Is this deja vu in Eagles' search for head coach?

Posted: January 09, 2013

The Eagles' search for a head coach should be judged on the result, not on the process.

That is good news for Jeffrey Lurie and his sidekicks, because right now, the process isn't looking all that impressive. They have succeeded only in padding their frequent-flier accounts and procuring raises for Chip Kelly, Bill O'Brien, and Dirk Koetter.

The contrast was sharp Monday. Andy Reid, introduced as the new Chiefs head coach during a news conference in Kansas City, already was meeting with assistant coaches and analyzing his new roster. Lurie, Howie Roseman, and Don Smolenski were submitting receipts for their seven-hour lunch with Kelly.

None of this will matter if the Eagles hire the right head coach. Aside from removing a couple of ambivalent candidates from their list, they haven't really lost any ground yet. Unless you had your bleeding-green heart set on Doug Marrone, that is.

In 1999, Reid was the Eagles' target from the jump. He was tied up with Green Bay's playoff run, so Lurie and Joe Banner brought in several candidates for interviews. They talked to Jim Haslett and Dom Capers and Willie Shaw (whose son, David, is now the head coach at Stanford).

That allowed them to pick the brains of three prominent defensive coaches. When Reid was free, they brought him in and, within days, got a deal done.

This year, that target candidate appeared to be Kelly. Plan B could be Seattle's Gus Bradley, Cincinnati's Jay Gruden, San Francisco's Greg Roman, or Denver's Mike McCoy, with whom the three nomads met on Sunday.

The fear is that this process is unspooling more like 1995, the other time Lurie hired a head coach. Then, as now, he was the one wandering from place to place. The search was unfocused, with predictable results.

Lurie met with Dick Vermeil and couldn't get a deal done. He interviewed Butch Davis, who immediately took the University of Miami job. He became enamored of Dolphins offensive coordinator Gary Stevens. He talked with Tony Dungy.

Finally, he found himself waiting for the Super Bowl so he could court the 49ers' coordinators. Mike Shanahan already was tagged for Denver, where he won two Super Bowls. Ray Rhodes was the other guy.

Lurie ended up with the other guy.

In 1995, Lurie and Banner were NFL neophytes who didn't exactly inspire immediate confidence. It is fair to wonder whether, lo these many years later, Lurie and Roseman are making the same kind of impression.

Again, the result of the search will answer all these questions.

The experience with Kelly may wind up being a reality check. A week ago, Lurie was touting his vacancy as the most attractive job in the league. Now, through their actions, several coaches he coveted have told him otherwise.

That gives Lurie a chance to reset - and an opportunity to ignore these suggestions:

He should solicit feedback, keeping himself open to the possibility that coaches aren't thrilled by having Roseman already in place.

He should reach out to Lovie Smith and Ray Horton, two defensive coaches who would do a lot more than satisfy the Rooney Rule. They would be actual candidates worthy of serious consideration.

Though Lurie has long leaned toward the offensive side, a defensive head coach may make more sense. Whether it is Smith, Horton, or Bradley, get a guy capable of implementing an intimidating defense. Yes, it is an offense-oriented league. That means innovative offensive coaches are much more easily found at the coordinator level.

Frankly, I'd still like to hear from Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher. If Lurie hits on any of these other guys, the best he can hope for is a Super Bowl-caliber coach. Gruden and Cowher already have proved themselves to be that. The aversion to so-called retreads should be offset by the success of John Fox, Jeff Fisher, Pete Carroll, and that evil genius in New England.

All that aside, there is nothing wrong with the list Lurie has been working from. He has targeted good people. McCoy and Bradley (and Koetter and O'Brien and Kelly) are going to be NFL head coaches at some point.

Lurie will hire somebody. Only then will we be able to judge the process that got him there.


Contact Phil Sheridan at psheridan@phillynews.com. Follow @Sheridanscribe on Twitter.

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