I agree with Tommy Lawlor. This is an unfortunate development:
I do think there was some type of breakdown. The Eagles aggressively brought in Gus for the second interview. I realize that the first one was short and they knew the least about him, but the way they did this made it feel as if he was the guy they wanted. If the Eagles loved everything they heard on Tuesday, I guarantee you they’d have made him a strong offer and he’d be the coach.
Does Gus leaving mean he’s done as a candidate? That’s a tough question. I think it would all boil down to whether there was a dispute with the Eagles or whether he simply gave answers they didn’t like. A dispute can be settled. If he scared them off because he gave bad answers, that is something that probably can’t be fixed. Who knows, though. Maybe Howie and Lurie will step back and discuss the situation and still feel that he’s the best guy, even with whatever flaw they’re worried about.
There's no more due diligence to do on Bradley. Either Lurie likes him or he doesn't. And letting him fly out to Jacksonville gives a pretty clear signal.
Jeff Lurie sent his private jet out to Seattle to collect Gus Bradley and bring him to Philly for a second interview. The smart money is on him not leaving Novacare without a signed contract. Time to get on board.
Awesome picture from Jake Louden.
By the end of last week, I was more than ready for the Eagles' coaching search to be over. This third stage of the search process, when the top options have gone away and the team is reportedly picking over the leftover bin, is excruciating. While there are still a few names out there that seem attractive (Gus Bradley, I'm looking at you), many fans anticipate a disappointing announcement.
But fan disappointment is nothing compared to the sudden onslaught of negative national media attention shining on Jeff Lurie's search. On Monday this came to a sudden head with a few prominent reporters casting judgment. Overall, I find their line of criticism lacking.
First we have Peter King (emphasis mine):
I think that, while I agree that the Eagles' aggressiveness in interviewing the best college coaches (minus Nick Saban) in the country is good, it says much about the impression of this franchise that Chip Kelly, Bill O'Brien and Brian Kelly all either turned down the chance to coach the team or withdrew their names from consideration after being interviewed.
I understand the vagaries of college coaches interviewing for jobs, and how some of them (most, maybe) want to use the interviews to better their lots in college. But the Eagles have averaged 10.4 wins a year, with nine playoff appearances since the turn of the century. That's about as good as it gets, aside from the Super Bowl drought, in a highly competitive league. But now, this could be a team trending downward...
Fine. But would three premier college coaches say no to the Steelers? The Giants? The Packers? Don't think so.
King tries to cast aspersions on the Eagles' claim to being a top franchise, but it's funny to see him do it while hedging so strongly. In fact, you could take his two caveats and build a stronger argument. The Eagles struck out interviewing college coaches -- but is it so bad that they tried? I agree with Lurie that some of the most exciting names are in the college game, and it would be disappointing if he didn't go after O'Brien and (Chip) Kelly.
Kelly has now declined an NFL job three times over, with completely different franchises. It sounds like he isn't waiting for organizational control or anything so much as a job that assures him a similar comfort level to what he enjoys at Oregon. Not sure he'll ever find that. O'Brien, meanwhile, needed to wrap up his NFL flirtation as quickly as possible, since he had recruits to retain and a reputation to uphold. That he leveraged the Eagles' interest into a raise and more was no big surprise.
Jason LaCanfora took the issue further than King with this hit piece:
I wish I had a dollar for every time someone told me one esteemed coach or another advised one of the Eagles' top candidates not to take the job precisely because of Roseman's presence there. Roseman isn't the general manager they should tie their wagon to. It's clear Chip Kelly wasn't leaving Oregon for anywhere unless he had a large measure of control over the organization, and owner Jeffrey Lurie has already entrusted that to Roseman. There has been trepidation by some candidates to go all-in given the questions about this existing power structure.
The rumblings about Roseman lacking nuance and foresight, about him turning people off with how drunk with power he's become, only grow louder as his coaching search grows stranger.
I think it's possible that, despite Lurie's protestations to the contrary, Howie Roseman is a terrible GM and a negative aspect to the Eagles head coaching job. But LaCanfora paints this as the sole reason the team failed to hire one of their top candidates. Notice how he conveniently leaves out that Kelly could have gone to Cleveland instead, where he could have not only avoided the dreaded Roseman, but also hand-picked his own GM?
