Graziano: For a while now it has felt like most people consider Ben Johnson the favorite here, but I also think this is an intriguing spot for Slowik. This is a team that’s almost certainly going to be breaking in a rookie quarterback next season, and Slowik’s work this season with C.J. Stroud in Houston is a strong recommendation for his résumé in the eyes of teams in the same position. If the Commanders are set on getting an offensive coach — and I’m not saying they are or should be — and they can’t get Johnson, I’d keep an eye on Slowik.
Fowler: What’s wild is Washington is considered a top-two job in the cycle. I never would have guessed that four months ago. But the Commanders now have five top-100 draft picks (including second overall) and a talented new GM in Adam Peters. If an offensive candidate such as Johnson is high on Drake Maye — both UNC products, by the way — then that deepens the intrigue.
Graziano: Agree 100%. Peters is extremely well respected around the league and makes the job a draw for candidates. I would say this is one of the most closely watched hires, since new team owner Josh Harris is an unknown to many in the league and is tasked with rebuilding what was once a flagship NFL franchise that fell into disrepair under previous ownership. The opportunity will be there for Washington’s new coach to thrive.
Is this a battle between Dan Quinn and Ben Johnson?
As the Lions prepare to face the 49ers in the NFC Championship on Sunday, NFL teams can’t speak to prospective head coaching candidates in the week leading up to the game.
So, the Commanders are planning on meeting Johnson in Detroit next week.
Washington’s meeting with Quinn next week is believed to be the third meeting — the second in person.
If the Lions lose on Sunday, Washington could hire Johnson next week. He’s believed to be the top candidate, but there is clearly serious interest in Quinn. New general manager Adam Peters says the top priority for Washington’s next head coach is not offense or defense; it’s leadership. Quinn is known as an outstanding leader, and he’s also a former head coach.
There are only two head coaching openings remaining: the Commanders and the Seattle Seahawks. Quinn, a former defensive coordinator for Seattle, is believed to be a top contender for that job.
Is Seattle waiting to hire its next head coach because it wants to speak to Johnson?
With these two jobs remaining and both franchises interested in the same candidates, are we down to a battle between Johnson and Quinn to become Washington’s next head coach? Or is Johnson to Washington simply a foregone conclusion?
Commanders Coach Rumors: Ben Johnson Can ‘Lock Down’ Job In 2nd Interview, Bobby Slowik ‘Rave Reviews’
The Washington Commanders will reportedly interview Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson for a second time on Tuesday.
Sports Illustrated reported that Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson will interview for a second time on Tuesday in person. If that goes well, Johnson will have a chance to land the job after being the favorite heading into the process.
“It feels like Johnson has a chance to lock this one down Tuesday during his in-person interview,” SI writes. “Johnson has been, with little debate, viewed as the top offensive candidate who would be a first-time head coach. He has been linked to Washington for some time. It would seem he fits the ethos of what the new organization is putting together.”
Johnson has been one of the top candidates in this coaching cycle, interviewing for nearly every vacancy. The Lions ranked fifth in points in both seasons with Johnson as the offensive coordinator.
Quarterback Jared Goff threw for over 4,000 yards in back-to-back seasons and 59 touchdowns with 19 interceptions with Johnson leading the offense.
Orr also noted that Houston Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik had a “lengthy” second interview for the Commanders head coach vacancy. Along with Slowik’s stellar work in developing rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud en route to Houston winning the AFC South and a playoff game, he has a strong connection to Commanders newly-hired general manager Adam Peters from their time with the San Francisco 49ers.
Slowik was in San Francisco from 2017-2022 and held multiple coaching positions before working up to offensive pass game coordinator. Peters was with the 49ers from 2017-2023 and was the vice president of player personnel and assistant general manager before getting hired by Washington.
Slowik also has ties to Washington after coaching there from 2010-2013.
“It sounds like there were some rave reviews from his interview with the Commanders, and Slowik shares a San Francisco 49ers connection with new Commanders GM Adam Peters,” Orr writes. “Their second interview was apparently a lengthy one.”
Ben Johnson’s path to the Commanders just got clearer...
Johnson was the hottest name in this year’s cycle. He received numerous requests to interview - including the Commanders. One of the biggest potential wrenches in Washington’s quest to land the Detroit Lions offensive coordinator officially went in a different direction.
Commanders have less competition for Ben Johnson
[T]he Carolina Panthers [have made] Dave Canales their head coach. Most expected incompetent billionaire owner David Tepper to throw his almost unlimited financial wealth at Johnson in the hope of a homecoming. Even this bottomless pit wasn’t enough to tempt the progressive play-caller into working with such erratic management.
