Tagged in: hire

New York Mets hire Elizabeth Benn as director of major league operations

The Mets have hired Elizabeth Benn as director of major league operations, making her the franchise’s highest-ranking female baseball operations employee ever.

Benn has worked for Major League Baseball since concluding a master’s degree in philosophy at Columbia in 2017.

She has had roles in youth programs, labor relations and baseball operations with the league. Several women hold prominent roles in front offices across the male-dominated sport, including Marlins general manager Kim Ng.

The crosstown Yankees have had two women serve as assistant general managers in Ng and Jean Afterman.

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The Mets are shaking up their front office for the second consecutive offseason, a series of moves that included the brief tenure of Jared Porter as general manager following the 2020 season.

Porter was fired over sexually explicit text messages he had sent to a female reporter in 2016 while working for the Cubs.

Billy Eppler was hired as general manager in November. His front office now has women working in analytics, player performance and minor league operations, but none has held the director title given to Benn.

The Mets also hired Gretchen Aucoin as a minor league coach this offseason, making her the team’s first on-field female coach.

Benn has been an adjunct lecturer at Lehman College and is also a right-handed pitcher who was the first woman to play in the New York City Metro Baseball League, a weekend rec league that incorporates many former college players.

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Former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores joins Pittsburgh Steelers as defensive assistant/LB coach

Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has a new family.

The Pittsburgh Steelers revealed the hire of Flores, who is suing the NFL and three teams, as a defensive assistant and linebackers coach Saturday.

“I am excited about Brian Flores joining our coaching staff given his history of developing and teaching defensive players during his time in the NFL,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said in a news release. “Brian’s resume speaks for itself, and I look forward to him adding his expertise to help our team.”

Flores’ hire significantly boosts a defensive unit that recently saw the promotion of Teryl Austin to defensive coordinator following the retirement of Keith Butler, who also coached the team’s outside linebackers.

Flores spent the past three campaigns as Miami’s head coach, compiling a 24-25 record before he was fired last month.

Prior to that, he was the defensive playcaller for the New England Patriots, including in Super Bowl LIII.

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Flores, 40, filed a lawsuit against the NFL and the Giants, Dolphins and Broncos this month, alleging discrimination in the interview process with New York and Denver and in his firing by Miami.

In the lawsuit, Flores alleged, among other things, that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered him $100,000 for every loss in 2019 in an effort to tank for a top draft pick.

Flores also claimed the Giants only interviewed him for their head-coaching vacancy in January to comply with the Rooney Rule, and he stated a similar scenario played out in 2019 during an interview process with the Broncos.

The NFL has hired a law firm that includes former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to defend against Flores’ claims.

Despite the Steelers’ hiring of Flores, his lawyer, Douglas H. Wigdor, issued a statement Saturday indicating the lawsuit against the league would proceed. “While Coach Flores is now focused on his new position, he will continue with his race discrimination class action so that real change can be made in the NFL,” said Wigdor.

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Minnesota Vikings officially hire ‘innovative’ Kevin O’Connell as new head coach

The Vikings formally hired Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell as the 10th head coach in franchise history Wednesday.

Vikings co-owner and president Mark Wilf called O’Connell “a strong leader, an innovative coach and an excellent communicator” in a statement issued from the team.

“Kevin played the game at all levels, which gives him a unique connection to players, and he is highly respected throughout the league,” he said.

Co-owner and chairman Zygi Wilf lauded O’Connell for his “football IQ” and said he “is passionate about preparing, developing and communicating with his players.”

“Beyond the Xs and Os, everyone we spoke with throughout this search process spoke highly of Kevin’s ability to motivate players, coaches and staff,” he said.

The Vikings plan to hold a news conference to introduce O’Connell as their new coach Thursday.

O’Connell, 36, becomes the second-youngest current NFL head coach, behind his now-former boss, Sean McVay, also 36 but eight months younger.