All of this speculation is misguided. It's not as if the Eagles wanted Rob Chudzinski or Doug Marrone and the Browns/Bills were more attractive situations. They went after big names and failed to reel them in. That's disappointing from an organizational and fan perspective, but it's not indicative of any greater dysfuction.
The team's main problem right now is one of perception. They look desperate. While the Browns gave up on college coaches all together and settled on Chudzinski, the Eagles were still tilting at the windmill. They went after the second, lesser Kelly, even though no one expected the Notre Dame coach to leave South Bend and few thought he would be a good NFL coach. Then they interviewed Brian Billick, one of the worst TV analysts out there.
Sure, as people like Dan Graziano point out, the Eagles have a questionable GM, no franchise QB, and a fanbase and local media market that's known for being ruthless -- as if other franchises who needed to clean house this offseason are in such great shape. Hysteria aside, the Eagles job is still quite attractive, and I expect Lurie to come to a conclusion on the new coach in the next few days.
Photo from Getty.
File this one under "Wish I had written it." Sheil Kapadia does a great job raising the question of Jon Gruden. When you've gone as far as having interviewed Brian Billick, Gruden starts to look very attractive:
If the Eagles looked into the Gruden possibility and decided against it, that’s OK. Maybe there are issues from when Gruden was the Eagles offensive coordinator back in the 90s. Maybe he’s making unreasonable contract demands. Maybe he wants full personnel control. Or maybe the story of how things fell apart in Tampa is even worse than we know. After all, it hasn’t been just the Eagles. No team has expressed interest publicly in Gruden this offseason. If Lurie and Howie Roseman did their homework and decided Gruden would be a bad fit, that’s fine...
Considering his comments at the beginning of the search and the nature of the process, Lurie would be making a mistake if he didn’t at least look into Gruden as an option somewhere along the line.
Lovie Smith interviewed with the Eagles on Thursday and left without a contract. At this point, unless there's a mystery candidate out there that we haven't heard of, it seems likely that the team is waiting on one of the playoff coordinators. Among that group, the guy I'm by far the most excited about is Gus Bradley, the Seahawks defensive coordinator. We've already read some of Monte Kiffin's praise for his former assistant. Here's more:
"He really is exceptional," Kiffin, now USC's defensive coordinator, said in a phone interview. "You could tell. He's not just a really, really smart coach; he's got a great personality. He connects with the players really well.
"He reminds me of (Steelers coach) Mike Tomlin. We hired Mike at 29-years-old out of the University of Cincinnati. It didn't take long to know that Mike was special, and I knew from Day 1 that Gus was special. He'll be a head coach in the NFL. He's got no panic. Some people do, it doesn't mean they're not really good coaches, but Gus, he's special. When he interviews, he'll knock your socks off. I'm not trying to pump him up, but I know what he is. He's put it on tape up there."
Let's go Falcons, let's go!
This Friday will be exactly 14 years to the day after Andy Reid was hired to be the last Eagles coach. Hopefully this search is also getting to the end. It's rapidly reaching the point where I'm glancing at Twitter every hour hoping to see one final rumor that ends it all.
Although it's been less than two weeks since Reid was fired, the Eagles have now entered the third stage of the search process. First was the wide open possibility of candidates, when the Eagles were connected to everyone and anyone. For example, they tried to interview all three coordinators with the Atlanta Falcons, just because they could. In the second stage, the Eagles honed in on what seemed like their top two choices, according to reports: Chip Kelly and Bill O'Brien. Both decided to return to the college ranks instead.
This has left the Eagles with a shrinking pool of candidates. You have your playoff coordinators, like Mike McCoy or Gus Bradley, who look promising but may not be available for weeks. You have your retread candidates, like Lovie Smith, who will interview on Thursday. And you have your wildcards, like Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly -- a last-dtich grasp into the receding college ranks.
It's tough to handicap at this point. I think Smith has as good a shot as anyone right now. He's a stoic, capable Andy Reid-type with experience running a winning franchise -- but almost exactly the opposite strategic strengths. While Reid needs a capable, independent defensive coordinator while he runs an always solid offense, Smith needs things the other way around. Luckily, he's been a fantastic defensive coach, finishing lower than 11th in DVOA only once since 2001. If you could pair him with the right offensive mind, perhaps even another recently fired head coach like Norv Turner or Mike Mularkey, you might have the makings of a smart staff.
