Gruden: Kelly a ‘No-Huddle Guru, Spread System Master’

Chip KellyJon Gruden will call the Eagles’ Week 1 opener next Monday night along with play-by-play man Mike Tirico.

Gruden jumped on a conference call with reporters Thursday to talk about the upcoming season, and ESPN was kind enough to pass along the transcript. So here’s a Q&A on Eagles-related topics.

Note: Minor edits made for clarity.

Q: The opener, Redskins‑Eagles, figures to feature two of the more intriguing offenses this year, and offenses that are probably pretty reflective of what’s going on in college football. I wonder if the trickle‑off that we’re seeing where college football is influencing the NFL is something you think is here to stay, or is it a faddish thing, because it seems like the river is flowing the other way now and college football is influencing the pros?

Gruden: “That’s the million‑dollar question. I don’t think college football is penetrating the NFL, I think college football is in the NFL, and I think it’s here to stay. I see a lot of high school football. The game of high school football is different. Players are playing it differently, wide-open, no-huddle, spread systems, and that’s what’s in college football.  That’s how we’re training coaches and players.  It’s a big part of the National Football League.

“When you watch RG3 and the Washington Redskins, you’re going to see some similarities to what RG3 did at Baylor, and when you watch Michael Vick play with Chip Kelly, you’re going to see a lot of things we saw at Oregon in the last four or five years. But I think it’s here to stay. I’m not saying it really excites me as maybe it does some other people because I like the conventional way of moving the football, throwing it in a traditional style of offense, but some of these quarterbacks can really make it happen, and it’ll be fun to watch.”

Q: Jon, as you look at what Chip was able to do at Oregon, how much do you think he’s going to be able to translate and adapt that to the NFL game, and more specifically what about the pace of the game and how far do you think the officials are going to let them push that without giving the defense an honest chance to rearrange themselves?

Gruden: “Well, you know, let’s just start with this isn’t going to be the first no‑huddle offense the NFL has ever seen. Chip Kelly is a great coach, and he’s a no‑huddle guru, spread system master. But this isn’t the first time that an offense has gone with a no‑huddle offense. He’s going to mix his tempos and certainly put his spin on things for the entire length of football games.

“I don’t know how the officials are going to do it any differently than they’ve done it for the New England Patriots or any other teams that feature the no‑huddle offense. I think what’s going to be interesting is if you go no‑huddle and play up-tempo the whole game, what’s the conditioning level of your players? You’re only allowed to have 47 men play on Sunday, and some of these are kickers and punters, and some of these guys play defense. So I’d like to see how it works with just 23 or 24 offensive players for potentially 85 and 90 snaps a game. I think conditioning and what it’s going to look like in week 9 or 10 or 13 when players can’t practice because they’re injured, I’m just anxious to see how the preparation works with the length of an NFL season with all these plays and tempo.”

Q: Jon, Chip Kelly’s offense is going to be very tight end centric. He could end up keeping as many as four tight ends on his roster, and he’s regularly played two and even three tight end sets most of the preseason.  What kind of match‑up problems is that going to present for a defense?

Gruden: “Well, it depends on if the tight ends are any good.”

Q: Well, just assume they are.

Gruden: “Well, you can use them as a jokers, really. They’re good in any type of formation because you can create ‑‑ you can use a tight end as a classic, on the line of scrimmage tight end; you can put a tight end in the backfield and create a two‑back set; you can line up in a no‑back set, use them as wide receivers. You get tremendous pre‑snap looks when you put a tight end outside of wide receiver in terms of is it man or is it zone. You get bigger blockers on the perimeter when you throw these bubble screens and quick screens. You probably want to throw the quick screen to DeSean Jackson and have a tight end block.

“So you get size on the edge where Chip Kelly likes to get the ball, and you just have men that can do a lot of different things. We know (Zach) Ertz can catch. We know (Brent) Celek can catch. Clay Harbor has done some excellent things, and the guy that they signed from the Houston Texans is a jack‑of‑all‑trades. I’ve seen (James) Casey play fullback, I’ve seen him do it all. I’m with you; I’m excited to see how he pulls it off and utilizes these tight ends. With the absence of (Jeremy) Maclin, I know they’ll have to lean on them.”

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Video: Gruden QB Camp With Matt Barkley

Jon Gruden’s QB Camp series on ESPN has become must-watch pre-draft viewing for NFL fans.