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Minnesota had not been permitted to revealed that it was hiring O’Connell while the Rams were still playing in the postseason.

Los Angeles’ season ended Sunday, culminating with its Super Bowl LVI triumph.

O’Connell was one of four candidates to receive a second interview with the Vikings, along with Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, then-Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.

“As I spent time with Kevin during the interview process, it became immediately clear he will be a great partner in building this football team for long-term success,” Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said in the statement. “He understands what is critical to leading a team that wins at the highest level, and he has an ability to simplify the complex, which will help us in problem-solving in all football areas. He is a genuinely positive person who will help create a high-energy internal environment.”

O’Connell is expected to take Rams tight ends coach and passing game coordinator Wes Phillips with him to Minnesota as his offensive coordinator or passing game coordinator, league sources have told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Rams running backs coach Thomas Brown also will interview with the Vikings for their offensive coordinator job, per Schefter.

The Vikings also have their defensive coordinator for O’Connell’s staff, officially hiring Ed Donatell on Thursday. In addition, veteran defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has been added as assistant head coach.

O’Connell becomes the second coordinator in two years on Sean McVay’s staff to land a head-coaching job, joining former Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, who was hired by the Chargers last year. He is the fourth current NFL head coach who worked under McVay. The Bengals’ Zac Taylor and Packers’ Matt LaFleur are the others.

O’Connell replaces Mike Zimmer, who was fired last month after eight seasons. The Vikings finished with an 8-9 record and missed the playoffs for a second consecutive season.

O’Connell finished his second season as the Rams’ offensive coordinator since joining the franchise in 2020. Before that, he was with Washington for three seasons, as offensive coordinator in 2019, passing game coordinator in 2018 and quarterbacks coach in 2017 when he supervised current Vikings starter Kirk Cousins.

After dabbling in broadcasting, his first NFL coaching job came with the Browns in 2015 as their quarterbacks coach. The following year, he worked on special projects for the 49ers, when he befriended Adofo-Mensah, the recently appointed GM of the Vikings who was in research and development for San Francisco.

O’Connell was a quarterback in the NFL, taken by the Patriots in the third round of the 2008 draft and also spending time with the Lions, Jets, Dolphins and Chargers in five seasons through 2012.

He attempted only six passes for the Patriots as a rookie, the only regular-season attempts of his career, and he was released the following year.

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Miami Dolphins to hire Los Angeles Chargers’ Frank Smith as offensive coordinator

The Dolphins’ offensive staff under head coach Mike McDaniel continues to come together, as the team will hire Frank Smith as its offensive coordinator, a league source confirmed Monday.

Smith will work in conjunction with McDaniel, who will call plays, and wide receivers coach Wes Welker, who will help develop Miami’s passing game plan.

He is the fourth new hire on McDaniel’s offensive staff, joining Welker, tight ends coach Jon Embree and offensive line coach Matt Applebaum.

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NFL Network was the first to report the news of Smith’s hiring.

Smith, 40, joins McDaniel’s staff after a season as the Los Angeles Chargers’ run game coordinator and offensive line coach.

Under Smith, the Chargers finished 11th in pass block win rate in 2021, and 20th in run block win rate — improved from 19th and 32nd in 2020, respectively.

He takes over a Dolphins offense that ranked 25th in the NFL in yards per match last season, including 17th in passing yards and 30th in rushing. Miami’s offensive line also ranked last in pass block win rate, but was a far better run-blocking unit, concluding ninth in run block win rate.

Before his stint in Los Angeles, Smith worked as the tight ends coach for the Raiders from 2018-2020, the tight ends coach for the Bears from 2015-2017 and assistant offensive line coach for the Saints from 2010-2014.

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Green Bay Packers to hire Rich Bisaccia to fix special teams

The Packers will ultimately have an experienced coach running their special teams. They are expected to hire veteran special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, who most recently served as the Raiders’ interim head coach.

