Despite pledging to return to Penn State in 2013 and beyond, Bill O’Brien has emerged as a potential front runner in the Eagles Head Coaching search.
With seven Head Coaching vacancies in the NFL, the Eagles will likely face stiff competition in finding their ideal replacement for Andy Reid, who was fired after 14 seasons on Monday.
Jeffrey Lurie’s short list of candidates is becoming clearer by the day thanks to multiple reports and comments from sources around the league.
Officially, speaking to a team source, there are “no updates on potential interviews. Lots of research, lots of preparation.”
Due to stipulations in the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, teams, Philadelphia included, can only speak to coaches on the staff of playoff teams either this week during their bye or when their season ends. That means names such as Bruce Arians, who will serve on the Colts staff during the playoffs and has been linked to the Eagles, cannot interview with teams until their playoff run ends.
Meanwhile, it seems Lurie and team General Manager Howie Roseman are already zeroing in on other candidates and lining up interviews as soon as Thursday.
Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is likely the hottest sought after candidate, currently in the NFL, and is set to interview for the Eagles job this weekend.
McCoy has led the Broncos offense since 2009 and this season finished with the second leading scoring offense in the league, averaging 30.1 points per game thanks in large part to Peyton Manning’s resurgence.
Additionally, Bill O’Brien’s name continues to circulate as a top target of Lurie and the Eagles.
ESPN’s Chris Mortenson reports that not only is O’Brien considering leaving Penn State after one season to return to the NFL as a Head Coach, but that the Eagles are on his short list of teams that he would consider.
O’Brien pledged to return to PSU shortly after the Nittany Lions season ended, however, could be swayed to return to the NFL. O’Brien comes with a hefty price though, as his contract calls for a $9.5 million buyout, however given the influx of cash in the coffers of NFL owners since the league’s most recent CBA, it may not be the poison pill it was once considered to be.
“I really value leadership,” Lurie said on Monday. “Being a strong leader to me is more important than any scheme.”
Lurie’s value of leadership certainly would make O’Brien a viable candidate in Philadelphia, considering the Nittany Lions finished 8-4 following stiff NCAA sanctions in the Sandusky case fallout and several marquee players transferred out of the program, including top running back Silas Red.
It will be interesting to see if the Eagles poach an in state school for their next Head Coach, or if O’Brien sticks to his word when he told the remaining Nittany Lions that he would see through the sanctions with them.
Another name that has emerged as potentially the Eagles top candidate is Oregon Ducks Head Coach Chip Kelly.
Kelly’s innovative spread option offense has become the vogue across the league and he will likely interview with several teams in the next few days. Kelly, though, cannot interview until Friday at the earliest, following Oregon’s appearance in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Eagles likely are also set to interview Atlanta’s defensive coordinator Mike Nola and special teams coach Keith Armstrong. At a time, Dirk Koetter appeared to be the only coach on Atlanta’s staff that the Eagles had legitimate interest in, but he agreed to a deal to stay in Atlanta for hte next two seasons.
Other coaches on the Eagles radar include Jon Gruden, Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton, and University of Syracuse Head Coach Doug Marrone.