Chip Kelly, Nick Saban Connect At Senior Bowl

When Nick Saban arrived Monday afternoon at Fairhope Stadium — the site of the first Senior Bowl practice — the whole atmosphere changed. Donning an Alabama-red sports coat with an “A” pin on the lapel, Saban strolled onto the sidelines as a wave of media began forming around him. Kids yelled from the stands: “Look, it’s him!”

There was no question whose state we were in.

After a brief session with reporters, Saban was swiftly escorted by Eagles public relations to where Chip Kelly was standing. Kelly wanted to use the opportunity to catch up with the Alabama coach. The two  took in practice together and talked for about 15-20 minutes before Saban disappeared out of site.

“I’m excited for Chip. He’s done a fantastic job,” said Saban. “He’s been a real innovator in college football with some of the things that he has done, and we have a tremendous amount of respect for the great job he did at Oregon in terms of the kind of program and record and success that he had there, and I think he’ll do just fine in the NFL.”

Saban, who just captured his third national title in four years, is one of the examples used when discussing the danger of placing a college coach in NFL waters. For all his success on the college level, he went just 15-17 in two years with the Dolphins.

“When college guys go to the NFL — when I went the first time — how you bring players to your team is different, how you manage your squad is a little bit different than the way you motivate younger players,” said Saban. “But to be able to do that, to make those transitions and still develop your younger players, is a real key to being successful.”

KELLY, VICK MEET

Kelly had a one-on-one with Michael Vick on Friday. He talked about the meeting following practice Monday.

“It was good.  First time I got a chance to meet Michael,” said Kelly. “It was just sit down, kind of tell me about yourself.  See where he’s coming from. I really liked my meeting with Michael.”

Kelly also got to watch a little bit of film on Vick, but he’s had a full plate since being named head coach of the Eagles and hasn’t been able to fully dedicate himself to it.

“Sometimes it’s on the phone, tape’s in the background, a lot of different things going on — you’ve got to multi-task,” said Kelly. “Still in the process of doing all that stuff but got to look at a little film.”

The Eagles have to make a decision on Vick in the near future. If he is still on the roster three days after the Super Bowl, a $3 million guarantee kicks in.

Kelly has spoken with Nick Foles as well, he said. Foles would not be a fit for the read-option offense Kelly ran at Oregon, but the coach has stressed the importance of  adapting to the personnel on your roster. Kelly was asked if he ever used West-Coast offense concepts in his play-calling.

“Yeah,” said Kelly, ”everybody has.”

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Coaching Buzz: Saban, Pettine And (Jay) Gruden

We’ve learned that what Nick Saban says and what Nick Saban does when it comes to his coaching future can be two different things. But he sounded pretty convincing Tuesday when the questions about the NFL came up once again. From the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“I think somewhere along the line you’ve got to choose. You learn a lot from the experiences of what you’ve done in the past.

“I came to the Miami Dolphins, what, eight years ago for the best owner, the best person that I’ve ever had the opportunity to work for. And in the two years that I was here, had a very, very difficult time thinking that I could impact the organization in the way that I wanted to or the way that I was able to in  college, and it was very difficult for me, because there’s a lot of parity in the NFL, there’s a lot of rules in the NFL.

“And people say you can draft the players that you want to draft; you can draft a player that’s there when you pick. It might not be the player you need, it might not be the player you want. You’ve got salary cap issues. We had them here. You’ve got to have a quarterback. We had a chance to get one here; sort of messed it up.

“So I didn’t feel like I could impact the team the same way that I can as a college coach in terms of affecting people’s lives personally, helping them develop careers by graduating from school, off the field, by helping develop them as football players, and there’s a lot of self-gratification in all that, all right.”

“I kind of learned through that experience (with the Dolphins) that maybe this is where I belong, and I’m really happy and at peace with all that,” said Saban. “So no matter how many times I say that, y’all don’t believe it, so I don’t even know why I keep talking about it.”

