Eagles should consider Stanford's Shaw, Oregon's Kelly as next coach

Posted: November 21, 2012

IT HAS BEEN a long time since Jeff Lurie had to go coach shopping, and no, I'm not referring to the company that makes overpriced handbags, wallets and shoes.

He's had to fire only two head coaches in the 18 years and counting that he's owned the Eagles, none since 1999, when he brought in Andrew Walter Reid.

Since Lurie hired Reid, there have been a total of 117 coaches hired or fired in the NFL. The Raiders have gone through a league-high eight.

The Redskins and Dolphins are on their sixth. Seven other teams are on No. 5.

Eight of the 30 other NFL head coaches in the league in Reid's first year with the Eagles now are analysts for ESPN, Fox, NBC, CBS or the NFL Network. I think we can safely assume Reid won't become the ninth.

Although Comcast always is happy to pull up another chair for an expert on "Daily News Live."

The good part about not having hired a new coach in 14 years is it means you probably made a pretty good decision the last time, which Lurie did. No, the Eagles never won a Super Bowl under Reid, but five conference championship game appearances and nine playoff invitations at least made things interesting.

The bad part about not having hired a coach in 14 years is you haven't had any practice at it lately. Lurie is like a longtime married guy who suddenly has found himself back on the singles circuit and can't remember how to talk to women.

It's too bad Al Davis still isn't alive. No NFL owner had more experience at hiring (and firing) head coaches than Al. Then again, that would've been like asking Larry King for marriage advice.

When Lurie fired Ray Rhodes after the '98 season, he relied heavily on Joe Banner and the team's vice president of football operations at the time, Tom Modrak, to do most of the legwork with respect to replacement candidates. But Modrak was long ago fired and Banner now is running the Cleveland branch of the Eagles.

This time, Lurie likely will rely on general manager Howie Roseman for input. But Lurie has to be careful there, because Roseman will have his own personal agenda with respect to whom the Eagles hire.

Lurie could pick up the phone and call Patriots owner Bob Kraft and ask him for Bill Belichick's top five choices. But considering the absence of sturdy branches on the Belichick coaching tree, that might not be the way to go either.

At this point, I suspect Lurie is keeping an open mind about Reid's replacement. He may have a short list of candidates on a piece of paper in his office drawer, but I doubt it. A successful college coach? A hot NFL coordinator? A former head coach-turned-TV analyst? Right now, they're all still in play.

Usually, NFL teams are lukewarm on the idea of looking in the college ranks for a head coach. More often than not, college coaches have not fared well when they've made the jump to the pros. For every Jimmy Johnson, there have been eight Steve Spurriers.

But the success of former college coaches Jim Harbaugh (Stanford) and Greg Schiano (Rutgers) has helped ease the minds of NFL owners who might've had some trepidation about hiring a college guy, though Harbaugh was a former NFL quarterback and NFL assistant, and Schiano spent 3 years as an assistant with the Bears.

Would Lurie, who went the NFL assistant route with his previous two head-coaching hires, consider a college guy such as Oregon's Chip Kelly or Stanford's David Shaw? Hard to say.

"It's easier for an owner to stand up at that first press conference when he hires a new coach and say, 'Look at his NFL background. Look at what he's done. He was a coordinator for a team that won the Super Bowl or his offense was first in the league in passing,' or whatever," said Mike Mayock, who is the game analyst for "Thursday Night Football" on the NFL Network, and also is the analyst for Notre Dame games on NBC.

"The fan base gets excited and it's a lot easier to swallow. When you hire a guy who's not as well known or comes from college or has some additional question marks, then you leave yourself open to criticism. [Questions like] did he hire a system guy? Or why did he hire a college guy?

"But I don't worry about all those things. I worry about the coach. What's he like. Can he handle the job?"

In '99, Lurie was ready to offer the Eagles' head-coaching job to then-Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, according to sources. Haslett also was Modrak's top choice. But Banner was bullish on Reid, even though he had never been an NFL coordinator. Banner eventually persuaded Lurie to take a chance on Reid.

Kelly and Shaw both are intriguing candidates. Kelly, who was approached about the Bucs job last year before it was offered to Schiano, has turned Oregon into one of the top programs in college football with his up-tempo spread offense that is averaging 51.1 points per game.

Shaw, 40, who was Harbaugh's offensive coordinator before Harbaugh took the 49ers job, is 19-4 in two seasons as Stanford's head coach. He won last year with Andrew Luck and he's winning this year without him.

His team upset Kelly's No. 1-ranked Ducks last weekend, 17-14.

Some, including former Eagles quarterback and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski, are skeptical that Kelly's offense can work in the NFL.

"As much as I love Chip Kelly and some of these other great college coaches, you do not revolutionize the NFL," Jaworski told the Daily News a couple of weeks ago. "There is a certain style that you have to play in the NFL to be successful."

But Mayock said NFL teams already are implementing components of Kelly's offense.

"People want to say it's a gimmick, but I don't think it's a gimmick," he said. "I see some similar things going on in the NFL right now. There are teams that spread it out to run and teams that spread it out to throw. Some teams do both pretty well.

"That's what Buffalo is trying to do. Spread the field. They have a gifted tailback [C.J. Spiller]. Run the spread-run game and also have an NFL-style pass game. They do all the bubble screens and the quick stuff that Kelly does. So do other teams.

"And I love the tempo component of Oregon's offense. You've seen what Belichick and [Tom] Brady have done with that this year up in New England."

The one downside to Kelly is that he has zero NFL background. He was the offensive coordinator at the University of New Hampshire, spent 2 years as the offensive coordinator at Oregon, then replaced Mike Bellotti as the Ducks' head coach in '09.

Shaw, meanwhile, spent seven seasons as an NFL assistant, including the '97 season as a 25-year-old quality control assistant on Ray Rhodes' Eagles staff. He worked closely with then-offensive coordinator Jon Gruden.

Shaw coached quarterbacks in Oakland and quarterbacks and wide receivers in Baltimore before joining Harbaugh's staff at the University of San Diego in '06. Shaw's father, Willie, was a longtime NFL assistant coach with a half-dozen teams.

"He's an interesting guy," Mayock said. "David is a professional, hardworking, high-ethic guy that understands the game of football. He's got the same kind of philosophy that Jim Harbaugh has, as far as being physical and tough.

"His [offensive] system, watching San Francisco with Colin Kaepernick Monday night, that was Stanford. That's what Shaw did with Andrew Luck. That's what he's doing this year."

Some have suggested that his success at Stanford the last 2 years has been primarily with Harbaugh's players. But Harbaugh took most of his coaching staff with him to the 49ers, and Luck left last year.

"I watched that [Stanford-Oregon] game the other night," Mayock said.

"You talk about the Oregon system. How do you hold Oregon to the number of points they did? That's not Jim Harbaugh. And I love Jim. I give Jim a lot of credit. But that's David Shaw. It's his coaches. It's his coordinators. Some of the players were recruited under Jim. But David was part of that staff, also. He deserves a ton of credit for the success they've had."

" @Pdomo

Blog: eagletarian.com

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