Eagles Coach Tracker: Patriots OC Enters Mix, Top Chiefs Assistant

Getty Jedd Fisch and Josh McDaniels

The Philadelphia Eagles have hit the ground running in their search for the next Doug Pederson. The franchise has long been enamored with offense so that side of the ball should once again take precedence as they sort through resumes in the coming days.

On Saturday, the Eagles were linked to two intriguing candidates: New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels (via The Athletic) and Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy (via NFL Network). The team was also reportedly reaching out to Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley.

Here’s how the search is going based on earlier reports: Eagles assistant head coach Duce Staley had been tabbed as an in-house candidate and interviewed on Friday. Kansas City Chiefs assistant Mike Kafka and Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley reportedly remain on their radar. Meanwhile, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is off the board after agreeing to coach the New York Jets. Ditto for Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith who inked with the Atlanta Falcons.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles remains in the mix, as well as New England Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo and Ohio State head coach Ryan Day. The Eagles also have interest in Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll (via NBC10’s John Clark) and Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady (via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport) while requesting permission to bring in Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore (via ESPN’s Todd Archer).

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie told reporters on Monday that he would personally lead the search effort, with input from general manager Howie Roseman and team president Don Smolenski. The organization doesn’t want to rush the process, putting the timeline anywhere from “soon” until “early February.” For perspective, they took 16 days to hire Pederson after firing Chip Kelly — and 18 days to settle on Kelly after moving on from Andy Reid.

“There’s no rush. There’s no pressure,” Lurie said. “There’s nothing that should drive you from a decision based on just rational thought and careful analysis and getting to know the person as best you can.”

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Breaking Down the Leading Candidates

Lurie wouldn’t divulge the exact characteristics he’s looking for in his next head coach, but he mentioned “leadership” several times during a sometimes rambling press conference. He actually credited it as one of Pederson’s greatest strengths.

“We had a lot of that with Doug,” Lurie said. “Leadership is an important characteristic.”

Let’s take a look at the early list of interviews reportedly lined up:

Arthur Smith: The 38-year-old has worked his way up the NFL coaching ladder despite being the son of a billionaire (yes, FedEx founder Frederick Smith is his father). Smith started as Tennessee’s defensive assistant/quality control coach in 2011 before rising up to tight ends coach and eventually offensive coordinator. The Titans tied for second-best in total offense in 2020 (396.4 yards per game) while resurrecting quarterback Ryan Tannehill from the dead. He led the NFL with a 117.5 passer rating in 2019, earning Smith a growing reputation as a quarterback fixer. The Eagles certainly need that.

Todd Bowles: Eagles fans should remember Bowles’ name as he served on Andy Reid’s staff in 2012 as secondary coach before a mid-season promotion (Juan Castillo anyone?) to defensive coordinator. His track record is a respectable one: Assistant Coach of the Year for the Arizona Cardinals in 2014, with mixed results as New York Jets head coach (24-40 record). Bowles now serves as Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator where his defense ranked sixth-best (327.1 yards allowed per game) in the NFL. He also starred at Temple as a player and won a Super Bowl in Washington. Would the Eagles hire a retread like Bowles? Doubtful.

Robert Saleh: The 41-year-old has been one of the hottest young head-coaching candidates dating back to 2019 when he turned the San Francisco 49ers defense into the second-best unit in the NFL (281.8 yards allowed per game) while leading them to the Super Bowl. The job he did in 2020 might be even more impressive, finishing fifth-best (314.4) in total defense despite losing 10 players to injury. Saleh is well-respected by his peers and beloved by his players. The Eagles don’t often hire defensive-minded coaches but he’s one of the best in the business.

Lincoln Riley: It’s tough to argue with the explosive energy that the Oklahoma head coach brings to the offensive side of the ball. Riley churns out Heisman-winning quarterbacks (and Jalen Hurts) like McDonald’s does french fries so putting him in charge of the NFL’s “quarterback factory” would make a lot of sense. His offenses ranked 11th in the country this year (494.7 yards per game) after finishing fourth (522.8) in 2019 and first in 2018 (570.4). The 37-year-old also has an established relationship with Eagles GM Howie Roseman … but doesn’t this move smell an awful like the Chip Kelly hire? Yes, it does.

Mike Kafka: Why has the Chiefs quarterbacks coach risen above offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy? That’s a question for another day. Kafka was mentioned last year in talks to become the next Eagles offensive coordinator but Reid wouldn’t let one of Patrick Mahomes’ most trusted advisers take the interview. The Chiefs finished 2020 as the league’s top-ranked offense (415.8 yards per game), up from the 379.2 they averaged in 2019, but slightly down from the 425.6 in 2018. Kafka knows offenses, plus he played quarterback — albeit very briefly, mostly as a camp body — in Philadelphia.

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