The guard raised the wooden gate at the entrance to the NovaCare Complex on Thursday morning and a car slid inside the grounds carrying former Bears head coach Lovie Smith to another of the interview sessions that have so far defined the Eagles' offseason.
As far as we know, Smith was the seventh candidate to replace Andy Reid to be interviewed by owner Jeffrey Lurie, team president Don Smolenski, and general manager Howie Roseman. His meeting followed ones with Bill O'Brien, Mike Nolan, Keith Armstrong, Chip Kelly, Mike McCoy, and Brian Kelly, and precedes ones, if they take place as expected, with Jay Gruden, Gus Bradley, and Bruce Arians. Additionally, Dirk Koetter and Doug Marrone, both of whom appeared briefly on Lurie's list, were off the market before being interviewed.
It is an impressive array of names and indicates that Lurie is casting a wide net in hopes of landing the best catch. There is every chance that the list will grow longer before it is narrowed to that one lucky guy. According to Roseman, who updated fans on the search through the team's website, the extensive list of applicants also indicates that the Eagles organization is considered an attractive place to work.
"They know we have a great owner who's going to support and give as much resources as possible to make sure we succeed," Roseman was quoted as saying. "They know that we just supported a coach for 14 years. So we're built that way. This whole organization is built to support a head coach. They know that not only in action but in words. All they have to do is call Andy Reid."
All true enough, but they don't have to call anyone to know that only 32 of these jobs exist, that they pay very well, and that being hired by the Eagles (or any other NFL team) would represent a step up the career ladder for all of them. While it doesn't hurt that a team has a good staff or a shiny facility or a great dental plan, what makes these jobs attractive is their scarcity.
As of Thursday morning, when the Jacksonville Jaguars became the eighth team to fire its head coach this offseason, only six head coaching jobs were available. If you truly want to rank them in terms of attractiveness, the Philadelphia opening would probably be no better than third, behind Chicago and San Diego.
The Bears job is the best out there because the new coach will inherit a team that won 10 games last season and has, in Jay Cutler, a reasonably effective veteran quarterback. The Chargers job is next best because the team was 7-9, has a solid defense, and also has a good quarterback in Philip Rivers. Not to mention, San Diego isn't a bad place to live if you happen to be a millionaire coach.
That puts the Eagles opening ahead of those in Jacksonville, Arizona, and Cleveland, but maybe not by all that much. It would depend on what the candidates hear when they do make their phone calls around the league. Some might become skeptical of Roseman's player personnel department. Some might look at the current roster and wonder how the team will contend without a franchise quarterback falling from the sky.
In that regard - the serious question as to whether Nick Foles is the answer - the Eagles are no worse than Jacksonville (Blaine Gabbert), Cleveland (Brandon Weeden), and Arizona (Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley), but they are also no better.
Attractive or not, those four jobs will be filled pretty soon, and the four men who are hired will try their best to make those teams - a combined 16-48 last season - into something better very quickly. Having a quarterback would help.
Smith would be a surprising hire for the Eagles, both because he is a veteran who would demand some roster influence and because he is a defensive specialist, which would represent a change of direction for the organization. Additionally, he would bring some Reid-like qualities that might not play well here. Smith, for instance, has been criticized for poor game management, including proper use of timeouts. Uh oh.
Still, he was on the list, and he got his day of interviews. According to Roseman, the sessions are lengthy because they cover everything from general philosophy to the order of training camp drills. Lurie, if nothing else, wants this to be a thorough search process.
The suspicion is that the job is an attractive one for candidates but not quite as big a plum as the Eagles seem to think it is. They tend to overrate themselves, which is partly how they got in this spot in the first place.
The other suspicion is that if the Eagles had a solid veteran quarterback or one of those hot, young quarterbacks with impossibly bright futures, then the head coaching job would already be filled.
Of course, if that were the case, it probably wouldn't have been vacant, either.
Contact Bob Ford at firstname.lastname@example.org,
read his blog at www.philly.com/postpatterns, and follow on Twitter @bobfordsports.