mexico and plans his next move. The Giants job is, frankly, a shell of what it was once considered to be after ownership keeps churning through coaches and refusing to let go of coaches and struggling general managers at the same time and, basically, continuing to steal plays from Jimmy Haslam's hiring manual.
The Giants are desperate, whether they realize it or not, and Rhule is far and away their best play. I continue to hear it is a job that uniquely appeals to him and tugs at his heart strings, and he has by no means closed the door on the NFL. Heck, he went deep into talks with the lowly Jets just a year ago. It could certainly happen, and league sources maintain that despite GM Dave Gettleman still being in charge, for now, there is a real possibility his role evolves (read: lessens) between now and right after the draft should an A List candidate strongly suggest as much.
It's imperative that the Giants find someone who has actually done the job before -- and done it well -- whether in the pro or college ranks. They need to find their next Tom Coughlin, and doing it with an arranged marriage with a GM who doesn't exactly elicit oohs and aahs in the coaching community makes it all the more difficult. Yes, Rhule and Gettleman have worked together before, but his recent results have been poor. It's a dynamic worth monitoring as the chase for Rhule heats up next week.
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Zimmer could be gone if Vikings lose to Saints
At this point, I would be surprised if Mike Zimmer remains the Vikings head coach next week should his team get thumped by the Saints. What began as a whisper around league circles has now grown closer to a scream, and ownership there is getting frustrated with being good ... but not great.
The Wilf family didn't spend huge bucks across the roster with big signings and massive extensions to be comfortable just going out in the wild card round. The 2020 season was already set up as a pivotal one, with Kirk Cousins and Zimmer both in the final year of their deals, and executives around the NFL are convinced that big changes could be coming quickly in Minnesota if this team does not perform well in the playoffs.
Zimmer can be a handful and his tendency to wear out and churn through offensive coordinators has not gone unnoticed. Current OC Kevin Stefanski is a legit candidate for multiple head coaching vacancies and it may make more sense to go ahead and embrace change now -- with less than five teams currently searching for coaches -- then it would be to wade into what could be much deeper waters a year from now.
They already have a proven head coach on staff in Gary Kubiak, should he be willing to take on that job again, and recently fired Giants coach Pat Shurmur did tremendous work in Minnesota as an offensive coordinator prior to going to New York. Suffice to say, the Vikings would have no shortage of options if ownership made a move next week. As for Zimmer, Jerry Jones loves him in Dallas, and a return to the Cowboys in some capacity would not be shocking at all.
Redskins to wait for new GM, eyeing Colts' Brown
As reported last week, the Skins won't get around to overhauling their front office until after the draft, and the name I continue to hear the most chatter about in a general manager role is Colts executive Morocco Brown.
Brown is very well regarded in Indianapolis, where he helped Chris Ballard quickly upgrade one of the worst rosters in the NFL, and Brown was a favorite of Skins owner Dan Snyder during his lengthy stint in Washington's personnel department. He also is well regarded by Ron Rivera from their time together in Chicago, and by Joe Gibbs, a close confidant of Snyder's and someone who Rivera has reached out to for counsel.
Brown already worked with much of the staff in Washington, should they end up retaining scouts and lower-tiered executives. It appears for now as if longtime Skins contract negotiator/cap guru Eric Schaffer will be out after the draft -- he's done tremendous work for that organization under extreme duress for a long time and should be considered by other organization for a multitude of roles -- and at the very least a handful of football operations employees will be reshuffled or let go by May.
If Snyder does hire someone as a team resident to replace Bruce Allen, who he recently fired after 10 years, there is talk within the Skins organization about him tabbing longtime Vikings GM Rick Spielman for that role. The Vikings could be headed for a shakeup if they lose to the Saints this weekend, and with Rivera getting more control in personnel for the first time in his career, having someone with significant experience as an evaluator/GM in the building is something Snyder is mulling, I'm told.
Browns haven't ruled out Meyer
The Browns have not formally requested an interview with Urban Meyer, and owner Jimmy Haslam has said his search is focused on NFL coaches for now. But I continue to hear from multiple sources that Haslam has not ruled Meyer out as his next head coach.
He is going through the process that is currently being led by analytics maven Paul DePodesta, and will interview largely the same candidates as other teams reached out to. However, it's worth noting that he has yet to hire the candidate in two prior searches that DePodesta most coveted, and ultimately any decision will come to Dee and Jimmy Haslam and whom they feel most comfortable with. And I can assure you they are already quite comfortable with Meyer and his resume.
With their relationship, it wouldn't require an eight-hour interview to make something happen. If the Browns exhaust this first stage of interviews and no one leaps out at the Haslams -- and keep in mind this group is comprised of a bunch of candidates like Mike McCarthy, Kevin Stefanski, Eric Bieniemy, and Josh McDaniels, who they already passed on just one year ago to hire, instead, Freddie Kitchens -- you can't rule out them reaching into the college ranks.
Whether or not Meyer -- or another big fish from the college ranks -- would do it remains to be seen. But there are likely to be three outcomes here -- Haslam finally signs off on DePodesta's guy (he wanted Stefanski a year ago, although bringing another rookie head coach into the turmoil of Cleveland might be a bit much again this time around) and truly gives the franchise back to the analysts and data guys. Or he hires one of the two former NFL coaches he did not include in this search a year ago now that he has gone ahead and fired GM John Dorsey -- McCarthy or McDaniels (who Haslam has coveted in the past).
Or he follows his gut, and does his own thing -- which has almost always been the case -- in which case this could be yet another meandering search for the Browns with a surprise ending. And Meyer is only a phone call away.