Siri, Find Me A Coach

Posted: January 21st, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 4 Comments »

The Eagles coaching search is over. The team looked far and wide before finding their man.

This is a risky hire, but I like it. The Eagles went with a young coach with lots of upside. I prefer that to hiring a guy who has been looked at heavily for several years and checks all the boxes. If you want to get ahead in the NFL, you have to take some chances.

Sirianni has been exposed to different schemes and styles of coaching. He has worked with several QBs. His career isn’t built on one player or one amazing season. He hasn’t been a regular play-caller in the NFL, but Andy Reid and Doug Pederson had limited experience as play-callers before becoming head coaches and they both did okay.

That isn’t fully accurate, but there is some truth in Brandon’s quick take on the hiring. The Eagles seemed to have one primary target…Lincoln Riley. After that, they were wide open.

And let’s be honest about Sirianni. One of the reasons he was chosen is that he didn’t have a lot of clout. He wouldn’t come to Philly and fight with Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman over certain issues. Josh McDaniels would have had a better understanding of office politics and would have been much harder to deal with at times.

Still, let’s not downplay Sirianni. He was an up and coming coach. The Chargers hated to lose him to Indy back in 2018.

Time will tell if the Eagles hired a great coach, terrible coach or something in between.

Not everyone is on board with this hire and there are some who don’t like the optics.

The Eagles never interviewed Eric Bieniemy. They did interview Todd Bowles a couple of days ago.

Duce Staley got passed over and that will bother some players and outside observers. More than a few people thought he deserved the job. He’s coached in Philly since 2010. He’s well-liked in the building and is a natural leader. He bleeds Eagles green, so why not hire him?

You don’t just give out head coaching jobs as rewards. You need to feel the candidate is capable of running an NFL team. Football is the most complex sport because of the sheer size. An NFL coaching staff is about the same size as an NBA team. Think about that.

You have 53 players, plus a practice squad of 10 to 16 players and a coaching staff of 10 to 15 people. There is a large support staff. Payroll for the players is almost $200M. You don’t give this job out lightly. This isn’t a reward.

Timing is also a huge key. Duce Staley was part of the staff that went 4-11-1. I just don’t think you could promote him to fix that mess. Had the Eagles gone 9-7 and Pederson left for whatever reason, promoting Staley would have been fine.

As for Bieniemy, it sure sounds like the Eagles wanted to go away from Andy Reid. That’s nothing against Reid, but you need to shake things up. Bring in an outside coach who isn’t part of the Reid tree. Sirianni doesn’t know Reid’s speeches. He doesn’t know Reid’s schedule or practice style. Sirianni will do things differently and I think this team needs that.

We’ll have to see what happens with the coordinators. There are veteran coaches out there who could be good coordinators. Jim Caldwell could be the OC. Marvin Lewis could be the DC. He’s reportedly heading back to Arizona State for now, but might be open to an NFL DC job. Sirianni worked with Anthony Lynn in the past and could bring him in as the OC.

Mike Caldwell, former Eagles player and assistant coach, could be an interesting DC candidate. He knows the 4-3, but also a lot about blitzing. He also has done good work with young LBs.

As for the history side of things, Andy Reid’s first target for DC in 1999 was Marvin Lewis. Lewis turned him down so Reid then hired Jim Johnson. Todd Bowles ws the interim DC after Juan Castillo was fired at midseason in 2012. The Eagles spent big money on black QBs (Donovan McNabb, Mike Vick) so it isn’t like this team is anti-progressive.

We’ll see how things go with the coaching staff this time around.

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Big Names Not Always the Best

Posted: January 21st, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Chip Kelly was a coveted coaching prospect in 2012. Tampa thought they had him in the bag, but Kelly decided to stay at Oregon. A year later, he was again the most coveted candidate. This time the Eagles were able to pry him away from college. He didn’t even last three full years in Philly.

At the time of his hiring, I was ecstatic. I thought the Eagles made a great hire. He was the coach I wanted.

Be careful what you wish for.

There was a time when Josh McDaniels was the hottest name out there. He didn’t even last two full years in Denver.

