The Philadelphia Eagles coaching search has really heated up over the last 24 hours. They have no been linked to Atlanta Falcons assistant Mike Nolan and Keith Armstrong, Denver Broncos assistant Mike McCoy, Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien and Oregon head coach Chip Kelly. There will also be several more coaches involved after the first week of the NFL playoffs such as Cincinnati’s Mike Zimmer, Seattle’s Gus Bradley and Indianapolis’s Bruce Arians.
The Eagles could also schedule an interview for a recently fired head coach like Ken Whisenhunt or Lovie Smith. Neither has been contact by the Eagles as far as we know. Both have been to the Super Bowl as head coaches.
The Eagles have already interviewed Mike Nolan and Keith Armstrong. Armstrong is the Falcons special teams coach and may have been interviewed so early because he is African-American. Because of the NFL’s Rooney Rule, every NFL team is required to interview a minority candidate for a head coach opening. It’s a good rule and I’m certainly not knocking it, but it would be wise for every team to get that minority interview out of the way just in case you find you top guy early in the process.
Nolan could quietly become a very good hire. He has experience as an NFL head coach already and his defenses have been outstanding at every NFL stop. What killed him at San Francisco was bad draft picks by the GM and injuries on the offensive side of the football.
Early failures as a head coach don’t mean you can’t rebound at your next stop. Bell Belichick and Pete Carroll are both great examples of that. Mike Shanahan is another great example(was fired at Oakland before winning two Super Bowls in Denver). If Nolan hires good coaches on the offensive side of the football he can rebound at his next stop.
Andy Reid is a perfect example of why assistant coaches are so crucial to your success as a head coach. Reid had Jim Johnson as his defensive coordinator from 1999-2008. The Eagles made the playoffs 7 times in that span, including 5 trips to the NFC title game. After Johnson passes away prior to the 2009 season, the Eagles failed to win a single playoff game and missed the playoffs in Reid’s final two seasons. I have no doubt that Nolan would make a great head coach if he gets a solid offensive coordinator to handle that side of the ball.
The Eagles are scheduled to meet with Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy on Sunday. McCoy has worked his quarterback magic with Jake Delhomme, Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow and now Peyton Manning. His track record is very impressive and so has his playcalling this season. It’s his work as a offensive playcaller that was able to attract Manning to Denver in the offseason.
McCoy isn’t the sexy hire that Chip Kelly is, but he is probably the safest bet to be an immediate success of all the candidates.
Speaking of Kelly, the Browns are set to interview him on Friday and the Eagles will probably set something up soon after that, assuming the Browns can’t get him to take the job right away. Kelly is the most creative offensive mind in football right now. The feeling with Kelly is he is either going to be great or be a complete failure in the NFL. It’s hard to pass up on a coach who has the potential to win multiple Super Bowls. If he fails at least you took the risk and received some early draft picks out of it.
Bill O’Brien of Penn State is also being linked with the Eagles. O’Brien has been reported by the Cleveland Plains-Dealer to have already interviewed with the Browns. O’Brien took over Penn State before the 5 year bowl ban was in place and may be looking to get out. Maybe the NFL is his dream job, but why would he take a college job then?
There are two sides to hiring O’Brien. On one side he was a solid offensive assistant with the Patriots for five seasons before winning 8 games in a really bad situation with Penn State. On the other hand, leaving after one season at Penn State doesn’t say a whole lot about his character. It would take about $9 million just to buy out his current contract at Penn State. That is a big investment to make on a head coach with no head coach experience in the NFL.
Doug Marrone is a third college coach the Eagles are expected to target in the next week. He is a former offensive assistant with the New Orleans Saints who has turned around the Syracuse football program over the last few seasons. He was a terrific offensive coordinator for the Saints between 2006-2008. The Saints finished in the top 5 in yards on offense in all three seasons.
Look for the Eagles to interview all three of these college coaches after they interview McCoy on Sunday. After that, the Eagles may interview a coach like Mike Zimmer or Gus Bradley if no one stands out as that elite candidate. They will take their time when finding that perfect head coach. This is a huge decision for a team that is certainly talented enough to contend for a division title and make a run in the playoffs in the 2013 season.
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