Lurie On Foles: ‘He’s Going To Have A Great Opportunity’

PHOENIX — Much has been made of the fact that Nick Foles doesn’t appear to have the exact skill set that Chip Kelly seems to prefer. Namely, that Kelly likes a QB who poses a threat to run, and Foles is no threat.

Lurie, in a newsy session with a small group of reporters at the owners meetings Monday, spoke highly of the signal-caller.

“I think it’s to be determined but Nick showed an awful lot before he broke his hand,” said the Eagles owner. “Poise and accuracy. We’re real excited about Nick. I think the best thing is to say to be determined how it’s going to work, but he’s going to have a great opportunity. He’s really bright, he’s a very hard worker, he has all the intangibles. We just have to see how he can maximize it or not.”

Some other highlights:

– Lurie said that he would push for a Super Bowl in Philadelphia if New York is a success.

“I will, yes I will. If it’s a success New York will help us,” he said.

– On the decision to move training camp to Philadelphia:

“We had a wonderful experience with Lehigh. They were fantastic. I loved the fan engagement there. I think with NovaCare being one of the top facilities — teams are really tending towards bringing it all to their home facility, and finding ways as Don [Smolenski] has done to really have some great fan engagement during that process in the stadium. It’s bringing it into the city, which we haven’t done for a while, and that’s exciting, too. Real exciting.

“It’s interesting when we interviewed coaches, we asked every coach what would they prefer because we tend to defer to the coach on this. And it was unanimous that every coach we interviewed I think that they wanted training camp, if you have a great facility, to be seamless with the facility the players are going to be training in year round.”

Jeffrey Lurie On Decision To Attend Geno Smith’s Workout

PHOENIX — Jeffrey Lurie addressed a number of topics Monday afternoon at the owners meetings at the Biltmore hotel in Phoenix, including his decision to attend Geno Smith‘s pro day in Morgantown recently.

“It’s a common thing when it’s an important decision,” said the Eagles owner. “We haven’t had a high draft pick for 14 years, and I think it’s true with anybody that we’re going to look at that you want to have all the information you can. It’s a very important decision for us if we stay at No. 4 there.”

So you will be going to the workouts for all the potential picks at No. 4?

“Not necessarily,” Lurie responded. “When you select a quarterback it’s a very big decision so you want to have every piece of information you can and just have as many eyes on it. Nothing more than that, but it’s an important thing.”

Lurie said he probably hadn’t attended a private workout since Donovan McNabb‘s back in 1999.

“It’s also probably the last time we had a ‘lottery pick.’ I don’t expect to probably be doing it in the future, but it doesn’t have to be a lottery pick,” said Lurie. “Just an important pick.”

Lurie generally speaks once during training camp and at the end of the season, but stopped to talk with a small group of reporters outside of the plush Biltmore hotel on the first official day of the meetings.

 

Eagles’ Brass Work Out Geno Smith

The Eagles’ brass traveled to Morgantown, W. Va. today to work out quarterback Geno Smith, a league source confirmed.

Pro Football Talk first had the report.

Chip Kelly, Howie Roseman and Jeffrey Lurie made the trip to meet with Smith, who is expected to be the first quarterback off the board in April’s draft.

This is the time of year where teams do their due diligence on draft prospects. But Lurie’s presence at the workout is interesting. Perhaps the team is really interested in taking Smith with the No. 4 pick, and the owner wants to get a look at the QB prospect. Or perhaps the Eagles want to create the impression that they’re interested in Smith for trade purposes.

Smith (6-2, 218) threw 98 touchdowns and 21 interceptions as a three-year starter for the Mountaineers. He completed 71.2 percent of his passes.

Earlier this month, we rounded up what draft analysts like Mike Mayock and Greg Cosell thought of Smith.

As we’ve stated in the past, the key here is what Kelly thinks of Smith. If he believes Smith has a high ceiling and can be a franchise QB, the Eagles absolutely have to consider him with the No. 4 pick.

