Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Making sense of the Eagles coaching search entering Week 3


Making sense of the Eagles coaching search entering Week 3

Jeffrey Lurie, owner of the Philadelphia Eagles announces the firing of head coach Andy Reid. (Michael S. Wirtz/Staff Photographer)
Jeffrey Lurie, owner of the Philadelphia Eagles announces the firing of head coach Andy Reid. (Michael S. Wirtz/Staff Photographer)


Two weeks have passed in the Eagles coaching search, and they're still searching. This is not necessarily a bad position, because coaching searches often stretch into mid-January. (If they don't have a coach by the Super Bowl, then there's reason for concern.) 

The search has been marked by the pursuit of college head coaches to this point. The Eagles went for 0-for-3 after interviews with Oregon coach Chip Kelly, Penn State coach Bill O'Brien, and Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. The Eagles were aggressive, but they understood the obstacles in the way. So even though they were snubbed, they did not hold the leverage. If a college coach is going to leave, he either has to want to leave, or need to be made to want to leave. 

One team source noted that the Eagles wanted to speak to coaches that they deemed "the top minds in and out of the NFL." But there were issues in the pursuit of each coach. Chip Kelly still has not won a national championship at Oregon; Bill O'Brien had a hefty buyout at Penn State; The Eagles didn't meet with Brian Kelly long enough after the title game to get a true sense of which way he was leaning.

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The source indicated that the Eagles are "where we thought we would be." This is in line with the statement the team issued in which they said they knew "there was a remote chance that these coaches would leave their current posts," but they wanted to leave "no stone unturned."

However, it's also important to realize that the Eagles would not have invested two weeks in trying to lure these coaches -- and likely more time before that doing research -- if they didn't think they could get the coach. So there were certainly challenges, but not enough that hindered the Eagles from making those coaches priorities. And definitely not enough that made the Eagles prioritize another coach over the college coaches. The team's stance does have merit, but it does not tell entire story.

The source also suggested that the Eagles have been interested in assistant coaches in the NFL playoffs, which is also why the team is in the position they expected. That makes sense, and it should also mean they could accelerate the search as playoff teams have dwindled, particuarly if Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is now the target, or if the Eagles revisit Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.

The Eagles could also expand their list of college coaches, or elect for a non-NFL assistant such as former Bears coach Lovie Smith, who interviewed Thursday. The Eagles also interviewed former Ravens coach Brian Billick, according to a CSNPhilly.com report. Inquirer columnist Phil Sheridan suggested the Eagles should pursue Jon Gruden.

But Week 3 of the search could take on a different tone. If the Eagles were exploring the past two weeks while hoping the decision of a college coach went in their favor, they may be forced to make a decision now. It's unlikely an assistant coach who interviews with the Eagles would turn them down, unless he fields an offer elsewhere. So the leverage might now be with the Eagles instead of the other way around. And that could result in the Eagles soon naming a coach.

Staff Writer
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