Eagles Wake-Up Call: Hackenberg’s Advantage

Christian Hackenberg. (USA Today Sports)

Christian Hackenberg. (USA Today Sports)

INDIANAPOLIS — Quarterbacks came and went for several hours at the NFL Combine on Thursday to address the media. While their backgrounds and styles of play varied wildly, they all shared one sentiment: it’s a tough transition from college to professional football.

But one quarterback, Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg, identified one advantage he thinks he has over others.

“I’ve dealt with a lot of NFL-type situations as far as adversity,” Hackenberg said. “Handling a lot of things; handling a shorter deck. We were playing with 43 guys on scholarship my freshman year. I played in a pro system my freshman year. Understood it really well and picked it up quickly and was able to roll with it.” Read more »

Bill O’Brien Apologizes for Insulting “Paterno People”

Bill O’Brien was quoted a couple weeks ago insulting the “Paterno People,” saying he didn’t give a “$*%@*” about them. This morning on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike show, he says he regrets the language. (But leaves open the possibility that he still doesn’t give a “$*%@” about them!)

“I apologize to anybody that took that conversation obviously the wrong way. I regret that conversation, but again, Penn State’s a special place and they’re going to be in great shape in the coming years.”

He also said the “Paterno People” are not the reason he left Penn State. Which was probably a reasonable thing to emphasize.

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Lurie Vs. Banner Intensifies

When Jeffrey Lurie addressed the media earlier this week, much was made about his ringing endorsement of general manager Howie Roseman.

“I keep voluminous notes on talent evaluation on not just who we draft, but who is valued in each draft by each person that is in the organization that’s working here,” Lurie said. “I came to the conclusion that the person that was providing by far the best talent evaluation in the building was Howie Roseman. I decided to streamline the whole decision-making process for the 2012 draft and offseason and that’s the first draft and offseason I hold Howie completely accountable for.”

The obvious follow-up question was this: If Roseman wasn’t responsible for the 2011 draft, which netted Danny Watkins and Jaiquawn Jarrett with the first two picks, then who was?

“I want to take a much higher road than that and just say that I’ve had to really go through exactly everyone’s talent evaluations and realized that we needed a real streamlining of the process,” Lurie said.

Some assumed he was referring to Andy Reid. But the better guess is he was talking about Joe Banner.

Remember, Lurie has the scorecard. He’s one of only a handful of people who knows which members of the organization were responsible for the decisions that have the Eagles where they are today – a team that just finished 4-12 and is 12-20 in the past two seasons.

So it’s important to look at actions as much as words. After last year’s 8-8 campaign, Banner was shown the door. And check out what the former Eagles president said about his involvement in the draft in Cleveland.

“I will be one of the four or five people in that room,” Banner told the Plain-Dealer. “I’ll have a voice. In some instances, it will go through me, but our goal is always to drive a consensus. That’s always been my role as it related to the football part of the operations.”

Sounds like someone who perhaps had lost his voice at his previous stop.

It’s certainly plausible that Roseman got overruled by Banner and Reid at times. Should the GM get a free pass? Of course not. That would suggest he’s just been sitting at his desk filling out crossword puzzles for the last three years. But he did have two decision-makers with more power above him.

And remember, Lurie has shown in the past year that he’s willing to cut ties with people who are not getting the job done. Part of this is definitely to put a positive spin on the future of the franchise. But Lurie has no clear motivation to give Roseman more power unless he thinks the GM can help him win. Couldn’t he just as easily have said, “We’re a 4-12 team. No one has done their job well, but we still think Howie has a bright future.”

The answer is yes, but he decided to offer a much stronger endorsement.

Going forward, it should come as no surprise that Lurie and Banner (now in Cleveland) are targeting the same candidates. They have been through this dance together with both Ray Rhodes and then Reid. They both know what they’re looking for and are highly motivated to find a great leader.

Yesterday, we found out both teams had already interviewed Bill O’Brien before he decided to go back to Penn State. That news is noteworthy, but perhaps more interesting is how the news got out. No one knew the Browns had interviewed O’Brien until about 6:30 last night. No one knew the Eagles had interviewed him until after O’Brien announced he was returning to Happy Valley.

The battle is very much on.

Now the attention shifts to Oregon coach Chip Kelly. The Browns are expected to interview him today. And the Eagles will reportedly talk to him before Sunday when they travel to Denver to meet with Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.

Can’t you just picture the scene in Glendale, Ariz.? Banner and Browns owner Jimmy Haslam having lunch with Kelly at some upscale restaurant. Lurie and Roseman sitting at the bar with fake mustaches and glasses on, holding newspapers in front of their faces as they spy on their competition.

After a season filled with tired storylines, things are about to get interesting around here. Stay tuned.


