By Zach Berman
The rumors started to trickle out on Sunday and became more definitive Sunday night: Chip Kelly did not want to coach the Eagles and decided to return to Oregon.
This is a blow to the Eagles because Kelly was at or near the top of their list, according to sources. Plus, it appeared he favored the Eagles job to the Browns job. He just didn't like it more than his current job. It's unlikely money was the issue -- the Eagles can pay -- so one must wonder if control over personnel was an issue. The Eagles have an attractive structure in which the coach reports directly to the owner -- not the general manager -- but the next coach will work in tandem with general manager Howie Roseman.
Of course, Cleveland does not have a general manager, and he decided not to go there. But Joe Banner is also heavily involved. In college football, the coach has control over everything in the program. That's not the way it is in the NFL, save for New England and Washington (and, previously, Philadelphia).
With college coaches out of the mix, who is the best candidate for the Eagles job?
The point is moot. The Eagles must move on, and not just from Kelly. They also liked Penn State coach Bill O'Brien and wanted to speak with Syracuse coach Doug Marrone. O'Brien elected to stay in State College; Marrone took the head coaching job with the Buffalo Bills.
So where do the Eagles turn? They could always expand their search to include more candidates, but pay attention to these three names in particular:
Mike McCoy, Broncos offensive coordinator: The Eagles met with McCoy on Sunday. He's 40 years old. He's made the playoffs with Jake Delhomme and Tim Tebow as his quarterbacks before entering a coaching paradise, as Peyton Manning's offensive coordinator. McCoy was actually a quarterback in the Eagles training in 1998. He fits the offensive profile that it's believed the Eagles desire, and his adapability with different quarterbacks and different approaches must be a plus.
He's also been involved with some outstanding running offenses. He's worked under John Fox and Josh McDaniels. He's worked with Jack Del Rio, Mike Nolan, and Dennis Allen.
Gus Bradley, Seahawks defensive coordinator: The Eagles will meet with Bradley this week. Bradley, 46, oversaw the NFL's top scoring defense and his group looked outstanding in Sunday's win over the Redskins. (However, Robert Griffin III was clearly hurt.) I was in the Seahawks locker room after the game and talked to a collection of their defensive players. They raved about his personality, calling him a "people's person" who always has energy and commands respect.
"You've never seen him have a bad day," cornerback Richard Sherman said. "He's been sick, no voice, hoarse, and he comes in with the most energy. And you're like, 'There's nothing that can bring this guy's energy down.' And he's never down. No matter the score, he makes his guys show up, presses his guys to be the best, and that's what makes Gus Bradley a great head coaching candidate."
Bradley is a protege of former Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. In Seattle, he runs a 4-3 scheme with principles of the 3-4, so it's actually more of a hybrid. He has a lot of size, and a lot of speed. The size of his defensive backfield is particuarly impressive. They're required to play physical and matchup against taller receivers.
Jay Gruden, Bengals offensive coordinator: The Eagles requested permission to speak with Gruden, but it has not been granted yet. Gruden, 45, is also a candidate in Arizona. He has an intriguing resume, with head coaching experience in the Arena Football League and the United Football League. Since coming to the Bengals, Cincinnati has made the playoffs two consecutive seasons. The roster has been exceedingly young, too, and he's helped develop Andy Dalton and found ways to maximize wide receiver A.J. Green and tight end Jermaine Gresham.
A plus with Gruden is that he can be hired right away. That should not be a priority, but if the Eagles wait to hire a coach in the Super Bowl, it makes it difficult to recruit a staff that late in the game. Not impossible, but not ideal. That could work against McCoy and Bradley, depending upon how far the Broncos and Seahawks advance.
This above list does not mean that Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong, and Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians are not realistic candidates. The first two have interviewed; Arians is expected to interview this week.
But at the current stage of the search, pay attention to McCoy, Bradley, and Gruden.
Of course, this could change. And the Eagles could have additional candidates. They targeted college coaches early in the search, and there's no saying that there's an under-the-radar college coach they'll pursue.
Continue reading The Inquirer and philly.com for all your updates.