Eagles unturn Brian Billick stone in latest development in meandering head coaching search
Jeffrey Lurie, in his attempt to "leave no stone unturned," found a mossy one that has been languishing in the broadcast booth for several years and interviewed him for the Eagles' head coaching vacancy.
His name is not Jon Gruden. It is Brian Billick, another Super Bowl-winning coach who has expressed a desire to return to the NFL. But the offers previously weren't there, until perhaps now.
The Eagles, who have cast a net as wide as Roosevelt Boulevard, interviewed Billick last Monday, an NFL source said. The meeting, first reported by CSNPhilly.com, took place near Billick's Maryland home and lasted about eight hours.
Since that interview, the Eagles have sat down with three other candidates: Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith, and Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
Bradley and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, whom the Eagles interviewed Jan. 6, are fair game for teams looking for head coaches after Seattle and Denver lost divisional playoff games over the weekend.
The 46-year-old Bradley, who interviewed on Saturday, is believed to be higher on Lurie's list than McCoy, but he is not as much in demand. Bradley's only other interview was with the San Diego Chargers. McCoy has met with three other teams and is expected to land in Arizona, according to reports.
So the Eagles may not feel compelled to snatch up Bradley right away if there isn't much competition. They still have interviews scheduled with Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden on Monday and Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians on Tuesday.
There could be more. The Eagles have selectively announced and confirmed interviews. They had no comment on the Billick meeting. There were reports that the Eagles were very interested in the 58-year-old. After a third college coach spurned them, however, the timing of the news was notable.
The Eagles were clearly after one of those college coaches. They initially targeted Oregon's Chip Kelly and Penn State's Bill O'Brien, league sources said. After both flirted with the Eagles and received more money to stay put, Lurie and company set their sights on Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly.
Kelly, like the other two, snubbed the Eagles and announced Saturday that he was staying in South Bend. The Eagles, sensing the building narrative, released a statement claiming that they knew there was just a "remote chance" the college coaches would leave their jobs.
A cynic would ask: Then why spend most of the first two weeks of the search courting the three college coaches identified as the most NFL-ready?
There are other avenues, which the Eagles already have driven down and will continue to search.
Aside from the Kellys and O'Brien, two of the NFL coordinators linked to the Eagles have decided to stay with their teams. Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter received permission to interview with the Eagles but chose to stay in Atlanta after he received a contract extension.
Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan wasn't believed to be high on the Birds' list, but he interviewed first on Jan. 2 along with Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong. But Nolan, too, has elected to stay in Atlanta, according to a FoxSports.com report.
Of the eight head coaching vacancies, three have been filled. Kansas City was first out of the gate, signing former Eagles coach Andy Reid on Jan. 4. The Buffalo Bills were next and hired Syracuse's Doug Marrone two days later.
The Browns, who were in the chase for Chip Kelly and O'Brien, ultimately hired former Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. That leaves the Bears, Cardinals, Chargers, Jaguars, and Eagles as the remaining teams with empty spots.
So the Eagles are not alone in taking their time, especially if they are coveting an assistant on one of the four remaining playoff teams - the Patriots, Ravens, 49ers, and Falcons.
Aside from 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, there isn't a remaining assistant who could be considered a plausible candidate for the Eagles job. And Roman, many have speculated, will end up in Jacksonville with former college roommate and new general manager Dave Caldwell.
The Eagles now will likely have free rein to select their new coach. That is, unless he doesn't slight them for another offer or, like Koetter and Nolan, elect to stay put. The Eagles appear to be the only team interested in Billick.
The offensive-minded coach won a Super Bowl in his second season in Baltimore largely behind a dominating defense. But like Jon Gruden, who also won a title early, with Tampa Bay, Billick never again reached such heights. The Ravens went to the playoffs in only three of his next seven seasons, and his record was a pedestrian 60-52 in that span. He was 80-64 in nine seasons with the Ravens.
Contact Jeff McLane at email@example.com or on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.