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A young, offensive mind is a candidate for Eagles coach, report says


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As much as Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie stressed that he loves offensive innovation when he fired Doug Pederson on Monday, it sure seems that the early coaching candidates have a defensive bent.

The Eagles have reportedly asked for permission to interview Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo.

The NFL Network reported Wednesday that Saleh is heading to Philadelphia for an interview after having a second interview with the Jets earlier in the day. 

But there are some offensive coaches who are on the initial list as well. The NFL Network also reported that the Eagles have interviewed Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who's only 31, and that Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith will interview on Thursday.

The Eagles might have to act fast on Smith.

The NFL Network reported that Smith had a second interview with the Falcons on Wednesday, then flew to New York to meet with the Jets on Wednesday night. After interviewing with the Eagles, he's scheduled to meet with the Lions on Friday.

Lurie has already identified current Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley as a candidate.

"I think there's a couple ways to skin that cat," Lurie said after firing Pederson on Monday about looking for a new coach. "You can hire somebody really steeped in offense, or you've seen great offenses coached by head coaches coming from the defensive side.

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"I don't think there's any predilection for one over the other, but I do think somebody that is constantly curious of where the league is headed, and what you need to do to have really good units."

Then Lurie added: "Again, without a really good elite offense, I tend to err on that side (in emphasis), but not that side of the ball for head coach. Doesn't matter."

Of course, it's also early in the process. The Eagles got a late jump on the other six teams looking for head coaches. The Jets, for example, were reportedly closing in on Saleh as their head coach.

By firing Pederson on Monday, the Eagles missed a window by one day to interview candidates whose teams are still alive in the playoffs. They'll have to wait until those teams are eliminated from the playoffs, or until after the Super Bowl on Feb. 7.

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In addition to Bowles, that could include Chiefs' offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Chiefs quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka and Ravens QB coach James Urban.

Brady, even though he has just the one season as an NFL offensive coordinator, is considered a highly sought-after candidate because many teams see him as another Sean McVay, who was hired by the Rams at age 30 in 2017. 

Brady also has experience at the college level, something Lurie and the Eagles' search group that includes team president Don Smolenski and general manager Howie Roseman, might find intriguing.

Brady was LSU's passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach in 2019 when quarterback Joe Burrow won the Heisman and was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

Brady also coached wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who as Eagles fans are well aware, went one pick after the Eagles chose wide receiver Jalen Reagor at No. 21. Jefferson set an NFL record for yards receiving by a rookie with 1,400.

Brady also coached wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase that season. Chase is expected to be a top-10 pick in the upcoming NFL draft. The Eagles, by the way, have the No. 6 pick.

Even if the Eagles hire a current defensive coach to be the head coach, offense will be a major emphasis. So that coach would need an innovative, forward-thinking offensive coordinator in mind.

Lurie mentioned how the NFL as a whole set a record for points scored in 2020. The Eagles were one of two teams that did not score at least 30 points in any game last season. As a unit, the Eagles' offense ranked 26th in points scored (20.9 per game) and 25th in yards (335 per game).

"I put a heavy emphasis on wanting to have an elite offense, and I feel like defense has variables, variations throughout the year," Lurie said. "But if you want to be a dominant team, you need to be a top offensive unit ... It's hard for me to project that at the moment (under Pederson)."

Keep in mind, the Eagles might be interested in a position coach like Staley, Kafka, Mayo and Urban because they're also seeking offensive and defensive coordinators.

The Eagles could also go for a college coach, such as Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley, who coached quarterback Jalen Hurts in 2019, preceded by Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray in 2018 and Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield in 2017.

Murray and Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy, and were No. 1 picks in the draft. Hurts, who replaced Carson Wentz for the final 4½ games, was runner-up for the Heisman. The Eagles took him in the second round last spring.

SI.com reported that the Eagles reached out to Riley after Pederson was fired, but it's not known if an interview was arranged or not. Riley, 37, is reportedly making $6.5 million at Oklahoma, so it might take a lot for the Eagles and Lurie to lure him.

"There will be no rush here," Lurie said. "This notion of an NFL team making a very important decision for itself and its fan base, and rushing to a decision is unlike any in business, and I just don't think that's warranted.

"If we find a head coach soon or it's early February, it's totally great. If we're the last team picking a head coach, that's great, too ... There's no rush. There's no pressure. There's nothing that should drive you from a decision based on just rational thought, careful analysis and getting to know the person as best you can."

Martin Frank, sports reporter

Martin Frank, sports reporter

I cover the Philadelphia Eagles for the News Journal. I've learned that there's never an offseason for a team that has such a hold over people in Delaware. I enjoy bringing that passion for the Birds to readers, whether it's in-season or out, a Super Bowl run or the drama leading up to the draft. But I mostly enjoy bringing you the stories of the players, from the 53rd man on the roster to star quarterback Carson Wentz. Your support as a News Journal subscriber enables me to bring those stories to you.

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.