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.