JIM MORA, THE GUY the Eagles seemed to want to become their new defensive coordinator, seemed close to agreeing to go to Denver last night, the Denver Post reported, hours after league sources confirmed that Sean McDermott, the guy the Eagles jettisoned, had signed on to run the defense for new Carolina coach Ron Rivera.
A source close to the situation said McDermott turned down an opportunity to be defensive coordinator and assistant head coach for John Fox, the former Carolina coach just hired as head coach of the Broncos. This presumably is the job Mora was on the verge of taking last night.
McDermott could not be reached for comment. But the fact that he was in demand after presiding over the worst NFL red-zone defense in 22 years might speak to the challenge that awaits his replacement, whenever one is hired. McDermott was considered one of the league's up-and-coming young assistants when he succeeded Jim Johnson in 2009, and obviously, at least some of his peers must figure his struggles these past two seasons had more to do with personnel than poor coaching.
The Eagles' offices were closed for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday yesterday, and no new names surfaced in speculation. The other two publicly named Eagles candidates are ex-Cards defensive coordinator Bill Davis and Dick Jauron, who coached Eagles defensive backs this past season. Jauron apparently is still scheduled to interview in Cleveland this week.
The Birds seem in no hurry to conclude their search, with head coach Andy Reid away on vacation this week. One possibility there is that Reid wants to talk to a position coach from one of the four teams still involved in the playoffs; those assistants can't interview now until their teams are eliminated. One name that comes easily to mind is that of Mike Trgovac, the Packers' defensive line coach, who used to be the Panthers' defensive coordinator. Trgovac was the Eagles' d-line coach under Ray Rhodes.
McDermott, 36, worked with Rivera on the Eagles' staff from 1999-2003. Rivera, 49, the Chargers' defensive coordinator before becoming the NFL's second-ever Latino head coach, has said he will take an active role in the Panthers' defense, so McDermott might not have as much on his plate as he had with the Eagles.
Eagles players continued to express mixed feelings yesterday about McDermott's departure. Cornerback Ellis Hobbs said on Comcast SportsNet's "Daily News Live'' that he would have been fine with McDermott staying, but Hobbs acknowledged he had witnessed heated confrontations between McDermott and players in meetings, confrontations Hobbs felt illustrated that McDermott hadn't earned players' respect. Hobbs agreed that McDermott seemed to drastically change his evaluations of players, something he said led to players questioning McDermott's leadership.
In his weekly Virginia Beach ESPN radio appearance, Michael Vick said nothing has happened yet in regard to contract talks with the Eagles.
Last week, a source close to the situation indicated it became even more likely that Vick will get the franchise tag this year when he hit incentives this season that caused his pay to increase more than 30 percent from 2009. Language in the expiring collective bargaining agreement prohibits extending a contract when that happens. But the Eagles could franchise Vick and then sign him to a new deal.
"Not as of yet,'' Vick said, when asked about talks. "Everybody is just enjoying the break, getting their mind together. When it's time to do business, and talk football and contracts, it will happen at the right time."
Asked about the AFC and NFC Championship Games, Vick didn't express a preference, but he did discuss the Jets' knack for trash-talking.
"I think in this country you have freedom of speech to say whatever you want," Vick said. "I think it's your discretion to decide on what you want to say, or whether you should respond at all. If it was me, I don't know. That usually riles me up . . . You can't get too emotionally excited going into a football game, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The defense, because they have the liberty to fly around and do whatever they want to do, it's kinda easy for them. On offense, you have to keep your composure."