Paul Domowitch: Lurie shouldn't ignore top special-teams coaches in seeking new head man

John Harbaugh's success has not translated into other head-coaching opportunities for special-teamers. ASSOCIATED PRESS
John Harbaugh's success has not translated into other head-coaching opportunities for special-teamers. ASSOCIATED PRESS
Posted: November 25, 2012

When Jeff Lurie begins his search for a new head coach for the Eagles, he will look in all of the same places as other NFL owners and general managers.

He will sift through the names of all living former NFL head coaches with at least one Super Bowl ring.

He will check out the list of the league's hot up-and-coming offensive and defensive coordinators.

And he will take a look at who's kicking butt in the college game.

One place he probably won't look, but should, is at some of the NFL's top special-teams coaches.

Despite the extraordinary success of ex-Eagles special-teams boss John Harbaugh in Baltimore the last five seasons, special-teams guys still aren't attracting a lot of interest when NFL head-coaching jobs open up.

"I think there's a culture, even with as good as John has done," that special teams coaches wouldn't make good head coaches, Eagles special-teams coordinator Bobby April said.

"But last year, I think there were three coaches interviewed for head-coaching jobs that were special teams coaches. That would have never happened without John's ability to pioneer it to the owners, to the general managers, that these guys can do it, too. So we're making progress."

Before the Ravens hired him, Harbaugh had trouble getting interviews even for bad college jobs. Syracuse wouldn't give him the time of day. Same with Boston College.

BC ended up hiring former Packers offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski, who now is coaching wide receivers at Ave Maria University, an NAIA school in Florida. Harbaugh had to give up his special-teams gig with the Eagles and coach the secondary his last year in Philly just to get taken seriously.

The truth is, special-teams coaches probably are more qualified to be head coaches than offensive and defensive coordinators. As Harbaugh has frequently pointed out, unlike offensive and defensive coordinators, special-teams coaches deal with every position group on the team.

"You're dealing with offensive linemen, you're dealing with defensive backs, wide receivers . . . they're all a little bit different," Harbaugh said. "You also get a chance to work with the young guys, and that's thrilling as a coach, because you build a foundation for your football team with those young guys."

Harbaugh touted three guys who are eminently qualified to be head coaches: his own special-teams chief, Jerry Rosburg; the Cowboys' Joe DeCamillas, who was the brains behind Dwayne Harris's 78-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Eagles 2 weeks ago, and Chargers assistant head coach/special teams Rich Bisaccia.

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, a former special-teams player in the league, would put Bisaccia at the tippy-top of his candidate list if he were a GM looking for a new head coach.

"I really believe there are three to four special-teams coaches out there who deserve a shot, and Rich would be right at the top of my list," Mayock said. "I think Rich is the next John Harbaugh. He would be a guy I would bang the table for. There are people at both the college and pro level that are looking at him right now [as a head coach]."

Bisaccia, 52, spent nine seasons as the special-teams coach in Tampa, seven on Jon Gruden's staff. He left last year to take the Chargers job.

"He's a guy that has coached on both sides of the ball," Mayock said.

"If you ask Gruden or [Chargers head coach Norv] Turner if he's ready, both of those guys made him an assistant head coach. When he was with Gruden in Tampa and they won the Super Bowl, he was the only special-teams coach in the league that also coached a position group [running backs].

"He's a grinder. Players love him. If you call Philip Rivers or Derrick Brooks or any of those guys, they will bang the table [for him] like you can't believe. He's old-school and he's tough. But players love him, because he's fair. He never tells you something that isn't true."

Figuring the Eagles

* Mat McBriar is tied for fifth in the league in punting with a 48.5-yard gross average, but is 31st in net average (36.8), ahead of only Carolina's Brad Nortman (36.4). The 11.7-yard difference between McBriar's gross and net averages is the largest in the league. The Raiders' Shane Lechler is second at 10.6, with a 48.5 gross and 37.9 net. Ironically, McBriar is on pace to break the Eagles' single-season franchise record for gross punting average (47.3 by Joe Muha in 1948).

* The Eagles have lost six games in a row. The last time they lost seven consecutive games was 1994. That was Rich Kotite's final season, when they won seven of their first nine games then lost their final seven.

* The Eagles have started a drive beyond their own 40-yard line only 11 times in 119 possessions. They don't have a kickoff return longer than 31 yards or a punt return longer than 20 yards, and are tied for 28th in the league in takeaways with 10.

* The Eagles are on pace to finish with only 16 takeaways. The fewest they've had in a season since the league went to 16 games in 1978 was 17 in '98. A look at their takeaway production during the Andy Reid era:

Int Fum. Total

2012 7 3 10

2011 15 9 24

2010 23 11 34

2009 25 13 38

2008 15 14 29

2007 11 8 19

2006 19 10 29

2005 17 10 27

2004 17 11 28

2003 13 13 26

2002 15 23 38

2001 14 19 33

2000 19 12 31

1999 28 18 46

Quick hits

* According to David Gerard, of makeNFLplayoffs.com, the 3-7 Eagles have a 3.6 percent chance of earning a postseason berth. That is only slightly better than a snowball's chance in hell.

* The Eagles must make a decision on Jason Peters (Achilles') by Tuesday. They either have to add him to the 53-man roster or put him on season-ending injured reserve. If they let the All-Pro left tackle step on the field this season, everyone in the organization, from Jeff Lurie on down, should be drug-tested.

* DeSean Jackson suggested earlier in the week that one of the Eagles' problems might be a lack of vocal leaders. "When I was a young guy coming up through the organization, that's who we counted on - Brian Dawkins, [Brian] Westbrook, guys like that. As far as anybody being that vocal guy, there's really not anyone on this team like that that pumps the team." Hey, here's an idea, DeSean. You've been with the team for 5 years. Why don't you try being a leader instead of whining about the lack of one?

* Nick Foles' passing numbers weren't very good last week, but ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski saw a lot of positives in the rookie's first start.

"After looking at the tape, I thought, for the most part, he was under control," Jaws said. "There were a few times I thought he got a little quick in the pocket with his feet. And that's going to happen, not only with a rookie, but with any quarterback.

"With young guys, if their feet are skittish and they're flying around, that's how they're thinking. If they're calm and collected with their foot work, they're usually calm and collected with the way they're playing the game in their mind. I thought, for the most part, Nick was very good in the game. Now, he made some mistakes. And there were times they didn't give him help. I just don't think you can ask a young quarterback to drop back 51 times and expect great results against a very complex and sophisticated Jim Haslett defense that got after him pretty good."

Marty Mornhinweg will tell you that's being aggressive.

* The Giants, who have lost two of their last three games, have been having major problems on third down. In their first seven games, they converted 42.5 percent of their third-down opportunities. In the last three: 25.6 (10 of 39). Eli Manning's third-down passer rating in the last three games is 30.0. He's completed only 12 of 29 attempts on third down in those three games.

Tweeting with Big Red

* I just informed Mike Vick that his concussion is going to last the rest of the season.

* Somebody keeps calling me up in the middle of the night, laughs and then hangs up. #iknowit'syoujuan

* Tammy's flying to San Diego next week to look for a house on the beach. C'mon, Norv. Just lose, baby.#surfinsafari

* Marty's gone off the deep end. He wants to run the ball on our first offensive play Monday night.#insanity


Email: pdomo@aol.com

" @Pdomo

Blog: eagletarian.com

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