Five Candidates to Replace DeFilippo for Oakland Raiders QB Coach
May 10, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jimmy Coy (14) talks to quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh after the rookie minicamp on Friday. Mandatory Credit: Reid Compton-USA TODAY Sports
5. Matt Cavanaugh
Another name that stands is Matt Cavanaugh, who is right now still the Quarterbacks coach of the Chicago Bears. Cavanaugh, a former NFL QB who played 14 seasons with the Patriots, 49ers, Eagles and Giants, is a veteran coach, starting his career at the University of Pittsburgh in 1992 after his playing days were over. Cavanaugh had been the QB’s coach of the Bears under Marc Trestman, but Marc Trestman is gone, and John Fox is actively exploring other options for his QB’s coach.
Meanwhile, Trestman has a new QB’s coach at his new gig, as Marty Mornhinweg was hired to be the QB’s coach in Baltimore. Cavanaugh might be the odd man out.
Cavanaugh has been a quality offensive coach for a long time in both the NFL and in college. He got his first gig with the Cardinals in 1994, under head coach Buddy Ryan and OC Dave Atkins.Cavanaugh spent two years in Arizona, working with veteran QB’s like Steve Beuerlein, Jay Schroeder, Jim McMahon and Dave Krieg, none of whom was particularly impressive in their time in the desert. Buddy Ball was out in Arizona after the 1995 season, and Cavanaugh joined George Siefert’s staff in San Francisco, working alongside Marc Trestman and a young Greg Knapp.
Cavanaugh apparently made an impression on Trestman while in San Francisco, as the two worked with Steve Young (and Elvis Grbac) to build 7th-best passing offense in the NFL that season. When Siefert was out after that year, Cavanaugh headed to Chicago.
In Chicago, Cavanaugh was named Dave Wannstedt’s Offensive Coordinator, and he held the position for two years, working with Erik Kramer both years, as well as Steve Stentstrom and a year each with Rick Mirer and Moses Moreno. In 1997 the offense ranked 17th in total yards and 15th in passing as the oft-injured Kramer managed 13 starts and threw for over 3,011 yards and 14 TD’s, the second-highest totals of his career. The offense collapsed around Cavanaugh’s ears in ’98 as Kramer missed half the season due to injury. Wannstedt was fired after the season, and Cavanaugh with him.
Cavanaugh wasn’t out of work long, as Brian Billick hired him as his Offensive Coordinator and QB’s coach with the Baltimore Ravens in 1999. After Scott Mitchell and Stoney Case got off to a slow start (combining for 4 TD passes and 10 picks), Cavanaugh and Billick turned to Tony Banks, who in ten starts that year threw 17 TD’s – his career high – and only eight picks.
The team finished 24th in total offense in the first year for Billick and Cavanaugh. Then came the memorable 2000 season, in which the Ravens fielded what many regard as the best defense ever, and all agree is among the top 3-4 such units in NFL history.
Banks started strong, throwing 8 TD’s to only 3 picks in the first four weeks of the year as the Ravens started the year 3-1, but then slumped over the next four weeks, throwing 5 picks and zero touchdowns as the Ravens dropped two of four. He also turned the ball over on multiple fumbles, and after falling to 5-3 and being held to 16 or fewer points for six of eight games, Banks was replaced by Trent Dilfer.
Dilfer, a former 1st round pick out of Fresno State, had started full four seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, making the Pro Bowl once, but was generally very inconsistent and was cut after missing the final six games of the 1999 season with an injury. Dilfer stepped in and went 7-1 as a starter, throwing for over 1500 yards and 12 TD’s to 11 INT’s.
While not eye-popping numbers, Dilfer did exactly what was needed of him and running back Jamal Lewis gained 927 of his 1,364 yards on the year in the eight games that Dilfer starter. Dilfer then threw 3 TD’s to a single INT as the team ran through the playoffs and beat the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. Cavanaugh remained on with the Ravens through the 2004 season as the Offensive Coordinator of the best defensive team in football.
Cavanaugh worked with various castoff and journeyman QB’s during his tenure in Baltimore, including Elvis Grbac, Jeff Blake, Chris Redman, Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright, none of whom was particularly good. In Cavanaugh’s six years as the OC in Baltimore, the team only finished in the top 20 in total offense twice, and only once (Grbac in 2002) had a 3,000 yard passer. After the Ravens finished 31st in total offense in 2004, Cavanaugh was fired.
Cavanaugh re-joined his former Bears boss Dave Wannstedt at the University of Pittsburgh as the Offensive Coordinator of the Panthers. There, he worked with Tyler Palko, Rashad Jennings, Larod Stephens-Howling, and LeSean McCoy as NFL offensive talents who played for the Panthers.
In 2009, he was called up by former fellow Cardinals and Ravens assistant Rex Ryan, who wanted him to work with rookie QB Mark Sanchez under OC Brian Schottenheimer. Sanchez showed promise as a rookie under Cavanaugh, as the team went 9-7 in the regular season only to make it all the way to the AFC Championship game as a wild card team.
Sanchez took a major step forward in his second year, leading the team back to the playoffs and back to the AFC Championship, and throwing for nearly 3,300 yards and 17 TD’s in the regular season, topping it off with 5 TD’s and only a single pick in the playoffs. Sanchez improved again for 2011, getting the team off to an 8-5 start throwing 21 TDs and only 11 interceptions, but then fell apart in the last three games of the year, throwing 7 picks to only 5 TD’s as the team lost three straight and missed the playoffs.
Still, Sanchez set his career marks in attempts, completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns in the 2011 season. In 2012, it all fell apart for Sanchez and the Jets. Sanchez struggled out of the gate as the Jets started 4-6, throwing 11 TD’s and 9 INTs and completing only 53.5% of his passes. Disaster struck on Thanksgiving Day, when the infamous “Buff-Fumble” play occurred during a 49-14 loss to the Patriots. Sanchez would throw nine picks an only two touchdowns from Thanksgiving Day forward, and when the season ended, so did both Sanchez and Cavanaugh’s runs with the Jets.
Cavanaugh spent 2013 and 2014 working with Marc Trestman again with the Chicago Bears. Trestman and Cavanaugh, together, helped veteran journeyman and career backup Josh McCown put together the best piece of a season in his entire pro career, but could never quite crack the code on Jay Cutler, and Trestman was fired after only two seasons.
Cavanaugh is still in place, but new Head Coach John Fox has been interviewing potential candidates for his job. If Fox does go a different direction, Cavanaugh could be out and on the market. While Cavanaugh doesn’t have the greatest list of quarterbacks on his resume, he does bring a lot of experience, including being an offensive coordinator on a Super Bowl winning team. His experience on run-oriented offenses with defensive-minded head coaches may make him an easy fit in Oakland, and he is already familiar with Jack Del Rio from the time the two spent together on the Ravens’ staff. Still, he may not quite have shaken himself from the shame of the Butt-Fumble.
Whoever the Raiders choose as quarterbacks coach, he will have a crucial role in the development of the young Derek Carr. That coach may not be on this list, and Del Rio could surprise us at any moment by naming someone like Jeff Garcia or David Carr as his QB’s coach. But given the current landscape of the league’s coaching situations, if Del Rio wants to get a capable, experienced QB’s coach on his roster, it will likely be one of the above five names.