Some Birds might be bad fit for next coach

Posted: December 27, 2012

SOMETIME next week, probably Monday, Jeff Lurie will stand at a podium in the NovaCare auditorium and confirm that Andy Reid's 14-year reign as the Eagles' head coach is over.

With the help of general manager Howie Roseman, he then will begin the process of finding a successor. It could be quick if his top choice is a college coach or an assistant for an NFL team that makes an early playoff exit or didn't make it to the postseason at all. But more than likely, it will drag on well into January, maybe even into February, if the man he ultimately wants turns out to be an assistant coach on a Super Bowl team.

It is at times like this that players typically tell us what a great guy the outgoing coach is and that it's a damn shame that he is being fired, because they're the ones who actually are to blame for the mess the franchise is in, not him. Which, in most cases, is true, but not this one, because - as the final decider in all things personnel - Reid selected the ingredients that created this fine mess.

The fact of the matter is the players aren't going to mourn very long for Reid. They have their own careers to worry about, and right now, they are more concerned about the impact a new coach will have on them rather than what is going to become of poor Big Red.

Will the new guy want them, or will he want to clean house? What kind of offensive and defensive system will he run? Will it play to their strengths or expose their weaknesses? Will they have to add weight or lose it? Will he protect them publicly as Reid did, or will he throw them under the bus when they screw up?

The Eagles haven't played a 3-4 defensive scheme since the mid-1980s when Marion Campbell was head coach. But more than half the league is now using it. And even if Lurie hires a head coach with an offensive background, there's a good possibility that he or the defensive coordinator he brings in might want to switch to a 3-4.

For players such as Trent Cole and Brandon Graham, that possibly would mean switching from being hand-on-the-ground defensive ends to standup rush linebackers. That also likely would mean shedding pounds to add quickness. Both were rush linebackers in college, but can they make they make the transition back?

For a player such as middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, it would mean returning to a scheme that doesn't fit his talents nearly as well as a 4-3. Would Ryans and his $6 million salary suddenly become expendable?

Then there's the offensive linemen. How difficult will it be for them to go from the teachings and zone-blocking scheme of Howard Mudd, who is retiring at 70, to a new line boss who might place less importance on athleticism and more on their ability to be road graders?

"You just have to do what you have to do," said right guard Jake Scott, who played for Mudd for 4 years in Indianapolis, then spent 4 years in a power-blocking system in Tennessee, then was reunited with Mudd last month when he signed with the Eagles. "Whatever the coach asks you to do is what you need to do.

"I've done both [zone blocking and power blocking]. It was different. Not drastically. But there was more two-back stuff [in Tennessee]. More of a power-running offense. But we still ran some of the [same] zone plays, some of the traps [that we ran in Indianapolis and with the Eagles]. But it was from a two-tight end, fullback system, which we do a little bit of here, but not as much."

Scott said he played at the same weight - about 292 - with the Titans that he did with the Colts.

"Mike Munchak was the offensive-line coach there at the time," Scott said of the Titans' current head coach. "We did different things, but he had the same mentality as Howard from the standpoint of get the job done. No. 1, get the job done. Neither one of them get caught up in what a guy weighs. It's, are you getting the job done?"

Jason Peters, the Eagles' All-Pro left tackle who missed the entire 2012 season with a ruptured Achilles' tendon, and right tackle Todd Herremans, who has played well for both Mudd and his predecessor, Juan Castillo, should have no trouble adjusting to a new offensive-line coach, regardless of what kind of blocking scheme he institutes.

"I actually got pretty slim when I was still playing under Juan," Herremans said. "So switching to Howard wasn't that big of a deal. And switching back wouldn't be, either. Howard never preaches to guys about being lean or anything like that. He just wants guys to be athletic.

"We've all played in different systems. Whether it was somewhere else in the league or in college. I don't think it will be a big deal. We'll have an offseason to work with whoever it is."

But what of left guard Evan Mathis and center Jason Kelce?

Mathis signed with the Eagles last year specifically because he wanted to play for Mudd. He's a Mudd-type offensive lineman. Strong, quick and athletic. No belly. Able to get outside on stretch plays and screens.

He was a journeyman backup with three teams before signing with the Eagles in 2011. Under Mudd, the 6-5, 302-pound Mathis has developed into a Pro Bowl-caliber player. If the Eagles go to a power-blocking scheme next season, will Mathis continue to flourish?

Kelce is a protypical Mudd center. One of the main reasons the Eagles selected him in the sixth round of the 2011 draft was because he reminded Mudd of his athletic Pro Bowl snapper in Indianapolis, Jeff Saturday.

Kelce, who is recovering from a torn ACL, is as athletic as any center in the league. But he's not terribly big. Came out of the University of Cincinnati weighing 280. Played for Mudd at around 295, and, like Mathis, thrived like an orchid in a hot house.

Both Mathis and Kelce can gain weight if they have to. But what impact will it have on their athleticism?

"Regardless of who comes in, they're going to have their own techniques that are going to be different from Howard's," Kelce said. "Every guy has a little bit different way of teaching things. So the techniques will change.

"In terms of power or zone [blocking], that will determine weight. Obviously, the more you weigh, as long as you can keep your speed, or at least some of it, the more power you can generate.

"Evan's played in power systems before. The Bengals [one of Mathis' former employers] run a lot of zone plays, but also run a lot of downhill, north-south stuff. So he's a powerful run blocker already. He can do either. It's not going to affect him much.

"As for myself, I feel confident in my ability to do both. If it's a zone-blocking scheme, I'll keep my weight around 295, like it was last year. If it's a power scheme, I'll basically let the coaches dictate what they want me to weigh. But I think my frame allows me to play both schemes."

Mudd says all of his linemen, including Kelce and Mathis, are good enough to succeed in any blocking system with any coach.

"If I said no, I'd be insulting them," he said. "When you excel in this league and play well for an extended period of time, the 'it' thing, you've 'it.' Which means if my new coach wants me to do it this way and we did it that way last year, as long as you don't fight what they're asking you to do, you'll excel at that, too.

"Because the confidence comes from success. If you've had success, it will transcend any style.

"It's a matter of surrendering. Surrendering, as in accepting that the next guy can help you. All players want to be helped. Everyone does."


On Twitter: @Pdomo

Email: pdomo@aol.com

Blog: eagletarian.com

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