Below is a three-minute clip of his session with Matt Barkley. If you want to watch the full episode, it’s scheduled to air this Thursday at 1:30 p.m. (EST) on ESPNU.

Gruden also offered his thoughts on Barkley in an ESPN Insider article:

I’ve seen Barkley up close. I’ve watched tape. He hasn’t hit his ceiling. In fact, they haven’t even tapped into his ability to run an offense like he’d be able to at the NFL level. Now, some people talk about “ceiling” in the sense that it’s when a guy can make every throw, carves up defenses deep and isn’t just throwing dink-and-dunk stuff. But that’s not true, and with Barkley the ceiling is higher because he can become less aggressive.

He completed a hair under 64 percent of his passes last season — again, a drop from 2011 — but I think that number could have been a lot higher. With the talent and the experience that he has, he should be a 70 percent passer. But he pressed. He was aggressive. If he had simply checked the ball down a little more and used a few more audibles here and there, I think he’s a 70 percent passer. But the circumstances made it tough.

Gruden compares Barkley to someone like Houston’s Matt Schaub. And while he is not considered the most mobile prospect, according to ESPN Stats & Info., Barkley completed 69.2 percent of his attempts with 16 touchdowns and no interceptions on designed roll-outs.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Jon Gruden On QB Crop

Jon Gruden’s quarterback camp is in full swing. Another year, another crop of QB prospects awkwardly interacting with Chucky in a film room setting.

The Mothership is getting even more out of the popular series this year. ESPN.com is printing Gruden’s scouting reports on the men he is working with. First up is Geno Smith:

 Maybe the system [at West Virginia] is great, but I don’t know of a quarterback who has had as many decision-making opportunities as Smith had. And you know what? He made the right decisions. For instance: Every running play that was called, he had the option to hand the ball off, but he could also check out of the play and throw it. There were always options.

In this class, I definitely think he’s a guy you could take at No. 1, or at least in that range if it’s your top need. Sure, a lot of people say he’s not as good as Andrew Luck or Griffin. Well, last time I checked, those guys aren’t in this draft. It’s supply and demand. In this league, you need a quarterback, and if you’re a general manager or a coach you can’t just operate with the idea you’re content to wait until you’re in the perfect position to take a can’t-miss prospect. In this class, the closest thing to that is Smith. And if I needed a quarterback, I’d be willing to take him high.

Gruden talks about Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson here.

Seperately, in an interview with Peter King, Gruden sang the praises of Ryan Nassib and EJ Manuel.

“Here’s a guy [Nassib] who went 3-0 against Geno Smith,” Gruden said. “Imagine this pressure: Syracuse is expected to be pretty good last year, and they start 0-2, and they’ve losing to Stony Brook at home at halftime the next week. He brings them back there to win. They beat Louisville. They win at Missouri. They really handle West Virginia in the bowl game. Those are some good wins, now. And they do it after changing their offense two weeks before the start of the regular season. I like the way he plays. I like the way he handled his own people booing him.”

As for Manuel: “He’d be a fun guy to coach. Very fun. Can call any play. He can run any play. Upbeat. Powerful vibe around him. People just like him. They want to be around him. Loves the game. I really, really like this kid.”

Regarding Nassib and Manuel: “You want Nassib and Manuel on your team. You want to be around Nassib and Manuel. If you like those guys, you’re on the right track.”

In case you’re interested, a schedule of when Gruden’s QB camp episodes will air can be found here.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Greg Cosell gives us four players that seem like a fit with Chip Kelly.

Sheil reports that the Eagles have checked out running back Marcus Lattimore.

Our draft profiles continue with athletic defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson.

Kapadia offers three numbers that matter.

Why many of the holes on the current roster can be traced directly back to the 2011 draft.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Chris Steuber has released a two-round mock draft. He has the Eagles selecting Dion Jordan with the No. 4 pick, and Manuel at 35.

Tommy Lawlor makes the case for taking an outside linebacker with the No. 4 pick.

Let’s go back to the depth chart for a minute.  I’m sure a few of you could point out that the O-line and secondary also look like they could use some help.  I totally agree, but that’s where you need to understand the draft class.  Check out this recent tweet from Daniel Jeremiah:

“Not a lot of options for teams looking for a pass rusher in RD 2….Plenty of RD 2 options at every other defensive position.”

