With Dick Jauron reportedly headed to Cleveland, another rumored defensive coordinator candidate is likely off the table without the Eagles so much as formally interviewing anyone in the week since word trickled out that Sean McDermott was fired.
It's been even longer since McDermott was actually axed (reports vary on the exact day) and yet most of what we have on the defensive coordinator search has come in the form of rumors, speculation, denials and reversals. With six days to digest what’s happened, here’s a look at what we think we’ve learned, what we’ve heard but still aren’t so sure about and what happens next.
The vacation: The hardest thing to figure in all of this is how a control guy like Andy Reid leaves the country – let alone his film room – when a decision of this magnitude is coming down. Unless he really wants someone off the staff of one of the four NFL finalists playing this weekend. The most plausible scenario in my mind is that Reid watched last Sunday’s games play out, knew the guy he wanted would be totally unavailable for at least another week, and took the chance to relax while he could. This team moved aggressively for a defensive line coach, and aggressively in the draft when they wanted Brandon Graham. Sitting back like they have is odd. Again, unless they want someone still in the playoffs.
In that case, everything since McDermott's firing has been the kind of smoke we see right before the draft. After all, Reid is a lot of things, but he’s never been someone to put things like enjoying himself ahead of football. If, on the other hand, Reid has been gone while the Eagles left a crucial position open, and they're dawdling while their top candidate is available, we're looking at serious dysfunction from the brass. I think that's far less likely, though.
Dennis Allen: As Jeff McLane and others have reported, the Eagles expect to talk to the young Saints defensive backs coach this weekend. They don’t seem to be in a rush to do it, though, and may not even get the chance, since Allen reportedly will meet with the Broncos first. It seems that if the Eagles really wanted Allen, they could have moved far faster on this. That, or they had all their eggs in the Jim L. Mora basket and have had to scramble once he dropped out. Allen, young and unproven, would seem to face the same challenges as McDermott.
Dick Jauron: Looks like he’s headed to the Browns, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The Eagles never seemed to make a strong play for him, a sign that they weren’t really that enamored of a secondary coach who, after all, had a hand in the Eagles soft pass defense last year.
Mora: He was a hot candidate, right until it came out that he didn’t actually want the Eagles job. Then it turned out the Eagles weren’t very interested in him to begin with. How convenient.
Mike Trgovac: The Packers defensive line coach is another hot name in the speculation circles, but not one person has even pretended that anyone tied to the Eagles has confirmed his candidacy. It could be because the team doesn’t want to get close to a tampering charge, or it could be just one of many names that make sense enough to throw up against the wall. Eventually, someone will be right. We think. It might be a long while before we find out, though, because if the coach the Eagles want is on one of the remaining playoff teams and he advances to the Super Bowl, the Birds will have to wait until after the game to do an interview. Trgovac might be worth the wait, though. His resume is the best of those who have been rumored to have a shot.
The 3-4: OK, if the Eagles really want someone on the remaining four playoff teams, could they be interested in a 3-4 defense? After all, three of the four teams remaining play that system. Doubt it.
The Eagles don’t have the personnel and, as many others have pointed out, might not have the time to install a new system if there is a lock out. If the Eagles did go to that formation, they’d probably need to play Antonio Dixon at nose tackle, Mike Patterson at one defensive end and either Trevor Laws or Brodrick Bunkley at the other end spot, just to have enough size up front. The 3-4 requires a much bigger front line, and they are the only Eagles linemen similar in height and weight to the 3-4 starters on the Packers, Jets and Steelers. But there would be no depth. Trent Cole and Brandon Graham would be pass rushing outside linebackers – so you would have the same guys attacking the passer as last year, just standing up. It’s not clear where Juqua Paker or Darryl Tapp would play, since they’re not as big as 3-4 linemen nor as fast as 3-4 linebackers.
Does that somehow mean the Eagles don’t value the kind of edge-rushing players we see in the 3-4? Not at all. They still try to find those players (not always successfully) and play them at defensive end, much like other 4-3 teams. The Giants have Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora to create havoc from defensive end spots. The Bears have Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije. It’s not the 4-3 scheme that prevents attacking; it’s a matter of getting the right individuals.
McDermott: Obviously the Eagles had to whack him. After all, he’s “a guy that's a tremendous worker and is a very smart individual” and despite facing many injuries on his defensive unit we’ve seen him “stay positive through those situations and still put us in a position to win football games.” And that’s why the Eagles had to let him go. Huh?
Well, that’s all we know because that’s the last official word of any kind we’ve heard from the Eagles on McDermott. That was Andy Reid at his post-playoff press conference. Since the firing, nothing, not even a cursory “we felt we needed to go in a different direction” to explain why one of the top three football people on a football team was axed. No decision-makers have made a public comment of any kind on the firing, even though McDermott’s introduction in Carolina is a pretty good hint that it’s official.
I’m told that this is just the way things go across the secretive NFL – which doesn’t make it any less strange.
On the same day word leaked out about McDermott’s departure, the New York Times published a 2,700-word article richly detailing a secret Israeli-U.S. operation to disrupt Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Maybe while they wait to make a move on a DC, the folks at the NovaCare Complex could lend Mossad a hand. The Eagles could probably teach the Israeli intelligence agency something about keeping things quiet.
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