A couple weeks ago, I ran down five players the Eagles could take in the first round, and Smith made the cut.

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Banner: We Felt Kelly Was Too Big Of a Gamble

The Cleveland Browns were the first team to get to Chip Kelly.

Joe Banner and company met with Kelly in Arizona on the Friday after the Fiesta Bowl. Reports surfaced that night that the two sides were close to a deal. But on Saturday, the Eagles got their shot and made the most of it. It seemed that Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman had one-upped Banner for the guy both sides viewed as the top option on the market.

But that’s not exactly how Banner sees it.

Speaking to SI.com’s Peter King, Banner commented on the Kelly hiring for the first time since the news was announced last week.

“We removed ourselves from the process. We really liked Chip. He’s intriguing, a very different thinker, and very smart. But you could see he was uncertain what he wanted to do. He may be in Philadelphia 10 years or longer and have a terrific career. But the fact he committed to Tampa Bay last year, backed out, then seemed all year to be leaning toward going to the NFL, then being so uncertain with us, we just felt it was too big a gamble. If there was no ambivalence, we may have offered him the job.”

Last week, Lurie and Banner traded barbs through the media. Lurie accused his old pal of spreading negative stories about Roseman. Banner, meanwhile, said the claims bordered on being “libelous.”

Kelly and Lurie have emphasized multiple times that the coach was deciding between the Eagles and Oregon. The way they told it, Cleveland was never really in the mix.

“The other thing that was really clear after we interviewed Chip, we got a call from his agent, and we also found out via Chip that it was just a question of if he was going to come back to the NFL, it was only with the Eagles,” Lurie said. “That was obvious. And it was obvious in the interview as well. That was the question, was he going to stay at Oregon or come to the Eagles? That was the basic dilemma he had.”

“I was always going to visit with all three teams that expressed interest in talking to me,” Kelly added. “I said I would always sit down, and when I did listen, it was evident to me that I was either going to go to Philadelphia or stay in Oregon.”

Unfortunately, the Eagles and Browns don’t play each other in 2013. But this likely is not the end of the back-and-forth between the two childhood friends.

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Howie Roseman: Chip Kelly’s a ‘Trend-Setter’

As the Eagles’ brass introduced their new head coach Thursday afternoon, they wanted to make one thing clear: Chip Kelly was not being hired for his offensive scheme.

Since Kelly’s name first started to get linked to NFL head-coaching jobs, many have debated whether his spread-option attack would work at this level. But really, that is the wrong question.

It’s true that the Patriots chatted with Kelly about implementing a one-word no-huddle attack to push tempo. And it’s also true that quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson have had success running the option. But in the NFL, teams will adjust. Especially when they have a full offseason to look at the film and craft a plan.

Perhaps that’s why Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman and company emphasized that they believe Kelly’s greatest strength will be his ability to figure out what’s coming next.

“He’s got an incredible way of thinking about things,” Roseman said. “When we looked at this and studied people who were great – and we had a great head coach – there were people who were out front on the edge of things, and then people are starting to copy. What we learned very quickly, Chip was a trend-setter. The things people were doing, they were following him. He wasn’t a disciple of anyone. People weren’t going, ‘Oh, Chip Kelly, he’s an offshoot of this person or that person.’ He was on the edge of it. And sometimes to find greatness, you’ve got to find the person who’s on top of that, and that’s what we’re trying to find.”

Of course, Kelly wasn’t the only candidate the Eagles targeted. Lurie and Roseman raved about Gus Bradley, who eventually took the Jacksonville Jaguars job. They also had great things to say about Penn State’s Bill O’Brien.

It had been 14 years since Lurie interviewed head-coaching candidates. This was an opportunity for him to pick the brains of some of the league’s top candidates.

“There are so many intriguing philosophies out there, in terms of how to operate an NFL team, that we just learned a tremendous amount, that we will share with Chip as well,” Lurie said. “There is a lot of innovative thought out there. I would have to say probably the most innovative thought on all these fronts was with Chip.”

