Jeffrey Lurie’s hiring of Chip Kelly had long been viewed as a risky one with high upside, but also with plenty of room for failure.
Before his time in Philadelphia, Kelly had experienced nothing but success. He was instrumental in turning Oregon into an elite college football mainstay, and was regarded as one of the bright offensive minds in the world.
At the end of the Kelly era, winds had changed. His offense was sliding, his team’s record was sinking, and his defense was breaking.
The Eagles were out of the playoff picture for the second straight season, which didn’t sit well with a fanbase and organization spoiled by Andy Reid’s four consecutive trips to the NFC Championship game in the early 2000s.
Gus Bradley held court on the field of Ladd-Peebles Stadium following Senior Bowl practice Tuesday, dressed in Jaguars gear and wearing a big grin.
Half the media in the gathering was from Philadelphia, steering questions away from what’s to come in Jacksonville to talk about what almost was with the Eagles.
The brief courtship drew big attention. Bradley had heard about the passion of this fan base, and saw it first hand before he even touched down on Philly soil.
“It was crazy,” said Bradley when asked about thousands of fans tracking his flight. “We were flying in the airplane and they said, ‘We’re going to land at a different airport.’ And I said, ‘OK, I guess we’re going to a different airport.’
“It was flattering. But I don’t think it was me, I think it was the possibility of a new head coach.”
The former Seahawks defensive coordinator is forever linked to Philadelphia and the Chip Kelly hire. He was the second man in line behind Kelly, so it’s natural to follow his career and see how it compares to the man the Eagles chose over him.
It appeared that Bradley was in the driver’s seat when he was brought in for a second interview. But the Eagles, quietly talking with Kelly behind the scenes, allowed Bradley to leave town without a deal. Bradley took off for Jacksonville.
“I knew that they just needed some time,” said Bradley. “My whole intent was to go down to Jacksonville and see what that was all about. Once I got on the plane and was heading there I really forgot about Philadelphia. I knew their decision would come in time, and my focus was to do a good job down in Jacksonville.”
Jeffrey Lurie delivered the news to Bradley that they were going with Kelly. Bradley said the whole process was handled “first-class” by the Eagles, and they left on very positive terms. There were signs of that on Tuesday, as Bradley spent time mingling with Eagles employees on the practice field.
“It’s a special place,” said Bradley of Philadelphia. “I’m sure Chip Kelly will do good. That’s what I told Jeffrey: ‘It sounds like you got the guy that you were really going after.’ And that’s great. I’m happy for them. I’m extremely happy in Jacksonville.”
As the conversation switched back to the future, Bradley offered a vision of how he sees his new team playing under him.
“I have this image that we’re going to be extremely tough and play with a lot of poise,” said Bradley. “That keeps popping into my mind. Guys that are passionate about the game.”
Gus Bradley left for Jacksonville this morning without a deal.
That does not guarantee that he will not be the next head coach of the Eagles, but it does open the door to other scenarios.
One name to keep an eye on is Ken Whisenhunt, who interviewed on Monday. One league source believes it is a two-man race between Whisenhunt and Bradley right now, but really only Jeffrey Lurie knows for sure.
The 50-year old Whisenhunt is coming off six up and down years as head coach of the Cardinals, going 45-51 and 4-2 in the postseason. Arizona made the playoffs in two of his first three seasons at the helm and defeated the Eagles in the NFC Championship during the 2008 season, putting the Cardinals into the Super Bowl for the first time in their history.
The Cardinals have had three winning seasons over the past 28 years, and two came under Whisenhunt. His quarterback situation deteriorated when Kurt Warner hung it up after the 2009 season. Replaced by the likes of Derek Anderson, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb and Ryan Lindley, the Cardinals went 5-11, 8-8 and 5-11 over the last three seasons and Whisenhunt was shown the door.
Prior to his stint with the Cardinals, Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator of the Steelers from 2004-06 and helped Pittsburgh capture a Lombardi trophy.
Just how interested are the Eagles? According to a league source, Whisenhunt vaulted ahead of Brian Billick in the Eagles’ pecking order after Monday’s sit-down.
Billick and Lovie Smith are two names still rattling around as well.
If it is indeed Bradley versus Whisenhunt, then it pits defense against offense, freshness against experience, promise against a known commodity.
Lurie allowed Bradley to leave town. That puts other options back on the table, and Whisenhunt seems to be one of them.
The Eagles are letting Gus Bradley get out of town today.
The Seahawks defensive coordinator will travel to Jacksonville to interview for the Jaguars head-coaching position, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Bradley spent several hours yesterday interviewing with Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman and Don Smolenski at Lurie’s home. The logical guess was that if the Eagles viewed Bradley as their No. 1 target, they would have worked hard on getting a deal done today, without letting him leave Philadelphia. But that apparently is not happening, which would indicate other candidates are in the mix.