A source stated Monday that an announcement is coming soon after some final details are worked out. NFL Network was first to report that the Packers were expected to hire Bisaccia.

He will be the third person to coordinate the Packers special teams in as many seasons, but he’s the first one with NFL experience doing so. Bisaccia was in his 20th season as an NFL special teams coordinator when the Raiders made him their interim coach following Jon Gruden’s resignation during 2021.

He joined the Raiders in 2018 after previously coaching special teams for the Cowboys (2013-17), Chargers (2011-12) and Buccaneers (2002-10). The 61-year-old also had 19 years of college coaching experience before entering the NFL.

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Bisaccia will replace Maurice Drayton, who was fired last week following the Packers’ disastrous special teams performance in the NFL divisional playoff loss to the 49ers.

Drayton’s units had a field goal and a punt blocked, the latter of which was returned for a touchdown. The Packers became the first team in 33 years to have both a punt and a field goal blocked during the same playoff game.

The playoff game was not an anomaly. The Packers special teams ranked 31st in ESPN’s FPI and dead last in Rick Gosselin’s widely respected special teams rankings. Drayton was promoted to special teams coordinator in 2021 after serving for two years as an assistant to Shawn Mennenga, whose units ranked 26th and 29th. Neither had been a special teams coordinator in the NFL before coming to Green Bay.

The Packers special teams problem isn’t unique to Matt LaFleur’s tenure.

Dating to the start of Mike McCarthy’s run as head coach in 2006, the Packers have ranked in the top 10 in special teams only once (2007). In that span, they have finished in the top half of the special teams rankings only four times — most recently 16th in 2017. In that same span, Bisaccia’s special teams have six top-10 finishes plus a No. 11 ranking this past season.

LaFleur acknowledged after the season that a coaching modification might not be the only necessary fix for the Packers’ special teams.

“Just one takeaway, just watching that game back, San Francisco had a lot of their starters on special teams,” LaFleur said. “That’s going to be something that I want to do some studies around the league and see how many teams operate that way. Again, does it have some inherent risk? Absolutely.”

Bisaccia interviewed for the Raiders’ permanent head-coaching job, which ultimately went to Josh McDaniels even after quarterback Derek Carr was among the players who threw their public support behind the interim coach.

Bisaccia went 7-5 after Gruden resigned, and the Raiders (10-7 overall) made the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

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Las Vegas Raiders to hire New York Giants’ Patrick Graham as defensive coordinator

The Las Vegas Raiders are hiring New York Giants assistant head coach Patrick Graham as their defensive coordinator, sources confirmed to ESPN.

Graham, 43, joins newly hired head coach Josh McDaniels in Las Vegas after spending the past two seasons as the Giants’ defensive coordinator under Joe Judge.

Graham replaces Gus Bradley, who is heading to the Indianapolis Colts to be their defensive coordinator after one season with the Raiders.

The Raiders have also hired a new quarterbacks coach in former New England Patriots quality control/QB coach Bo Hardegree and are keeping receivers coach Edgar Bennett, sources told ESPN.

McDaniels, in his introductory news conference on Monday, was asked what defensive scheme he planned on using with the Raiders.

“Most of it today is actually built out of the nickel anyway,” he said. “We talk a lot about 4-3, 3-4, [but] 85 percent of the game is now ‘sub’ defense, so your decision-making process might be a little different than it was 15 years ago, when you were playing a lot more base defense.”

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Graham ran a 3-4 base with the Giants, while the Raiders have run a 4-3 scheme.

“We’ll make those considerations and determine how we want to go forward here as we kind of build the staff and move along with the team, but I think right now it’s built in that mode,” McDaniels said.

“But like I said, most of these games you’re playing a four-man line and nickel defense anyway, so that’s almost become your base.

“So, the vision for us is going to need to be — there’s five starting defensive backs now, and there’s two linebackers and so on and so forth. We’ll do the due diligence as we hire our staff and then evaluate our team and decide what’s best as we move forward.”