Kelly might turn out to be the wrong choice, but it’s tough to find fault with how Lurie went about the process. He interviewed a variety of candidates – some from college, some current coordinators, some former NFL head coaches. He was looking for someone who had leadership and vision. And he eventually landed the guy who was at the top of his list.

He was also thinking long-term. Lurie’s first coach, Ray Rhodes, lasted four years. His second coach, Andy Reid, lasted 14. Lurie was patient with Reid, although certainly, a lot of that had to do with Reid’s success. With Kelly, Lurie’s not going to demand a quick turnaround. Kelly signed a five-year deal, and there’s no doubt he’s going to implement changes across the board.

Lurie seems committed to giving him time to get everything in place.

“I really think you’ve got to have somebody very sharp and who sees ahead of the curve, not just what’s happening right now,” Lurie said. “And doesn’t say, ‘Because that team is doing something well, we’re going to copy that team.’ That’s not what we were looking for. We were looking for somebody who is looking out 24 months, 36 months and saying, ‘How do we want to be?’ That’s much more what we’re looking for.”

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Lurie Defends Roseman, Takes Jabs At Banner

Thursday’s proceedings at the NovaCare Complex were about more than just Chip Kelly.

Sure, the afternoon started with the Eagles introducing their new head coach, but owner Jeffrey Lurie took the opportunity to voice his opinion on a couple other issues.

One, he offered an aggressive defense of general manager Howie Roseman. And two, he made sure to point out that his old buddy Joe Banner was never in the mix for Kelly’s services.

During the search process, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com wrote that Roseman was “drunk with power” and said the GM’s presence was turning candidates off. A Harrisburg Patriot-News report suggested that Patriots coach Bill Belichick held Roseman in “low regard.” The article made the point that Belichick’s opinion would hold weight with Eagles target Bill O’Brien, who served previously on the Patriots’ staff.

Lurie indicated that perhaps there were some in the league who stood to benefit from making the Eagles’ job out to be undesirable.

“We knew strategically what was going on with ‘league sources’ and stuff like that,” Lurie said, speaking to a group of writers after the initial press conference. “This was such erroneous reporting it was insane. The reputation, in terms of the people we interviewed and the people who called the people we interviewed, was so positive that I think it dwarfed any of the individual agendas of anybody that was quoted as league sources. It was a joke to us, really.”

Back when the search process first began, Lurie said the Eagles’ job was the best in the NFL. As the team appeared to get turned down by Kelly, O’Brien and Brian Kelly, some mocked Lurie’s proclamation. But the owner defended his initial stance and praised Roseman for his role in the process.

“One of the things I learned – as an owner you learn as you go – was the really great respect that Howie had across the league,” Lurie said. “People were calling our candidates to say, ‘This is a young GM. But he is a very, very sharp guy.’ Andy [Reid] also called some of the candidates and told them what he’s like to work with.

“The benefit we had here, and I can’t underestimate it, and it wasn’t even our doing, but some of the real iconic names in the sport were telling our candidates before they came in that this was by far the best organization to come in and work for – as an organization and a great city. That was all work we didn’t have to do. …They did their research too. It was incredibly positive. I didn’t have to convince anyone of anything.”

Lurie was hesitant to name names, but Kelly mentioned that he talked to Reid, Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden and Dick Vermeil during the process.

Banner and the Browns met with Kelly the day after the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona. An NFL Network report said the two sides were close to a deal. They were scheduled to meet again Saturday evening, but the Eagles got their shot at Kelly earlier. The meeting lasted nine hours, the session with the Browns was pushed back, and Lurie knew then that the Eagles didn’t have any competition.

“The other thing that was really clear after we interviewed Chip, we got a call from his agent, and we also found out via Chip that it was just a question of if he was going to come back to the NFL, it was only with the Eagles,” Lurie said. “That was obvious. And it was obvious in the interview as well. That was the question, was he going to stay at Oregon or come to the Eagles? That was the basic dilemma he had.”

