Part 2: The Empire Strikes Back… Once It Fails Somewhere Else.
We’re often asked: Who do you want to coach the Eagles after they fire The Walrus? Frankly, we don’t know… Yet. Which is why we bring you, “The 2012 Eagles Magical Mystery Coaching Tour: The Search For The Next Eagles Head Coach.”
Click here for the first part of our series and an explanation of what we’re looking for in the next leader of the Birds. And remember, Reid’s replacement will come from one of four groups: Former NFL coaches, current NFL coaches, current NFL assistant coaches and college coaches.
Now that we’ve ruled out all the “retired” coaches who could step into the Walrus’ flippers(*), let’s take a look at some of the current NFL coaches we would love to see on the Eagles’ sideline next year.
(*)Just to reiterate: we don’t want Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy, Brian Billick or any other coach who’s been out of the game for longer than two years… No matter what Sal Pal says.
Looking across the NFL landscape, there are really only a handful of current head men we would want to coach our team(*). Some of them may not surprise you – as we openly adore the brothers Harbaugh – but some will. Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Sean Payton.
(*)And keep in mind, all of these coaches are under contract. Unless they’re fired or free agents after the season – which typically means they failed with their previous team – the Eagles have very little chance of hiring them. And we certainly don’t see Lurie trading a number one pick for a new Head Coach.
According to multiple reports, Payton may be a free agent after this season. As we hinted at in Tuesday’s Walrus Droppings, we would LOVE to see Payton in Philadelphia again – if you recall, he was here in ’97 and ’98 as the Quarterbacks coach under Gruden, who was the coordinator. But it’s highly unlikely that he leaves the Saints. And even if he did, would he really come back to Philly? His family lives in Dallas and if he gets free, Jerry Jones figures to be hot after him.
Even though the Eagles don’t have the Quarterback necessary to run Payton’s Offense – and the fact that we want a Defensive coach – we love Sean Payton’s intangibles. He is a hard-ass, disciplinarian who preaches toughness and tenacity. He’s also been a proven winner wherever he goes and comes from the vaunted Bill Parcells coaching tree. Just like Bill Belichick.
Speaking of The Hoodie… He’s clearly the best coach in the NFL. He’s won three Super Bowls, has kept his team ultra-competitive for a decade and is a flat-out Defensive genius(**). Would we want Lurie to pry him away from the Patriots? Of course. Would it ever happen? When walruses fly. Besides, Belichick is at a point in his career where he’s likely never going to coach another team again. If anything, his next move will to be a franchise-building team president in the mold of Parcells and Mike Holmgren. So let’s just go ahead and rule him out.
(**)Is there any other coach in history who could plug a fourth-string Wide Receiver into a Defensive Secondary and succeed?! That’s like making your Offensive Line Coach the Defensive Coordinator! Oh wait… Nevermind…
Speaking of coaches we can rule out, let’s quickly run through the remainder of current NFL Head Coaches:
Unaccomplished Head Coaches We DEFINITELY Don’t Want:
Ken Whisenhunt, Chan Gailey, Mike Mularkey, Chuck Pagano, Joe Philbin, Pat Shurmur, Jason Garrett, Pete Carroll and Mike Munchak
Sure, some of those guys have been successful coordinators or college coaches – and in the case of Pagano and Philbin – could turn out to be decent Head Coaches in the NFL. Look at how the Colts have rallied around Pagano’s unfortunate illness… That’s telling. It also makes you question why the Eagles didn’t similarly rally around Andy after the loss of his son?
Regardless, we’re not sold on any of these coaches – even Pagano – and we certainly wouldn’t want the Eagles to waste two or three years giving one of these guys a shot. Especially Chan Gailey.
Somewhat-Accomplished-To-Successful Head Coaches We STILL Don’t Want:
Romeo Crennel, John Fox, Gary Kubiak, Norv Turner, Jeff Fisher, Mike McCarthy, Tom Coughlin and Mike Shanahan
Three members of this list have won Super Bowls, but even that’s not enough for us to want Lurie to give them the time of day. Our hatred of Coughlin and Shanahan are well documented, but we’ve never really talked about McCarthy, who may as well be known as Walrus-lite. But at least he’s won something!
As for Fisher, Turner, Kubiak, Fox and Crennel… They are all middling coaches who are better suited to be coordinators than run the whole show. Crennel and Turner are the best examples of this (along with Wade Phillips, who we’ll eventually get to). They’ve all had multiple chances to run teams and, though some have came close to winning a Lombardi(***), none appear capable of leading a team over the top. Yet, owners will continue to hire these under-qualified guys, year after year after year. Hopefully Lurie is smarter than that(****).
