With the season coming to an end over the weekend, it’s now evaluation time for the Buffalo Bills. Head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane will be examining their roster, but also their coaching staff. At his end of the year press conference, McDermott didn’t give a ringing endorsement for offensive coordinator Rick Dennison.
“It’s early in the process right now,” McDermott said. “I’m not going to get into speculation.”
With the frustration on the offensive side of the ball this season, and Dennison’s future in Buffalo up in the air, here are some potential candidates to be the Bills offensive coordinator in 2018.
Shula was fired from his position as offensive coordinator with the Carolina Panthers on Tuesday. Shula worked with McDermott in Carolina for five years until McDermott left for Buffalo. Given McDermott and Beane’s tendency to go after “their guys,” this would seem to be a natural fit for the Bills. Shula was instrumental in the development of Cam Newton, but he was fired for a reason. Shula’s offense was very inconsistent throughout the 2017 campaign and ranked 19th in the NFL and 28th in passing. All in all, Carolina’s success was based on Newton’s ability to be elusive and extend plays. Buffalo needs a quarterback with a similar skill set in order to make it work, and right now there’s a question mark at that position.
Dorsey was also let go from the Panthers on Tuesday. Dorsey served as the quarterbacks coach under Shula, and on the same staff as McDermott, since 2013. McDermott interviewed Dorsey last year for the offensive coordinator position, but opted to go with the experienced Dennison instead. Even though Dorsey has no play-calling experience, perhaps McDermott will try a new fresh perspective in the building for 2018.
Chudzinski is still technically the offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts right now. But with the firing of former head coach Chuck Pagano, Chudzinski is in limbo in terms of his job status and would likely be allowed to leave if an opportunity arose. Churdzinski mentored Andrew Luck and in 2015 orchestrated the best season of Luck’s career. Since then, Luck hasn’t been healthy and the Colts haven’t been the same. Chudzinski has been successful nearly everywhere he goes, aside from a one-year stint with the Cleveland Browns as head coach. He could be an intriguing name to watch. Chud and McDermott were coordinators in Carolina from 2011-2012 when Rob left to go to Cleveland.
The former Buffalo quarterback is currently serving as the offensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles. Although he is having wild success mentoring one of the best young quarterbacks in the game, Reich might be willing to return to Buffalo under the right circumstances. In his current spot, Reich doesn’t call the offensive plays; head coach Doug Pederson does. If given the opportunity to call plays and get out of Pederson’s shadow, Reich might go for it. Especially in a city that he once called home.
DeFillipo is also currently on the Eagles staff as the quarterbacks coach. In 2015, during his first stint as an NFL offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns, he over-performed with an underwhelming roster. DeFillipo was let go following the firing of then head coach Mike Pettine. DeFillipo has worked wonders with Eagles QB Carson Wentz in his one season coaching him.
McCoy most recently served as the offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos before being fired in the middle of the 2017 campaign. McCoy was accused of not playing to his team’s strengths this season and insisted on passing the ball far more than needed. That led to his early termination from Denver. However, McCoy is a former head coach with plenty of experience in the league. He will be a sought after name this offseason and was reportedly McDErmott’s first choice a year ago.
Caldwell was recently let go from his head coaching gig with the Detroit Lions. In his four seasons at the helm of the Lions, Caldwell only finished without a winning record once. Caldwell has experience as an offensive coordinator. In his only year as an offensive coordinator in 2013, his Baltimore Ravens offense won the Super Bowl.
His offensive coordinator during his Lions tenure, Jim Bob Cooter, is also a name to watch. Cooter could be on the move with the hiring of Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to be the next Lions head coach seeming inevitable.
Cooter had the NFL’s 13th best offense in 2017 and had the 7th-most points per game in the tough NFC North. If Patricia doesn’t retain Cooter, teams will be lining up to give him a shot.
Canada has no coaching experience in the NFL and recently parted ways with LSU. Canada is widely considered one of the most innovative offensive minds in college football. By all accounts, Canada was not able to run his offense the way he wanted to in his one season at LSU. Before his time in Baton Rouge, Canada led Bills quarterback Nathan Peterman at the University of Pittsburgh, the only team to knock off the eventual National Champion Clemson Tigers. It’s not particularly likely, but what Canada has done in the college ranks warrants a shot in the NFL, if he desires.
Bevell was recently let go by the Seattle Seahawks after a less than spectacular year for Pete Carroll’s squad. Even with the one bad season, Bevell had been with Seattle since 2011 and turned quarterback Russell Wilson into what he is today. In fact, Carroll called the drafting of Wilson “Bevell’s project”. The coordinator also has won two NFC titles and one Super Bowl.
Daboll is fresh off a National Championship as the OC of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Daboll has been receiving interest from around the league for vacant offensive coordinator positions and has a connection with McDermott. Daboll was a coach on McDermott’s college team at William & Mary. Since then, Daboll has also coached in New England with the Patriots until 2016 and knows the AFC East well.
Editor's note: this article was originally published on Wednesday, January 10th as a speculation piece. It was updated to add Bevell and Daboll when Dennison was fired. - MRW