Pat Shurmur's audition with Eagles goes well

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Just hours before he was surprisingly dumped as the Eagles' coach, Chip Kelly argued one last time that the team he assembled had plenty of talent but not enough luck or coaching.

"We have to put them in a better position to make plays," he said often - too often - this season.

From his mouth, it irked you, especially as players seemingly in perfect position dropped passes or were blown up after the ball was snapped. Now, though, it is your greatest hope that the 2016 NFL season will not be the great waste that this one was, that what we saw in a game between teams literally fighting not to be extradited for a 2016 London matchup had at least an element of foreboding.

Pat Shurmur believed it did. "Whatever happens for this team next year, I think there's just a lot of good stuff here that you can build on," he said after the Eagles defeated the Giants, 35-30, at MetLife Stadium Sunday.

Shurmur would like to be part of that next year - either as this team's head coach or as some new coach's offensive coordinator. It wouldn't be sexy, and it would be second-guessed like hell, but a Sean McDermott-Pat Shurmur tandem would be a dead-solid NFL pick, in stark contrast to the kind of gamble Kelly was.

As Shurmur pointed out Sunday, he has coached under the plodding approach of Andy Reid and the breakneck pace of Kelly. He has spoken often about the hard lessons learned in two seasons as a head coach in Cleveland, about doing things better and differently if he gets a head-coaching job again.

Poll

Should the Eagles commit to Sam Bradford long-term?

He even put out a little audition tape Sunday, slowing down that offense a bit, sending in plays a few seconds later than his old boss, allowing the quarterback he once coached to a sensational rookie season the latitude to switch out of those plays if he saw something he didn't like.

The result was a relatively smooth, 35-point effort that survived two costly turnovers, an effort that involved just a single offensive penalty - a trip by Jason Peters - over four quarters of football.

"We ran tempo when we needed to," said right tackle Lane Johnson, a Kelly critic who termed his ex-coach's unyielding devotion to tempo "kryptonite" after a few of this season's losses. "But we didn't just push the envelope from the get-go like we normally do . . . And we executed the offense the best that we did all year. Everything was a lot smoother than it normally was."

The Eagles had 435 yards of offense, converted 10 of 13 third downs. Picked off once on a deflected pass, Sam Bradford was 30-for-38 for 320 yards, totals that would have been even gaudier if the yips hadn't continued for Jordan Matthews and Riley Cooper, each of whom couldn't corral downfield bombs.

Bradford's emergence over the second half of the season wasn't just expected by Shurmur - he predicted it. Listening to both men Sunday, it is clear there is a valuable connection there, one that should be nurtured and advanced if the organizational decision is to hold onto Bradford. Given the dearth of can't-miss quarterback candidates at both the pro and college level, this path seems to make the most sense going forward.

Especially since the Eagles are in no position to blow this thing up, not with all the extensions and guaranteed contracts extended over Kelly's brief tenure in charge of personnel.

One reason given for their struggles this season was a lack of chemistry due to all the new faces. Another was Bradford's learning curve with this offense. Shurmur was his advocate even in the harsh early days, as he was when discussing him from afar over the last few seasons, as he was again after Sunday's game.

"You all know what I think of him," he said. "What you're seeing from Sam this last part of the year is more of who he is."

After Bradford celebrated his liberation as a quarterback to "get us into a better play" Sunday, to "have the opportunity for a more explosive or more successful play than if we were just to run what had originally been called," I asked him if he would push for Shurmur to be retained if asked.

"The quarterback-head coaching relationship is extremely important in any organization," said the quarterback. "Given the history I have with Pat . . . I think it would mean a lot to me. I would love to play for him. I really enjoyed playing for him today. If he is a candidate, I hope that he gets serious consideration."

As we've learned again, hiring a head coach is a crapshoot. People talk about missing out on Bruce Arians last time around, but they probably would have settled on Gus Bradley, Bill O'Brien, Doug Marrone or Mike McCoy before they ever got to him. And only God knows how it would have looked with Arians coaching Michael Vick and Nick Foles - not Carson Palmer - these last few seasons.

We already know what it looks like with Pat Shurmur coaching Sam Bradford. Yesterday we got a glimpse of what it looks like unshackled by the demands, and constraints, of Kelly's nonstop tempo, with Bradford emerging from a full season in full health.

Given the dearth of alternatives, it seems worth another roll of the dice.


donnels@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @samdonnellon

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