Local product Mike Pettine, who served as the Jets defensive coordinator from 2009 to this past season, is a free agent. And he’s keeping at least a half-an-eye on what the Eagles are doing. From Ed Kracz:

“Obviously a lot of people, myself included, are very interested to see what happens there,” he said. “Growing up an Eagles fan, you always have that hometown team in the back of your mind.”

Pettine, the CB West grad and former North Penn coach, is expected to interview for the DC job in Buffalo.

Finally, a report surfaced that the Eagles will interview Jay Gruden on Wednesday. The Eagles have denied that report.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: The Nick Saban Conversation

With five head-coaching jobs still available around the NFL, several assistants figure to get interviews this week.

Many of the names being mentioned - Gus BradleyMike McCoyJay Gruden - were unfamiliar to Eagles fans as recently as a few weeks ago. If you happen to be engaging in conversation today about who Andy Reid’s successor should be, chances are, you’re throwing around some bigger names.

We’re talking about names like Nick Saban.

Saban’s Alabama squad manhandled Notre Dame in the BCS title game Monday night, 42-14. And so today, the question will be revisited: Does he want one more shot in the NFL?

“I don’t have any unfinished business in the NFL,” Saban said over the weekend, according to USA Today. “It’s not something I’m concerned about. It’s not even anything I want to do.”

Of course, what coaches say and what they do are often two different things. Saban is coming off back-to-back BCS titles and now has four overall (three in the past four seasons). Maybe he’s perfectly content staying in Tuscaloosa and going for a three-peat. Maybe he has his eyes on Bear Bryant’s record of six national titles. Maybe he figures he’s already had a taste of the NFL, and it wasn’t that great.

Maybe.

But there’s another potential path here too. Saban is 61. There’s always the possibility that his natural competitive nature leads to a desire for one more shot on the sport’s biggest stage. In two seasons with the Miami Dolphins (2005-2006), he went 15-17. In a must-read piece, David Hyde of the South Florida Sun Sentinel recently shared a series of anecdotes detailing Saban’s time in the NFL:

Do you like Nick Saban? Can you? That’s the question for the equipment manager, and he tells of arriving for work early one morning at the same time as the coach. It was still dark outside. Quiet.

The equipment manager, Tony Egues, reached the door to the Dolphins complex first, held it open for his boss and then said the two words that came to symbolize Saban’s scarred Dolphins legacy.

“Morning, coach,” he said.

Egues, who is no longer with the team, doesn’t remember if Saban answered. What he remembers is Saban’s lieutenant, Scott O’Brien, nicknamed “Dr. Doom,” soon telling him never speak to the coach unless addressed first. Ever. Got it?

The story had a happy ending, but you get the picture: Saban does things his way.

Christopher L. Gasper of The Boston Globe recently pointed out how Saban is running Alabama like a professional organization:

If you close your eyes and listen to Alabama’s players couch their answers and watch their words, you would swear you were in Fort Foxborough.

That’s not a coincidence. Saban is a buddy of Bill Belichick and spent four seasons as Belichick’s defensive coordinator in Cleveland. There’s a picture of the two of them chatting on page 166 of the Alabama media guide. It looks like a real yuckfest.

It’s debatable who rubbed off on whom. This is what His Hoodiness said about his pal Saban back in 2006, when Saban was coach of the Miami Dolphins:

“There’s no other coach in this league or any league that I have more respect for than Nick Saban. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I learned a whole lot more from him when he was at Cleveland than I’m sure he learned from me . . . That guy is a [darn] good football coach.”

The expectation is that Saban will stay put. But if you’re a decision-maker in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, San Diego or Arizona, do you at least make the call? We’ll find out the answer to that question in the next few days.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Reid addressed the Philadelphia media and the Kansas City media in two different sessions. Tim’s got the rundown of what he said.

One week into the coaching search, we have some new names to consider. My updated list of Eagles coaching candidates.

T-Mac’s got the latest on the Bruce Arians situation.

Do your [bleepin'] job and get to know Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.

