Chip Kelly said to be at top of Eagles list

Posted: January 01, 2013

In search of a new coach for the first time in 14 years, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie has requested permission to interview Atlanta Falcons assistants Mike Nolan, Dirk Koetter and Keith Armstrong, according to an NFL source.

University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly is the Eagles' prime target, according to two NFL senior personnel officials. Kelly, 49, is 45-7 in four seasons as a college head coach. He is praised for his innovative mind, so much so that Patriots coach Bill Belichick has used elements of the Oregon offense in New England this season. The Ducks play in the Fiesta Bowl on Thursday.

Lurie, who fired Andy Reid on Monday, said that he spent the last month researching potential hires as the team's season swirled down the drain. He assembled a list of candidates and plans to immediately begin interviewing.

Nolan, the former head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, in the defensive coordinator in Atlanta. Koetter is the offensive coordinator, and Armstrong, a former Temple player and Levittown native, is the special teams coordinator.

"It has to be somebody that really has studied where offenses and defenses are going," Lurie said Monday about his new coach. "Somebody that will not just today have a dynamic approach to the game but studies it in such a way that when the game figures out what's going to happen with that type of offense, they're a step ahead."

Another college coach who could draw interest is Penn State's Bill O'Brien. O'Brien, 43, a former offensive coordinator for the Patriots, went 8-4 in his first season with the Nittany Lions after overcoming all the issues surrounding the the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal. But he has a buyout bill of at least $9 million if he leaves State College.

NFL offensive coordinators will be in demand around the league, and Lurie made repeated references to offense on Monday.

Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy shares the same agent as Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and has adapted to Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning during the last two seasons. He's well regarded around the NFL and is only 40 years old.

Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said Monday that he will interview McCoy and Reid. McCoy reportedly will interview with the Chicago Bears as well.

San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman is a Ventnor, N.J., native who has helped turn the 49ers into a contender during the last two seasons. He also helped in the improvement of quarterback Alex Smith and the development of quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Lurie made repeated references to the evolution of offenses and changes in the passing rules. He consistently mentioned leadership, noting that he does not want to hire a scheme, a salesman or an approach that is "finite" but rather someone "very comfortable in his own skin."

When Lurie hired Reid, he said he had already known Reid for a couple of years. They met at the NFL scouting combine, and Lurie studied Reid. When he assessed candidates, he said Reid was a "no-brainer" even though it was viewed as an "off-the-wall choice."

"We're in such a different situation than we were then," Lurie said. "Amazing facilities, a winning tradition, fan base that has just been incredible, prime time. It's all sitting there. It needs to be reenergized, refocused, and the strategies short, mid- and long term, have got to be the right ones."

That was why Lurie continued insisting that the Eagles offer the "most attractive place for a head coach to work" in the NFL.

Indeed, the Eagles are considered one of the NFL's top organizations, are in a large media market, play for a rabid fan base and have an owner with a history of offering the coach autonomy and nearly limitless resources.

But the Eagles also have a roster that won just four games in 2012, a major question mark at quarterback, and an inexperienced general manager. The next coach will report directly to Lurie, not Roseman. But it's important for the organization that the two work together. Roseman said that a coach will likely research the GM and his staff just as the Eagles will research the coach.

How quickly the Eagles hire their coach will also be important. A quick hire would allow a coach to assemble his staff before the top coaches are locked in elsewhere. He would also have an idea about the roster as the Senior Bowl approaches.

On the other hand, patience would allow the Eagles to interview coaches on Super Bowl teams. "I think you have to balance the right person with the speed of doing it," Lurie said. "If the top one or two coaches we're targeting is playing in the Super Bowl, do you want to give that up to have a staff for the Senior Bowl when you hope to have this guy for the next five to 10 to 15 years? The answer is no. It's the right guy."

One difference Lurie said he recognized since his last search has been the improved candidacy of college coaches. He said, "The NFL tends to borrow more from college than the other way around."

Much else has changed since Lurie hired Reid, but the goal remains clear: to find someone who can keep Lurie from making a coaching search a habit.

"I think the talent pool is exceptional," Lurie said. "I think if you're open to finding outstanding leaders wherever they are, and you're not concerned how famous they are, you should be able to find someone special."

'I'd like to introduce ...'

Who will be owner Jeffrey Lurie's choice as the next coach of the Eagles? Here are some leading candidates:

College coaches

Chip Kelly, 49, head coach, Oregon: Known for his spread to run, no-huddle offense, Kelly turned down the Buccaneers job last year and is said to be looking for near complete control of all personnel decisions.

Bill O'Brien, 43, head coach, Penn State: The former offensive coordinator for Tom Brady and the Patriots, he resurrected the Penn State program and was named the Big Ten coach of the year.

Steve Sarkisian, 38, head coach, Washington: He was the quarterbacks coach for the Raiders under Norv Turner in 2004.

NFL offensive coordinators

Dirk Koetter, 53, Atlanta Falcons. The former coordinator for the Jaguars also spent nine seasons as a college head coach at Arizona State and Boise State.

Mike McCoy, 40, Denver Broncos. He coached Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning over the last two seasons and reportedly will speak this week with the Bears and Cardinals. He interviewed with the Dolphins last year.

Greg Roman, 40, San Francisco 49ers: The Ventnor, N.J., native also has NFL experience with the Panthers , Texans and Ravens.

Jay Gruden, 45, Cincinnati Bengals: The younger brother of former NFL head coach Jon Gruden, he turned down at least three interviews with NFL teams last year.

Kyle Shanahan, 33, Washington Redskins: Before joining the Redskins in 2010, he spent four seasons with the Texans, the final two as the offensive coordinator.

Darrell Bevell, 42, Seattle Seahawks: He spent five seasons running the Vikings offense and six years with the Packers, three as the quarterbacks coach.

NFL defensive coordinators

Mike Nolan, 53, Atlanta Falcons: He was the head coach for the 49ers and a defensive coordinator for the Ravens, Jets, Redskins, Giants, Broncos and Dolphins.

Vic Fangio, 54, San Francisco 49ers: He has 13 years of experience as a defensive coordinator for four NFL teams - Panthers, Colts, Texans and 49ers.

Ray Horton, 52, Arizona Cardinals: The former NFL cornerback joined the Cards in 2011 after seven seasons with the Steelers. He is an 18-year NFL assistant who has also coached with the Lions, Bengals and Redskins.

Mike Zimmer, 56, Cincinnati Bengals: In his 19th season as an NFL coach, he also worked for the Cowboys and Falcons before joining the Bengals in 2008.

NFL assistants

Ben McAdoo, 35, quarterbacks coach of the Green Bay Packers: He coached Packers tight ends for six seasons.

Keith Armstrong, 47, special teams coach of the Atlanta Falcons: The Levittown native played at Temple and has coached the secondary and special teams for 16 seasons with the Falcons, Dolphins and Bears.

Former NFL head coaches

Jon Gruden, 49, ESPN analyst: The former Raiders head coach led Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl victory in 2003.

Bill Cowher, 55, CBS pregame analyst: He is a no-nonsense guy who won the Super Bowl with the Steelers in 2005.

Steve Marriucci, 57, NFL Network analyst: He had four seasons of double-digit wins with the 49ers but spent three unsuccessful seasons in Detroit.

Philadelphia Eagles hire Chip Kelly as next head coach.

- Inquirer staff 

Contact Zach Berman at Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

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