Graham was with the Patriots from 2009-2015, serving as a defensive assistant as well as the defensive line and linebackers coach in his time there, which coincided with McDaniels’ return to New England in 2012.

Under Bradley, the Raiders defense improved from the No. 25 overall defense in 2020 to No. 17 last season, but was last in the NFL in red-zone defense under Bradley (83.3% touchdowns and 6.29 points per red-zone-zone trip) and was next-to-last in red-zone takeaways per red-zone drive.

Raiders Pro Bowl defensive end Maxx Crosby was asked after the AFC’s practice on Thursday what he wanted to see in a defensive coordinator.

“I love Gus and I feel like he has us going in the right direction,” Crosby said. “Obviously, I don’t know, I don’t have any control of that, but we’ll see. We’ll have to see.”

Graham also worked with new Giants head coach Brian Daboll from their time together (2013-15) in New England. Daboll stated the team had hoped to keep Graham if he did not land a head-coaching job elsewhere.

“I’ve had a good relationship with Pat for some time in this league,” Daboll said at his introductory news conference earlier this week. “He’s very diligent. He’s smart. I think the players respect him. He understands different defenses and I have a good working relationship with him. I did when I was back at New England.

“Certainly, we hope that he has an opportunity to become a head coach. I think that’s everybody’s dream, but selfishly, I would love him to be here. He offers a lot to our program. I think he’d be a great support system for me and I’m hoping that that works out.”

The Giants’ defense was ranked 12th in the NFL in 2020 under Graham. It was 21st this past campaign. Graham is held in high regard by the Giants organization and had interviewed for its head-coaching position.

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Los Angeles Chargers hire Ryan Ficken as special teams coordinator

The Chargers have hired longtime NFL assistant Ryan Ficken to be their special teams coordinator.

He substitutes Derius Swinton II, who was let go after one season.

Ficken spent the last 15 years with Minnesota and was the Vikings’ special teams coordinator in 2021.

Before that, he was a special teams assistant for eight campaigns. During his time in Minnesota, Ficken also worked with the wide receivers and running backs.

A graduate of Arizona State, Ficken, 41, started his coaching career with a three-year stint as an assistant at UCLA.

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The Chargers have struggled on special teams for several years.

Ficken will be tasked with trying to improve an inconsistent Chargers special teams unit. Los Angeles improved as the season went along because of the midseason signings of returner Andre Roberts and kicker Dustin Hopkins. Roberts led the league with a 32.8-yard kick return average while Hopkins was 18 of 20 on field goals after joining the Chargers.

A short time later, then-head coach Anthony Lynn took over special teams to finish the season.

In 2021, the Chargers added returner Andre Roberts and kicker Dustin Hopkins — both veterans — in October. Their arrivals boosted a unit that steadily improved but still concluded near the bottom in the NFL’s overall rankings.

Last month, coach Brandon Staley decided to make a change, dismissing Swinton and special teams assistant Mayur Chaudhari.

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Denver Broncos hire Justin Outten as OC, Klint Kubiak as QBs coach

Newly hired Denver Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett continued to fill out his staff on Wednesday, as Green Bay Packers tight ends coach Justin Outten was hired as the team’s offensive coordinator and former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak was hired as the quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator.

The Broncos also hired Butch Barry as offensive line coach. Barry was the assistant offensive line coach with the San Francisco 49ers this season.

Since being formally introduced on Friday as the team’s head coach, Hackett has spent much of his time interviewing candidates for all his staff positions.

Hackett has said he will call plays, but he, Outten and Kubiak will all do the heavy lifting to try to repair one of the league’s most sluggish offenses. The Broncos have not averaged more than 23 points per match since 2014 and haven’t averaged more than 21 points per game since 2015.

And over the past six seasons, the Broncos have averaged fewer than 20 points per game three times, including this past season, when they finished 7-10.

