On Wednesday afternoon it was first reported by FOX Sports Jay Glazer and then later confirmed by several NFL insiders that the Philadelphia Eagles have serious interest in Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. The Eagles met with Kelly on Tuesday, the day after his Irish lost in the BCS title game to Alabama. Kelly is currently out of the country (probably recuperating from Monday’s blowout) and will talk again with the Eagles when he gets back.
At this point we don’t know if this is just another college coach trying to get an extension and a pay raise by interviewing with an NFL team or if he has serious interest in the NFL. Like the other Kelly who interviewed with the Eagles last Saturday, he has zero NFL experience both as a player and as a coach.
The Eagles coaching search has certainly been an interesting and very mysterious ride to this point. They have interviewed offensive, defensive and one special team coach in the NFL and have also interviewed with three different college coaches as well.
They are certainly doing their homework with all of the coaching candidates. They aren’t looking at any specific criteria with their coaches. They are taking their time, talking to as many different candidates as possible and gathering who can best lead this Eagles franchise from here on out.
College coaches build and sustain winning programs for long periods of time. Several former NFL offensive and defensive assistants are having great success as NFL head coaches right now. Some people believe you need to hire a coach with head coaching experience whether it be in college or the NFL, some believe a defensive assistant makes a better head coach, while other believe a offensive assistant is better suited to lead an NFL team. Truth be told, neither side is wrong. There are 8 teams left in the NFL playoffs right now. Of those 8 teams(when you look at each head coach’s last job before being hired by his current team), 2 are lead by a former offensive assistant, 1 is led by a defensive assistant, 1 is led by a special teams coach, 2 are led by recent college head coaches and 2 are led by former NFL head coaches who have gotten a second chance in a new city.
The point being is that its insane to rule out a head coach for any other reason other than he can’t put together a NFL quality coaching staff or he can’t lead an NFL team. That is what is really boils down to. Andy Reid was a quarterbacks coach with the Green Bay Packers and had never been a head coach or coordinator, but man could he put together a coaching staff. Some of the notable names on his first coaching staff in Philadelphia were Brad Childress, Leslie Frazier, Ron Rivera, Jim Johnson, Juan Castillo, Pat Shurmur, Steve Spagnuolo and John Harbaugh. Six of those coaches went on to be head coaches in the NFL while Jim Johnson was an elite defensive coordinator through the 2008 season in Philadelphia and Juan Castillo is still a very respected offensive line coach in this league.
This brings us back to Brian Kelly. He has no NFL experience and nobody really knows what his offensive preference is. His Cincinnati teams were very passing orientated, while this year’s Notre Dame team relied more on the running game. This really just means that Kelly can adjust to his staff and to his team. That is a huge plus in the NFL. The Saints are a passing orientated team now, but if Drew Brees was lost for the season they would have to become more of a balanced offense.
Too much is made of the offensive and defensive schemes of the head coaching candidates. The majority of the time the offensive coordinator calls the offensive plays while the defensive coordinator calls the defensive plays. It’s more important for the head coach to get maximum effort, be extremely detailed orientated and be a respected leader in the locker room. There is no question about Kelly’s ability to do those three things based on his success in college.
Brian Kelly isn’t a lock to be the next Pete Carroll, and may not even be as interested in the NFL as he leads on (see Bill O’Brien and Chip Kelly), but with all his accomplished so far in his career he is certainly worth the interest.
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