The Dating Game

Posted: January 12th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

Let’s make a match. In one corner we have the Philadelphia Eagles, one of the greatest organizations in all of professional sports. They have a great owner, great GM, great roster and most importantly, great fans. In the other corner we have coaching candidates. They are all great leaders, communicators and very detail-oriented. They all work from 4am until 3am. They want to have fast, physical teams that play smart and don’t beat themselves.

This will be a match made in heaven.

For a while, anyway.

The Eagles are already being linked to multiple coaching candidates.

We already know the Eagles have reached out to Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley.

We’re early in the process, but I’ll share my thoughts on the candidates I like and why.

1 – Lincoln Riley
2 – Arthur Smith
3 – Robert Saleh
4 – Brian Daboll
5 – Todd Bowles

I put Daboll in the list because I expect the Eagles to have some interest in him. The others we already know about.


Riley is a gifted offensive mind. He is young and has no NFL experience, but he feels like a special coach. I’ve followed him since he was an assistant at East Carolina. He is a brilliant schemer and play-caller, but also seems to understand the big picture.

Riley’s defense at OU wasn’t good enough so he went and found a really good coach for that side of the ball. He didn’t write a blank check to the biggest name out there. He went and found a young assistant who had worked at Washington State and Ohio State. The defense has been terrific the past two years.

Riley has produced great QB play, working with very talented players, but also guys with different sizes and skill sets. Riley can shape his offense to the talent he has.

Strong OL play has been crucial to his offense. Riley also likes to run the ball and has had a more physical running game than many might expect.

Hiring Riley would be a swing for the fences. I hope the Eagles go after him hard. He may not be interested in the NFL. He may not be interested in the Eagles. I still think this is a guy you go after.


Smith is the offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans. He’s worked for that team since 2011. Smith only had three other football jobs. He coached at UNC and Ole Miss each for a year. He spent two years with the Washington Football Team as a low level assistant.

Smith took over for Matt LaFleur when became the Packers head coach. Smith has done great work with the offense. He turned Ryan Tannehill from a flawed QB into an outstanding player. RB Derrick Henry and WR A.J. Brown have both been amazingly productive under Smith. Many saw the Titans offense as a fluke in 2019, but then it got even better in 2020. They finished second in yards and fourth in points.

If Smith can get a high level of play from Tannehill, you would think he could do the same with Carson Wentz and that would be one of the key reasons for hiring him. If you can fix Wentz, the Eagles are are a playoff contender. Look at the 2019 team. They had issues, but Wentz played well enough to get them to the postseason.


Saleh is the defensive coordinator of the Niners. I love watching him during games. He is a fiery, emotional coach. That can work on defense and SF had a terrific defense each of the past two years.

Saleh has developed playmakers at each level of his defense. SF invested heavily in the DL and built around that (like the Eagles), but also got outstanding play from the back seven (unlike the Eagles).

Offense would be the question. SF has a couple of good young assistants that Saleh could choose from when looking for an OC. I love the Shanahan offensive system and having that as part of the package is one of the reasons I’m so interested in Saleh.

The Niners had more injuries than any other NFL team this year. They battled all year and finished 6-10. I was impressed with how they fought through setback after setback. The defense finished fifth in yards allowed despite missing some key players. That says a lot about the coaching staff and culture.


Daboll has a lot of ties to Bill Belichick. He coached for the Pats from 2000-2006 and then again from 2013-2016. He also coached under Belichick proteges like Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel and even Nick Saban. It wasn’t until took over the Buffalo offense under Sean McDermott that he really made a name for himself.

The Bills drafted Josh Allen, a raw, raw QB with huge potential. Allen was highly erratic for two years and then became one of the best players in the league in 2020. Allen is a legitimate MVP candidate. That didn’t happen by accident. Daboll played a huge part in his development.

If Daboll can get Allen to play at this level, you would hope he could have a similar effect on Wentz. Beyond just QB development, Daboll had a terrific year as a play-caller. He didn’t have a great OL or run game, but he schemed up a creative passing game that helped Buffalo finish second in the league in scoring.

I think one of Daboll’s strengths is that he can win with a variety of players. Buffalo got excellent production from all kinds of sizes and skill sets. There isn’t just one single trait (Smith excelled with big, physical players in TEN). I think Daboll would be a good match for the Eagles offensive personnel.


Bowles is the DC for Tampa Bay. He is a veteran coach, having been a DC for three teams and was head coach of the Jets for four years (24-40). Bowles worked in Philly in 2012 and ran the defense after Juan Castillo was let go at midseason. He knows Philly and the Eagles, for better or worse.

Bowles is a 4-3 coach who likes to blitz. He is creative with his fronts and coverages. Bowles would like the Eagles DL, but like all other coaching candidates, he would need some better back seven personnel.

There are two big concerns with Bowles. First, he didn’t do a good job with the Jets. In his defense, they didn’t have much talent. After a 10-6 showing in 2015, Bowles won 5, 5 and 4 games in his final three seasons. One of the reasons they struggled was a poor offense. Bowles had three different OCs. You would need him to talk about what he learned from that and what his current vision for an offense is.


I didn’t list anyone from KC. I think the Eagles need to get away from Andy Reid. Shake things up and go in a different direction.

I left off Duce Staley. I think he can be a good coach, but promoting the RBs coach from a 4-11-1 team would make me nervous. He would have to present a compelling plan for his staff and the team. Several former Eagles are pushing for him to get the job. Duce is a terrific leader and there is real value in that

Duce has only coached in Philly. I would be curious to know how connected he is around the league and if he could put together a high quality coaching staff. That is crucial for all coaches, but especially someone who hasn’t been a coordinator.


2 Comments on “The Dating Game”

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