Jason Garrett was once a coveted assistant coach. He turned down the Ravens and Dallas was thrilled. He coached the Cowboys for 10 years, winning 85 games and going to the playoffs three times. He never reached the NFC title game.

Steve Spagnuolo shut down arguably the greatest offense in NFL history when the Giants upset the Pats 17-14 in the Super Bowl. The defense was outstandin the next year and Spags was a hot candidate. The Rams hired him to turn their franchise around. They went 10-38 in three years and he was fired.

Jimmy Johnson was probably the most coveted coach in NFL history after he left Dallas. A lot of teams talked to him in 1994 and 1995 (including the Eagles). Johnson turned everybody down. He finally agreed to coach the Dolphins in 1996, replacing Don Shula. Johnson never had a losing season in Miami in his four years there. But he was only 2-3 in the playoffs and lost his final playoff game 62-7. Yikes. Hardly what South Florida expected when they celebrated his hiring.

The biggest name, the sexiest candidate…that’s not always the right guy. If you went back and did research, you might just find out the hot candidate doesn’t work out as hoped most of the time.

The Eagles are not a hot destination in this hiring cycle. There are just too many questions and issues. The team missed on Lincoln Riley, the consensus top candidate. They had interest in Robert Saleh and Arthur Smith, but we don’t know how much. We never heard of a job offer to either guy. But they were hot names and the Eagles missed on them.

I’m not trying to say it is good that the Eagles missed on the biggest names. One of these guys could do incredibly well. Mike Shanahan was coveted after SF won the Super Bowl in 1994 and he did great things in Denver. Sometimes when you swing for the fences, you hit a home run.

My point is that the Eagles can still come out of this situation with a good coach. Too often we obsess on resume, what is known and quantifiable. If you find a talented guy who is the right fit, you can have big success. Andy Reid wasn’t a compelling name when he was hired. Joe Gibbs had never been a head coach when Washington hired him.

It isn’t likely that the Eagles will find a great coach under these circumstances, but missing out on the hot names might not be the worst thing in the world. Take a chance on an under the radar guy or an interesting re-tread. Maybe you strike gold. If not, you have a couple of tough years. You get high picks and might be able to stock the roster with young talent, making the position a lot more desirable the next time around.

There is no perfect formula for hiring coaches. There is a lot of risk no matter who you target and how desirable the job is. There are just too many X-factors.

I hope the Eagles embrace risk when they finally do make a hire. The world is full of solid offensive coordinators. Find someone who has some interesting ideas and is willing to take some chances.

***

Could Nick Sirianni be the right guy?

Sirianni is an interesting guy. He has worked at small colleges and for three NFL teams. He’s done grunt work and been a coordinator. If you listen to Frank Reich, Sirianni is a sure thing.

Then there’s Nick Sirianni. If you haven’t heard of him, Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich promises you will.

“When I got here,” Reich said, “the first thing I said to (GM) Chris Ballard was, ‘There is one guy we have to get on this staff, and that is Nick Sirianni.’

“Thankfully, (GM) Tom Telesco and the Chargers organization allowed Nick to take our coordinator position. I was grateful for that.

“I think the world of Nick. I think he is a brilliant offensive mind. He is a tireless worker. He pays attention to detail. He has a dynamic coaching personality.

“I think he is going to be a great head coach in this league sooner rather than later. It is hard for me to have a higher opinion of Nick than I already do.”

That’s pretty darn compelling.

Here you can watch him break down some offensive plays. Two of them are actually Eagles plays…from back when the offense was good.

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Wiiiiiiiiiiiide

Posted: January 19th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 4 Comments »

We knew the Eagles would have a wide-ranging coaching search. What we didn’t know is that it would be this wide. The Eagles are either being creative and thorough or they are randomly choosing names out of a hat.

Who?

I’m not going to lie to you. I’ve never heard of Nick Sirianni before today. I might have heard his name during a broadcast, but it certainly didn’t register with me. Does that mean this is a dumb move? Not at all.