Because Chip Kelly didn’t want to commit, the Eagles may have dodged a bullet, writes McManus.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

SI.com’s Peter King offers this nugget on the Eagles’ coaching search:

I think the Eagles liked Penn State coach Bill O’Brien more than any of us thought when that story came down the other night … but not enough to hire him immediately, before interviewing more coaches, including Chip Kelly.

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com assesses the appeal of the Eagles job:

The Eagles’ head coaching job is not some dream opportunity for which the cream of the coaching crop is going to climb all over itself. There are multiple red flags that could turn off highly qualified candidates and likely will end up forcing the Eagles to take a chance on an unproved coordinator.

COMING UP

The coaching search continues. Keep it right here for updates.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Coaching Buzz: Would Chip Kelly Refuse Foles?

Would the hiring of Chip Kelly in Philadelphia take Nick Foles out of the quarterback equation?

Ron Jaworksi seems to think so.

“Nick Foles will not run a Chip Kelly offense if he decided to come here, rest assured of that,” Jaws told Jon Marks and Sean Brace on 97.5 The Fanatic. “If a coach like Chip Kelly…that runs this up-tempo, spread, speed-style option, these guys come here, there might be a future for Michael Vick. I know he’s [32], I know he’s been beat up, but I’ll tell you, some of the things I’m seeing, Michael Vick can do the same things these guys are doing in the spread option.”

Jason LaCanfora says that the Eagles will be in pursuit of the Oregon coach.

The Eagles won’t be the only team to contact Kelly, but league sources expect them to be among the first to try to interview him and believe he could emerge as a quick favorite for the position.

Bruce Arians figures to be a pretty hot name this offseason. Sal Paolantonio believes the interim coach of the Colts is a strong candidate and says that the Chargers are showing interest.

Arians was asked about the possibility of him leaving Indianapolis to take a head coaching gig.

“We’ll listen to see if it’s right for me and my family. I’m not just gonna run away to be a head coach, I’m not gonna do that,” Arians tolds WHIP radio. “I want to make sure they have a chance to win and see what the situation is, what city it is in. But definitely would listen, yes.”

One wild card in all this is what happens in Chicago. From John Clayton:

Lovie Smith probably needs to make the playoffs to keep his job with the Chicago Bears. For that to happen, the Bears must beat the Detroit Lions and the Minnesota Vikings must lose to the Green Bay Packers.

Chicago is a pretty desirable destination and a vacancy there would create even further competition in the race to land the best head coach.

And finally, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Nick Saban is not leaving Alabama:

 Nick Saban, who’s reportedly on the Browns short list of head coaching candidates, means it when he says he’s not leaving Alabama and has not been interviewing assistants to join him in Cleveland, sources said.

A report on yahoo.com said Saban has already been interviewing candidates for his staff with the Browns, but the sources explained that Saban has been interviewing for his defensive backs coach vacancy at Alabama.

His secondary coach, Jeremy Pruitt, accepted the defensive coordinator post this week at Florida State.

On Tuesday, Saban, who has the Crimson Tide playing for its third national title in four seasons, told reporters in Alabama that he’s happy and has no plans to leave.

Click here for all the latest coaching buzz around the league.

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Coaching Buzz: Pettine, Saban And Reid/Polian

An accomplished assistant with local roots is going to become a free agent at the end of the season, according to a report.

A source tells Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News that New York Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has turned down a contract extension with the team.

Pettine has spent the last four years with Rex Ryan in New York. He was a defensive assistant with the Ravens from 2004-2008 and is a well-known name in high school football circles. Pettine’s Dad coached 33 years at C.B. West in Doylestown, and Pettine was the head coach at North Penn for five seasons.

Despite the Jets’ offense being a train-wreck, Pettine’s defense ranks seventh, according to Football Outsiders. And keep in mind, that’s without Darrelle Revis. In 2011, they ranked second; in 2010, fifth; and in 2009, first.

