NFL News and Notes: January 8, 2019
Here is a quick look at some of the biggest news stories surrounding the NFL heading into the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
Packers Set to Hire LaFleur
The Green Bay Packers are set to hire Matt LaFleur as their next head coach according to sources. LaFleur spent the last season as the offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans under head coach Mike Vrabel. Before this season, LaFleur spent 2017 as offensive coordinator with the Los Angeles Rams, and quarterbacks coach with the Atlanta Falcons in 2015 and 2016. He got his start into coaching with the Houston Texans before moving on to the Washington Redskins. The Packers have been looking for a new head coach since firing Mike McCarthy during the 2018 season. With LaFleur being hired in Green Bay, Josh McDaniels is expected to remain with the New England Patriots. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is expected to stay on staff and work under LaFleur.
Kingsbury Cleared For NFL Interviews
The University of Southern California has given the okay for Kliff Kingsbury to interview for head coaching jobs. Kingsbury was hired by USC as offensive coordinator for next season after being fired from Texas Tech after a 5-7 campaign. The school initially denied NFL teams the right to interview Kingsbury, but have backed off of that stance this week. Kingsbury interviewed with the New York Jets on Monday afternoon and is expected to meet with the Arizona Cardinals on Tuesday. The former Texas Tech quarterback spent time with both the New York Jets and New England Patriots during his brief NFL career. Kingsbury spent six seasons as head coach at Texas Tech, posting a career record of 35-40.
Steelers Dismiss Two Coaches
The Pittsburgh Steelers had a very disappointing 2018 regular season, and it has cost a pair of coaches their job. Outside linebackers coach Joey Porter was the first coach to be relieved of his duties by Mike Tomlin. Porter has served as linebackers coach since 2015, but Tomlin informed the former Steelers star that his contract would not be renewed. Pittsburgh has also decided to part ways with running backs coach James Saxon. The Steelers ranked 31st in the NFL in rushing yards this season, forcing head coach Mike Tomlin to make some changes. Saxon has been a coach in the NFL since 2000 when he joined the Buffalo Bills organization. He joined the Steelers in 2014 after a successful run with Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings.
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Smith-Schuster Taking Brown’s Place in Pro Bowl
One Pittsburgh wide receiver is taking the place of another on the AFC roster for the 2019 NFL Pro Bowl. JuJu Smith-Schuster has been named as a replacement for Antonio Brown. Brown is being forced to miss the Pro Bowl with what the league is calling an “injury.” After a wild and crazy week leading up to the season finale, the Pittsburgh Steelers made Brown inactive for the week 17 showdown. Brown has not spoken to teammates or the coaching staff since being told that he wouldn’t be active in week 17. Smith-Schuster led the Steelers with 111 receptions for 1,426 receiving yards this season. Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida is the site for the 2019 Pro Bowl that will be held on January 27.
Chargers Activate Hunter Henry
The Los Angeles Chargers have activated tight end Hunter Henry from the physically unable to perform list. Henry has been added to the active roster and will be eligible to play in the Chargers AFC Divisional Round Playoff Game against the New England Patriots. The talented tight end tore his ACL during the offseason and is back on the field in just under eight months. Chargers coach Anthony Lynn expects the 24-year old to be on the field for Sunday’s game.
Gurley Back For Rams
Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley is back with the team in advance of their playoff game on Saturday night. Gurley was a full participant in Tuesday’s practice and is scheduled to start against the Dallas Cowboys. A knee injury kept Gurley out of the final two regular season games for Los Angeles, but plenty of rest should have the star running back near 100 percent. Gurley ran for over 1,000 yards this season and led the NFL in rushing yards heading into week 16.