If you want a stud pass rusher, you need to go for him at pick #4.  CB, S, and OL are positions that are fairly deep this year.  You can address them in the 2nd, 3rd, or possibly even 4th rounds.  You might be able to find a pass rusher outside the 1st round, but there are no guarantees.

New Bill Kevin Kolb has set some lofty goals.

“I’m here to win a Super Bowl. Period,” Kolb said.

It’s a big goal, considering the Bills haven’t made the playoffs since the 1999 season. However, Kolb sees that as an advantage, “It’s good to come to an organization like this. They’re hungry,” Kolb said. “It’ll be nice to come out and surprise some people.”

COMING UP

We are now 16 days away from the draft.

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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Mike Mayock Talks Brian Kelly, Jon Gruden

Mike Mayock called into 97.5 The Fanatic Thursday to give his take on Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly.

“He is highly charismatic. He is very much a CEO,” said Mayock. “He understands how to hire people, he understands how to delegate. But when it comes to his offense, he’s the guy. He’s a play-caller, and I’m not so sure I believe in that in the NFL at this point.”

The term “CEO” is interesting, because it was used by Howie Roseman this week when talking about what it takes to do this job.

“Being a head coach in the National Football League is a big job, and you’re a CEO, so you have to have a plan and know what you’re doing in every area,” he said. “You would be surprised at how detailed these people are, when it comes to strength and conditioning  or training staff or equipment or video, they have the answers. It’s very interesting to hear.”

 Jeffrey Lurie seems to like the idea of college coaches who are proving that they can handle everything that goes along with running a successful program.  Lurie also wants someone who offers a  modern and flexible approach to the game, which Mayock seems to think Kelly has.

“In his DNA, he wants to spread the field, he wants to throw the ball 40 or 50 times, he loves the mobile quarterback. He is perfect for where offenses are heading this day,” said Mayock. “However, the reason I like him is he knew the strength of his team this year was his defense. There are a lot of coaches who let ego get in the way of wins and losses, and I thought he managed that offense beautifully.

“I’m really a big believer of this guy. The only downside is he has no familiarity whatsoever with the league and would really have to be paired I believe with a highly-competent general manager who is ready to hit the ground running.”

The takeaway would be that Mayock is unsure if Roseman and Kelly would be a fit.

Asked who the ideal candidate is for the Eagles job, Mayock brought up a familiar name.

“I think you load up the truck, and you get in it with a bunch of money and you drive down and find Jon Gruden,” said Mayock. “There’s nobody more ready to jump in than him. He’s gonna cost you a lot of money, but if I’m the Eagles, I’m camped outside his office because I wanna have a conversation.”

The entire interview is worth a listen.

Twitter Mailbag: Why Hold the Title Game Against Kelly?

Every Thursday we select a few of your Twitter questions and provide the long-form answers they deserve. For a chance to have your question published on Birds 24/7, send it to @Tim_McManus.

From @CTel92: Do you get the sense that the Eagles have a preference for a proven commodity (Lovie) or a guy with upside ( Bradley, McCoy)?

The fervent pursuit of college coaches leads me to believe the answer lies somewhere in between — someone who has proven themselves on a big stage but is still considered part of the new wave.

I question whether Smith fits the bill. I think he is a sound leader and a hell of a defensive coach. But he never really found a way to get his offense humming in Chicago, and that has to be concerning. The Eagles have a quarterback to develop.

Jeffrey Lurie has emphasized the importance of landing someone who has an understanding of where the game is headed and will lead the way. I’m not sure Smith is that guy. Maybe Bradley and McCoy aren’t either, but as up-and-comers they hold a certain amount of promise that is hard to generate when you are more of a known entity.

From @SHOOD1970: why for the love of all that is holy are we not talking to Jon Gruden?? 

Not the only question I got about Gruden as you might suspect.

There are working theories out there: Gruden and Lurie don’t have the best relationship; Gruden doesn’t want to step on his baby brother’s toes; Gruden already made it known through back channels that he didn’t want the job. Whatever the case, it’s safe to say that the love affair between Philadelphia and Chucky is much stronger than the one between Chucky and the Eagles.

Someone close to Gruden suggested a couple weeks back that he was on the team’s early list of candidates. But there have been no indications since to suggest that a courtship has ensued. Unless the Eagles are throwing up some major smokescreens, it’s best not to have your heart set on him.