The Eagles are looking for the right guy, not the right name. There is nothing wrong with talking to lesser known assistant coaches. A lot of big name hires fail. Why not talk to different coaches and see if you can find The Guy.

Sirianni was with KC for several years and worked under Charlie Weis and Brian Daboll. He would have learned the Perkins-Erhardt (Patriots/90’s Steelers) offense from them. Sirianni then went to the Chargers and worked under Frank Reich. He stayed after Reich left until 2018 when Reich made him the Colts offensive coordinator.

I like his background. I like the fact he was a WRs coach for several years. Many of the best OCs started off as receivers coaches. I need to do a lot more research, but I’m certainly intrigued by Sirianni.

Fassel is a guy I do know. He was a terrific STs coach with the Rams before coming over to Dallas this year. He is a creative, aggressive coach who gets good results.

The big issue is whether he would make a good head coach. STs coaches are used to dealing with the whole team, but not having an expertise in offense or defense hurts them. They must hire outstanding coordinators. Fassel might have some really interesting ideas, but he would need to have compelling names for his coaching staff.

Allen was a hot shot assistant who was a major failure as head coach of the Raiders (8-28) in a little more than two seasons. It would be ironic if the Eagles hired a coach whose best record was 4-12 to fix a team that just went 4-11-1.

Allen has been the Saints DC since 2015. They started off as one of the worst units in the league, but they’ve gotten better each year. This season the Saints were fourth in yards allowed and fifth in points allowed. They run a complex scheme and Allen has been able to mix young and veteran players into his unit.

He is a 4-3 coach who likes to blitz and be creative. Allen would need to fix the Eagles secondary, but the front four would be a good match for him. Allen has seen some good offensive assistants in his time with the Saints. It would be interesting to see who he would want to run his offense. As always with DCs, that would be the key. Greg Knapp and Greg Olson were uninspired choices when he was with the Raiders from 2012-2014.

Moore is a coach on the rise. He is terrific with X’s and O’s. The question is whether he’s ready to run an NFL team. That’s why you talk to him. Try to find out more about him and decide if he’s still a few years away or is a coaching star in the making.

***

A lot of people are frustrated by the Eagles. Jokes fly left and right about how unprepared the team is. They must be desperate if they are talking to this many guys. Right?

Jeff Lurie told us he wasn’t in a hurry to hire a coach when he had his press conference. He said on the record that the search could go into February. I’m not sure why so many people are surprised.

As for talking to under the radar candidates, that is smart. There are 32 NFL teams. They tend to think a lot alike and there are a handful of coaches who are candidates every year. Why focus on them? Go talk to some young coaches and see if you can find a hidden gem. Even if you don’t find your coach, you might pick up a good nugget in the interview process. NFL teams love to steal ideas from each other.

I have no problem with the Eagles looking high and low.

***

But wait, what happened to Josh McDaniels? Good question.

We know the Eagles had a long interview with him. Jeff McLane reported the team was making calls around the league to do more background on him.

There were reports that the interview went well and McDaniels was the favorite. This isn’t factual, per se. It might be true, but we don’t have definitive proof. No one has come out and point blank said that to us.

Is McDaniels agent leaking info to the media to create buzz?

Are the Eagles still looking around to help their negotiations with McDaniels?

Am I asking too many questions?

We’ll just have to wait and see. I think the Eagles are legitimately interested, but if they were completely sold, I think they would have pulled the trigger and made a deal. You don’t delay on hiring a coach you really want. There is a reason behind what they’re doing.

McDaniels might be the front runner for now, but he’s not a slam dunk choice so the team continues to look around.

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Closing In?

Posted: January 19th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The Eagles didn’t even get to talk to Brandon Staley on Monday. The Chargers hired him on Sunday night, keeping the young defensive guru in Los Angeles. The Eagles did meet with a couple of candidates and one seems to be the front runner at this point.

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels talked to the Eagles at great length on Sunday. He flew down to Florida and had an all-day interview with Jeff Lurie and several other members of the organization. By all accounts, the meeting went well.

The buzz in the media is that McDaniels is now the leading candidate. Here is a nugget from Jimmy Bama.

