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Where is Eagles head coaching search going?

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Posted 14 January 2013 - 09:04 AM

Bowen

Where is Eagles head coaching search going?

LES BOWEN, Daily News Staff Writer bowenl@phillynews.com

Posted: Monday, January 14, 2013, 1:50 AM


THE EAGLES don't give us much of a look into their coach-picking process, so it's hard to know whether they really are where they figured they would be, as a source close to the situation maintained over the weekend, 2 weeks after the firing of Andy Reid.

One thing, though - no NFL assistant linked with the Eagles (so far anyway) remains alive in the playoffs, so you would think we might see a coach hired this week.

The Eagles know they aren't looking great, which was why they felt it necessary to issue a statement after Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly became the third college coach to talk to them and decide he liked it just fine where he was, as Penn State's Bill O'Brien and Oregon's Chip Kelly had done before him.

The search didn't gain much luster Sunday when CSNPhilly's Reuben Frank reported that the Birds had interviewed former Ravens coach Brian Billick last Monday, and that they consider him among the leading candidates. The Eagles did not confirm the report.

Billick, a FOX analyst who hasn't coached since being fired by the Ravens in 2007, was announcing the Seattle-Atlanta game when Frank's report broke. Throughout the game, Billick made a series of blunders and bizarre misstatements that play-by-play man Marty Brenneman repeatedly had to correct. After the game, Billick said something about the losing Seahawks proving they were legitimate No. 1 seeds. The winning Falcons are the NFC's top seed.

Billick, who turns 59 next month, won the Super Bowl following the 2000 season - as an offensive mastermind whose team won strictly because of its record-setting defense, helmed by current Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis. Billick fills just about none of the criteria team chairman Jeffrey Lurie laid out when he fired Reid, except that Billick's initial staff in Baltimore, more than a decade ago, was very talented. (So was Reid's.)

The Eagles' statement, meanwhile, acknowledged their obvious serious interest in the three college coaches, but it said the team engaged with them "knowing that there was a remote chance that these coaches would leave their current posts."

"We understood that going into the process, but we wanted to leave no stone unturned while trying to find the best head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles," the statement continued. "We have no regrets about the effort we made in that direction and we will continue to proceed as planned in our search."

It might be a mistake to rank Brian Kelly in the same category as O'Brien and Chip Kelly, in terms of Eagles interest. The search party held detailed, marathon interviews with O'Brien and Chip Kelly. Brian Kelly's interview was said to be much shorter, the day after the Irish's BCS national championship game loss to Alabama. The two sides were to get together again after Kelly returned from a vacation. Some national media outlets began beating the drum for that meeting Saturday, hours before Kelly announced he was staying at Notre Dame. There was no second meeting with the Eagles, and it isn't clear the Eagles really thought one would occur.

What now? We know the Eagles talked to Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley on Saturday, and that Bradley, whose defense recovered reasonably well from a brutal first half Sunday, is now free to take a job.

We know the Eagles are scheduled to interview Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden on Monday and Indianapolis offensive coordinator Bruce Arians on Tuesday. Previous interviewees include former Bears head coach Lovie Smith and Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, in addition to Billick, who is a close friend of Reid, having met him at Brigham Young when Billick was a graduate assistant and Reid was a guard.

Panicky fans might keep in mind that though the Eagles weren't able to hire any of the targeted trio of college coaches, it remains to be seen how candidates view the Philadelphia job in relation to other NFL vacancies. So far, Cleveland has reached for Carolina offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, Buffalo has hired Syracuse coach Doug Marrone, and the Chiefs have hired Reid. It's really a stretch to say nobody wants the Eagles' job, or even that other teams are outmaneuvering the Birds.

Many fans seem to think unproven general manager Howie Roseman is a liability in the search, but that seems more gossip than fact.

The Eagles remain a big-market team with a huge fan base and stable ownership that is willing to spend money on staff. Those factors - which are by no means universal in the NFL - tend to outweigh, say, the climate, or what the team's record was last season.

Of course, if a retread like Billick ends up being the best this bunch can do, all those criticisms might look more valid. No Super Bowl-winning coach has ever gone somewhere else and won another one.


On Twitter: @LesBowen


LES BOWEN Daily News Staff Writer bowenl@phillynews.com