Bradley is the younger and more exciting defensive head coach pick. He doesn't have Smith's experience, but no one has anything but great things to say about his future. For the Eagles' sake, I hope the Seahawks lose this weekend so that Bradley becomes available. Besides that, suppose there's always Bruce Arians to fall back on. That kind of selection unfortunately doesn't come with the experience of Smith or the upside of Bradley. Let's hope things don't get that desperate.
Photo from Getty.
Playoff football was upstaged this weekend in Philadelphia as the Eagles coaching search stretched into a second week. While the Packers took care of Joe Webb (remember him?) and RGIII suffered a horrific and entirely foreseeable injury, all eyes in Eagles-land were looking toward Chip Kelly.
Kelly flirted with three teams, taking interviews with the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, and the Eagles. Although the Browns have tried to distance themselves in recent reports, they clearly were all in on Kelly. Joe Banner made a full-court press to get him and came up short. The Eagles, while less committed to Kelly, certainly had him high on their list. They conducted a 9-hour lunch with Kelly on Saturday, which is easily the most absurd job interview description I've ever heard.
Ultimately, I think it's sad for the NFL that we won't have Kelly coaching in 2013. There's far too much talk about whether or not his offense could work at the professional level, instead of embracing the excitement of something new. Whether Kelly will ever coach in the NFL is now a serious question. He had his pick between three teams in different situations and chose to remain in Oregon instead. That's fine. There's a lot about the school that beats coming to Philly, especially in terms of control and lifestyle. There's no reason to draw broad conclusions about the Eagles job, as some have done, just because Kelly turned them down. I wish him all the best and hope that someday he finds a situation that feels comfortable. Those doors will always be open.
In other news, the Bills actually hired someone, Syracuse coach Doug Marrone. To me, he was a nice backup option, but nothing more. Like Steve Sarkisian, Marrone has turned around a school with awful recent history and made them respectable. He finished his four seasons at Syracuse with a 25-25 record, a major improvement from their 10-37 record under previous coach Greg Robinson. Still, the team plays in an increasingly makeshift Big East and his fourth season -- an 8-5 bowl-winning one -- wasn't so impressive. Marrone was offensive coordinator under Sean Payton with the Saints for three years prior, but how much of that offense was set by Payton? Fine hire, but I'm not sad at all that the Eagles didn't get a chance to interview him.
The Eagles are scheduling interviews with other people right now. Bruce Arians, the Colts offensive coordinator, missed that team's first round playoff loss because he was admitted to the hospital with nausea and headaches. Hopefully all is well with him, but I'm not in love with his candidacy either. As someone who started coaching football in the late 1970s, Arians is no young man (a decade older than Marty Mornhinweg). He has bounced around over the last decade as offensive coordinator in the NFL, but only started to get serious head coaching consideration this year when he filled in admirably for Chuck Pagano. Arians is riding high based on that goodwill, but the Colts were one of the worst playoff teams in recent memory. When you step back and dispassionately assess the situation, there's nothing that stands out as particularly promising about him..
Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, on the other hand, is a new name that sounds much more promising. The skinny on Bradley is simple. First, look at Sunday's game. After allowing 14 points early to the dangerous Redskins on Sunday, his innovative hybrid defense tightened up and didn't allow another point. No wonder the Seahawks are ranked fourth in the NFL in defensive DVOA. Second, read what Monte Kiffin had to say about Bradley when he recommended him to then-Seahawks coach Jim Mora Jr. back in 2009:
"Monte says, 'J.L., listen to me. I have got a guy here in Tampa that is one of, if not, the finest football coaches I have ever worked with. He's an A-plus. He's a once-in-a-lifetime coach. You need to talk to him,' " Mora recalled. "He said, 'J.L., this guy is special. You have to bring him in. You have to talk to him.' "
Finally, watch Bradley lay into his defense on the sideline. Wouldn't it be fun to have a coach with that much fire on the sidelines in Philly? The 46 year-old only arrived in the NFL in 2006 after spending 15 years in the FCS college ranks (i.e. Division I-AA), but everyone praises him. You can read much more about Bradley here and here and here. As long as he can hire an experienced offensive staff, there's much to like about his candidacy.
Photo from Getty.