Kelly backed up the owner’s story. Asked about the report that said he was close to a deal with the Browns, Kelly responded, “No, that wasn’t accurate. And I don’t know if it’s a shock to you, but sometimes things that are printed aren’t always true. I met with the Browns, and I was scheduled to meet with the Bills, and I was scheduled to meet with the Eagles. So at the end of the day, meeting with the Browns, they asked kind of where we are. I said my whole approach was that like a recruit. I was going to take my three official visits and then make a determination on what the best spot for me was, and that was always my plan.

“It wasn’t who gets to go first, who gets to go last. I understand how some of that stuff works, but there was never any commitment one way or the other. I was always going to visit with all three teams that expressed interest in talking to me. I said I would always sit down, and when I did listen, it was evident to me that I was either going to go to Philadelphia or stay in Oregon.”

During his time here, Reid often talked about Lurie’s competitive nature. On Thursday, after the owner introduced the coach he coveted, that was on full display.

Update: The Browns released a statement to Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com in which Banner fired back:

“It is always difficult to comment on a quote that may or may not be accurate or in context. In this case, from the comments which Jeffrey made that were communicated to me, it is necessary for me to make this clear, unambiguous statement. Any implication that I had anything to do with Jason La Canfora’s story is completely false, outrageous and borders on being libelous.

“I had absolutely no conversation with Jason La Canfora. Having demonstrated my character over the last 44 years to Jeffrey and the last 14 to Howie, it is beyond disappointing that they would suggest such a thing. As tempting as it is to go further, other than defending myself, I will continue to take the high road on all such matters as I have since the day I left the Eagles.”

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: First Impressions Of Chip Kelly

This was supposed to be the intimate gathering.

Chip Kelly had already sat next to Jeffrey Lurie for about 34 minutes, answering questions from reporters in the jam-packed NovaCare auditorium. Then there were one-on-one interviews for TV. And a chat with the team’s Web site after that.

The last stop was meant to be a less formal meeting with writers in a designated conference room near the cafeteria.

But this is Philadelphia. And the last time a new coach was introduced was 1999 when Kelly was in his first season as New Hampshire’s offensive coordinator. So instead of a handful of writers, Kelly was greeted by 30-plus inquisitive faces.

“What’s the capacity? Are we breaking fire codes here?” Kelly said as he walked in. “I just don’t want the fire codes to tell us we’ve got too many people jammed in one room.”

He took his seat at the head of the table and answered questions, one-by-one. The way Kelly tells it, the nine-hour meeting with Lurie, Howie Roseman and Don Smolenski in Arizona couldn’t have gone any better. It was going to be either the Eagles or Oregon. No one else was in the picture. After giving it some thought, he decided he wasn’t ready to say good-bye to the people of Eugene.

But the door remained slightly open, and Kelly was able to think about his decision some more – this time without fans and reporters tracking his every move.

“I don’t know how it happened, but I guess I was kind of fortunate in how it did happen because they continued to go through their process, and they reached out and I just said I’d think about it,” Kelly said. “But it gave me an opportunity to really think about it and not be kind of under that spotlight, because it’s a little eerie when people know exactly how long you’ve been with people from an hour-to-hour basis. I mean, seriously, it’s kind of creepy to be honest with you. But i understand it. It’s what makes this such a special place in the NFL itself. There’s such a passionate following. Everybody wants to know what’s going on with their team. That’s part of the challenge.”

The question now: Is Kelly committed to that challenge?

Last offseason, he spurned the Tampa Bay Bucs and decided to go back to Oregon. This year, he decided to go back to Oregon before changing his mind again and signing on with the Eagles.

“I’m all in,” Kelly said, obviously unaware of how often that term has been used during Eagles press conferences. “I think it was Cortes who burned the boats. I’ve burned the boats so I’m not going back. I’m in. I’m an NFL coach, and this is where I want to be. If there was any indecision in terms of [not wanting to be in], I wouldn’t have made the jump.”

