The Buffalo Bills are currently the team to beat in the AFC East, and the New York Jets could be in competition with them in mid-February too.
On February 14, NFL Network insider Tom Pelissero reported: “With the Bills losing WR coach Chad Hall, the team on Monday interviewed [Denver] Broncos WR coach Zach Azzanni, who is also interviewing with the Jets today, per source. Staying in Denver on Sean Payton’s staff remains a possibility for Azzanni, who has been there since 2018.”
We’ll see if either franchise extends a formal offer to Azzanni following his interview.
Who Is Jets & Bills WRs Coach Candidate Zach Azzanni?
Azzanni appears to be in high demand after a five-year stint with the Broncos under multiple coaching regimes. According to his coaching bio, he has experience in this role going back to 1999 — at Valparaiso University.
Azzanni has also coached the wide receiver position at the following colleges: Bowling Green, Central Michigan (also served as assistant head coach), Florida (also served as passing game coordinator), Western Kentucky (also served as offensive coordinator), Wisconsin, and Tennessee (also served as passing game coordinator).
He held the same role with the Chicago Bears for one season in 2017, and based on his resume, it appears to be his specialty. While other coaches tend to bounce around different staff positions, Azzanni has stuck with wideouts his entire career, which is somewhat impressive — but could also be a sign of some limitations.
Fortunately, he’s interviewing for the wide receivers coach role, so the track record fits the job description.
All told, Azzanni has 24 years of experience coaching WRs (six at the professional level) and his NFL accomplishments include helping Broncos pass-catcher Courtland Sutton produce a Pro Bowl campaign in 2019 (1,112 receiving yards), developing undrafted prospect Tim Patrick into a starter, and coaching up younger players like Sutton, Patrick and DaeSean Hamilton in 2018, as well as Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler later on.
That knowledge and understanding of how to work with the youth could be more helpful than anything, considering the Jets current WR corps includes youngsters like Garrett Wilson, Elijah Moore, Denzel Mims, Irvin Charles and potentially, a new rookie or two in 2023.
To the surprise of no one, Azzanni was a former wide receiver when he played football himself in college — five years at Central Michigan that led to a degree in sports management.
Jets Coaching Search at WR Heats Up With Seth Ryan, Zach Azzanni Interviews
After filling their offensive coordinator role with Nathaniel Hackett and their offensive line and run game coordinator role with Keith Carter, the Jets hired former Tennessee Titans OC Todd Downing as their passing game coordinator.
That left one major position unfilled — wide receivers coach.
With 2021 through 2022 WRs coach Miles Austin suspended for violating the NFL’s policy on gambling, head coach Robert Saleh has a job that needs filling and the search appears to be heating up in recent days.
The Jets requested an interview with Seth Ryan, son of former NYJ head coach Rex Ryan, for the WRs role ahead of the Super Bowl. Ryan is currently on Dan Campbell’s staff with the Detroit Lions, but has far less experience than Azzanni.
An ex-NFL legend at the position also threw his hat in the ring on social media on February 13, touting his private chats with the 2022-23 offensive rookie of the year.
Saleh has most likely interviewed a few more names behind the scenes as well, and it wouldn’t be surprising if we get an announcement on the new wide receivers coach sometime this week or early next week. The sooner the staff gets filled, the sooner the Jets HC can focus on other things like the NFL offseason and free agency.