Update: Based on information PhillyVoice has gathered, McDaniels is the frontrunner to land the Eagles’ head coaching job.”

And…

Is this a good thing? Yes, if McDaniels has truly learned lessons from his failure in Denver and the Colts fiasco.

McDaniels became the coach of the Broncos at age 33. That’s insane. I knew how to tie my shoes and pay the cable bill at 33, but I wasn’t ready to run an NFL team. And neither was McDaniels. He started off 6-0 and then went 5-17 the next year and a half. That led to his firing.

The problem wasn’t brains or X’s and O’s. McDaniels was fine there. He had horrible people skills and an ego the size of the Rocky Mountains. McDaniels firing caused him to do a lot of introspective thinking and he seems to be a changed man at this point.

As for the Colts situation, that was just a couple of years ago and it really is hard to understand that. Assistant coaches joined his staff and then McDaniels backed out of his agreement to be the coach of the Colts. That left assistants in some tough spots. I would hammer McDaniels on that situation and really dig for an honest answer. We don’t know anything publicly, but he might give the right answer behind closed doors.

Failing at Denver is fine. Plenty of coaches have been significantly better in their second job than the first. That was a long time ago and his mistakes were pretty obvious. You just have to find out if he’s truly a changed man or if that’s just an image. As Jeff McLane mentioned in a tweet above, the Eagles have to do their homework to see what is reality and what is just lip service from McDaniels. If he’s changed, the people around the league will know. Coaches talk. Players talk. People know who the jerks are.

From a football standpoint, McDaniels makes a lot of sense. The Eagles want an offensive coach and that’s his background. He did great things with Tom Brady, but also worked well with young QBs like Matt Cassell, Jimmy Garropolo and Jacoby Brissett. McDaniels believes in a versatile offense and has won with a variety of personnel.

One key question would be his staff choices. Would McDaniels load up on Pats coaches? Ideally, you would want him to bring in a mixture of different ideas and backgrounds. No one has had success when trying to build a different version of New England. There are plenty of lessons and ideas to take from the Patriots, but Bill Belichick is a freak. Do not try to copy him. You will fail, as McDaniels learned in Denver.

We’ll see if anything comes of this meeting. The Eagles talked about being patient in their search. Is it possible there is a coach left in the playoffs that they want to talk to? Are they still working on Lincoln Riley?

Brian Daboll removed his name from consideration. We don’t know if that means he didn’t want the job or if he heard behind the scenes that he was no longer a serious candidate. Daboll both fascinated and scared me. His track record is highly questionable, but he did such an amazing job this season with the Buffalo offense and Josh Allen that I think you had to take a close look at him.

***

Is McDaniels our only hope? No, there is another, as Yoda once said.

Bowles coached in Philly in 2012. Lurie and Roseman might like him. Like McDaniels, Bowles didn’t fare well in his first stint as a head coach. That was with the Jets and no one wins there consistently. Bowles has done a good job with the Tampa defense the past two years and has the team in the NFC title game right now. He is a good DC. Is he meant to be a head coach again?

I think the interview would be key for him. Bowles would need to share a smart plan for the kind of offense he wanted and who would run it. A lot of defensive coaches want to run the ball and avoid turnovers. That’s not good enough in the modern game.

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Look Everywhere

Posted: January 17th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 3 Comments »

Back in January of 1999, the Packers lost to the Niners in a playoff game on a crazy catch by Terrell Owens. That play changed Eagles history, maybe NFL history. Since Green Bay lost, an under the radar assistant named Andy Reid could be interviewed by other teams looking for a head coach. The Eagles brought him to Philly, saw the infamous blue binder and a lot of winning ensued.

On Saturday, the Packers won a playoff game over the Rams, meaning a young assistant named Brandon Staley could talk to teams looking for a head coach. He is scheduled to meet with the Eagles on Monday. Could history repeat itself?

Staley is an incredibly fascinating candidate. Like Reid, he spent much of his coaching career in college, especially at small schools. Reid learned at San Francisco State, Norther Arizona and UTEP. Staley was at Hutchinson Community College, John Carroll and James Madison. Both men go to the NFL and learned at the right hand of a master. Reid learned from Mike Holmgren. Staley from defensive guru Vic Fangio.