Bill O’Brien is staying put as the head coach of the Nittany Lions.

Peyton Manning says Mike McCoy is ready to be a head coach.

You can find all the latest coaching buzz in our special section.

Eagles center Jason Kelce is not concerned about being effective in a new scheme next year.

Tim weighs in on the Eagles’ character problem.


Kelly addressed his future after Oregon’s 35-17 Fiesta Bowl win. From Les Bowen of the Daily News:

Asked by the Daily News if he has an impression of Eagles general manager Howie Roseman, from Roseman’s scouting trips to Oregon, Kelly said: “I can’t do an impression of him. I’ve met Howie twice. He was here a couple of years ago and I think he was here in September — my interaction with those guys is really, 5, 10 minutes – ’these are the players you might want to look at.’ ”

It would have been pretty cool if Kelly did launch into a Roseman impression.

Bill Barnwell of Grantland.com looks at the Eagles’ options for replacing Reid:

Philadelphia will look at a variety of candidates. They would be a nice fit for Chip Kelly, who would allow the Eagles to give Michael Vick one final shot in an offense that could play to his strengths. If they follow the head coaching maxim, they would follow the Reid era by targeting a defensive-minded disciplinarian, which would lead them toward Cowher or Lovie Smith. I think whoever they hire will be a short-term upgrade on Reid, just by virtue of bringing in some fresh ideas and new motivational tactics to a group of players who had been used to the Reid Way. In the long-term, though, it’s going to be very difficult for the Eagles to find somebody who represents an upgrade on their departed head coach.


Nothing scheduled, lots to cover. That’s how it’ll be around here for awhile.

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O’Brien Interviews, But Opts To Stay At Penn State

The Eagles interviewed Bill O’Brien, but the Penn State coach is staying in Happy Valley.

The news was first reported by Adam Caplan.

O’Brien’s camp seems to have maximized its leverage. News leaked Thursday evening that the Browns had interviewed O’Brien. But soon after, an SI.com report surfaced, indicating that Penn State was making a “massive push” to keep its head coach.

There’s been plenty of talk recently that O’Brien was using this opportunity to re-work his contract with Penn State. Per David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot News, O’Brien gets a $1.3 million raise and “structural and personnel changes.”

So, what happens next? Both the Eagles and Browns are expected to interview Oregon’s Chip Kelly in the next few days. The Eagles also have plans to meet with Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy on Sunday.

And after this weekend’s wild-card games, there will be more assistants available for interviews. Click here for our original list of candidates.

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Coaching Buzz: Reid, O’Brien And Lovie Smith

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy ReidAndy Reid continues to make the rounds.

Two days after reports surfaced that Reid was a virtual lock to be the next coach of the Arizona Cardinals, he spent nine hours (!) interviewing with the Kansas City Chiefs, according to Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com.

A league source tells Tim that Reid’s interview went well, but he still plans on meeting with the Cardinals and the Chargers. As always, nothing’s done until it’s done. And it sounds like Reid has plenty of leverage to negotiate a deal.

Meanwhile, the Eagles continue to be mentioned as a possible suitor for Penn State’s Bill O’Brien:

As for other names, be sure to check our coaching tracker. Former Bears coach Lovie Smith is getting a look from the Bills. Ex-Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt has drawn interest from the Bills and the Browns. And Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael is getting a look from the Bears.

And finally, one deep sleeper that has been mentioned: Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly.

Kelly is in his third season with the Fighting Irish and is looking for his first BCS title in the national championship game against Alabama. He spent three seasons at Cincinnati (2007-2009) and coached Central Michigan (2004-2006) before that. Kelly also coached Grand Valley State (Division II) for 13 years. He has no NFL experience, but was mentioned as a possibility by SI.com’s Peter King back in November.

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Updated List Of Eagles Coaching Candidates

Now that we’re three days into the process, here’s an updated list of potential Eagles coaching targets.

Chip Kelly – Head Coach, University of Oregon

The latest: Several reports suggest the Eagles have Kelly on their short list, but they’re going to have competition. Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com suggests Jeffrey Lurie could be in a battle with Joe Banner for Kelly’s services. Two high-ranking NFL executives tell Adam Caplan that Kelly is the clear-cut No. 1 choice for the Browns. Kelly’s Oregon Ducks take on Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl on Thursday. After that game, look for teams to move aggressively to interview him.

Bill O’Brien – Penn State head coach

The latest: He’s another college coach drawing quite a bit of interest. According to David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News, the Eagles, Browns and Cardinals all plan on interviewing O’Brien. There would be issues to work around for teams pursuing O’Brien, including a buyout in his contract with Penn State. But he has plenty of qualities owners and GMs will covet. O’Brien has five years of NFL experience with the Patriots, he led the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 record amid difficult circumstances, and he’s held a variety of college assistant jobs. Those who have covered O’Brien closely suggest he’ll shine during the interview process. At this point, it’d be a surprise if the Eagles decided not to give O’Brien a serious look.

