Eagles kick Ken Whisenhunt tires; Still look destined to ride Gus (Bradley) Bus
Jeff McLane, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Posted: Monday, January 14, 2013, 9:12 PM
Another day, another head coaching candidate.
Former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt became the latest to join Jeffrey Lurie’s whimsical coaching search when he interviewed with the Eagles on Monday.
Whisenhunt is believed to be high on Lurie’s wish list, but not as high as Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
The Eagles are meeting with Bradley for a second interview on Tuesday, a strong sign that he is either their top candidate to become the next head coach or one of them.
The Eagles have not had a second interview with any of the coaches they've met with, or at least as far as one can gather.
But the scuttlebutt around the NFL is that they are narrowing their sights on the 46-year-old Bradley after Seattle was eliminated from the playoffs Faclons on Sunday. Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman and team president Don Smolenski flew down to Atlanta on Saturday to meet with Bradley.
The Eagles have interviewed eleven known candidates, have one more coach they’ve been granted permission to speak with and were set to meet with an additional two that never got around to their interviews for separate reasons.
That’s 14 individuals that have been linked to the Eagles. There are probably more since the team has been selective in how they’ve gone about revealing and confirming who they’ve interviewed.
But of those 14 only eight are still available, and really only seven if you discount Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong, who isn’t considered a serious candidate.
The seven reflect a wide array of contenders – recently-fired former head coaches, offensive coordinators, defensive coordinators and a former head coach-turned broadcaster.
The Eagles pursued a trio of college coaches, but each elected to stay at their schools. The team now appears set on selecting someone with either an extensive NFL background or a coordinator that has paid his dues in the pros.
Whisenhunt would fall under the former category. He was fired by the Cardinals on Dec. 31after six seasons in Arizona. The first three years were successful for the most part, the last three not so much.
The 50-year-old Whisenhunt went 31-23 overall in his first three years and reached the Super Bowl in his second season. The Cardinals topped the Eagles to advance to a final against the Steelers. They lost, however, 27-23.
Arizona qualified for the postseason the following season, but lost to the eventual-champion Saints in the second round. Quarterback Kurt Warner retired after the season and the team’s – and Whisenhunt’s – fortunes went downhill from there.
The Cardinals went 18-30 from 2010-12 with an assortment of quarterback. Whisenhunt wasn’t solely responsible for Matt Leinert, Kevin Kolb and others not developing into competent starters, but it remains a blemish on his record.
He had great success with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger when he was the Steelers offensive coordinator from 2004-06. Pittsburgh won the 2005 Super Bowl and was statistically above average in yards and points with a run-based attack.
Of the four other teams left with vacancies, Whisenhunt also interviewed with the Chargers.
The Eagles seem to be nearing a final decision. Aside from Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and Armstrong, they have not been linked to any of the assistants on the four remaining teams in the playoffs. Nolan, who interviewed with the Eagles on Jan. 2, has decided to stay in Atlanta.
They are free to hire any of the seven remaining candidates they’re most likely to choose from. They also interviewed Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden on Monday after Whisenhunt. Gruden has met with the Cardinals and Chargers and is scheduled to also interview for the Jaguars’ vacancy.
There were reports that the Eagles were set to meet with Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians on Tuesday, but the team said that wasn’t the case. The Eagles did request and were granted permission to meet with the former Temple head coach.
Aside from Bradley, Whisenhunt, Gurden, Nolan and Armstrong, they’ve interviewed Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy (Jan. 6), former Ravens head coach Brian Billick (Jan. 7), and former Bears coach Lovie Smith (Jan. 10).
McCoy has interviewed with Bears, Cardinals and Chargers. Smith met with the Chargers. The Eagles are the only team to reportedly meet with Billick. He told nfl.com, when asked about his interest in returning to coaching, that “I would never say never.”
The Eagles also met with Penn State coach Bill O'Brien (Jan. 3), Oregon coach Chip Kelly (Jan. 5) and Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly (Jan. 8). All three college coaches ultimately decided to stay at their schools.
The Eagles were granted permission to interview Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, but he took a contract extension and elected to stay in Atlanta. They were also scheduled to meet with Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone, but he was hired by the Bills before they had a chance to meet.
Jeff McLane INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
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Posted 14 January 2013 - 09:40 PM