So, where does this leave the Eagles? Bradley shouldn’t be ruled out completely, although the chances of him landing here take a big hit with him leaving town.
Ken Whisenhunt vaulted past Brian Billick in the Eagles’ eyes, sources told McManus. The team has also interviewed Lovie Smith, Mike Nolan and Jay Gruden. But Smith left town to interview with other teams. Nolan has said that he’ll only leave Atlanta for the perfect opportunity. And there’s been little indication that the team considers Jay Gruden a serious candidate.
There’s also the possibility that the search goes on. The Eagles probably would have liked to have a coach in place by the end of the week so that the staff could travel to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. this weekend. But it’s clear that they are going to continue to be thorough. Perhaps a surprise candidate pops up at the last second? Someone who isn’t on anybody’s radar?
There are currently three head-coaching positions available: Philadelphia, Jacksonville and Arizona. The Bears will hire Montreal Alouettes (CFL) coach Marc Trestman, the team announced.
As for the other two openings, Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will interview with the Cardinals and the Jaguars, per Albert Breer of NFL Network. Arizona has requested permission to talk to Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians as well. And49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman is also thought to be on Jacksonville’s radar.
We’ll have updates throughout the day so check back early and often.
The Eagles’ search for a head coach is not over just yet.
Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley was in town Tuesday to meet with Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman and Don Smolenski. Bradley is the only candidate who’s interviewed a second time, but there’s a caveat. His first interview was brief because Bradley was in the middle of preparing for Seattle’s divisional round matchup against the Falcons.
And so yesterday, everyone got to know each other a little better. Can’t you just picture it? Howie pouring drinks. Jeffrey asking Gus for one more “Do your job!” reenactment. Don wondering if Bradley will show up to the Halloween party dressed as Walter White.
I’m sure a good time was had by all.
But the question now is this: Is Lurie ready to make an offer? That we don’t know – yet.
An answer is likely coming soon (we mean it this time). Bradley is scheduled to travel to Jacksonville today to meet with the Jaguars about their head-coaching position. If he gives Shahid Khan a call and tells him he can’t make it, we know Bradley is probably hanging around Philadelphia to work on hammering out a deal with the Eagles.
But if Bradley gets on the plane, we know Lurie did not consider him a slam dunk. Could he still become the Eagles’ coach? Sure. The odds, however, would go down considerably.
If not Bradley, then who? Lurie said the Eagles’ search would be exhaustive, and it has been. Many names have been crossed off the list for a variety of reasons. Left standing (along with Bradley) are Ken Whisenhunt, Brian Billick, Lovie Smith and Jay Gruden. All have interviewed once with the Eagles. None have found work elsewhere just yet.
And finally, there’s the possibility of a surprise candidate. Lurie surprising us all with a name that comes out of nowhere. Guys like Brian Kelly and Billick were not considered potential candidates when this whole process began. Is there another name we’re all missing?
We’ll find out soon enough, although there’s no guarantee about when the new coach will be announced. At some point today, though, we should find out whether Bradley’s going to be the guy.
Word came down around 10 o’clock Tuesday night that the Eagles’ meeting with Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley had come to a close. And while fans all around the Delaware Valley awaited a verdict, one has yet to be delivered.
Bradley arrived in Philadelphia around 2:30 Tuesday afternoon and was taken by an Eagles’ employee to meet once again with Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman and team president Don Smolenski. If the meeting ended around the time that the media were notified, it could have lasted upwards of seven hours.
While several reports through the day indicated a deal was imminent, sources maintained that no decision had been made and the Eagles were looking at this sit-down as a continuation from Saturday’s interview, which was just a couple hours, given that Bradley and his Seahawks had to play in a divisional playoff game against the Falcons the next day.
Bradley is reportedly scheduled to meet with the Jaguars Wednesday.
Will the Eagles let him leave Philadelphia?
To be determined. This much we know: While the public drumbeat grew louder for the “Gus Bus” to get its own parking spot at One NovaCare Way, the rest of the candidates had not been informed as of late Tuesday night to look elsewhere for work. The Eagles have been publicly tied to 12 candidates during this coaching search. It is altogether possible that they also had some clandestine meetings as well.
Of those 12, Brian Billick, Jay Gruden, Mike Nolan, Ken Whisenhunt, Lovie Smith and Bradley are the only reasonable possibilities in all likelihood. Bruce Arians may have been on that list earlier today, but a league source indicated that he is now off the Eagles’ radar. Nolan has said that he would like to stay in Atlanta, but theoretically that could change.
Whisenhunt was a late addition to the party, interviewing on Monday — the same day as Jay Gruden. He did well enough to vault past Billick, per sources, and is a candidate worth at least keeping an eye on if Bradley turns out not to be the guy. Smith’s name hasn’t been mentioned much since his interview, but he also has not been publicly discounted.
