Brian Kelly stays at Notre Dame; Gus Bradley high on Eagles' coaching list

Posted: January 13, 2013

Three down. One to go?

For the third time in less than 10 days the Eagles were given the Heisman stiff-arm by a college coach when Notre Dame's Brian Kelly elected to stay in South Bend after an aggressive courtship.

With their fascination with college coaches likely over, the Eagles could be poised to hire one of the more acclaimed of the remaining NFL coordinators who have been linked to teams looking to fill head coaching vacancies.

They interviewed Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley in Atlanta on Saturday and could name him their next coach sometime early this week if Seattle loses to the Falcons on Sunday afternoon.

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie so obviously had his sights set on snatching a coach from the college ranks. He made strong pitches to Oregon coach Chip Kelly and Penn State coach Bill O'Brien last week, but the end result was the same as with Brian Kelly - they opted to stay in school after reportedly receiving an increase in pay.

Sensing the narrative that was already taking shape and would be hard to deny, the Eagles, in a rare move for a team in search of a head coach, released a statement shortly after Notre Dame's announcement.

"There is no question we spent a considerable amount of time and effort looking at who we thought were the best collegiate candidates for our head coaching job," the statement read. "We did so knowing that there was a remote chance that these coaches would leave their current posts."

The Eagles went on to echo Lurie's declaration on Dec. 31 that he would "leave no stone unturned" as they went about the their search, and added that they had "no regrets about the effort" they made in pursuing the two Kellys and O'Brien.

But unless there's a Jimmy Johnson clone that the Eagles are waiting to pluck out of anonymity, they will turn their attention to a group of coordinators they've interviewed and will continue to interview.

Bradley, 46, was the latest. While Lurie was believed to be in search of another offensive-minded coach, Bradley seems to possess some of the character traits the owner said he was looking for in Andy Reid's replacement.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll spoke of Bradley's "brilliant football mind" last week. Monte Kiffin, the architect behind the Cover 2 defense and a mentor to Bradley, told the Philadelphia Daily News that Bradley was "born to be a head coach."

He's been described as the no-nonsense type. He's helped turn Seattle's defense into one of the most fearsome in four seasons there.

If Bradley is indeed the guy - and the scuttlebutt around the league is that he is - the Eagles will need to have an offensive coordinator in mind who can come in and nurture Nick Foles or any other young quarterback the team may think about adding to the roster.

The Eagles could have competition for Bradley, although they appear to be the most interested. The Chargers met with him on Thursday. If they decide that Bradley is their man and the Seahawks win their next two playoff games, the Eagles will have to wait until after the Super Bowl to officially hire him.

If he's not the guy, or if they grow impatient, then Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman, and team president Don Smolenski will look to their other candidates. They've interviewed three other coordinators aside from Bradley, a former head coach, and have two more meetings scheduled with coordinators.

They met with Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy last Sunday and could conceivably hire him immediately, after Denver lost to the Ravens on Saturday. There are indications, however, that McCoy is not high on their list.

The Eagles interviewed former Bears coach Lovie Smith on Thursday in Philadelphia. He is the most prominent name linked to the team, although there is a large segment of fans that continues to hold out hope that the Eagles will pursue former Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden.

They did contact former Steelers coach Bill Cowher early in their search, according to a report, but the former Steelers coach said Saturday that he had no plans to return to coaching.

The Eagles have interviews scheduled with Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, Jon's younger brother, on Monday, and with Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians on Tuesday. They would be part of what can only be described as the Plan B phase of the search.

The Birds first made contact with the Notre Dame athletic department the day after Reid was fired, according to the Chicago Tribune. The school didn't allow the Eagles to meet with Kelly until the day after Monday's national championship game.

Kelly went on a scheduled vacation after the interview and there were plans to meet a second time. He returned on Saturday, but the second interview never occurred, and his decision was made public in the late afternoon.

Calling the Eagles "one of the premier organizations in sports," Kelly copped to being struck by the idea of becoming a head coach in the NFL, but said in a statement that he decided to stay put "after much reflection and conversation."

Contact Jeff McLane at or on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

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