The fact Johnson accepted second interviews with the Commanders and Atlanta Falcons tells its own story where the Panthers are concerned. [Note: the Falcons announced on Thursday that they had hired Raheem Morris]. Tepper’s reputation preceded him during this cycle. Something that led him to Canales and an in-house promotion for their general manager - Dan Morgan - despite his involvement in their woeful roster building over the last three years.
This is a problem the Commanders have been used to in the past. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case.
The Commanders are going to meet with Aaron Glenn and Anthony Weaver next week, too. Dan Quinn is also scheduled, but the Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator is seen to be a leading contender for the Seattle Seahawks vacancy. Forming contingency plans is the smart way to go about things, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out who’s the No. 1 option at this juncture.
Discovering uncut gems has been Adam Peters’ speciality...
4. Talanoa Hufanga (S)
No. 180 overall selecton (2021)
Despite having a successful year during the COVID-shortened season, Talanoa Hufanga was seen as someone who would drop in the draft, given his injury history. One scouting report said, “Hufanga could lack the speed and coverage ability to develop into a Pro Bowl-caliber safety, but he could grow into being a decent starter.”
Welp, in just his second year, Hufanga not only made the Pro Bowl but also earned first-team All-Pro honors. He finished the year with 97 tackles, four interceptions, and two forced fumbles. His 2023 was cut short with a torn ACL, but he was a consistent starter for the 49ers until that point.
Finding diamonds in the rough such as this has been the hallmark of Adam Peters’ career working in successful front offices around the league. While the Washington Commanders have had some prolific performers from lower down the pecking order under Ron Rivera, they’ve been nowhere near frequent enough.
Will the Washington Commanders re-sign safety Kamren Curl this offseason?
Curl is set to become a free agent for the first time in his career this offseason, and Pro Football Focus recently ranked him as the 21st overall potential free agent in this year’s class.
“Curl can line up anywhere and is as consistent as safeties come on a down-to-down basis, possessing good instincts and a clear understanding of how to manipulate leverage and angles in the open field,” PFF wrote of Curl.
A seventh-round pick out of Arkansas in the 2020 NFL Draft, Kurl has racked up 385 combined tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, 11 quarterback hits and three interceptions in four seasons with the Washington franchise.
Questions to answer
— A position full of uncertainty: Of the seven linebackers on the Commanders’ roster, five are set to hit free agency in some fashion. What’s more, three of them had at least five starts last season. While there have been some positive individual performances from players over the last four years, the position has generally struggled, particularly in pass coverage. Whoever the team hires as a head coach will likely see an opportunity to reset the position, and there are some intriguing options, both in the draft and free agency.
— A pending decision on Jamin Davis: Clubs have until May 1 to exercise fifth-year options for players selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, and Davis presents an interesting quandary for the Commanders. Davis, who was taken 19th overall in 2021, has gradually improved since struggling as a rookie. Switching from middle to outside linebacker helped unlock some of his skill set, and he was able to use his speed to track down ball-carriers on the perimeter and add more depth to the team’s pass-rush. However, the new regime will need to decide whether the recent strides are worth keeping Davis under contract for two more seasons. Either way, 2024 will be an important season for Davis as he attempts to prove that he can be one of the top starting linebackers in the league.
While new GM Adam Peters stated the Commanders would build through the draft, he said Washington would use free agency to supplement the roster.
While the Commanders currently have an estimated $73 million in available cap space for 2024, that number could grow significantly if they decide to move on from some veterans.
We preview five veterans who could be cap casualties this offseason.
Podcasts & videos
Episode 748 - Guest: @ShaunBijani. Covers @HoustonTexans for @SportsRadio610. Deep dive on Bobby Slowick, who #Commanders on Tuesday interviewed for a 2nd time. Also: what they can learn from #Texans' turnaround.— Al Galdi (@AlGaldi) January 25, 2024
I also talk #CapsAvs, Wiz, #Terps & #UVA.https://t.co/iDUHnM5D6s
Washington Commanders NFL Draft: Senior Bowl Defense - Laiatu Latu, Chris Braswell, Payton Wilson
NFC East links
Blogging the Boys
The Cowboys have a lot of room for improvement this offseason.
The Cowboys overrating their own coaches and personnel has been a consistent problem holding them back, and while another year of McCarthy’s offense with some added talent could easily see this team contend in the NFC East again, this plan loses sight of the fact playoff disappointment feels imminent with this current group.
Meanwhile, the Titans have already gone for a bright offensive mind in Brian Callahan. And similar guys like Bobby Slowik and Ben Johnson are also candidates that teams looking to invest in the next wave of play-callers remain interested in. Slowik orchestrated one of the best seasons by a rookie QB in recent memory with C.J. Stroud and the Texans, while Johnson’s team is still playing this weekend led by Jared Goff reaching new heights for the Lions.
