Jaworski, who aided Eagles' coaching search, praises Pederson

Posted: January 18, 2016

THERE WERE 20 to 25 candidates "that we spent a lot of time on," when the Eagles made a list of head-coaching possibilities, Ron Jaworski said Friday. He said a thorough vetting process knocked the candidates down to the half-dozen who were interviewed, with Doug Pederson emerging as the eventual choice.

Jaworski served as a "special adviser" to the search committee of team chairman Jeffrey Lurie, team president Don Smolenski and vice president Howie Roseman. Jaworski said veteran former NFL general manager Bill Polian also advised, though Polian did not sit in on interviews.

Jaworski, who said he attended the interviews with Adam Gase (now coaching the Dolphins) and Ben McAdoo (promoted to head coach by the Giants), said defensive coaches were on the original list but the candidates who stood out "just seemed to pop up on the offensive side of the football . . . It wasn't like a plan, 'Let's get offensive guys.' That's just how it played out."

The candidates the Eagles interviewed all came from offensive backgrounds. Across the league, the six head-coaching spots that have been filled have all gone to such coaches, perhaps reflecting the lack of an obvious, exciting defensive candidate.

"The Eagles did a tremendous job - I can't say that any more emphatically - throughout this process, of putting together a quality list of candidates to be the head coach," said Jaworski, an ESPN personality who was the Eagles' quarterback in their first visit to the Super Bowl, 35 years ago.

"We weren't hiring a line cook at a restaurant here - we were hiring a head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles," Jaworski said. "The interviews with Adam Gase and Ben McAdoo were eight, nine hours. They were intense . . . everybody was focused, everyone stayed the course. The goal was - this came right from Jeffrey Lurie, when we first got together (on the Saturday after Chip Kelly's firing) - 'I don't care if it's an offensive guy, a defensive guy, a special-teams guy, I want the best coach for the Philadelphia Eagles' . . . I think we got the best guy for the Philadelphia Eagles in Doug Pederson."

Plenty of fans don't think so, as they contemplate what they know about the Kansas City Chiefs' offensive coordinator and Andy Reid protégé. They have bad memories from Pederson's 2-7 stint as the team's starting quarterback, mentoring rookie Donovan McNabb in 1999, but, more to the point, they wonder about their team hiring a coach who has never consistently called plays, who entered NFL coaching at the lowest level only seven years ago, with the 2009 Eagles, who never has coached for anyone but Reid, and - perhaps most unsettling - apparently wasn't on anyone else's list of candidates, as seven teams muddled their way through the hiring process. (Tennessee has yet to hire a coach.)

"Doug has incredible character," Jaworski said. "I've known Doug back from his playing days . . . Certainly, he had a knowledge of Philadelphia."

Jaworski said he, more than anyone else involved in the process, "wanted a guy that was familiar with the fan base of Philadelphia, that could connect with the fan base of Philadelphia, that understood the history and tradition of the Philadelphia Eagles, and Doug was that guy, in my opinion.

"From a coaching perspective, he's done it all except be the head coach. But by the way, the Ben McAdoos, the Adam Gases, they weren't head coaches either."

The only such candidates the Eagles interviewed were former Giants coach Tom Coughlin and current Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who was head coach for two seasons in Cleveland.

A source close to the situation has said the Eagles were "very interested" in McAdoo, but hadn't made him an offer by Wednesday, because they knew the Giants might, and there would be no reason for him to leave the place where he had been Coughlin's offensive coordinator. The Giants' hiring of McAdoo complicated the idea of Coughlin, who turns 70 in August, putting together a staff, had he been hired by the Eagles. Ultimately, Coughlin withdrew his name from contention Thursday, hours before news leaked that the Eagles had settled on Pederson.

"There never was a 'No. 1 choice,' " Jaworski said, when asked about Pederson being a fallback. "It was wide open. Jeffrey instructed us that way at the very first meeting," not to come in with preconceptions.

"We were going to stick to the process," Jaworski said. "It's hard."

Indeed, Gase seemed to sign with the Dolphins last week without getting an offer from the Eagles, perhaps because the Eagles thought they hadn't talked to enough candidates yet.

"I was thinking to myself, 'Don't panic. Stay focused,' " Jaworski said.

Jaworski said none of the candidates he spoke with indicated any hesitation about working with Roseman, who was returned to the top of the personnel structure by Lurie, a year after Kelly insisted Roseman be limited to contracts.

Jaworski said he expects a balanced offense under Pederson. He noted that before Jamaal Charles went down, the Chiefs' run game tended more toward the perimeter, but after Charles' season-ending ACL tear in the fifth game, they went more toward power running.

Jaworski said he feels Sam Bradford fits very well with what Pederson seems likely to do - Bradford began his NFL career in Shurmur's West Coast scheme in St. Louis. It isn't clear whether Shurmur will remain as the OC under Pederson; former Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress also works for the Chiefs, and he was Pederson's quarterbacks coach in 1999.

Shurmur might be important to keeping Bradford, who can be a free agent if he isn't tagged or signed by March.

Jaworski said there might not be as much shotgun or zone read, but overall, given Shurmur's influence on Kelly's Eagles offense, the change shouldn't be wrenching for anyone. Pederson's quarterbacks probably will be allowed to audible, unlike Kelly's, Jaworski indicated.

More than anything else, Jaworski said, coming off the three-year Kelly experience, the Eagles were looking for "a team builder. Somebody that interacts with the entire organization. Great leadership skills."


bowenl@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog:philly.com/Eaglesblog

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