Black Monday is quickly approaching and the National Football League will likely have multiple coaching vacancies heading into 2019 once again. The Cleveland Browns have already fired their former head coach, Hue Jackson, and rumors swirl around teams like the Jets, Broncos, Cardinals, Ravens and Packers regarding their front men.
It’s become customary that some candidates that get interviewed, or even hired, raise some eyebrows from fans and media personalities alike.
A number of NFL assistant coaches, and college coaches alike, could be surprise hires for a franchise in 2019.
Byron Leftwich, offensive coordinator, Arizona Cardinals-
While Byron Leftwich’s experience as an offensive coordinator will hardly be half an NFL season by the end of 2018, his presence has been felt by the Arizona Cardinals.
Leftwich took over for Mike McCoy after a horrendous start to the season and their offensive production immediately saw a spark. Josh Rosen, who struggled mightily in his first few NFL starts under McCoy, has played much better under the Bruce Arians disciple. David Johnson, coming off of a major injury, has actually been able to move the football with Leftwich calling the plays.
With only two years of NFL coaching experience, and not even a full season as a coordinator, the former first round quarterback may be two or three years out from getting serious consideration as a head coaching candidate. His work with Rosen, however, and Arizona’s offense as a whole could garner him a look or two after the season. His career is trending towards this position down the line.
Urban Meyer, head coach, Ohio State Buckeyes-
Urban Meyer’s tumultuous year as the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes seems to be coming to a head. After the Zach Smith saga, Meyer’s subsequent suspension and multiple disappointing performances from the team, Meyer may be on his way out of Ohio State University by his own accord or from the decision makers in Columbus.
With the Ohio State job being one of the most decorated and coveted in the country, Meyer likely wouldn’t take a job at a smaller school right away. Meyer could take some time off from coaching as he did when he ‘retired’ from the Florida Gators or look for a chance to coach at the highest level.
Meyer has turned around multiple collegiate programs and won National Championships at Florida and Ohio State. He’s accomplished about as much as he could as a collegiate coach. While he hasn’t coached in the NFL in any capacity, his past accomplishments would garner interviews from franchises looking for a new leader if he chose to make himself available.
George Edwards, defensive coordinator, Minnesota Vikings-
When speaking of potential head coaching candidates in Minnesota, most immediately mention offensive coordinator John DeFilippo as a prime candidate to be promoted. DeFilippo’s track record speaks for itself but he isn’t the only member of that staff deserving of an opportunity to run the show.
George Edwards, who has coordinated Mike Zimmer’s defense since 2014, has been a major part of the Vikings’ ascension to the best, most consistent, defensive unit in the National Football League.
While Zimmer calls the defensive plays, being the play caller hasn’t always been a prerequisite for a head coaching opportunity in the past (Brad Childress is an example of this). Edwards called the defensive plays as coordinator for the Buffalo Bills, so he has experience calling plays. While his stint in Buffalo was ultimately a failure, Edwards has rebuilt his reputation as a staple on Zimmer’s staff and another team could look to bring some of that success to their franchise.
Teams could use Zimmer against Edwards, however, as much of the defensive success in Minnesota is attributed to him and his scheme. Edwards, while a part of said success, would have to alleviate some of those concerns during the interview process.
Steve Sarkisian, offensive coordinator, Atlanta Falcons-
Perhaps the most accomplished name on this list outside of Meyer, Sarkisian would be a shoo-in candidate for a head coaching gig if it wasn’t for his off-the-field concerns.
Sarkisian’s drinking and prescription medication abuse problems came to light in 2015 while he was the head coach of the USC Trojans. Sarkisian reportedly showed up to practices games intoxicated. He was replaced by Clay Helton on a permanent basis after that season. After a short stint with the Alabama Crimson Tide, Sarkisian joined the Atlanta Falcons in 2017 in an attempt to further his career and rebuild his reputation.
Sark’s first season in Atlanta failed to meet expectations but he’s helped Matt Ryan rebound into one of his best seasons as a professional. He’s also managed to keep his offense explosive despite multiple injuries at the running back position and a rookie wide receiver in his starting lineup. If Sarkisian can prove his past transgressions are behind him, a team desperate for a top offensive mind could give him a chance to run the show. His coaching background and experience fit what currently trends as a ‘hot coaching candidate.’
NFLPA Partners with Twitch and Epic Games for Twitch Rivals Streamer Bowl Series
Twitch, Epic Games, and the NFL Player’s Association (NFLPA) have teamed up for a the Twitch Rivals Streamer Bowl, which is a three-part series with both NFL players and twitch streamers who are paired with one another in Fortnite competitions for charity, according to the Esports Observer.