Lurie was asked if Kelly’s contract contains any language that would allow him to go back to being a college coach if he decides the NFL isn’t for him. Pro Football Talk recently termed this a Saban Clause.

“We constructed the contract exactly the way we wanted to construct it as an organization,” Lurie said. “I can’t go into the details, but Chip was willing to go along exactly how we wanted the contract to be.”

Reading between the lines, the indication was that no such clause exists.

After one final 13-minute session, Kelly was on his way. And so began the start of a new era of Eagles football.

“I don’t think anybody envisioned this,” Kelly said. “I didn’t. I’m excited about the opportunity, and I’m here, so you’re stuck with me.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

Did Kelly and Roseman offer any hints about the team’s plan at quarterback? Tim offers an early read on the situation.

Here’s the story of how Andy Reid and Jon Gruden helped Kelly land in Philly.

Who will run Kelly’s defense? Here are some names.

Tim gets player reaction to the Kelly hire.

And an update to your essential Chip Kelly reading list.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

X’s and O’s won’t be the problem for Kelly, writes Matt Bowen of the National Football Post:

The offense could be tough to prep for (think of the formations and alignments Kelly can roll out on the field) and it will carry that same pace and tempo we see from the Patriots.

However, will the players buy into his coaching? That’s the drill for every new coach in the NFL. I even hit on with the Bears and Marc Trestman in my column over at the Chicago Tribune today. These coaches have to sell the players on a new system of learning, accountability, discipline and so on.

That will be a test for Kelly coming from the college game.

Mike Tanier of SportsOnEarth.com is skeptical of the Kelly hire:

That’s not just a reason for skepticism, but a reason to be more skeptical now than a week and a half ago, when the Kelly coaching search looked like a coaching search, not a romantic comedy. They don’t write ‘em like they used to, back when the coveted candidate was more than a fresh face, when the team came across as confident and capable, and everyone acted like smart, decisive adults. Viewers have lower expectations from their romances these days: an indecisive heartbreaker says yes to a desperate-acting sad sack, and everyone high-fives, except those who high-fived 10 days ago. Everyone lives happily ever after, hopefully, though the foundation of this new union does not feel like bedrock.

In other words, this story may involve Philadelphia, but it is no “Philadelphia Story.”

COMING UP

We’ll have much more coverage from yesterday’s session at Novacare, and we’ll see if Kelly starts to fill out his coaching staff.

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How Gruden, Reid Helped the Eagles Land Kelly

Chip Kelly had been speaking for fewer than three minutes when he brought up a familiar, albeit surprising, name: Andy Reid.

“One person that I really want to thank in terms of advice with this whole thing was Andy Reid,” Kelly said, sitting next to Jeffrey Lurie in the Novacare auditorium Thursday afternoon. “And the fact that Andy reached out to me and told me about his experience here just told me what this organization is all about. There’s not a classier guy. When Andy texted me yesterday when I accepted the job, I told him I had really, really, really big shoes to fill, and in typical Andy fashion, he said, ‘Just be yourself and you’ll be fine.’ So I want to just publicly thank Andy, because that really right there spoke to me about what this organization is all about.”

But Reid wasn’t the only person who Kelly talked to during the last couple weeks.

A concern with Kelly is that he has no NFL experience. He’s never been a head coach, coordinator or position coach at the professional level. Has he made enough connections to put together a staff? Does he know enough people?

Kelly alleviated some of that concern when asked who in the league helped him during the information-gathering process.

“Everybody was great,” Kelly said. “I didn’t talk to anybody that was coaching because they’ve got jobs to do. Jon Gruden’s a good friend, and Jon spent time here. Tony Dungy’s son was on my team at Oregon. I’ve always had a chance to talk to Tony. Dick Vermeil and Andy. …And a lot of times, it was questions about the NFL. Other times, with Gru and Dick and Andy, it was questions about Philadelphia.”

