Let me just preface this article by saying that there is no official list out there for the favorite candidates to replace Andy Reid. This list is my own. I based my list of candidates similarly to what a Team President, General Manager or Owner would base there list off of. They will be looking for leadership qualities, NFL experience, potential as a long-term head coach, the effort their players play with at their current or former job and the people they have worked with.
There isn’t a perfect candidate out there and there rarely is. The Bill Belichicks of the world just don’t grow on trees and even he wasn’t viewed as a perfect candidate. Dick Vermeil was a young college head coach when the Eagles hired him in 1976. He had just a few years of NFL experience and none as a NFL head coach. He went on to turn around an awful Eagles franchise and lead them to the Super Bowl in his fourth season. He also won a Super Bowl several years later with the St. Louis Rams.
Tom Coughlin really had one good season with the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars before getting hired by the New York Giants several years later where he won two Super Bowls. Josh McDaniels was the hot assistant to hire a few years back, but he drove the Denver Broncos into the ground in a hurry. He could turn out to be a great coach down the road, but right now he is a failure as a head coach.
Sometimes coaches don’t work out for certain teams, but turn out to be great with another. Pete Carroll failed in New England and New York, but is doing an incredible job with the Seahawks. For the Eagles, who already have a pretty solid roster and a good GM in place already, they don’t need to swing for the fences. They also need to hire someone who just wants to be a head coach and won’t try and completely rebuild the roster. Jon Gruden and Josh McDaniels failed at their last head coaching stints because of this. The Eagles roster just needs a few adjustments, a good coach and they are a contender again. They also have a pretty good offensive line(when healthy) and a pair of terrific and young running backs. The next coach has to believe in the running game.
All of this has to be considered when narrowing down the Eagles candidates to replace Andy Reid. Here is what I came up with for my final five:
Chip Kelly/Head Coach Oregon Ducks
Chip Kelly breaks a couple rules in this coaching search, but his potential is far too intriguing to ignore. When Bill Belichick seeks you out to pick your brain, you know you are doing something right. Kelly may run more of a college offense, but he knows the game of football. He will adapt his offense to better fit both the pro game and the roster he takes over.
Kelly has been the most rumored candidate to get the job in Philly, but that could have something to do with Kelly being the only college candidate out there besides Nick Saban. He is the hottest name out there and will be involved in every team’s rumor mill that is in need of a new head coach.
Kelly in an intriguing candidate for me. I think he is either going to be a great NFL head coach, or bomb out within three seasons. The important thing to consider with Kelly is that he doesn’t need a option quarterback to make his offense go. He will adapt his offense to the NFL and typically, the running backs on the roster do most of the damage on the ground. I think he becomes a succesful head coach at some point and the Eagles would be foolish not to test the waters and found out what he is all about.
Mike McCoy/Offensive Coordinator Denver Broncos
McCoy might have the best track record of the Eagles likely candidates. He has made Jake Delhomme into an elite quarterback, made Kyle Orton look like a legit starter for a couple seasons, made the “Tim Tebow” offense work and adapted very quickly for his current quarterback, Peyton Manning. Imagine what he could do with Nick Foles.
McCoy has also been successful with the running game. The Broncos are 9th in the NFL this season in rushing attempts. He likes to use the run to set up the pass. The threat of the run is always there in Denver, despite Peyton Manning being under center. The notion that you can be successful with a pass happy offense is wrong. The threat of a running game will always give your passing game another dimension. The teams that ignore that will always fall short at some point. A balanced offense is a dangerous offense.
McCoy is well aware of this and has always utilized the running game. He took a Tim Tebow led offense to the second round of the playoffs last season and has lead an offense this season good enough to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February. The word that I think of with McCoy is adaptive. He adapts to his players and not the other way around. He has been my favorite candidate during this whole process and that won’t change anytime soon.
Mike Zimmer/Defensive Coordinator Cincinnati Bengals
Zimmer might be the most underrated assistant coach in the NFL. Every year he gets passed over for interviews despite getting the most out of a mediocre defense. Remember, the Bengals have one of the cheapest owners in the league. Mike Brown runs this team to make as much money as possible. He won’t overspend in free agency, he doesn’t have a huge scouting department and he won’t fire coaches(he waits for the contracts to expire). Winning in Cincinnati is no easy task.
Zimmer’s defenses have always been incredibly fundamentally sound. They tackle well, they stick to their assignment and they don’t make critical mistakes. The effort is also very impressive. You never see a lazy defense with Mike Zimmer. All these factors stick out because the Eagles defense over the last two seasons has, at times been lazy, tackled poorly, not know their assignments and have made some very critical mistakes.
Zimmer is a players coach, but his players have never taken advantage of that. You can’t say the same thing about Andy Reid. Maybe it’s because Zimmer hasn’t been at the same place for 14 seasons or maybe it is because he has always preached the fundamentals and a strong work ethic. Would the Eagles be in the playoff mix had they been more fundamentally sound this season? I believe so. I also believe this will be the year Zimmer gets serious consideration for a head coaching job. Hopefully the Eagles are one of the teams that consider him.
Gus Bradley/Defensive Coordinator Seattle Seahawks
When a legendary defensive coordinator like Monte Kiffin calls someone a “A-plus, once in a liftetime coach” it gets my attention. Bradley worked under Kiffin in Tampa Bay from 2006-2008. The two of them put together the defensive gameplans each week and it has showed with the work he has done as the Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator this season. They currently have the number one scoring defense in the NFL and have beaten the Patriots, 49ers, Bears, Vikings and Cowboys.
Bradley is a tough, defensive minded head coach that will demand maximum effort from his players. When you have a finesse team with a few divas on the roster, a tough coach like Bradley can be the best hire. His defense has been far too successful this season for him not to get consideration for a head coaching job in 2013. It’s just a matter of whether he wants to be a head coach now, or stick around in Seattle for another season or two.
Greg Roman/Offensive Coordinator San Francisco 49ers
If you want a coach to get your running game going, Greg Roman is your guy. He does it with superior blocking schemes on the offensive line, but he also uses his extra blockers to really open things up. He also uses a variety of ball carriers to keep all the backs fresh and healthy all season long.
The 49ers ranked 7th in rushing attempts, 4th in yards, 6th in rushing touchdowns and 2nd in yards per carry. They have 5 players with at least 4.0 yard per carry who have at least 18 carries on the season. That is what could make him an attractive hire for the Eagles. They have three really talented running backs in LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown and Dion Lewis. They also have a player who is kind of an unknown in Chris Polk and a very athletic full back in Stanley Havili. He would certainly have a lot of weapons to play with in the running game, not to mention a solid offensive line once everyone gets healthy.