In a move that could signal the Giants want to not only keep Olivier Vernon but also find a way to get more out of him, head coach Pat Shurmur on Thursday interviewed Kacy Rodgers for what would be a newly-created senior position on the staff. Rodgers was the Jets’ defensive coordinator the last four years under Todd Bowles and has a history with Vernon from their time together in Miami.
Any move with Rodgers would not affect James Bettcher, hired by Shurmur in 2018 as his defensive coordinator. This would be an addition to Shurmur’s staff and some of the defensive responsibilities on the staff would likely get shuffled.
After three years as the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator, Bettcher struggled to put his stamp on a Giants defense that finished 23rd in points allowed, 24th in yards per game, 30th in sacks, 25th in first downs per game and 26th in third-down efficiency. Following the season, general manager Dave Gettleman pointed to the defense as the main reason why the Giants finished 5-11, lamenting the lack of play-makers on the roster.
Rodgers, 49, was the Dolphins’ defensive line coach when Vernon broke into the NFL in 2012 and they spent three years together. Under Rodgers’ watch, Vernon went from a third-round pick out of the University of Miami to a burgeoning star, with 11.5 sacks in 2013, which remains Vernon’s career high. Rodgers’ work with Vernon helped the defensive end secure a five-year, $85 million contract from the Giants in 2016. In three years, Vernon has 22 sacks but missed four games in 2017 and the first five games in 2018, both absences tied to ankle injuries.
Not long after signing the mega-deal with the Giants, Vernon praised Rodgers, telling the Post “He taught me everything I know now about the game of football. I owe a lot to him.’’
Interest in Rodgers could be a sign the Giants want to provide someone for Vernon from his past who helped get the best out of him. Rodgers was expected to follow Bowles – named the new Buccaneers defensive coordinator — to Tampa to serve as defensive line coach on the new staff getting assembled by Bruce Arians. Now, according to NFL Network, Rodgers may have another option, with the interest from the Giants.
Vernon needed 2.5 sacks in the regular-season finale against the Cowboys to reach seven sacks this season. Vernon is set to count $19.5 million on the 2019 salary cap, raising speculation they might cut him to save $11.5 million on the cap. That financial savings would be mitigated by giving up a player who, when healthy, is far and away the best pass-rusher on a team that finished 30th in the NFL with only 30 sacks. Vernon on Thursday was named to his first Pro Bowl. He was a first alternate and was selected when Khalil Mack of the Bears backed out, citing injuries.