Exchanging e-mails with a long-time, fellow Eagles fan last Monday, when Andy Reid was fired, I fielded an opinion I suspect is typical of those remaining at least nominal fans of the Birds: “It won’t matter who they hire as coach; they need 40 new players.” So, before we get into the candidates to replace the departed Big Red, some recognition is needed of the fact that many of the team’s paying customers strongly believe Reid wasn’t the whole problem.
OK, that’s done.
Some Iggleheads have surely begun debating the names most bandied about to be the new sideline chief. For weeks now the most prominent in the local press have been Oregon’s Chip Kelly; Penn State’s Bill O’Brien, out of New England’s system; and Jon Gruden, the former Raiders and Buccaneers coach who won a Super Bowl with the Bucs. All three are considered offense-minded, and it’s assumed that offense is the team’s greatest need (by those paying no attention to the defensive secondary this past year).
Additionally, respected Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Phil Sheridan lists several others who have been or deserve to be interviewed, including Atlanta assistants Mike Nolan (defense) and Keith Armstrong (special teams), Syracuse’s Doug Marrone, and Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. Nolan and Armstrong were interviewed Wednesday. Sheridan, though, rates both their chances of being hired at zero, and even goes so far as to suggest Armstrong was interviewed to satisfy the rule requiring teams to interview minority coaches.
Hands down, Kelly seems to excite the most discussion. An offensive innovator in love with an up-tempo game, Oregon’s head coach is said to be interviewing with three teams – Buffalo, Cleveland and Philadelphia. There’s little to argue about with his record at Oregon – 45-7, including an appearance in the 2011 national championship game – and that obviously hasn’t escaped notice. Moreover, The Washington Post reports that Kelly may be facing “possible NCAA sanctions ahead because of recruiting violations under (him).” This would, arguably, make the NFL that much more attractive to him, and he and any new employer could sidestep any recruiting mess by pointing out that the man had accomplished, more or less, everything he could at the college level.
Oh, and there’s a guy on the Eagles squad named Michael Vick, a fast-paced kind of guy (even at 32), who might very well benefit from some innovation, or at least somebody with an approach that won’t leave him a corpse. If Kelly isn’t hired, however, the bet right here is that Vick is gone.
It has also been pointed out that Jon Gruden, once an Eagles offensive coordinator, is champing at the bit to coach again. Inquirer writer Jeff McLane, however, resurrected early on the old rumor that Gruden didn’t get along with Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie when he was here.
Two other names have some appeal to Eagles fans – Bill Cowher and Brian Billick, both now TV analysts. Numerous Eagles fans have for years clamored for Cowher specifically, to “whip the team into shape,” but some of those fans just want a coach who inadvertently spits on his own players when he’s mad. (Actually, some Eagles could use some of that.) McLane has claimed Cowher would only consider New York, where he has a home, and he implicitly dismissed Billick as too old (at 58). And any random Philly fan can tell you that, while Cowher won a ring with the Steelers and Billick did with the Ravens, no head coach has won a ring with two different teams.
After dinner on Thursday, McLane also reported that Denver’s McCoy would be interviewed by the Eagles on Sunday, and hey, McCoy has produced with both Tim Tebow, a non-quarterback, and Peyton Manning, a post-surgical QB great. Unfortunately for Iggles’ fans, McCoy is interviewing with everybody, including, possibly, the Montreal Alouettes and Manchester United.
As Phil Sheridan noted, “There are plenty of good coaches to go around. Lurie should be able to hire one with excellent credentials.” Lurie’s “fans” would just like to make sure that the new coach knows his first job is making what are euphemistically known as “tough personnel decisions.”