The Cowboys keeping McCarthy is just the first warning sign that this front office and organization will again look to convince the football world that they’re closer to their goals than reality. Just like when they thought they had the next best thing in Kellen Moore, their belief that McCarthy’s offense is the long term answer here does have some merit when looking at his first season as play-caller, but still falls behind the trend of other teams that have lapped them and pushed the Cowboys down the NFC ladder.
With time still to realize this problem and come back with a more aggressive free agency and draft approach, the normal talk of the Cowboys roster coming together well in the following months will be met with some of the harshest criticism of the stagnant culture that holds these rosters back.
Maybe at some point during Divisional weekend some Cowboys followers were able to forget about the Packers loss and enjoy some high-level football being played with seasons on the line, but it likely wasn’t during the late game on Saturday night. That Shanahan vs. LaFleur, Brock Purdy vs. Jordan Love, Christian McCaffrey vs. Aaron Jones matchup that came down to the wire was nothing but a reminder of lost opportunities piling up for a Cowboys team that now finds themselves at a serious crossroads under McCarthy, Prescott, and soon-to-be free agent RB Tony Pollard.
No team in the NFL ever looks the same from year to year, and for better or worse, the 2024 Cowboys are going to be an example of this as they chase not only the Packers, 49ers, and Lions, but any other upstart team willing to not settle for average and take the risks to raise a franchise’s fortune.
NFL league links
Washington Post (paywall)
The Falcons are the only NFL team known to have interviewed Belichick following his departure from the Patriots. The move by the Falcons creates the possibility that Belichick, 71, will not land a head coaching job during this NFL hiring cycle. The Washington Commanders and Seattle Seahawks are the only teams currently conducting coaching searches.
Morris returns to the Falcons after a stint as an assistant coach between the 2015 and 2020 seasons. He also served as the team’s interim coach for 11 games during the 2020 season, going 4-7 following the firing of Dan Quinn.
“We know from firsthand experience what a first-class organization Atlanta is and what this team means to its city and its fans,” Morris said in a statement. “I am incredibly appreciative of Arthur Blank for his leadership and for this entire organization for putting its trust in me to help lead this team. I can’t thank the Rams organization enough for the experience and opportunity with the team.”
Washington Post (paywall)
Canales, Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris and Panthers defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero each interviewed twice for Carolina’s coaching job. Mike Vrabel, the former NFL coach of the year whom the Tennessee Titans fired this month, reportedly was scheduled to interview Thursday with the Panthers. It’s not clear whether that interview took place.
The Atlanta Falcons chose Morris as their coach later Thursday, according to a person familiar with the hiring process.
Canales, who is Mexican American, and Morris become the third and fourth minority coaches chosen as head coaches during this NFL hiring cycle, along with the New England Patriots’ Jerod Mayo and the Las Vegas Raiders’ Antonio Pierce.
The Panthers’ choice of Canales and the Falcons’ selection of Morris gives the league nine minority head coaches. That includes the New York Jets’ Robert Saleh, who is of Lebanese descent, and the Miami Dolphins’ Mike McDaniel, who is biracial.
The Buccaneers do not receive draft-pick compensation under the NFL’s system for rewarding teams that develop minority head coaching candidates hired elsewhere, however, because he spent only one season with the organization.
The Athletic (paywall)
Bill Belichick a long shot for Commanders and Seahawks, NFL’s 2 remaining head-coaching vacancies: Sources
Former New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick is viewed as a long shot for the Washington Commanders and Seattle Seahawks coaching vacancies, league sources said, opening up the possibility the second-winningest coach in NFL history could be without a team in 2024.
The chances of that increased Thursday when the Atlanta Falcons, the only team to interview Belichick this offseason, moved to hire Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris.
Entering the 2023 season, it was more or less accepted that Belichick would remain with the Patriots for as long as it took to supplant the late Don Shula as the winningest coach in NFL history. But Belichick and New England parted ways after going 4-13. Belichick interviewed with the Falcons twice last week.
If Belichick does not coach in any capacity in 2024, it will end a streak of 49 consecutive seasons on a coaching staff in the NFL. He began his career as a “special assistant” with the Baltimore Colts in 1975 under head coach Ted Marchibroda.
Once NFL broadcasts started showing model recommendations on 4th downs, a question started to pop up: "Do analytics models always say go for it?"— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) January 25, 2024
Of course, the answer is no -- it only seems like it. I wrote about why: https://t.co/YyqVA4efow