Report: Kelly, Browns Close To Deal

It looks like Joe Banner got his man. Chip Kelly is close to becoming the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, according to a report by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Of course, as we’ve learned this week, nothing’s done until it’s done. But the Browns were the first team to interview Kelly, and by all accounts, had targeted him as their No. 1 choice.

If the report holds up, where does that leave the Eagles? As of yesterday afternoon, Kelly and Bill O’Brien appeared to be near the top of their list. O’Brien is headed back to Penn State. The team will now have to move on to other options. Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman and Don Smolenski are expected to travel to Denver to interview Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy on Sunday.

They also announced earlier today that they’re going to check out Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. And the Eagles have already conducted interviews with Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and Atlanta special-teams coach Keith Armstrong.

Given that Kelly’s off the market, the Eagles could take their time and conduct many more interviews next week. Perhaps with candidates like Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer or Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.

For a full list of candidates that we compiled last week, click here.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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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.

WHAT YOU MISSED

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.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

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.

COMING UP

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

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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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.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Coaching Buzz: Kelly, Banner And More

In case you missed it, we’ve started a special Coaching Buzz section here at Birds 24/7.

You’ll find everything we write about Andy Reid’s expected departure and Jeffrey Lurie’s coaching search right there. That includes links, rumors and notes on potential candidates.

Yesterday, we shared some information on Oregon’s Chip Kelly. There’s an interesting debate among some very smart football people about whether he’ll be successful in the NFL.

Chris Brown from Grantland has written about Kelly extensively over the years. In his most recent piece, Brown explains how Kelly has managed to take old-school ideas to form an innovative offensive approach:

“Every coach has to ask himself the same question: ‘What do you want to be?'” Kelly said at a recent clinic. “That is the great thing about football. You can be anything you want. You can be a spread team, I-formation team, power team, wing-T team, option team, or wishbone team. You can be anything you want, but you have to define it.” That definition is evident in Oregon. Kelly’s choice of a no-huddle spread offense drips from every corner of the impressive practice facilities in Eugene. Oregon does not run a no-huddle offense so much as they are a no-huddle program.

For all of the hype surrounding Oregon games, Oregon practices might be even better. Oregon practices are filled with blaring music and players sprinting from drill to drill. Coaches interact with players primarily through whistles, air horns, and semi-communicative grunts. Operating under the constraint of NCAA-imposed practice time limits, Kelly’s sessions are designed around one thing: maximizing time. Kelly’s solution is simple: The practice field is for repetitions. Traditional “coaching” — correcting mistakes, showing a player how to step one way or another, or lecturing on this or that football topic — is better served in the film room.

The entire article is definitely worth your time.

Meanwhile, Mike Tanier of Sports On Earth goes the other way, suggesting that Kelly will likely flop in the NFL:

All of which is fascinating, because Kelly might as well wear a sweatshirt that reads: “College Coach Who Will Flop in the NFL.” He doesn’t set off your Spurrier Radar (or SpurriDar), then you don’t have SpurriDar. If you were trying to create an exceptional college coach who is completely unsuited to the NFL, all you would need is Kelly’s DNA and resume.

And finally, Chase Stuart of FootballPerspective.com takes issue with the idea that Kelly would be another Steve Spurrier, pointing out that Oregon has never had a top-10 recruiting class under him:

Instead, the real question is whether Kelly is a better option than what’s behind door number 1 (NFL retread) or door number 2 (NFL hotshot assistant). Are those doors any safer? Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden may be available — or may not be available — but history is littered with successful coaches who failed the second time around — and remember, no coach has ever won Super Bowls with two different teams. Are Wade Phillips, Andy Reid, Jason Garrett, or Norv Turner the type of coaches that would make you feel more comfortable hiring than Kelly? Eric Mangini, Raheem Morris, Hue Jackson or Jack Del Rio?

The other main option is to go the hotshot coordinator route, which might leave you salivating over Rob Ryan and Ray Horton, who have coached strong, aggressive defenses in Dallas and Arizona, but have no experience as the top dog. Kyle Shanahan is doing a nice job in Washington with Robert Griffin III and Mike McCoy is succeeding with Peyton Manning in Denver, but does that make them safe bets? Perry Fewell is the Giants defensive coordinator and is well-respected, but does that make him a safe bet?

The debate will rage on for months. Be sure to choose your side before January.

