Just Say No To Chucky

November 28, 2012

While we work on the third post in our “2012 Eagles Magical Mystery Coaching Tour” series(*), we want to take a second to address a growing concern of ours.

(*)And we apologize for the delay. Between the holidays, work schedules and apathy, we’ve fallen behind.

We’ve already discussed why we don’t want Jon Gruden to be the next Head Coach of the Eagles, but we can’t seem to understand why there is still a large contingency of fans who strongly desire the Monday Night Football brown-noser color analyst.

Sure, Chucky won a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay… But with Tony Dungy’s team. Sure, he inherited a bad Raiders team and took them to back-to-back AFC Championship games and was one Tuck Rule away from a Super Bowl appearance… But he didn’t actually build the team.

Jon Gruden is a mercenary. He’s a fixer, much like Winston Wolf. He takes teams that are on the precipice of great things and pushes them over the top.

We were all for Gruden two or three years ago, when it appeared the Eagles were one move away from being truly elite and just needed something – specifically, a change at Head Coach – to get them over the hump, but those days are long gone. This franchise needs a complete makeover from coaching to players to philosophy… And that’s not what Gruden does.

When he arrived in Oakland in 1998, he found a team in transition: an aging Offense, Quarterbacked by the eternal Jeff George and flanked by Raider mainstays WR Tim Brown and RB Napoleon Kaufman; and a young, up-and-coming Defense being built around stud rookie CB Charles Woodson and a young Defensive Line. Flash forward three seasons to 2001 and the only major changes to the team were 36-year old QB Rich Gannon(**), 39-year old way-past-his-prime Jerry Rice, aging RBs in Charlie Garner and Tyrone Wheatley and a Defense that was only getting older and had no significant fresh blood. The only major addition was Chucky’s Offensive scheme… Which, by the way, is nearly identical to Andy Reid’s.

(**)Who inexplicably went from journeyman back-up to All-Pro and even won the MVP in 2002 (the year Gruden wasn’t his coach, by the way).

That Raiders team eventually made it to the Super Bowl the year Gruden left, and ironically got blasted by the Buccaneers’ team Gruden took over. They are still known as one of the worst Super Bowl teams in history(***). The point is: those Raiders teams half over-achieved and half benefited from playing in an absolutely dismal conference.

(***)And here’s where we get angry and depressed… That was OUR Super Bowl. That was the one that Andy and Donovan were destined to win, especially when they were up 7-0 in the NFC Championship Game against the Bucs (also known as the last game Eagles in Veterans Stadium history). But then Joe Jurevicius happened. We’ll never forgive you, Levon Kirkland… The 2002 Eagles would have absolutely murdered that Raiders team.

So, while Gruden may have a track record for making teams better than they are, his particular set of skills(****) only apply to teams headed in the right direction. This franchise is not one of those teams.

(****)Copyright, Liam Neeson.

We’re not saying he’s a bad coach… Far from it actually. He’s correctly considered an Offensive guru. And there’s a reason he’s been successful in the past and will be in such high demand when he does throw his hat back into the coaching ring. He’s just not the right fit for this team.

Hopefully Eagles fans – especially the one wearing the Chucky mask at Monday night’s game – will come to realize that.

One quick note…
We will be interviewed tonight at 8:30 p.m. EST on Beyond The Field, part of the Tailgate Radio Network. Listen live! We’ll post a link to the show when it’s up.

The 2012 Eagles Magical Mystery Coaching Tour

November 10, 2012

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.

(*****)He did.

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.

The 2012 Eagles Magical Mystery Coaching Tour

October 30, 2012

Episode One: Return of the Jedi? No Thanks.

As the premier voice of getting rid of Andy Reid, we are often asked who we want to replace The Walrus as the next Head Coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. Frankly… we don’t know.

But, now that we’re officially on Walrus Firing-watch, the time has come to figure out exactly who will be cleaning the crumbs and mustache whiskers out of Andy’s old water tank office.