From @brookman_doug: What is the point of interviewing a guy in Brian Kelly, who got rocked vs Saban, and couldnt even speak @ HT interview on ESPN?

I have heard this argument a lot since word came down that the Eagles interviewed Kelly on Tuesday. And for the life of me I don’t understand it. My reaction was the complete opposite: I kept looking at the bottom of the screen during Alabama’s absolute beat down of the Irish, and thought, How is this team ranked No. 1 in the country? You can tell me it’s the shoddy college system or Notre Dame’s schedule or whatever, but you have to admit that it took a tremendous coaching job out of Kelly to get that team into that title fight against that juggernaut.

The BCS championship game was not Kelly’s finest moment and I have no idea whether he would be a good pro coach, but I don’t make my decision off one game against a superior opponent. The Irish were more physically outmatched than they were outsmarted.

From @JesusZoidberg: Do you believe that the Eagles place more of a value on the interview process compared to other teams?

Sure seems that way. At this pace, Kapadia will be interviewing sometime early next week for the post.

“Jeffrey has been very adamant with us that the key is getting the right guy,” said Howie Roseman. “The key isn’t getting the right guy as quickly as possible. So that’s what we’re going to do.”

They are thorough and I can’t hold that against them (even though my wife does). If you feel like you are under the gun than you might skip over important parts of the vetting process.

The coach has to fit with the owner, the general manager, the president, the players, the staff, the city. It takes some time to figure out if you have the right guy (and even longer if a coach you targeted decides to stay in college). I do feel they are approaching it the right way.

Be sure to check out our coaching tracker for all the latest.

 

Jon Gruden Not In Town To Interview With Eagles

Rumors cropped up Wednesday that Jon Gruden was spotted in Philadelphia, leading to speculation that he may be in town to interview for the Eagles head coaching job.

If he is in town it does not have anything to do with the local team, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

Gruden’s name has been tied to the Eagles job for years. In February, rumors of Gruden replacing Andy Reid got so rampant that the team had to release a statement.

Ron Jaworski and Dick Vermeil have kept the narrative alive this week with their public endorsements of the 49-year-old Gruden. But there is little evidence to indicate the Eagles are courting him. They have requested permission to speak with his brother Jay — the offensive coordinator for the Bengals.

Fans of the big-name coach will also not be happy to hear that Bill Cowher can be scratched off the list. He opened the window by telling Newsday that he plans on returning to the sidelines, but a report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Wednesday suggests that such a return won’t happen this season.

The Eagles will interview former Chicago coach Lovie Smith on Thursday, and are also expected to meet with Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. The Eagles said there was no update to provide as to when that interview with Bradley will occur.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Old School Vs. New School

Bill Cowher perked up some ears when he told Newsday that he plans to coach again at some point. He hasn’t paced an NFL sideline since 2006 (at which point Nick Foles may or may not have had a driver’s license) but insists his time off is a “non-issue.

“I did it for 27 years. You don’t just forget things overnight. One thing about this job is it’s been really good because it allows me to study the game and do features on the game. I want to know what I’m talking about so I’m watching tape. It’s not like I’m out of it. I know how the game is changing.”

The coaching “retreads” have been a bit of a hot topic in Philadelphia over the past few days in particular. Between Cowher’s comments, Jaws’ push for Jon Gruden and the announcement that the Eagles will interview Lovie Smith Thursday, the debate is on whether Jeffrey Lurie should go with the proven commodity over the up-and-comer.

So far, the Eagles have only shown public interest in two former head coaches — Smith and Mike Nolan. But the allure of the established veteran  exists. It is easy to look at the Gruden, Cowher, Smith trio and be taken by the four Super Bowl appearances and two Lombardi trophies between them. Land one of those three, and you at least have a resume and some career highlights to work off of. If you hire Gus Bradley or Mike McCoy — accomplished assistants who have yet to sit in the captain’s chair — you are selling promise.

You are also selling the idea of being with the times if not ahead of the curve. These are hungry, motivated coaches looking to make their mark. Would a more accomplished coach be willing to push the boulder back up the mountain? Do they want it — even need it — enough?

Lurie is on record as saying the coaching talent pool this season is “exceptional.”