Meanwhile, Joe Banner sat down with the Cleveland Plain-Dealer for a wide-ranging one-on-one interview. Here’s what he said when asked for the qualities he looks for in a head coach:

When we hired Andy Reid in Philadelphia we did a study on every coach who had led a team to two Super Bowls (appearances) to find the common denominator. We went in looking for things like offensive philosophy, did they come from defense, did they come from college? Had they been a coordinator? We found nothing. Then we accidentally realized they were all exactly the same when we took football out of the equation — they were all incredibly strong leaders, they all had hired great staffs, they managed them well and were all very detail-oriented.

As friend of the blog Sam Lynch pointed out on Twitter, Banner worked side-by-side with Lurie for that study. And while Reid has not brought home the Lombardi Trophy, few (sane people, that is) would argue that he was not a good hire. So that last sentence about the qualities Banner’s looking for will likely carry weight this time around for the Eagles.

Banner spoke about a variety of other topics. He said his preference is for the coach to have final say on all personnel matters. He also said he would watch film and be involved in the draft process.

I don’t think the Eagles drafted a guy that I haven’t watched. I’ll watch all of the top guys and any free agent we’re thinking of signing. Later in the draft, they might give me five guys to watch that could be available in the sixth round. I also go to the Senior Bowl and the Indianapolis combine, but I’m also there to develop relationships with agents and people in the league.

And it seems clear that he was probably not on board with the initial Juan Castillo promotion. Banner said a weakness in the league “is people’s inclinations to hire people they know or they feel safe with.” Much more in there that sheds light on Banner’s role in Philadelphia and the Eagles’ organizational philosophy.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Banner To Replace Holmgren?

Change is coming in Cleveland, and from the looks of things, it’s going to have an Eagles twist.

According to Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer, Joe Banner will join the Browns’ new ownership group, led by Jimmy Haslam. And that could spell the end of current team president Mike Holmgren’s time there.

Holmgren said he knows Banner through Jeffrey Lurie and Andy Reid, but wouldn’t address the possibility of working alongside the former Eagles president.

“You know what, I’m not going to go there right now,” Holmgren said.

Meanwhile, Clark Judge of CBSSports.com reports that replacing Holmgren won’t be the only change. From his Twitter account:

2 league sources confirmed Banner in Cle as team prez. Said Holmgren, Heckert probably gone. Said 1: “They’re going to blow whole place up.”

Heckert, of course, is former Eagles general manager Tom Heckert.

Once the dust settles, it’ll be interesting to see if Banner grabs anyone away from the Eagles’ organization to join him in Cleveland.

Haslam is scheduled to be introduced at a press conference at 1 p.m. on Friday.

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles made a trade Thursday evening, sending linebackers Moise Fokou and Greg Lloyd to the Colts for cornerback Kevin Thomas and a conditional seventh-round pick. T-Mac’s got all the details.

In my practice observations, I took a look at the Birds’ lack of offensive line depth and tried to answer the question: Who’s at center if Jason Kelce goes down?

Players were dropping like flies yesterday. Here are all the latest injury updates.

Special-teams coach Bobby April appears to be smitten with undrafted rookie free agent Damaris Johnson, who has a real shot to make the team as a punt returner.

And finally, the Eagles made their first linebacker shuffle of camp, replacing Brian Rolle with Jamar Chaney in their nickel package.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Friend of the blog, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com, stopped by Lehigh and has some practice observations up. Good note on DeSean Jackson, and something I’ve noticed too out here:

I thought DeSean Jackson was very active in Thursday’s practice, and after speaking with him in the morning I took notice of the variety of routes he was running, including the underneath ones. “Defenses game plan on me,” Jackson told me in the morning. “So all the downfield routes, all the deep routes that we always had success with, last year teams tried to prevent that and started backing up deeper. So I think whatever it is as far as underneath routes, getting the ball in our hands earlier and faster just so we can catch and make runs, I think that’s going to be huge for us this year as well. Just not always trying to go deep for the home run.”

Jackson went on NFL Network and advised Mike Wallace and Maurice Jones-Drew: Do as I say, not as I do.

“I would say just go keep working hard and go out there and prove what kind of player you are,” he said. “With them guys, Mike Wallace and Maurice Jones-Drew, actually good friends of mine and hopefully something will happen soon enough and they can get back to playing football. But you know it’s a tricky, it’s a tricky situation. You can’t force anybody, any organization to pay you, so that’s the biggest thing about that.”