Mike McCoyOffensive coordinator, Denver Broncos

The latest: A source confirmed Wednesday morning that the Eagles plan on meeting with McCoy. They’ll need to get in line. The Broncos offensive coordinator is also drawing interest from the Bears, Bills and Cardinals. What’s there to like about McCoy? He has an excellent track record of maximizing the potential of quarterbacks he’s worked with – like Jake Delhomme, Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow. This year, his job’s been a little bit easier with Peyton Manning. The Broncos are second in the NFL in scoring offense. McCoy is only 40-years-old and is the kind of coach Lurie might envision leading the franchise for several years to come.

Jon Gruden – ESPN analyst

The latest: As always, his situation is fluid. It looks like Gruden might have put some feelers out but ended up unable to find a fit – either because of his demands or lack of team interest. His name had been in rumors at the beginning of the week, but Dan Pompei of the National Football Post reported yesterday that Gruden is leaning towards staying at ESPN. Either way, I’m not ready to rule him out completely just yet.

Doug Marrone – Syracuse head coach

The latest: According to an Inquirer report, Marrone is one of the candidates the Eagles are expected to target. Like O’Brien, he has NFL experience in addition to having been a college head coach. Marrone was the Saints offensive coordinator from 2006 to 2008. And he coached the Jets offensive line from 2002 to 2005.

Mike Nolan – Falcons defensive coordinator

The latest: The Eagles were scheduled to interview him today. Tim talked to Dan Reeves about Nolan’s credentials and his desire for a second chance. There’s no doubt that Nolan is a respected defensive coordinator, but he went just 18-37 in three-plus seasons with the 49ers. That history will be tough to sell to a frustrated fan base. Then again, Lurie said the Eagles are going to make the right choice, even if it’s not the most popular one. No other team has been linked to Nolan.

Keith ArmstrongFalcons special-teams coordinator

The latest: The Eagles were scheduled to interview him today also. Armstrong has drawn interest from the Bears and Chiefs too. There’s been a lot of talk this offseason about giving special-teams coaches a look. Armstrong played his college ball at Temple and is a Levittown native. Given some of the coaches he’s up against, Armstrong would likely have to knock the interview with Lurie out of the park.

Greg Roman – Offensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers

What you need to know: I’m a bit surprised he has not had any interviews (or at least any interviews leaked). Like the Broncos and Falcons, the 49ers have a first-round bye, meaning Roman is free to talk to interested teams this week. I’m not ready to rule him out yet since we’re so early in the process.

The following candidates cannot interview this week because their current teams have games this weekend. All were on our original list (which contains information on each candidate).

Jay Gruden – Offensive coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals

Gus Bradley – Defensive coordinator, Seattle Seahawks

Darrell Bevell – Offensive coordinator, Seattle Seahawks

Mike Zimmer – Defensive coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals

Ben McAdoo – Packers quarterbacks coach

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Coaching Buzz: O’Brien ‘Strongly Considering’ Interviewing

The Bill O’Brien buzz is not going away.

The latest from SI.com’s Peter King:

You can find everything we’ve written about O’Brien right here. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported on Sunday that the Penn State head coach is on the short list of both the Eagles and the Browns.

There are some important questions with O’Brien. Would he leave Happy Valley after one year? And what are the exact terms of his buyout? Mortensen reported that O’Brien believed initially that the Jerry Sandusky fallout would be a criminal matter not subject to NCAA sanctions.

David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News reports that the buyout is even more than initially believed. He throws out the possibility that O’Brien is simply trying to gain leverage to re-negotiate his current deal.

O’Brien would seem to fit the qualities Jeffrey Lurie is looking for in a head coach. A forward-thinking leader willing to take risks, as the owner described yesterday.

Then again, how would leaving Penn State after one year reflect on O’Brien as a leader? That’s something owners and GMs will have to assess.


Oregon’s Chip Kelly is Joe Banner’s top choice in Cleveland, two high-ranking personnel executives tell Adam Caplan. But Kelly is getting ready for Thursday’s Fiesta Bowl and won’t talk NFL.

“I’ve got a game to play,” he said, per the Associated Press. “We’re playing in the Fiesta Bowl. That’s the biggest thing in my life. If I allowed other things to get into my life, then they would be distractions, but there aren’t. Our focus 100 percent is on the Fiesta Bowl. My heart is to win today and that’s it. I know everybody wants to hear a different answer. And I know that at times when I don’t give you guys the answer that you guys want, then I’m being evasive. I’m not being evasive.”


Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is a hot name. The Buffalo Bills have asked for permission to interview him, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

As you can see in our special coach tracker post, the Bears and Cardinals are also expected to interview McCoy.

For all the latest coaching buzz, click right here.

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Coaching Buzz: Eagles To Interview Nolan, Armstrong

The Eagles apparently like what they’ve seen from the 13-3 Falcons this season.

Birds 24/7 has confirmed  that the team has asked for permission to interview Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong.

Nolan is looking for a second head-coaching opportunity. The 49ers were 18-37 in three-plus seasons under his direction from 2005 to 2008. Nolan has served as a defensive coordinator for seven different teams: the Falcons (2012); Dolphins (2010-2011); Broncos (2009); Ravens (2002-2004); Jets (2000); Redskins (1997-1999); and Giants (1993-1996).

The Falcons are fifth in scoring defense, allowing 18.7 points per game, and rank 11th in Football Outsiders’ defensive rankings.

Nolan was 35 when he first became a defensive coordinator and is now 53.

Armstrong, 47, has been the Falcons’ special-teams coach for the past five seasons. His units have produced up-and-down results, per Football Outsiders’ rankings: seventh in 2008, 22nd in 2009, third in 2010; 22nd in 2011; and 16th in 2012.

Prior to joining the Falcons’ staff, Armstrong served as special-teams coach of the Dolphins from 2001 to 2006 and Chicago’s special teams coach from 1997 to 2000. Armstrong was Atlanta’s secondary coach in 1996 and the Falcons’ safeties coach in 1994 and 1995. He played his college ball at Temple from 1983 to 1986 and served as a graduate assistant with the Owls in 1987. He’s originally from Levittown.

The Rooney Rule stipulates that teams must interview at least one minority candidate. Armstrong would qualify.

Because the Falcons are in the playoffs, Eagles brass are scheduled to travel to Atlanta to interview all three candidates on Wednesday, according to the report.


Andy Reid will be one of three candidates to interview with the Cardinals, according to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic.

Reid has remained committed to coaching somewhere in 2013. The Arizona gig would reunite him with Kevin Kolb, the quarterback he selected in the second round of the 2007 draft. The Cardinals have an elite wide receiver in Larry Fitzgerald and several talented pieces on defense like linebacker Daryl Washington, defensive lineman Calais Campbell and cornerback Patrick Peterson.

The other two candidates interviewing for the job are current Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.

* It looks like we might have to pump the brakes on the Jon Gruden rumors:

Pompei, a columnist for the National Football Post and Chicago Tribune reported Sunday that Gruden was looking to return, suggesting the Eagles could be a likely landing spot. Either Gruden didn’t receive any offers he liked, or this flip-flopping will continue. Not ready to rule anything out yet.

* The Chip Kelly/Eagles buzz continues.

Jay Gruden cannot interview with teams this week since the Bengals take on the Texans on Saturday.

* And finally, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is staying put.

As always, catch all the latest coaching buzz in our special section.

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Coaching Buzz: Jon Gruden Rumors Continue

Yesterday, we brought you a report from Dan Pompei of the National Football Post, which suggested there’s “a good chance” of Jon Gruden becoming the next Eagles head coach.

And today, those rumors continue.

Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com reports that teams have quietly been in contact with Gruden’s representatives the past few weeks. And Gruden could start interviewing with teams as soon as today.

Per Freeman, the two teams to pay special attention to are the San Diego Chargers and (wait for it…) the Philadelphia Eagles.

That’s now two reports in two days linking Gruden to the Birds.


ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported yesterday that Penn State’s Bill O’Brien is on the Eagles’ short list of coaching candidates. One key with O’Brien is that his contract contains a buyout. And according to David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News, the buyout would be for $18.4 million, not $9.2 million, as previously reported. Jones argues that O’Brien may not want to bolt for the NFL right now, but he wants to have the buyout clause removed from his contract so that he can leave in the future without such significant repercussions.

No, I think it’s about freedom. O’Brien wants to have his options open, to be able to go to the NFL in the future should he so desire. If he and his agent can get the buyout clause removed, then he can pursue his NFL dream after next season or some subsequent one.

Bottom line: I still anticipate O’Brien will coach Penn State in the 2013 season. After that might depend partly upon what gets done – or doesn’t – in the next few weeks.

Mortensen also reports that O’Brien was initially told the program wouldn’t face such stiff NCAA sanctions. And that could be an issue when trying to enforce the buyout.


A rundown of firings as of Monday morning:

Romeo Crennel is out in Kansas City, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Pat Shurmur and Tom Heckert are out in Cleveland, per FoxSports.com’s Jay Glazer.

Mike Tannenbaum is out as GM of the Jets, but Rex Ryan is staying put, per ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini.

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