The Eagles made quick work setting up interviews with coaching candidates Tuesday.
One day after the organization announced Doug Pederson would not return as head coach, the team requested interviews with Robert Saleh, Todd Bowles, and Arthur Smith, according to several ESPN reports.
Both Saleh and Bowles are defensive-minded head coaches, which likely isn’t owner Jeffrey Lurie’s preference for his fifth head-coaching hire. Lurie said the team would be open to candidates with a background in defense during his Monday news conference, although his last three coaching hires have all been offensive-minded guys.
“I think there’s a couple ways to skin that cat. You can hire somebody really steeped in offense or you’ve seen great offenses coached by head coaches coming from the defensive side,” Lurie said. “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 and again, without a really good elite offense, I tend to err on that side. But not that side of the ball for head coach. Doesn’t matter.”
Saleh would seemingly fit Lurie’s description. He has been the 49ers’ defensive coordinator since 2017 and is reportedly expected to hire 49ers passing-game coordinator Mike LaFleur as offensive coordinator if he lands a head-coaching job. LaFleur has worked under 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan since 2015, and his brother, Matt, led one of the NFL’s best offenses in his second year as the Green Bay Packers’ head coach.
The NFL Network reported Saleh is also a finalist for the New York Jets job and will be doing an in-person interview Tuesday.
Saleh, whose defenses ranked in the top six of defensive-adjusted value over average (DVOA) in each of the last two years, has interviewed with four of the five NFL teams conducting head-coaching searches. He has not met with the Houston Texans.
Bowles, 57, has a brief history with the Eagles, serving as the team’s secondary coach and interim defensive coordinator in 2011. Bowles also played for Temple in the 1980s.
He was the Jets’ head coach from 2015-18, going 26-41, and has spent the last two seasons as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator. Tampa Bay’s defense ranked fifth in defensive DVOA this season and sixth the year before after ranking dead last in the same metric in 2018 before Bowles’ arrival. The defensive statistic take into account the quality of offensive opponents.
Smith is the lone offensive guru currently on the list of candidates, although that could change quickly. The 38-year-old has been the Titans’ offensive coordinator the last two seasons and has overseen the resurgence of Ryan Tannehill’s career. Smith, who has been in the Titans’ organization as an assistant since 2011, runs a play-action heavy offense that has helped Derrick Henry lead the NFL in rushing yards in each of the last two seasons. Smith also worked for Matt LaFleur for one season in 2018.
If the Eagles went with Smith, it would likely be with the hope that he’d stop Carson Wentz’s regression and right the ship. Smith has been interviewed by every team with a head-coaching vacancy so far.