The New York Daily News article suggests Pettine could get some look as a potential head coach. That might be true, but there’s certainly a chance he could go elsewhere and become a defensive coordinator. We’ve seen in recent years with Andy Reid how crucial assembling a staff is for the head coach. Pettine’s a name to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

SABAN RUMORS CONTINUE

The Nick Saban rumors don’t appear to be going away any time soon.

A longtime source told Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports that Saban was staying put at Alabama. But Cole heard from another source who felt differently:

As I posted on Twitter, take the adamant denial for what it’s worth, particularly when another source I spoke with on Thursday claimed that Saban has already begun interviewing potential assistants he would take to the Cleveland Browns with him. The source laid out the timing of how current Browns coach Pat Shurmur will be fired after the season, one or two candidates will be interviewed (complete with the name of a minority candidate) and that Saban will be hired on Jan. 8, the day after Alabama’s BCS title game tilt vs. Notre Dame.

Joe Banner and the Browns had previously been linked to Saban by Greg Bedard of The Boston Globe.

REID AND POLIAN?

Could Andy Reid and Bill Polian team up somewhere after this season? The National Football Post is hearing their names mentioned together:

We’ve heard Bill Polian and Andy Reid could be paired up as a package deal to a team that has cleaned house and has deep pockets. The Polian-Reid combo would be especially attractive to a team that needs to sell tickets or has credibility issues with its fan base.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Coaching Buzz: Sean Payton Could ‘Open It Up’

The New Orleans Saints and Sean Payton are not close to agreeing to a new deal, according to Jay Glazer of FoxSports.com.

“People thought this is between the Saints and Dallas,” Glazer said on Fox’s pregame show, per NFL.com. “If this thing doesn’t get done … (Payton) is going to open it up everywhere. He’s really not going to limit his options.”

And this from SI.com’s Peter King:

I think, as I’ve thought since news of the canceled Sean Payton contract in New Orleans broke, that the longer the stalemate lasted, the bigger the chance Payton would leave. And maybe Jay Glazer’s strong report Sunday — that Payton isn’t close to a deal and will not limit his options to New Orleans and Dallas if a deal isn’t reached soon — is posturing, but keep in mind that Glazer is closer than anyone in the media to Payton. He knows.

Of course, part of this is leverage. Even if Payton is set on staying in New Orleans, he wants to get the best deal possible. But if he feels like he can maximize his value elsewhere, who knows how this thing could play out?

Meanwhile, Tim wrote about Nick Saban over the weekend. The National Football Post had this to add:

Nick Saban probably isn’t going to make the jump to the NFL. He’s comfortable being a college head coach and he has a good situation at Alabama. But the NFL is going to come knocking. And, from what we are hearing, Saban will listen. Like he always does. They say there you can buy anything for the right price, and people in the league believe you can definitely buy Saban if you want to pay a ridiculous price.

Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com seems to be hearing the same things:

I can’t find anyone in the NFL who knows Alabama’s Nick Saban well and believes he’ll return to the pros next season. No one. Which means he will.

And finally, ESPN’s Ron Jaworski doesn’t think Chip Kelly’s offensive system translates to the NFL, although he can appreciate elements of it.

On the whole, I have doubts about whether Kelly’s offense can translate 100 percent to the NFL with a high degree of success. The injury risk to QBs is too great. The pregame prep by opponents is too good. The talent gap between teams is too small. But hyperspeed? Now, that sounds like the future to me.

As I wrote last week, if you target Kelly, you’re doing so because you believe he’s a smart football mind who can adapt to the NFL. You don’t hire him simply to bring his scheme to the professional level.

Remember, you can find all our coaching buzz posts in one special section.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: The Nick Saban Question

If you haven’t seen Ron Jaworski‘s comments on Nick Saban yet, here they are:

“I’m not a  Saban guy because I don’t like liars and I think he lied. I think he lied to the Miami Dolphins and the fans of Miami and he left. And I think it’s pretty simple — I think integrity is very important. If you don’t have integrity I don’t know how you can be successful. Yeah, I know he’s great at Alabama and he’ll probably win another national championship but I just don’t like people that don’t have integrity, so it’s pretty easy for me to say that I don’t want Nick Saban in town.”