“I think if you’re open to finding outstanding leaders wherever they are — and you’re not concerned with how famous they are or whatever — you should be able to find someone special,” he said.

The Eagles appeared to go pretty hard after Chip Kelly, so it’s not as if they have exactly steered clear of the popular coaches. But Lurie believes there are some less-than household names out there  that can get the job done.

Last time around he called on a young Andy Reid to try and fix a team that went 3-13 the year before. Now he needs someone to clean up the mess left behind following a 4-12 campaign.

Does he go new school or old school? If he chooses the latter, he better be sure the candidate is willing to get his hands dirty as the Eagles rebuild.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Sheil has more details on Smith.

The latest coaching buzz features news on Nick Saban, Mike Pettine and Jay Gruden.

The national media are talking about Evan Mathis, Brandon Boykin, potential Eagles draft picks and more.

Jaws says Jon Gruden might want back in, but the Eagles haven’t reached out to him.

If you missed our show (heavy on the coaching search talk), here’s the podcast.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

A couple NFC East notes that will impact the 2013.

For one, Dallas fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. As you might expect, Ryan did not go gentle into that good night:

The Cowboys defense finished 19th overall, 17th against the run and 21st against the pass.

“I inherited a team that was 31st in the league in defense and made them better,” Ryan told ESPNDallas.com’s Tim MacMahon. “I (expletive) made them a hell of a lot better. I’ll be out of work for like five minutes.”

RGIII will be learning the severity of his injury very soon.

 Robert Griffin III is expected to undergo surgery this week on his torn lateral collateral ligament and at that time doctors will determine how much damage has been done to his anterior cruciate ligament, a source told ESPN. According to reports, Griffin is expected to have the surgery on Wednesday.Griffin suffered a partially torn LCL in his right knee during Sunday’s playoff game against the Seahawks, a source said.

Griffin also likely tore at least part of his ACL, but it’s unknown how severe it is because a previous knee injury he suffered at Baylor in 2009 required two screws and a rubber band to hold it together.Because of the previous injury, doctors initially could not determine Monday if his ACL was partially or completely torn and doctors don’t know what surgery should be performed.

The Washington Post reported earlier that Griffin’s MRI suggested partial tears to the ACL and LCL.

COMING UP

Continuing coverage of the Eagles coaching search. We’re getting closer.

Jaws: Gruden Interested, Eagles Haven’t Reached Out

Until all five of the remaining head-coaching openings are filled, Jon Gruden’s name is going to continue to come up.

The Gruden conversation revolves around two key questions:

1. How interested is he in returning to coaching?

2. How interested are teams in bringing him on board?

There have been plenty of rumors, but Ron Jaworski has discussed the possibilities directly with Gruden.

“Jon has gotten a lot of discussion,” Jaws said during an interview with Mike Missanelli on 97.5 The Fanatic Monday. “It’s just not as public as some of the other ones. I spoke to Jon earlier, and we spoke about it. He’s had numerous meetings. He has told teams that he is not interested in certain jobs. There are jobs that he’s interested in, but no one at those teams has reached out to him, or they may even have a coach in place.”

The obvious follow-up was: Are the Eagles one of the teams he’s not interested in?

“No, I didn’t say that,” Jaworski said. “They haven’t reached out to Jon.”

Opinion on Gruden is mixed. In 11 seasons with the Raiders and Bucs, his teams got to the playoffs five times. Gruden won a Super Bowl with Tampa in 2002. After that season, though, he went 45-51.

A league source told Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer yesterday that the Browns were showing some interest in Gruden. But Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk aggressively shot down the report. Between the Browns report and Jaworski’s comments, it sounds like the market for Gruden might not be as inviting as one would expect.

Any owner or GM looking into hiring Gruden would need to do thorough homework on what happened with him during the final six seasons in Tampa. But one thing Gruden has going for him is that he’s been very much involved in the game since leaving the sidelines. As an analyst for ESPN, he watches film and talks to coaches/players/executives on a weekly basis. Shortly after he was fired by the Bucs, Gruden spent time with Chip Kelly to learn about his spread offense.

The Eagles have plans to interview Jay Gruden, Jon’s brother. They appear to be in the middle of what looks like an extremely thorough search, especially now that Kelly is off the market.

If the plan is to leave no stone unturned, you would think they would at least have a conversation at some point with Jon Gruden.

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

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