Staley was the outside linebackers coach for the number one scoring defense in the NFL in 2018 when he worked under Fangio in Chicago. This year Staley was the defensive coordinator for the Rams, who finished first in yards and points allowed. He doesn’t have a lot of NFL experience, but the results are impressive.

The Rams had arguably the most complex scheme in the NFL this year. They were very creative with fronts, coverages and techniques. Staley had two elite players in Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. He also had plenty of no-names. Casual fans don’t know Sebastian Joseph-Day, Morgan Fox, Troy Reeder or Jordan Fuller. These guys all were critical to the Rams success this year.

Staley doesn’t make sense in that he’s a defensive coach and has a 3-4 background. He totally makes sense because he’s a coaching star on the rise, knows how to get the most of his personnel and is schematically creative.

Maybe the Eagles will see him as the defensive version of Andy Reid, a young coach with smart ideas and a vision for how to run a football program.

I thought Sean McVay was nuts when he fired Wade Phillips and turned his defense over to Brandon Staley last offseason. Who the heck is Brandon Staley? Now, I’d be fine if the Eagles made him their head coach. Funny how things change.

***

I can hear the collective groan from most of Eagles Nation. That guy?

I think this is a smart interview. McDaniels has had a ton of success. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady were the keys to that, but McDaniels played his part as well. He did fall on his face in Denver. That’s fine. He backed out on the Colts and hurt his reputation. That’s fine as well.

If he can explain what happened in those situations.

You talk to McDaniels to see if he understands why he failed in his first stint as a head coach. You ask him about the Indy situation. Maybe something happened behind the scenes we don’t know about. If he gives you good answers, you consider him as a serious candidate. If it comes across as lip service, you say thanks for coming and scratch out his name from your list.

McDaniels has run different kinds of offenses. The Pats were an explosive offense in 2007. They have also been creative with 2-TE sets. They have been a power run offense. This year they did a lot with QB runs. You name it, they’ve done it. They weren’t changing the playbook. The coaches just focused on different ideas based on the personnel they had. That’s good coaching.

It would be interesting to see how McDaniels would deal with the Eagles QBs. He and Tom Brady worked closely for a long time and had their share of arguments and tough moments. McDaniels isn’t a shy boy. He’ll stand up to the star QB. Wentz might be okay with this, if McDaniels can convince him this worked for Brady and could work for him as well. Jalen Hurts played for Nick Saban so he’s likely fine with anything short of being coached by a grizzly bear.

Like most people, I have very mixed feelings on McDaniels. I respect his success with the Pats, but his issues certainly bug me. He would have to give some genuine answers when asked about his past. I do think he’s worth talking to.

***

The Chiefs won today so the Eagles can only do a zoom meeting with him until the team is eliminated.

Bieniemy has been part of some dynamic offenses in KC and is another guy worth talking to. One of my concerns is that he has been under Andy Reid in KC and the Eagles just fired a former Reid protege.

My thinking in this regard is that coaches do and say what they are exposed to. Would Bieniemy have the same message as Doug Pederson after a tough loss? Not the exact same words, but the same overall message? Would they be too similar?

After a 4-11-1 season I think you need someone to shake things up. Maybe Bieniemy can be that guy. I’d certainly ask questions that would give me a feel for how he would be different than Reid and Pederson.

***

Of course the Eagles are getting the message out there that Wentz is fixable. They either want to keep and fix him or to trade him. Either way, you want that message to get out.

Is this a deal breaker for candidates? I doubt it, as a general rule. If there is a compelling candidate that didn’t want Wentz, I think the Eagles would listen. The coach would have to offer a strong argument for why moving on from Wentz is the right decision. This couldn’t be a casual “I want my own guy” deal.

***

Still no word on Mike Kafka.

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The Eagles have been linked to Todd Bowles and Kellen Moore, but they have not had an interview with either one so far as I can tell. We’ll see if that changes this week.

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