Now, before we start, let’s be real: we can only pontificate so much. We (obviously) won’t have access to candidate interviews and don’t have the ability to ask aspiring coaches their plans to move this franchise forward. So, take whatever we say as pure opinion and speculation(*).

(*)You know… Like always.

With that being said, let’s take a quick look at the qualities and philosophies we’d like to see in the next leader of the Philadelphia Eagles. After a decade and a half of Reid’s “Offensive Genius,” it’s finally time for the Birds to go the Defensive route. Sure, the NFL is a passing league, but when rookies like Brandon Weeden can come right into the league and throw for 4,000+ yards, it’s the league’s elite Defenses that make the biggest difference. If you look at the last four Super Bowl winners – the Giants twice, the Packers and Saints – they all won with elite Quarterbacks and high-volume Offenses, sure, but their Defenses were also among the top-10 in the league for their respective seasons and they all excelled at creating pressure and forcing turnovers. That’s a far cry from this current Eagles team.

The next coach needs to be defensive-minded, and we would certainly prefer a mad scientist-type, who will create crazy schemes (alá Buddy Ryan’s 46, or even move the team to a 3-4 or 4-4 base Defense) and has a philosophy that predicates tough, hard-nosed, tenacious Defense.

Think about some of the greatest coaches in NFL history – Chuck Noll, Hank Stram, Tom Landry, George Halas, Bill Parcells and more recently Bill Belichick. All Defensive geniuses. And all of the best Defensive Coordinators that “great” Head Coaches owe their legacies to – Buddy Ryan, Dick LeBeau, Jim Johnson, Monte Kiffin. We NEED a Defensive guru.

We want a tough, stern, disciplinarian coach, whose team will adopt that mentality through osmosis. Think about how Jim Harbaugh came into San Francisco and instantly transformed the team’s demeanor, personality and culture. The Eagles desperately lack discipline and accountability, and need to have a leader that will instill that in the franchise.

Much like Andy’s need for a top-notch Defensive mind to complement his (once-potent) Offense, we are fine with the Offense being run by an established coordinator. Either way, both sides of the ball need to be totally overhauled and re-built from the lines out(**).

(**)Ironically, building from the lines out was Andy’s philosophy… And it worked! Until he completely wavered from it and starting plugging the lines with undrafted rookies and journeymen.

With that being said, there are four different categories to draw potential replacements from: current NFL Head Coaches, former NFL Head Coaches, current NFL assistant coaches, and college coaches.

Let’s start with the most obvious group: former NFL coaches.

Whenever we get into a discussion about the next Eagles coach, an uninformed fan will inevitably bring up Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher. Let’s be perfectly clear… We DO NOT want Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher or any other “retired” Head Coach to lead the Eagles.

Sure, Gruden and Cowher and Dungy and Parcells and Brian Billick and whoever else were once successful, Super Bowl-winning Head Coaches… But they would be better suited to takeover a team that is one piece away from winning it all. In other words, they would have been perfect fits for the Eagles in 2007-2008. This team needs a complete overhaul and rebuild, not a former-personality to push them over the top.

None of those coaches would be interested in building a team from scratch. If Cowher or Gruden or Dungy wanted to come back to the league, they would do it to add to their championship collections, not take a chance on reshaping a franchise over the next five years.

On top of that, there is very little precedent for a coach coming out of retirement and succeeding with a new team. Parcells has tried on multiple occasions and, while he was successful in changing the philosophies of franchises like the Jets and Dolphins(***), has never lasted long enough to see it through. George Siefert tried in Carolina and failed. Dan Synder wiped the cobwebs and NASCAR logos off of Joe Gibbs a few years back and we all know how that ended.

(***)Not so much the Cowboys.

Dick Vermeil is the only coach we can recall who retired and came back to take the St. Louis Rams from laughingstock to champions… And that had a lot to do with Mike Martz’s “Greatest Show on Turf” Offense.

So, would we like to see a past-his-prime, once-great football mind to come in and lead our team? No thank you. Sorry Gruden Fans and lovers of the Chin, we’ll pass.

Next stop on the Eagles’ Magical Mystery Coaching Tour: Current NFL Coaches.