Paul Domowitch: END ZONE ROUTINE

Here are seven potential hires if Reid is forced to make flight plans

Posted: December 07, 2011

EVERYBODY has an opinion on whether Andy Reid should be pink-slipped after the season. But the only two opinions that really matter belong to Jeff Lurie and Joe Banner.

OK, three. I forgot about Christina, whose opinion actually might trump the other two.

Since none of them has called a news conference to inform us they're standing by their man, we can only assume that they are going to wait to see how the rest of this season plays out before making a decision on Big Red's future.

And since I'm guessing most of you aren't really in the mood to consider the possibility of Reid returning for yet another year, let's go in the other direction today.

Let's assume the Eagles are going to continue to play as pitifully as they did in Seattle for the next 4 weeks. And let's assume Jeff and Joe and Christina will decide that, as much as they really, really like Reid and believe he'd eventually win a Super Bowl if given another 10-15 years, it's time for a change.

They obviously already have given some thought to a possible replacement because, well, it's what you do when you run a football team. You keep a "ready list" of candidates for all of the important jobs in your organization in the event somebody steps in front of a bus, or just isn't very good.

Somewhere in Lurie's office - perhaps on his computer or in a notebook or on a cocktail napkin from Barclay Prime - there is an updated list of coaching candidates, just as there was in 1998 when he was debating whether to give Ray Rhodes his walking papers.

Who's on it? Hard to say. If I had to guess, though, I'd say Lurie wouldn't be as willing to roll the dice this time as he was 13 years ago when he hired Reid, then an obscure quarterbacks coach out of the Mike Holmgren stable.

That Eagles team needed to be rebuilt. This one, despite its 4-8 record, just needs some new siding and windows.

So, who then? Well, with some input from two NFL executives, I've put together my own "ready list" of seven candidates for the Eagles head-coaching job if Reid is fired next month.

BEEN THERE

Bill Cowher

The 54-year-old former Steelers has been out of coaching for 5 years now, but is believed to be ready to get back in if the right job comes along. The question with Cowher is how much power is he going to want. The answer: almost certainly a lot.

He'd probably want to be king just like Reid, which would mean having final say over all personnel matters. Giving him that kind of power would be a mistake. He didn't have it in Pittsburgh and he isn't any more ready to have it now after sitting in a TV studio for 5 years.

"Bill would be at the top of my list if I were Lurie," one of the executives said. "But I would not give him the ultimate authority they gave Reid. You don't want Bill in charge of personnel. You want him coaching, and only coaching.

"That said, if they were interested in him, he would have to be allowed to bring in his own personnel guy. Somebody he trusts."

Jon Gruden

Gruden, 48, recently signed a long-term contract extension with ESPN, but he can walk away from that any time he wants. While the former Eagles offersive coordinator enjoys his "Monday Night Football" gig, he has acknowledged that he misses coaching. Like Cowher, he will bolt for the right job. But it remains to be seen whether the Eagles are the right job.

"The team that hires Jon really needs to have a strong GM who will say, 'Look, Jon, you coach the team and I'll go and get you the players,' " one of the executives said. "He had way too much power in Tampa. Bruce Allen was the GM, but Bruce isn't a personnel guy. Which means Jon was making all of the personnel decisions. And you saw how that worked out.

"If he's amenable to having a good working relationship with the personnel department instead of having the final say, then he would be an excellent choice. Because he's a very good coach."

Said the other executive: "The problem in my mind if they want either Cowher or Gruden is going to be [general manager] Howie Roseman. I can't imagine either one of them being willing to go there if Howie is the top personnel guy."

Jeff Fisher

The 53-year-old former Eagles defensive coordinator almost certainly will be coaching somewhere next season. While Fisher is highly regarded, the question Lurie would need to ask himself is, if he's firing one coach for not being able to win a Super Bowl in 13 seasons, what makes him think a guy who couldn't do it in 16 years at Tennessee can?

"He got there once and then never got close to getting back," one of the executives said. "Now, he had the misfortune of being in the same division with Peyton Manning and the Colts, which obviously was a big factor. But my concern is, is he just a really good coach or can he get you where you want to go?

"If you decide that he can get you where you want to go, then he might be the best fit of the three. He won't care about [wanting] a lot of power. He's worked in Philly before. He's always been a guy who's been able to get along with the media."

Said the other executive: "One of the concerns I would have about hiring either Bill or Jon is that, of the guys who have retired and been away for a while and then come back, none of them, except [Dick] Vermeil has won a Super Bowl or even gotten close. [Joe] Gibbs. Jimmy Johnson. Vermeil was the only one who did it and that was kind of a freak thing. If Trent Green didn't end up getting hurt and opening the door for Kurt Warner, I'm not sure the Rams would have won."

Jim Mora

Mora was a head coach with both the Falcons and the Seahawks. He coached Michael Vick and guided Vick and the Falcons to the NFC Championship Game in 2004, which they lost to the Eagles. If one of the fears of firing Reid is the impact it might have on Vick's production next season, Mora and Vick already have worked together and have a good relationship.

Mora, 50, was a candidate for the Eagles' defensive-coordinator job last year before deciding he wasn't quite ready to get back into coaching. With his kids a year older, he might be now.

COULD DO THAT

Russ Grimm

The Cardinals' offensive-line coach, the 52-year-old Grimm finished a close second to Mike Tomlin for the Steelers' job in 2007. As a player, Grimm won two Super Bowls with the Redskins in the '80s as a member of the "Hogs" offensive line, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.

While offensive-line coaches don't normally get a lot of serious consideration for head-coaching jobs, Grimm is well-respected. And the success this season of the Titans' Mike Munchak doesn't hurt.

"He's worked his way up," one of the executives said. "He was trained well in the Steelers organization. He'll bring the same thing to the table that Munchak did in Tennessee. He's a lunch-bucket guy. In a blue-collar town like Philly, he'd be a perfect fit there. If I were hiring a coach right now and convinced my owner that he didn't have to hire a marquee name, Russ would be my guy."

Mike Zimmer

The Bengals' defensive coordinator, the 55-year-old Zimmer is familiar with the NFC East, having spent 12 seasons as a coach with the Cowboys, including seven as their defensive coordinator. He's one of the league's most respected defensive coaches.

"His defenses always have been consistent," one of the executives said. "He's never been in a situation in Cincinnati where he's had great personnel. He's had to work with what they've given him.

"He would have to knock Grimm out of the box in the interview. But he brings a lot of the same things to the table that Grimm does."

Vic Fangio

While Jim Harbaugh could end up being coach of the year for the job he's done resuscitating the Niners, Fangio's defense has had a lot to do with their success. Fangio, 53, has been an NFL coach for 25 years and a defensive coordinator for 12 of them.

"He has put himself in the 'hot name' category because of what they've done defensively this year," an executive said. "But if you look at his body of work at all of the places he's been, he doesn't have to take a back seat to anybody."


Send email to pdomo@aol.com. For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com.

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