(***)Hell, Fisher’s Titans came within a half-yard of beating the Rams in 1999!
(****)Don’t hold your breath.
Accomplished Coordinators Who Have Yet To Prove They Can Be Head Coaches, But May Benefit From A Second Chance:
Dennis Allen, Greg Schiano, Ron Rivera, Jim Schwartz, Leslie Frazier and Marvin Lewis
Here’s where it begins to get tricky. All of these guys are top-notch Defensive Coordinators who were given the reigns to an entire team… A route we would like to see the Eagles take with the next Head Coach. But it doesn’t alway work. At least the first time around.
Allen and Schiano are in their first years, so its hard to judge them… But neither has made an impact the way Harbaugh did in San Francisco. Of course, that doesn’t mean they won’t succeed in Oakland and Tampa Bay, respectively. Both of their teams are mediocre, at the moment, but both show flashes of talent… Especially on Defense. At least the Raiders and Bucs SEEM to be headed in the right direction.
Rivera – who we always liked and were screaming to be the Eagles Defensive Coordinator before they hired Juan – has been a total disaster in Carolina and has made poor decision after poor decision. It’s almost like he learned how to coach from Andy Reid(*****)! Schwartz and Frazier have promising moments, but neither has progressed their team forward enough to warrant true respect. And somehow Lewis is still floundering in Cincinnati after all these years.
But guess what… Bill Belichick once failed as the Head Coach of the Cleveland Browns – going 36-44 in five seasons – and then became the greatest Head Coach of the modern era. So, there’s always hope that a coach with little success in one city, can reinvent himself in another. Sometimes coaches need to take their lumps too.
For our purposes, though, we wouldn’t want to see any of these guys get their second shot with the Eagles in 2013. Which leads us to…
Current Coaches We WOULD Want:
Lovie Smith, Mike Smith, Rex Ryan, Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh and Jim Harbaugh
We know what you’re thinking: “Lovie Smith?! Mike Smith?! REX RYAN?!!!?! What have these guys ever done?” Look, we’re not enormous fans of the either Smith, but they have qualities that we totally admire, and would love to see in Philadelphia. Both are accomplished Defensive coaches (Lovie more so), who have led their respective teams to the top of the NFC through stout Defenses. Sure, the Falcons aren’t especially known for their D, but they’re currently ranked fourth in points per game and have been in the top-10 for Defensive DVOA for the past two years.
As for Lovie… We’re somewhat mixed. We were in Chicago for the Eagles-Bears game in 2010, and Bears fans openly loathed Lovie the same way we do The Walrus. The biggest difference is that his Defenses have always been elite – ranked in the top-4 for Defensive DVOA the past three years. And don’t forget, his team currently boasts the most feared and accomplished Defense in the NFL. Besides, that 2010 Bears team was mostly frustrating on Offense… Which was led by Mike Martz. So, there’s that.
Along with Sean Payton, Tomlin and the brothers Harbaugh – both Jim and John – are the coaches we most desire to lead the Eagles. They all share the same traits: they are tough, hard-nosed and stern coaches, who garner the utmost respect from their players. Their teams have adopted their personalities and play with a edge that we could only dream about having in Philadelphia. And aside from being winners, whose team’s are always competitive, all of these guys feature balanced Offenses, with tough-as-nails, tenacious Defenses. Too bad they will all be in their respective positions for years to come.
Which leaves us with Rex. Clearly one of the most polarizing coaches in the NFL, you either love or hate him. We, obviously, fall on the side of love. Whether it’s due to our undying affection for his father, Buddy, or the enjoyment of his boisterous, profane and usually-insane press conferences, we’re not sure. There is just something about him that is completely endearing and we would love to listen to his loudmouthed bullshit for seasons on end.
But, much like his father, those attributes don’t necessary make for a good Head Coach. Where guys like the Jim Harbaugh and Mike Tomlin can rally entire teams, hiring someone like Rex would require a very good Offensive Coordinator who can complement his Defense and completely run the other side of the ball.
And then there’s this: Rex Ryan is basically the love-child of Andy Reid and Ray Rhodes. He’s loud and brash and blitz-happy, but fat and stubborn and seems to always get in his own way. He hasn’t sniffed a Super Bowl appearance and may have even maxed-out the potential of his current team. If Rex was available tomorrow, would we want the Eagles to hire him? Of course. Do we think he’s the best choice? Not even close.
Which is why the 2012 Eagles Magical Mystery Coaching Tour continues on to its next stop: Current NFL Assistant Coaches.