The grouped served as an intermediary of sorts. Lurie thought Kelly was definitely a fit after the nine-hour meeting in Arizona. And Kelly liked the Eagles. But during the process, both were speaking to third parties to make sure they were making educated decisions.

“It’s ironic,” Lurie said. “We spoke to a lot of the same people, not knowing the other one’s talking to the same people. I know he’s close with Tony Dungy. I know he’s close with Jon Gruden, and we all are. I talked to Jon a lot and am very close to Tony as well.”

If you’re wondering whether Lurie interviewed Gruden himself for the coaching job…

“No, I don’t think Jon’s coming back to the NFL this year at all,” he said. “But I respect him and his opinion and we talk a lot.”

Gruden stays in the broadcast booth. Reid moves on to Kansas City. Dungy is in studio for NBC. And Vermeil is enjoying retirement.

But all played a role in the Eagles landing Kelly.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: The Jon Gruden Argument

Jeffrey Lurie’s statement made it clear.

“There is no certain formula here,” he said, when asked if the Eagles were open to hiring a college coach. “Everything is on the table. There are some outstanding college coaches out there and some outstanding coordinators out there. There are outstanding coaches that used to coach in the National Football League out there. [We’ll leave] no stone unturned, and we’re open to it all.”

As of this morning, it’s been two weeks since the Eagles fired Andy Reid and Lurie made those comments. He has stayed true to his words (for the most part). He’s looked at college coaches (Chip Kelly, Bill O’Brien, Brian Kelly). He’s looked at coordinators (Gus Bradley, Mike McCoyJay Gruden). And he’s looked at previous head coaches (Brian Billick, Lovie Smith, Mike Nolan).

With every new day, it seems like a new name surfaces. But through it all, one has been missing: Jon Gruden.

This is not about finding someone fiery or appeasing the sports-talk calling masses. It’s about leaving no stone unturned, as Lurie put it. So let’s review the key points and questions on both sides of the Gruden argument, one-by-one:

Is Gruden’s resume really that impressive?

Everyone discusses the Tampa years, but Gruden’s first shot as a head coach came in Oakland. He inherited a team that had gone 11-21 the previous two seasons. Gruden had a pair of 8-8 years and then turned the Raiders into a playoff team. They went 12-4 and 10-6 in 2000 and 2001, making the playoffs both years. In the 11 seasons since Gruden left, the Raiders have had a winning record once. That was in 2002, the year after he departed.

And then there’s Tampa. An overall 57-55 record with the Bucs is not all that impressive. It’s true that Gruden inherited a team that had made the playoffs the previous three seasons. But Tampa had also experienced first-round exits in back-to-back years. In 2002, with Gruden, they won the Super Bowl. He had a lot of Tony Dungy’s players, but as this article explains, there were some changes made to the roster that year. Gruden’s Tampa teams finished with a winning record in four of seven seasons and made the postseason three times.

What went wrong during the end of his tenure there?

If I’m an owner, this is one of the first questions I pose to Gruden, and also one that I do a lot of my own homework on. After the Super Bowl season, Gruden’s teams missed out on the postseason in four of six years. During his final season in Tampa, the Bucs closed out the season on a four-game losing streak and finished 9-7 after starting out 9-3.

Things got ugly. Simeon Rice called Gruden a “scumbag.” Wide receiver Michael Clayton called him a turncoat. Assistant coaches had some not-so-nice things to say about Gruden and his ego. And so, he was shown the door.

Gruden never developed a young quarterback.

This is true to a point. Then again, unless I missed something, the guys he was working with didn’t exactly go on to bigger and better things – like Pro Bowls and Super Bowls – when Gruden was out of the picture. I mean, we’re talking about Brian Griese, Chris Simms and Bruce Gradkowski here.