If you like what you see here at Birds 24/7, become a fan on Facebook and help us spread the word. C’mon. Don’t make me beg. Because you know I will…

COMING UP

Same drill today at Lehigh. Walk-through at 8:15 a.m. and practice at 2:45. We’re expecting an injury update from Reid in the morning, so stay tuned for that and much more throughout the day.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

Businessman Buys the Cleveland Browns, Joe Banner Named Part of Management Group

Businessman Jimmy Haslam—a minority stakeholder in the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2008—has agreed to terms on a deal that will make him the new owner of the Cleveland Browns. It has also been announced that former Eagles president Joe Banner will play a role in the new management group, though the exact capacity of his involvement hasn’t been released. Banner had previously said that he’d like to be a part of the ownership group. [NFL.com]

The Eagles Are Rebuilding

Joe Banner, as smart as he is, should have seen this coming. I sure didn’t. I was snowed by the blizzard of new talent that arrived as the Eagles training camp was getting underway. So I’m as dumb as everyone else who thought we could sit back and enjoy the ride to the Super Bowl. But Banner should have known better.

Before the season started, Howard Eskin asked the Eagles’ president whether holes the team still had—at linebacker, for example—meant we should temper our expectations.

“All Super Bowl teams have flaws,” Banner said.

Message: Look at all the talent we’ve put together! We’re gonna roll …

In fact, Banner and Howie Roseman and Andy Reid did a brilliant job of setting up this year to have the financial room to spend money and then spend it. Free agents clearly wanted to play here. No NFL team has ever had an off-season of talent landed so fast and furiously.

But Banner still should have seen this coming. Read more »

Will the Real Joe Banner Please Stand Up?

Joe Banner is deep into talking about what it’s like, to run a pro football team in Philadelphia, when there’s a knock on his office door.

“Yeah,” he calls out.

The door opens.

“Oh my God!” Banner says. “Are you kiddin’ me?”

At the door is a young blonde with her newborn baby. “I didn’t want to interrupt,” she says. It’s Tina, team owner Jeff Lurie’s assistant, who’s been out on maternity leave.

“It’s one of the rules of the office,” Joe says as she hands over her daughter. “You have to bring your baby in, and I have to get to hold it.”

Sitting behind his desk, Joe cradles the newborn — her name is Olivia — up high on his shoulder, and starts cooing to her: “Pretty good grip. You have a very good grip. A good grip. You do. How you doin’?”

Before Olivia’s arrival, Banner had been talking about how, a few years ago, his son Jon woke up one Monday morning refusing to get out of bed: “Dad, you don’t know how horrible it is for me to go to school the day after we lose a game.” Jon was hearing stuff like The Eagles suck. Your dad doesn’t know what he’s doing. He was in third grade at Penn Charter.

Not knowing what he’s doing — that would be one of the kinder critiques of Joe Banner in Philadelphia. Generally, opinions, on sports-talk radio especially, get a little personal: that he’s a smug, cold bottom-line guy quite willing to jettison popular players once they approach the ripe old age of 30. Troy Vincent. Hugh Douglas. Duce Staley. Brian Dawkins — that one, Dawkins, really hurt.

The perception is he’s a guy who doesn’t really care about winning. Not enough, anyway. Not like we do. Though he’s very good at lining Jeff Lurie’s pockets with ever-increasing amounts of our cash. (Forbes says Lurie’s team is now worth a cool billion.)

“What’s going on?” Joe whispers to Olivia. She starts to fuss. “Don’t be doin’ that. Don’t be doin’ that. … This is the best lap in the whole building.”
“I probably gave you a cranky baby,” Tina apologizes.

“You’ve got the best lap in the whole building and you’re going to give me a hard time, huh?” Joe coos.

“Babies are his thing,” Tina explains.

Joe Banner gets up from his desk with Olivia. He’s a small man — tiny, really — with a springy, athletic bounce. Perfect for calming babies. Though Tina reminds him of another visit, when a two-year-old vomited across his desk from the relative safety of its mother’s lap.

“It was quite unpleasant,” Joe remembers pleasantly, bobbing around his desk with Olivia.

“Now she’s fine with you, Joe,” Tina observes, “so just take her for the afternoon.”

“How’s that thumb?” Banner asks Olivia. “You’re chumpin’ on that thing pretty good.”

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