It is still very much a possibility that Gus Bradley will become the next head coach of the Eagles. But we are not there yet.
Bradley will be in Philadelphia this afternoon for his second interview, which is being described by a league source as a continuation of the first interview back in Atlanta. That sit-down between Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman, Don Smolenski and Bradley was shorter than they would have liked, given that it was awkwardly scheduled the day before Seattle’s divisional playoff game against the Falcons.
The Seahawks are now out of the postseason running and Bradley is available. He is expected to meet with the Jaguars on Wednesday, though that can always be cancelled if the meeting with the Eagles turns serious.
There have been reports flying around suggesting that it is a done deal between Bradley and the Eagles, but several sources have shot down that notion. One league source said that agents of other potential candidates have not been told that the race is over, and at least one still believes there is open competition.
The team had no other second interviews scheduled as of early Tuesday.
The Eagles met with Jay Gruden and Ken Whisenhunt on Monday. Whisenhunt made a strong case for himself by focusing on his accomplishments, which includes a Super Bowl win as offensive coordinator of the Steelers and Super Bowl appearance as head coach of the Cardinals in less than ideal circumstances. He is now considered ahead of Brian Billick in terms of desirable candidates.
Bruce Arians, meanwhile, is no longer part of the equation. There was a report that the Colts offensive coordinator would interview with the Eagles Tuesday, but the team came out Monday night and said nothing was scheduled. Moments later, the second interview with Bradley was announced for that day. Arians is now considered “off the radar.”
Bradley is very much on it. It might not be a stretch to call him the front-runner, but he’s not at the finish line quite yet.
Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is accepting the San Diego Chargers head-coaching job, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The Eagles interviewed McCoy early in the process, but did not appear to be interested in him after the meeting.
There is, however, a domino effect here. The Chargers had interviewed Gus Bradley before the Eagles. He obviously will not be headed to San Diego now. The Jaguars have scheduled an interview with Bradley on Wednesday, according to Schefter. Of course, if the Eagles and Bradley agree to terms today, he’ll never make that trip.
It’s important to see where the chips fall around the league in terms of coordinators also. Assuming McCoy to San Diego, if the Eagles hire Bradley, that would only leave three jobs remaining: Arizona, Jacksonville and Chicago. The Bears are down to three finalists, according to Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times: Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Montreal Alouettes (CFL) head coach Marc Trestman.
The Cardinals were also interested in McCoy, but now will have to come up with an alternative. That could be defensive coordinator Ray Horton. If Horton doesn’t land the Cardinals head-coaching job, he could stay in Arizona and continue to run the defense. Or he could be available for other teams.
According to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com, Ken Whisenhunt could end up replacing McCoy as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator. Whisenhunt had drawn interest from the Eagles, Bills, Chargers and Browns for their head-coaching gigs.
Lovie Smith interviewed with the Bills, Eagles and Chargers. He, too, may have to settle for a coordinator position if he wants a job in the league next season.
Gus Bradley has been called “the nicest man ever to lead a pack of cutthroats.” It has been written that his “blood type is sunshine.”
Pete Carroll lauded Bradley as the best teacher that he has ever been around.
Safe to say he has built up some good will over the years, and it might just come in handy.
No one speaks more highly of the 46-year-old than Monte Kiffin, who helped discover Bradley and worked alongside him in Tampa Bay.
“He reminds me of (Steelers coach) Mike Tomlin. We hired Mike at 29-years-old out of the University of Cincinnati. It didn’t take long to know that Mike was special, and I knew from Day 1 that Gus was special. He’ll be a head coach in the NFL. He’s got no panic. Some people do, it doesn’t mean they’re not really good coaches, but Gus, he’s special. When he interviews, he’ll knock your socks off. I’m not trying to pump him up, but I know what he is. He’s put it on tape up there.”
Birds 24/7 learned through conversations on Monday that Jon Gruden is also very high on Seattle’s defensive coordinator. Bradley served under Gruden from 2006-08, first as a quality control coach and then a linebackers coach. (Maybe it will provide the Gruden fanatics a little peace of mind knowing that their guy at least endorses Bradley’s candidacy.)
It stands to reason that Gruden and the rest of the Bradley supporters could be valuable assets if he is in fact tabbed to be the Eagles’ next head coach (though Kiffin might have to lay low, seeing as he is now the defensive coordinator of the Cowboys). Connections are key in the NFL, especially if you want to build yourself a quality staff. Bradley appears to have that going for him.
Between the rave reviews, the fact that he is a defensive guy and, of course, this video, those positive vibes have found their way into Philadelphia. Bradley has quickly gone from virtual unknown to a popular candidate. There are plenty of fans hoping that he comes in for a second interview Tuesday and never leaves.
You get the feeling that they just might get their wish.