Something tells me Jaws is not a fan of Nick Saban. And when it comes to the NFL fraternity, he is not alone. Doug Farrar examines this “serious perception problem” in a recent column for Yahoo!:

Former Dolphins tight end and broadcaster Jim Mandich put it more succinctly: “If Nick Saban walked through that door right now, I’d say, ‘Let’s go — let’s start throwing down.’ The biggest two-bit phony fraud I’ve ever known in my life. He was a miserable failure as a head coach in professional football.”

Saban had a real problem with the truth, and that’s what people remember of him in the NFL. He swore up and down that he didn’t want the Dolphins job when he was at LSU, and he swore up and down that he didn’t want the Alabama job when he was at Miami, though he was already negotiating with the Crimson Tide in the second year of his Dolphins tenure. He should probably avoid any more swearing up and down in future.

Saban’s name has been bounced around on the radio, in the bars and at the water cooler in recent days as the Eagles’ coaching search draws closer. It’s all part of the process where we ingest a name and let it rattle around in us for a little while to see how it sits. Some have spit it right out, citing the way that Saban up and left the Dolphins following the 2006 season for the Alabama job not long after stating that he would not be taking the Alabama job.

Others look at his national championships and Coach of the Year awards and can’t help but think of the possibilities if the 61-year-old Saban was truly committed to the mission.

My instinct is to side more with Jaws and go by the old thought that past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior.

However, I do not believe that should prevent the Eagles from exploring the option. If Saban decides that winning national titles just doesn’t do it for him anymore and he would like to try his hand in the bigs again, Howie Roseman and Jeffrey Lurie should not just give him a look but a full-out inspection. A thorough vetting process can help lift some of the gray out of the picture and make it more clear who Saban is, what his intentions are, how willing he is to exist within the Eagles’ desired power structure and whether he is committed long-term.

Odds are, it wouldn’t be a fit. But who knows what an accomplished coach like Saban is thinking at this stage of his career. Maybe he is intent on changing the image that he created for himself on this level the last time around.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Sheil takes a deeper look at the performance of Nick Foles.

How does Brandon Graham stack up against Jason Pierre-Paul? You might be surprised.

Catch all of the latest coaching buzz in our special section.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

In case you missed it, Bill Barnwell of Grantland has chimed in on the Andy Reid era.

…there’s clearly too much good here for Reid to be seen as a failed head coach.5 He was the best coach the Eagles have had during the modern era of football by a fantastically wide margin, and both his longevity and his effectiveness suggest that he’s one of the best coaches of his generation. It’s also foolish to believe that he’s done. If he wants to come back to coaching (and reports say that he does), he would be at the top of the list for many of the league’s coach-needy teams. There’s a track record of guys who fizzled out after a long run with one team immediately succeeding elsewhere, too. John Fox followed a 2-14 year with the Panthers by going to Denver and winning two consecutive AFC West titles. Tom Coughlin peaked at 12-4 and had three years of below-average football before being let go by the Jaguars, but when he caught on with the Giants, he had them in the playoffs in two years. It may take another chance with another team for people to realize just how valuable Reid is as a head coach. And it may take an inferior new head coach in Philadelphia for Eagles fans to realize how lucky they were to have Andy Reid all these years.

Ray Didinger offered these thoughts on Thursday night games after watching the Eagles and Bengals:

Simply put, the NFL’s Thursday night product stinks.
It almost doesn’t matter which teams are playing. It could be a clueless bunch like the Eagles or it could be a playoff contender like Pittsburgh or Atlanta. It all looks the same — sloppy and uninspired.
This is not a coincidence. Pro football is not a sport meant to be played on an NBA schedule. It is unrealistic to expect an NFL player to get himself ready to play and a coach to get his team ready to play when they have just three days between games.

COMING UP

The Eagles get to sit  back and watch as the rest of the league plays. They will have a light practice Monday morning.