It's difficult to try and make sense of today's news that James Urban is headed to the Bengals to become their wide receivers coach, but let's give it a try and start with what we know.
Back on Feb. 8, the Eagles announced a plethora of coaching moves. One of them was Urban making the move from quarterbacks coach (for two seasons) to assistant offensive coordinator. What exactly that meant was unclear, but a team source told Les Bowen that it was a promotion which would give Urban the opportunity to work with other positional groups, not just the quarterbacks.
At the time, I figured the move probably put Urban in position to become an offensive coordinator in the not-too-distant future. Marty Mornhinweg did not get any serious consideration as a head coach elsewhere this offseason, but if the Eagles' offense puts together a successful 2011, it's possible that Mornhinweg could be moving on.
But now we know the Eagles likely did not see Urban growing into that coordinator role here.
I took a look at the coaching staffs of the other 31 teams, and as far as I can tell, only one has an "assistant offensive coordinator." Mike Bloomgren filled that role for the Jets last season, but has since moved on to become offensive line coach at Stanford. He was named the Jets' assistant offensive coordinator after serving as a quality control coach on offense for two seasons and an offensive assistant for another season. Bloomgren had not previously been a positional coach with the Jets.
Teams assemble their staffs in all sorts of different ways. There are assistant head coaches, assistant offensive line coaches, running game coordinators, senior offensive assistants and others. But like I said, from what I could find, Bloomgren was (and now is) the only assistant offensive coordinator.
The other aspect of this is that the Eagles had to allow Urban to make the move to Cincinnati. In other words, they could have blocked him, but chose not to. That would seem to indicate how much (or in this case, how little) value they saw in keeping him here.
And that is surprising, considering how successful Michael Vick and the offense was last season. Here's what the Eagles wrote in their release when they named Urban assistant offensive coordinator:
Urban spent the past two seasons as the Eagles quarterbacks coach and played a vital role in the rebirth of Michael Vick, who earned Comeback player of the year honors in 2010 as well as a berth on the NFC Pro Bowl squad. In 2009, he successfully integrated three quarterbacks into the Eagles offensive scheme – Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb and Vick.
Is that PR? Sure. But Urban is the guy who was working with Vick on a day-to-day basis and helping him, along with Mornhinweg, put together his best NFL season.
As for the opening here, I'm not sure there really is one. Like I mentioned, assistant offensive coordinator is not a commonly-utilized position on NFL coaching staffs.
Of the Eagles' six current offensive coaches, Mornhinweg, running backs coach Ted Williams and tight ends coach Tom Melvin have the same titles as a year ago. Howard Mudd is the new offensive line coach, and Doug Pederson takes over for Urban as the new quarterbacks coach. David Culley got "senior offensive assistant" added to his title as wide receivers coach.
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