On the other hand, Gruden helped Rich Gannon (95.5 QB rating in 2001 at the age of 36), Brad Johnson (22 TDs, 6 INTs at the age of 34 during the Super Bowl year) and Jeff Garcia (92.2 QB rating in 2007-2008 at the age of 37) to some very productive years.

What about his personnel decisions?

This is an important one. How much control are you willing to give Gruden, given his track record? How much say would he demand? Those are questions a team like the Eagles would have to ask itself. It’s true that Gruden wasn’t responsible for building Tampa’s Super Bowl team. But the Bucs had just one pick in the first two rounds in Gruden’s first two seasons there. In other words, building his own core for the long-term was challenging.

Does Gruden want to coach? Why aren’t the Eagles talking to him?

On the final day of the regular season, reports surfaced that Gruden and the Eagles could be a realistic match, but nothing ever materialized (publicly, anyway). Ron Jaworski, a friend of Gruden’s, indicated last week that Gruden could be interested in the Eagles, but the team hasn’t reached out to him. Mike Mayock and Dick Vermeil, two well-connected members of the NFL community, recently called for the Eagles to go after Gruden too.

No coach has ever won a Super Bowl with one team and gone on to hoist the Lombardi Trophy with a second team. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Gruden’s only 49, and there’s at least a chance that he learned from his previous experiences and comes back improved. Ray Didinger explained this theory well on Daily News Live last week.

“He’s had the advantage of being out of it a little bit, but not too long,” Didinger said. “Four years is a good time to kind of catch your breath, re-charge, and when you’re around the game the way Jon’s around the game now as a broadcaster… he’s spent four years now traveling around the league, broadcasting games, spending time with every coaching staff, looking at tape, picking people’s brains. I’ve seen guys do this before. They get out of the game, are away from it a little bit, but continue to learn. And when they come back and get an opportunity to be a head coach again, they come back a better version of what they were. And I think Jon’s a smart enough guy that if he gets that opportunity, I think he’ll do that. …Whoever gets him next, I think, is going to get a very good coach.”

So, are the Eagles interested? There’s been little indication lately that they are. But remember, Lurie and company can be secretive when they choose to be. Admitting interest in Gruden and then hiring someone else would be a public-relations disaster. We didn’t find out about the O’Brien interview until after he already decided to stay at Penn State. We didn’t find out about Billick until several days after they met with him. And just recently, a report surfaced that they made a call or two about Bill Cowher.

If the Eagles looked into the Gruden possibility and decided against it, that’s OK. Maybe there are issues from when Gruden was the Eagles offensive coordinator back in the 90s. Maybe he’s making unreasonable contract demands. Maybe he wants full personnel control. Or maybe the story of how things fell apart in Tampa is even worse than we know. After all, it hasn’t been just the Eagles. No team has expressed interest publicly in Gruden this offseason. If Lurie and Howie Roseman did their homework and decided Gruden would be a bad fit, that’s fine.

But there’s always the possibility of another surprise candidate, especially if Lurie’s not smitten with any of his current remaining options.

Considering his comments at the beginning of the search and the nature of the process, Lurie would be making a mistake if he didn’t at least look into Gruden as an option somewhere along the line.

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles have reportedly interviewed Billick. Tim’s got some details.

The Birds are in the mix for CFL and former USC defensive tackle Armon Armstead.

Now that Brian Kelly has decided to stay at Notre Dame, is the pressure on the Eagles?

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune has some details on the Eagles’ pursuit of Brian Kelly:

In a phone conversation with the Tribune on Saturday, athletics director Jack Swarbrick laid out the timeline of the entire process: The Eagles first contacted Kelly, who had them contact Swarbrick, which they did the day after firing coach Andy Reid in late December.

Swarbrick asked that any conversations wait until after the BCS title game. Meanwhile, back in early December, Swarbrick had assured Kelly that a new deal was forthcoming.

… A league source said Kelly never received an offer from the Eagles. Which is logical, because the franchise had asked for a second meeting with Kelly to take place next week, if he desired it. No offer would have arrived before then.