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“First and foremost, any offense that you have has to be maneuverable and adjustable for whoever you have on your team,” Hackett said last week.

“It’s about finding out what your guys do the best and being able to do that over and over again and taking advantage of their skill sets. … I think the starting point is outside zone. Outside zone on offense is what you want to do, and you want to base that off of play-pass. You want to make the defense cover the entire field. You want to take shots down the field. Let’s all face it: That’s what the people in the stands love — they love those bombs down the field.”

The Broncos still have a major question to answer at quarterback in the coming months as well. 

Drew Lock is set to enter the last year of his rookie deal, and Teddy Bridgewater is planned to be an unrestricted free agent.

The Broncos have started 10 different quarterbacks — running back Phillip Lindsay also started behind center in the no-quarterback game in 2020 because of COVID-19 issues — since the midpoint of the 2016 season.

Outten was the Packers’ tight ends coach during Hackett’s three seasons with the team and was with the Atlanta Falcons during Kyle Shanahan’s time as offensive coordinator, so he is well versed in the version of the West Coast offense that Hackett wants to run, which has roots back to former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan.

Kubiak is also seasoned with the scheme, as he previously spent three seasons as a Broncos assistant for his father, Gary, and later Vance Joseph.

Kubiak was the Vikings’ offensive coordinator last season after two years as the team’s quarterbacks coach. “I remember watching [former Broncos quarterback] John Elway throw the ball down the field to [former Broncos wide receiver Ed] McCaffrey on all of those boot fakes. That was unbelievable,” Hackett stated.

“This is really where this system evolved from and was created. You’re always looking for that, and mixing in that West Coast principle of the dropback game.”

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Las Vegas Raiders expected to hire New England Patriots’ Josh McDaniels as coach; name Dave Ziegler as GM

The Las Vegas Raiders have hired former New England Patriots director of player personnel Dave Ziegler as general manager on Sunday and are expected to hire Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as their new head coach in a package deal.

The Raiders and McDaniels are still finishing a contract.

The 44-year-old Ziegler, the Patriots’ director of player personnel, replaces Mike Mayock, who was fired earlier this month. He interviewed with the Raiders earlier in January.

McDaniels, who was the head coach of the Denver Broncos for two seasons (2009-10), interviewed for the Raiders’ head-coaching job Saturday.

Jon Gruden resigned as the Raiders’ head coach on Oct. 11 following reports that emails he wrote before he was hired by the Raiders in 2018 included racist, misogynistic and anti-gay language.

Rich Bisaccia was promoted to interim coach and led the Raiders to a wild-card berth, only the Raiders’ second playoff appearance in the past 19 seasons.

Bisaccia was saluted on social media Sunday by both quarterback Derek Carr and defensive end Maxx Crosby. Carr tweeted that Bisaccia was a “phenomenal coach and even better leader,” while Crosby tweeted that he “can’t tell you how much this man has impacted not only myself but everyone in this building.”

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McDaniels, 45, was 11-17 in his two seasons with the Broncos. He was fired after Week 13 in 2010 after the Broncos started 3-9. McDaniels started his Broncos tenure 6-0 before going 5-17 over his final 22 matches.

He accepted the Indianapolis Colts’ head-coaching job in 2018 but then decided not to take it. The Colts had announced the hire, but McDaniels never came to town and the Colts said they were “surprised and disappointed” by the decision. Frank Reich was later hired to fill that vacancy.

McDaniels had been the longest-tenured offensive coordinator with the same team in the NFL.

He’d held the position in New England since 2012.

Of his 21 NFL seasons, 18 have come in New England, which includes his initial stint from 2001 to 2008. McDaniels also served as the St. Louis Rams’ offensive coordinator in 2011.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick recently paid McDaniels a notable compliment, comparing him to longtime friend and current University of Alabama coach Nick Saban in terms of his understanding of the responsibilities of every player on the field.