The series will take place live from Miami, Florida during Super Bowl LIV week, and will see streamers draft a partner from a pool of NFL players, and once they all have partners, the will play a Fortnite duos tournament for $500K of charity prize pool money.
Additionally, all active NFL players are to be invited to participate in the NFLPA Open, where players can play Fortnite for a chance to be named the “Best Fortnite Player in the League.”
When the NFLPA Open wraps up on January 15th, four participants will be selected to participate in the Twitch Rivals Streamer Bowl.
It’s another partnership in a growing relationship between Twitch and the NFL, which has brought Thursday Night Football to the platform. Additionally, Twitch was announced as the official streaming partner for the Raiders upon their move to Las Vegas in 2020.
Streaming has elevated to astronomical heights in the past year alone, in popularity and financially. Some of the best twitch streamers can make some serious money by becoming a popular streamer, but Twitch is not alone. Mixer has poached a number of high profile streamers from Twitch and positioned them as the best Mixer streamers on the platform, bringing a boost in visibility and popularity as well.
Streaming has also boosted awareness for esports teams as well, and have given gamers a source of entertainment that is directly in their wheelhouse. Streaming has also gone beyond just gaming, as it has introduced a platform for ASMR and cosplay as well as live sports and entertainment.
Steelers’ Juju Smith-Schuster Received $100K to Watch NFL on Twitch
Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster is no stranger to twitch streams and being one of the best twitch channels from professional athletes on the platform, and he spends a big part of his free time playing video games, but he is also raking in some serious coin for being active on Amazon’s platform.
According to CBS Sports’ Chris Bengel, Smith-Schuster appeared on popular streamer THump’s channel during the Week 14 matchup between the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys, playing Fortnite, and admitted that he had received $100,000 for participating in the Thursday Night Football stream.
“I did a stream yesterday, with TimTheTatMan, or like two days ago, we watched the Cowboys game and I got paid $100K for that,” Smith-Schuster said.
“Oh, I don’t know if you’re supposed to say that but it’s all good, it’s all good,” THump said.
Smith-Schuster has missed the past 3 games as he has been dealing with a knee injury, and it will be interesting to see if any punishment and/or penalties will come down on him due to receiving money from Twitch.
Jets’ Le’Veon Bell Discusses Bowling Trip Distraction
New York Jets’ running back Le’Veon Bell has been under heavy criticism for going bowling on Saturday night despite having the flu, which caused him to miss Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins because he was too sick.
The bowling trip has been a topic of discussion, and Jets’ head coach Adam Gase said that the incident was a bad optic for Bell and the organization.
For his part, Bell has no regrets, joking that he bowled a career-high 251 “coming off the flu.”
“I don’t feel bad about what I did,” Bell said, according to ESPN’s Rich Cimini. “I didn’t break any rules. I wasn’t a distraction until now.”
But Bell didn’t just discuss the bowling trip, he also aired out his frustrations with the Jets offense, saying that he feels underutilized and saying this wasn’t the first time he had voiced his feelings on the offense. Bell was then asked if he felt he had been given the opportunity to thrive.
“Honestly, no. I think that’s just being in a new system, with new guys up front, a new coaching staff. I’m with a new organization. Everything kind of takes time. I understand that. That’s why I’ve always been patient.
“But to be honest with you, no. I feel like when I do, I’ll be back to what people are used to seeing.”
“I don’t like to keep harping on the same thing,” Bell said. “I said what I said. We had the conversation. That was that. I’m not about to have the same conversations over and over. We both understand each other. As time goes on, things will get better.”
Bell and Gase discussed the incident, with Gase opting not to punish Bell for bowling.
“They weren’t sure about my energy and hydration, so they held me out of the game,” Bell said. “But they advised me to get out of the house and move a little bit. I had a lot of family and friends there because they were expecting me to play. Everybody was at my house, just kind of looking at me. I felt better, I felt a lot better, so we went out bowling and had fun.”
Bell may be one-and-done with the Jets after signing a four-year, $52.5 million contract in March to join the team in free agency.
- NFLPA Partners with Twitch and Epic Games for Twitch Rivals Streamer Bowl Series
- Steelers’ Juju Smith-Schuster Received $100K to Watch NFL on Twitch
- Jets’ Le’Veon Bell Discusses Bowling Trip Distraction
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