It’s not directly Eagles-related, but Dan Le Batard has a must-read piece on Jason Taylor and the pain of playing in the NFL in The Miami Herald:

Dolphins legend Jason Taylor, for example, grew up right before our eyes, from a skinny Akron kid to a future Hall of Famer, his very public path out in front of those lights for 15 years. But take a look at what was happening in the dark. He was just a few blessed hours from having his leg amputated. He played games, plural, with a hidden and taped catheter running from his armpit to his heart. His calf was oozing blood for so many months, from September of one year to February of another, that he had to have the equivalent of a drain installed. This is a story of the private pain endured in pursuit of public glory, just one man’s broken body on a battlefield littered with thousands of them.

COMING UP

Jay Gruden is expected to interview with the Eagles today. We also have our last Birds 24/7 show on 97.5 The Fanatic from 6 to 7. Stop by Smith’s at 19th and Chestnut if you’re in the area.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Pressure Is On Now

The Eagles’ game plan heading into this coaching search now seems pretty obvious.

They were going to swing and swing hard at some of the big name college coaches early, and see if they couldn’t land a Kelly or an O’Brien or any collegiate coach with an Irish last name and some sizzle. There was an inherent risk in this strategy: such a pursuit will draw headlines, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to lure these guys out of some of the top programs in the country. Come up empty, and your quest will look like a failure.

After Brian Kelly became the third coach to deny their advances, the Eagles have to be stinging a bit. It has undoubtedly served as a reality check  that, while this is certainly a good job, it might not be as desirable as Jeffrey Lurie made it out to be when he called it “the most attractive place for a head coach to work in the National Football League.”

That said, they knew that striking out was a possibility, as evidenced by the number of interviews they have conducted or will conduct in the coming days. It might be Plan B, but there is a plan in place.

The trick now is to get one of the targeted assistants to say, “Yes.”  And the pool is dwindling.

Bruce Arians, slated to meet with the Eagles Tuesday, reportedly favors San Diego as a landing spot. Jay Gruden, interviewing with the Eagles Monday, has a few suitors and does not sound in a hurry to leave Cincinnati in the first place. Mike Nolan and Keith Armstrong  don’t appear to be moving the meter. A couple reporters have suggested that the interview with Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy did not go all that well; and Lovie Smith might have a tough time convincing Lurie that he can cure what ails the Eagles’ offense.

That seems to leave Gus Bradley as the most desirable/realistic candidate. His name is playing well in Philadelphia, he’s extremely well-respected by his peers, and his coaching acumen and personality appear to fit the bill.

But with a total of five openings across the NFL, who is to say they can land him?

Losing out on the college coaches is not the end of the world. But now the pressure is on.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Sheil with some details on Kelly’s decision to stay at Notre Dame.

The Eagles reportedly reached out to Bill Cowher about their coaching vacancy.

Kapadia details how the Eagles will have to proceed if they want to further pursue Bradley.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Paul Domowitch caught up with Monte Kiffin, who is very high on Bradley:

“I try not to exaggerate,” Kiffin, who once called Bradley a once-in-a-lifetime coach, told the Daily News in a telephone interview last week. “But this guy is good.

“I’ve told people I’ve talked to in the last week or so, if you interview him, there’s a good chance you’ll hire him. He’ll walk in [to the interview] and take over the room.”

Arians talked about his future with USA Today:

“I have a great job. I love it here so much,” Arians said. “I’ve never been treated with more respect in my career than I have here, so it would be hard to leave.

“It’s going to have to be a perfect fit for me to leave, but you always want to win one of those Super Bowls on your own.”

Irsay wouldn’t disclose how much he’s paying Arians as coordinator, but said he’s offered him a sizable six-figure increase to remain with the Colts.

“You want to have him here,” Irsay said, “but if he has an opportunity to be a head coach, it’s hard to stop that. Money can’t really stop that.”

COMING UP

Phase III of the coaching search. We’ll keep you up to speed.

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