McDaniels played a key role in the development of rookie quarterback Mac Jones in 2021.

McDaniels had consistently said in recent years that his goal was to become a head coach again, but he was also selective in what opportunities enticed him. A key factor was being able to work with a personnel chief with whom he knows well, and Ziegler fits the bill.

Ziegler landed his first personnel job in the NFL under McDaniels with the Broncos in 2010. The two both attended John Carroll University in Ohio and were teammates on the Blue Streaks’ football squad.

Ziegler spent three campaigns in Denver before following McDaniels to New England in 2013. He ascended from assistant director of pro personnel to director of pro personnel, then was assistant director of player personnel before assuming director of player personnel duties in 2021.

Belichick, who was named the Pro Football Writers of America’s Executive of the Year in 2021, noted multiple times over the course of the season that Ziegler was leading the personnel staff. Scouting consultant Eliot Wolf, who interviewed for multiple GM openings this offseason, was often at Ziegler’s side during games and is a candidate to fill his void.

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Chicago Bears to hire Indianapolis Colts DC Matt Eberflus as head coach

The Chicago Bears will hire Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus as their head coach.

Eberflus, 51, also was considered a candidate for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ head-coaching vacancy. He will join new general manager Ryan Poles in taking over a Bears team that went 6-11 in 2021 under Matt Nagy and has missed the playoffs in nine of the past 11 seasons.

Chicago also interviewed Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and former Colts and Lions head coach Jim Caldwell for the job.

Eberflus has spent the past four seasons as the Colts’ defensive coordinator under coach Frank Reich. His defenses finished in the top 10 in scoring three times, including being tied for ninth in 2021 at 21.5 points per match.

Eberflus will inherit a Bears team that ranked sixth in the NFL in total defense in 2021 but struggled offensively and endured instability at quarterback, where Andy Dalton alternated as the starter with rookie Justin Fields.

The first big question for Eberflus in Chicago will be selecting an offensive coordinator, since a big part of the job for the new coach and GM will be solidifying the quarterback position that has haunted the founding NFL franchise for decades.

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The Bears do not have a first-round draft pick in 2022 because they traded that selection to the New York Giants to select Fields, who showed flashes of potential as a passer and as a runner but concluded with just seven touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. Chicago went 2-8 in the 10 games Fields started this past season.

The Bears made two postseason appearances in their four years under Nagy but last won a playoff game in 2010. They are 1-3 in the postseason since appearing in Super Bowl XLI after the 2006 season, a game the Colts won.

Eberflus, a former linebacker at the University of Toledo who began his coaching career at his alma mater and hometown school, also interviewed for head-coaching jobs last year after his third season with Indianapolis, where he developed a reputation for demanding relentless effort out of his players.

Eberflus’ high standards included counting “loafs” — a term former Bears coach Lovie Smith also used in his Tampa 2 defense. Eberflus refined his style and terminology during a seven-year stint in Dallas, where he worked with Rod Marinelli, who, like Smith, came from the coaching tree of Hall of Famer Tony Dungy.

Now Eberflus will be the second coordinator to leave Indianapolis in two seasons.

Last year, the Philadelphia Eagles filled their head-coaching vacancy with Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, who took a handful of Colts assistants with him.

It’s unclear how many, if any, assistants will follow Eberflus from Indy or Philly to Chicago.

When Eberflus started his coaching career at Toledo in 1992, he spent nine years with the Rockets as a student assistant, grad assistant, outside linebackers and defensive backs coach.

He spent the next eight seasons as Missouri’s defensive coordinator (2001-08) before making the jump to the NFL, where he coached linebackers in Cleveland (2009-10) and Dallas (2011-17) before joining the Colts ahead of the 2018 season.

In Eberflus’ first season in Indianapolis, the Colts improved from 30th to 10th in scoring defense, from 30th to 11th in total defense and from 26th to eighth in rush defense.

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