Wake-Up Call: It’s Good to Be Home

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The Saints are 1-5 in their last six road games, as you may have heard. They certainly have. Drew Brees and company have been bombarded with questions about the slump all week.

The Eagles can relate. They dropped their first four games at the Linc this season, extending the overall home drought to 10 games, and were reminded regularly of their shortcomings. The streak hit double-digits on October 27 with a 15-7 loss to the Giants that dropped the Eagles to 3-5 on the year. Just as Sean Payton joked this week about changing up the Gatorade flavor to flip the mojo, Chip Kelly quipped that maybe he would put the team on a bus and drive them around for a half  hour for home games to simulate the road experience.

Those days seem far away now. The streak was snapped with a 24-16 win over Washington in mid-November, and the Eagles went on to win four straight at the Linc to close out the regular season. Just like that they had regained homefield advantage, and in memorable fashion. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Payton Deal First Chip To Fall

Jay Glazer of FoxSports.com reported Friday evening that the New Orleans Saints and Sean Payton have agreed in principle to a contract extension.

And just like that, the NFL’s hiring season had begun.

Payton leaving always seemed like a longshot, but it’s no coincidence that the news was announced just three days before teams around the league started firing their coaches. The Saints would have been making a huge mistake if they let Payton test the open market. The one team he had most often been linked to was the Cowboys. But Glazer also reports that Jason Garrett will be back in Dallas in 2013.

Meanwhile, there figures to be some serious competition and posturing next week as nearly one-third of the league’s jobs could potentially be up for grabs.

The rumors about who could potentially replace Andy Reid continue to swirl. Albert Breer of NFL Network hears that University of Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian could be an option for the Eagles. Sarkisian has spent the last four seasons as head coach of the Huskies. Prior to that, he was an assistant with USC for seven seasons and also spent one year (2004) as the quarterbacks coach of the Oakland Raiders.

One other name we’ve written about previously in this space is Penn State’s Bill O’Brien. While it seems unlikely that O’Brien will leave Happy Valley, the door is not shut completely. Adam Caplan reports that teams have begun research on O’Brien’s contract and buyout:

This situation may go nowhere, especially based on the buyout and how much money he’ll earn over the length of the contract. However, with the dearth of quality head-coaching candidates available, it wouldn’t be surprising if some teams showed interest in O’Brien over the next week or so.

Several names to keep an eye on, and likely several openings to be announced as soon as Monday.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Reid said he’s had no discussions with Jeffrey Lurie this week.

I felt like rambling yesterday, so the Week 17 cheat sheet offers 10 thoughts on the state of the Eagles.

The Birds’ assistant coaches also face an uncertain future, Tim writes.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

ESPN’s Adam Schefter offers his take on Reid:

Reid’s selection of assistant coaches contributed to his downfall. Philadelphia struggled to replace legendary defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, and when the Eagles attempted to do it with offensive line coach Juan Castillo, they created issues in other areas.

Yet with a record of 130-92-1, Reid goes down as a Philadelphia sports legend, as unappreciated as he was underrated. Reid, 54, wants to coach next season, and he undoubtedly will draw interest. But some around the league are hoping that Reid takes a year off to spend time with his family, recharge his battery, study the game and return with a passion in 2014.

One of the better national columns you’ll see on Reid, from SI.com’s Michael Rosenberg:

Reid has had 14 years to end this drought. He came achingly close. In 2005, the Eagles lost the Super Bowl to the Patriots by a field goal. Reid has taken the Eagles to five conference championship games. To understand how impressive that is, consider: Bill Belichick has made six conference championship games. Tony Dungy made three. If this were college basketball, we would say that Reid took the Eagles to five Final Fours.

And yet, Reid was never really enough for Philly. I don’t just mean his record, though lately that has not been enough. I mean him. Fans and reporters want Reid to reveal himself. They want visible passion on the sideline on Sundays and audible emotion in press conferences on Mondays. They want Rex Ryan. Or at least Buddy Ryan. Or Dick Vermeil.

COMING UP

No media availability as the Eagles make final preparations for Sunday’s game against the Giants.

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.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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A Couple Thoughts On Sean Payton And the Eagles

Sean Payton could be a free agent at the end of the season. The Eagles might very well be in the market for a head coach at the end of the year. Could Payton land in Philly?

There are some major hurdles to overcome.

First, there is still some haze around his contract situation.

Adam Schefter reported Sunday that the multi-year contract extension given to Payton in 2011 was voided by the NFL within the past year.

At issue in the contract was one specific clause that would have enabled Payton to walk away from the deal if general manager Mickey Loomis was suspended, fired or left the New Orleans organization, sources said.

The league believed that any such language in Payton’s contract would set a bad precedent for other coaching contracts and rejected the deal well before Loomis was suspended for the first eight games this season for his part in the bounty scandal.

Some in the league office believe Payton’s contract could toll — meaning the last year would be put on hold, tying him to New Orleans for the 2013 season — but there is no evidence to confirm that possibility.

If Payton is in fact out of his contract, the next question is: Does he want to leave New Orleans? The answer appears to be no. From Pro Football Talk:

Via Jay Glazer of FOX, Payton says he “absolutely plans” on returning to the Saints in 2013, despite his contractual status.

It is difficult to envision Payton walking away from the Saints right now. With everything that has happened over the past year, I doubt he is thinking of abandoning this team.

Let’s say all that changes. Would he want to come to Philadelphia? He broke into the NFL with the Eagles, serving as the quarterbacks coach from 1997-1998 before moving on to work for the Giants. His star really began to rise in Dallas, though, where he served as assistant head coach prior to being hired by the Saints in 2006. From Schefter:

Payton is expected to become the NFL’s most sought-after head coach after this season and there already is speculation in league circles that he could wind up returning to Dallas, where he worked as the assistant head coach from 2003 to 2005, during which time theDallas Cowboys brought in quarterback Tony Romo, who attended the same college, Eastern Illinois, as Payton.

The Eagles job may not be all that desirable given the quarterback situation. The Eagles have the option of walking away from Michael Vick‘s contract without taking too big of a financial hit at the end of the year. Whether it’s Vick or Nick Foles, is that enough to attract Payton? My understanding is that Steve Spagnuolo chose New Orleans over Philadelphia this offseason in part because of the Saints’ stability at quarterback — and this is a defensive coordinator we’re talking about. It matters, and I’m sure it matters to Payton. Walking away from Drew Brees to take over a team with a big question mark at quarterback is not good business.

Landing Payton is a longshot, in other words. But it’s definitely worth a try.

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