“A real man admits his fears. That’s what I’m asking you to do here tonight. Fears… lets talk about them. ”
Well…Philadelphia fans, I’m asking you to express your fears of where this franchise is headed because quite frankly college coaches will not suffice this time around. Andy Reid came from a pedigree of coaches that accomplished the exact thing this franchise has not in the Super Bowl Era. And with the list of coaching candidates ranging from Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy to previously catered Chip and Brian Kelly, the Eagles have decisions to make on how the future of the franchise is set. And for every John Harbaugh that emerged from the ranks of the college game, Steve Spurrier and Bobby Petrino will offset those good feelings about such a large jump.
“Eagles hire Packers assistant Andy Reid as new head coach” Phil Sheridan wrote an article with this very headline nearly 14 years ago to the day. January 11th, 1999 was the last time the Eagles would hire a coach until 2013. The Eagles took Andy Reid after Mike Holmgren took a job with the Seattle Seahawks. Mike Holmgren has not coached in the NFL since 2008 when the Seahawks finished with a 4-12 record. I’ve heard that history repeats itself, but I never would believe that it would do so as beautifully this post-season and soon thereafter offseason. The Green Bay Packers are facing the San Francisco 49ers this weekend. The Seattle Seahawks are involved in a playoff situation that could directly affect four franchises provided they beat Atlanta; which, facing the harsh reality of Matt Ryan’s career (in the postseason), I’m not certain it’s a difficult thing to imagine. Assistant coaches from nearly all four teams are in play for the Eagles head coaching position, and after this weekend’s games candidates from the losing teams will have job offers and steak dinners to chew on.
So that leads us to a question of who the Philadelphia Eagles are going to hire as their next head coach. The Philadelphia Eagles need a boss. Someone who is not afraid to put the egos on the bench and understand the strengths, and weaknesses, of their football. More importantly after watching the first weekend of the playoffs as well as the Denver/Baltimore divisional round game, the Eagles need a defensive mind to coach physical football. As of right now the only candidate left is Gus Bradley, who has already reportedly interviewed with the Eagles and could potentially be meeting again in the near future. In the past two seasons Bradley’s defense has ranked in the top 10 in the league in both total yardage and points allowed. With the onset of the exceptional secondary he’s had the pass defense has improved every year and the run defense has been stout. The big difference between personnel in Philadelphia and in Seattle is that the secondary in Seattle is far more physical than that of the Eagles. Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman, and Earl Thomas are all Pro-Bowl caliber players that play a physical style of pass defense and can impose their will on a receiving corps.
Ray Horton has not interviewed with the Eagles, however his name has been floating around for open coaching vacancies. Horton played 10 seasons as an NFL defensive back, appearing in Super Bowl XXIII with the Cincinnati Bengals and winning a championship with the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXVII. He spent seven years with Pittsburgh as an assistant coach under both Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin. He was a protégé of Dick LeBeau as well. After interviewing with both Buffalo and Cleveland, his name has been fairly under wraps in the mainstream media. My opinion is that Horton still remains a dark horse to become the Eagles head coach. While he has not gained much traction in the media, he is a respected member of the coaching fraternity and should be given the opportunity at some point in his career to lead a team.
Gruden. Gruden, Gruden, Gruden. A name that is synonymous with Philadelphia Eagles fans (the reason is beyond me for what it’s worth) and their search for a coaching candidate. Only this time, it’s brother Jay Gruden, the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati, that is scheduled to make his second interview with Jeffrey Lurie and the Eagles brass this weekend or early next week. The Bengals’ offense is primarily focused around the explosive playmaker in A.J. Green, but the numbers and results of the Bengals offense under Gruden has not exactly turned heads in the NFL. Instead, in my personal opinion, the assistant coach for the Bengals that should be a primary coaching candidate would be that of Mike Zimmer. Zimmer’s defenses have finished in the top half of the league in pass defense nine years and top five in points allowed four years (including the past two seasons in Cincinnati). While Zimmer’s defenses have not forced a large number of turnovers ( only twice as a defensive coordinator has his teams finished in the top 10 in takeaways), they have played sound defensive football…a trait that has been lacking in Philadelphia over the past few years since the loss of the late Jim Johnson.
Moving forward the Eagles need to make a big decision and fairly soon, but fortunately with the “loss” of college coaches such as Brian Kelly, Chip Kelly, and Doug Marrone, the Eagles can concentrate on an up and coming coordinator already familiar with the NFL nuances. Even more encouraging is that the list of candidates has not diminished greatly as the Bills, Browns, and Chiefs have not taken coaches that many Eagles fans have clamored for or against. In the end, whomever ends up getting hired for the position has a monumentally large shadow to emerge from as this fan-base has become accustomed to a winning franchise under Andy Reid. After spending the past two seasons far below the gold standard that Jeffrey Lurie has preached repeatedly, the Eagles have suddenly become a losing franchise in more ways than one. The job of the new head coach is to distinguish the difference between winners and losers in all phases of the game. Ultimately, winners are able to get back on the horse after getting kicked in the teeth.