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.