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Gus Bradley should be the Eagles' choice for head coach

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 05:53 AM


Gus Bradley should be the Eagles' choice for head coach

Sam Donnellon, Daily News Sports Columnist

Posted: Wednesday, January 16, 2013, 12:42 AM

IN HIS previous stint as head coach, Gus Bradley never lost a game.

He also never won one. Paul Casey Bradley was only interim head coach of Fort Lewis College for 4 offseason months before his alma mater, North Dakota State, hired him back, and he soon was running its defense.

He has been an NFL coordinator only since 2009 and his success as a DC has come while serving a head coach, Pete Carroll, who was a former defensive coordinator. He never has played in a Super Bowl. He never has coached in a Super Bowl. He never has coached in a BCS bowl.

What does all this mean? That hiring him as a head coach is a big risk. How big?

As big as hiring Ken Whisenhunt, Brian Billick or Jon Gruden would be.

Sure, I know. Those guys went to a Super Bowl. Two of them won as Super Bowl coaches. Whisenhunt went that year the Cardinals upset the Eagles. But Kurt Warner was his quarterback. Since then he has gambled and lost on a list of successors, including Kevin Kolb.

He and Andy Reid have that in common.

Billick was a former offensive coordinator who won with a young Ray Lewis and one of the most stifling defenses to ever play the game, and Gruden pretty much pushed a team built by Tony Dungy over the top. Both left the game amid diminishing returns and both have been off the sideline for a while, and history tells us there have been far more misses than hits after coaches return from the broadcast booth.

Similarly, the idea of hiring somebody else's fired guy, no matter how many wins against how many losses, is no lock either.

Unless you believe that Kansas City was a big winner this offseason.

Me? I think you try to find the next Andy Reid, not the previous one. You find the next Jim or John Harbaugh. When these guys got their head-coaching chance, they were the "new-school" guys that Seattle players have described Bradley to be. They knew the league's other young assistants personally, not by reputation. They were in better position to build a staff than either Billick or Gruden would be.

You look for young and energetic over wizened and experienced. You want the guy who's going to sleep in his office. You want the guy who's finally getting his big chance, who has spent the last bunch of years honing a philosophy and an approach and figuring out exactly how he will go about it once he gets that chance.

You want a staff of those guys, really.

I think you have a better chance of that happening with Bradley than with a retread or a college coach with little or no NFL connections, and little or no idea how the dynamic changes once you introduce million-dollar salaries into the coach-player relationship. That alone makes Bradley no more of a risk than either Kelly would have been. Remember when Dan Snyder hired Steve Spurrier to save the Redskins? Any wonder Nick Saban took his name out of the running early this time?

So here's why I like Bradley to be the next coach, why I liked him over the four college coaches who have spurned Eagles overtures already, or Denver's offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, who took the San Diego job.

First and foremost, he's a defensive specialist, and this town embraces grit over glamour in football the way it prefers pop over pitching in baseball. It is instructive that the plazas inside of Citizens Bank Park are filled with foods and stands named after the team's greatest sluggers. I've had my share of Schmitters and dined more than a dozen times at Bull's BBQ, but I'm still in search of a food or a stand named for Steve Carlton.

Similarly, we love Van Buren, Jaws and Andy's trick plays, but our hearts always will belong to guys like Bednarik, Reggie, Jerome and Dawk. They are our identity. We always will see a pass on third-and-2 as chickening out. And we always will see a late hit as unfortunate but not unforgivable.

It is instructive as well that Andy Reid's offense was never more popular as when Jim Johnson's defense was teeing it up for them on the 40 and 50 every possession. The whole playbook is available when the ball sits at midfield. But you need a good defense to make that possible.

There was a thought going into both of the last two seasons that the Eagles had one of those defenses. Now we don't know what to think. Did those highly touted corners get old that quick? Did that defense underachieve or was it simply overvalued? I'd like a well-regarded defensive mind making that assessment, wouldn't you?

So hop off that bus, Gus. Don't need to discuss much. What's there to discuss? You like tough defense, we like tough defense. You're our kind of guy.

Email: donnels@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @samdonnellon

Columns: philly.com/

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