Gus Bradley due second interview with Eagles

Whisenhunt
Whisenhunt
Posted: January 16, 2013

IT'S BEGINNING to look a lot like Gus.

The possibility that the Eagles' search for a head coach is near an end seemed to be growing Monday night when the Eagles confirmed a second interview Tuesday with Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, this one presumably in Philadelphia.

Many people around the league, including some players, believe Bradley will be the Eagles' choice to succeed Andy Reid. As far as we know, he would be the first candidate to meet with Eagles officials a second time.

Bradley is 46 and has been with Seattle since 2009. He came to the NFL as a Tampa Bay assistant in 2006 after spending the bulk of his coaching career as an assistant at North Dakota State, his alma mater. Bradley's defense this season ranked first in fewest points allowed, fourth in fewest yards.

"He's the best teacher I've ever been around," Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said this season. "He's so thorough, so thoughtful, and he'll go to such lengths to find ways to make sense of the information so the guys can understand it in practical ways.

"It doesn't matter how good we teach. It's how well they learn. I think that connection is really clear with Gus. He's great at it."

Earlier Monday, the Eagles confirmed they interviewed former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt and Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, and a source with connections to that situation was under the impression a decision was near.

Sharpening that impression was the Eagles' assertion that contrary to reports, they did not have an interview scheduled Tuesday with Indianapolis offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, even though the Birds did ask for and receive permission to talk to Arians. Later Monday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Arians is a finalist for the Bears' head-coaching job.

Next Monday is the start of Senior Bowl week, and while it's possible to undertake those evaluations without a coaching staff, that is not how teams prefer to do it. The scouts have seen all of the players practice and play before; part of the benefit of the week is for position coaches, coordinators and the head coach to evaluate them on the field.

Whisenhunt, who turns 51 next month, was 45-51 in Arizona, a disastrous 5-11 this past season after a 4-0 start, but given that the Cards also fired general manager Rod Graves, that might not all be Whisenhunt's fault. He won a Super Bowl as Bill Cowher's offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, then took the Cardinals to one in his second year as a head coach, losing to the Steelers.

At that point, Whisenhunt was considered one of the league's top young head coaches, but the Cardinals badly mismanaged their quarterbacking situation after Kurt Warner retired. Whisenhunt seems to bear considerable responsibility there; he was very much in favor of trading with the Eagles for quarterback Kevin Kolb in 2011. Kolb has seldom been healthy in his two seasons in Arizona. Whisenhunt also has become enamored of QBs such as Derek Anderson, Max Hall and John Skelton.

With the Eagles at a quarterbacking crossroads, needing to figure out whether Nick Foles is their future, those missteps would have to be a concern.

But Whisenhunt got interviews in Buffalo, Cleveland and San Diego before coming to talk to the Eagles; clearly he is well thought-of around the league. Reports indicated he was close to getting the job in Cleveland, but differed with the front office over the amount of control he would have in hiring his assistants. (The Browns' president is Joe Banner, the former Eagles president. In 1999, before the Eagles hired Reid, the same kinds of things were being said about Banner that are now being said about Howie Roseman.)

The Whisenhunt news pushed well into the background Sunday's revelation that the Eagles last week talked to Fox analyst and former Ravens coach Brian Billick, who hasn't coached since 2007.

Billick did not return messages from the Daily News Monday, but he spoke on the NFL Network about talking to a number of teams as a sort of coaching adviser in recent years to teams looking to hire. He acknowledged that some of those discussions have involved whether he might come back to coach.

He said the discussions have been "wide and varied, in terms of coaches they're looking at, and certainly about my interest, and what that might be," Billick said. He said he is only interested in "the right team, in the right situation, that is looking for a specific skill set that I fit - in a circumstance that would interest me - and that's a pretty narrow bandwith."

Asked if he could see himself standing on a sideline in 2013, Billick seemed to indicate he could, under the right conditions. "Are there a couple [of teams] out there, is there one out there, that might fit? Certainly. I would never say never," he said.

Jay Gruden is considered a longshot candidate, as are many of the 11 men the Eagles are known to have talked to since Reid's dismissal 2 weeks ago Monday. Three college coaches - Oregon's Chip Kelly, Penn State's Bill O'Brien and Notre Dame's Brian Kelly - decided to stay in their current jobs, and Atlanta defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, interviewed early in the search by the Eagles, reportedly has decided to stay with the Falcons.


On Twitter: @LesBowen

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