DN Agenda: This time, should the Eagles hire a former NFL head coach?
Question: This time, is the Eagles' ideal candidate somebody with previous NFL head-coaching experience?
Les Bowen: Cast a wide net
No, of course not. That would seriously limit the pool of candidates, at a time when no one seems to think the Eagles' head-coaching opening is the most attractive situation on the market.
What former NFL head coaches would be in the running for the Eagles' job, beyond Pat Shurmur, who already has been interviewed, and pie-in-the-sky targets John Harbaugh and Sean Payton? Looking to hire Tom Coughlin, are we?
Harbaugh and the Ravens have said Harbaugh isn't leaving Baltimore. Payton's situation is unclear, but nationally, no one seems to be linking him with the Eagles.
Chip Kelly didn't fail because he lacked NFL head-coaching experience. He lacked any sort of NFL frame of reference whatsoever, as a player or an assistant coach. That might be something the Eagles think about more this time.
But really, Kelly is gone because of the way he interacted with people, including Eagles chairman Jeffrey Lurie, and Howie Roseman, the general manager Kelly deposed but could not vanquish. Did that deficiency have anything to do with Kelly not having worked in the NFL previously? Maybe, maybe not. Might have just been his personality.
I hope the Eagles learned from hiring Kelly three years ago that making the biggest splash, getting the buzzed-about guy, ultimately doesn't mean much a few years later. "Everybody else was talking about him and wanted him, so he must have been a good choice" is kind of weak-kneed. It hints that YOU don't really know what you want or need.
In any sport, the new coach or manager tends to be the opposite of the previous guy. After stolid, stale Andy Reid, Lurie wanted an innovator with pizzazz. Now, having come to dislike Kelly so much, he couldn't even wait for the season to end to fire him, Lurie wants a coach who relates well to people — players and coworkers, including Roseman.
There are good coaches who are like that. But there are plenty of really nice, empathetic people who can't coach. And it would be better if the search weren't limited to candidates who can tolerate Howie.
I want a coach who can both excite Sam Bradford about staying here and boost the QB's development. I also want that coach to at least be able to hire someone who can solidify a defense that isn't bad on paper, but can't stop anyone on an actual football field, and has been declining for the better part of a decade.
NFL head-coaching experience? Meh.
Paul Domowitch: Don't limit search
The fact that my boss at the Daily Planet, Perry White, began this particular agenda question with the words "this time" would seem to suggest that this Eagles head-coaching search is different from previous ones. But I'm not sure it is, nor do I think Jeff Lurie should approach it like it is.
Yes, Lurie gambled and lost on his last choice, a fast-talking, fast-playing college coach with no NFL experience.
But that shouldn't preclude him from considering other college coaches, such as Stanford's David Shaw or Notre Dame's Brian Kelly, if they were interested in the job.
Doesn't mean I'd definitely hire either of them, but the fact that they've never been an NFL head coach wouldn't necessarily make them a less "ideal" candidate to coach this Eagles team than somebody with NFL head-coaching experience.
There also are several up-and-coming offensive and defensive coordinators who never have been head coaches in the league that potentially would be good fits for the Eagles job.
I say that, and yet, if Sean Payton becomes available and the Eagles can get him for a third-round pick this year or a second-round pick next year, I would do it in a nanosecond. So I guess I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth here.
But Payton is the exception, not the rule. He has a Super Bowl ring. He is one of the league's brightest offensive minds. You know what you're getting. You know what he can do for your football team.
I wouldn't give him complete control of personnel. And if he had a problem with that, it would be a deal-breaker. But if he didn't, I'd call a press conference immediately and introduce him as my next head coach.
If Payton stays in New Orleans or goes someplace else, though, the Eagles should keep an open mind. NFL head-coaching experience shouldn't be a mandatory requirement.
Andy Reid didn't have any when Lurie hired him 17 years ago and that worked out pretty well. Sometimes, a lot of times, you just have to project. Sometimes, a lot of times, you just have to go with your gut.
Marcus Hayes: Experience counts
At first glance, the common accomplishment among Mike McCarthy, John Harbaugh, Mike Tomlin and Sean Payton is, of course, that each of them won a Super Bowl.
Dig a little deeper and you will discover that they are outliers. They are the only coaches without previous head-coaching experience to win a Super Bowl who were hired after free agency began in 1993.
Why does that matter? Because free agency and the accompanying salary cap spawned a newly empowered player and leveled competition. Overnight, players could flee coaches they considered incompetent or insufferable. Overnight, teams could mortgage their futures to immediately win. The "Head Coach as God" phenomenon virtually disappeared. Coaches needed to develop rosters, develop game plans and develop relationships.
All of this is amplified in an East Coast city, where greater media scrutiny and (typically) more invested fans demand fast results and transparency.
Which is why the Eagles, if they want to win a Super Bowl, would be best served to hire a head coach with previous head-coaching experience.
They all hit as first-timers, but you know what McCarthy, Harbaugh, Tomlin and Payton also enjoy? The relative anonymity and comfort of working for a small-market franchise. Sure, Pittsburgh and Green Bay are football crazy, and New Orleans and Baltimore can be rabid, but their metropolitan populations combined equal Philadelphia's.
Tomlin — a college teammate of Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott at William & Mary — inherited a very good team from Bill Cowher with a Hall of Fame quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. McCarthy inherited two Hall of Fame quarterbacks, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. Payton landed in New Orleans with Drew Brees, Hall of Famer. The Ravens drafted talented Joe Flacco in Harbaugh's first season. Flacco was the Super Bowl MVP.
The Eagles have Sam Bradford.
In his retirement speech Tuesday, crusty Tom Coughlin outlined how he continually evolved, from his caustic ways in Jacksonville to a strict but respected Giants legend; and how, in his Giants tenure, he developed an even greater tolerance for the failings of youth and the outrageous expectations of fans and the press.
Is this irrefutable evidence that McDermott, Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase, Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia or Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson could not succeed in Philadelphia? Would hiring a former head coach like Pat Shurmur, Doug Marrone, Hue Jackson — or even finagling a trade with Baltimore or New Orleans — guarantee immediate success?
No; and, no.
But Ray Rhodes and Andy Reid were both superb NFL assistants who became first-time head coaches in Philadelphia. Chip Kelly is the latest college hotshot to flame out.
In fact, the Eagles have hired 10 coaches in the Super Bowl era. Seven were first-timers who were former NFL assistants; two came from college; one was a former head coach.
It's 50 years, and counting.
David Murphy: Experience overrated
The Eagles certainly need an injection of institutional wisdom in their organization, but it would be silly to insist on it in a head coach. Top-10 coaches hired since 2006 by career winning percentage: Jim Harbaugh (.695), Mike McCarthy (.653), Chuck Pagano (.641), Mike Tomlin (.639), Sean Payton (.604), John Harbaugh (.602), Ron Rivera (.594), Andy Reid (.594), Mike Smith (.589), Pete Carroll (.581).
Of those, only Reid and Carroll had experience as NFL head coaches when they were hired by their current teams. The Eagles simply need to hire somebody who does not plan on reinventing the wheel. The new guy should have significant NFL experience, but there is no sense in hiring Norv Turner at the expense of the next Mike Zimmer.
That's not to say the Eagles should automatically dismiss someone who has previously been fired elsewhere. Coaches change, as do situations. But last I looked, Jim Caldwell, John Fox, Jeff Fisher, Lovie Smith and Jack Del Rio all finished under .500 this season.
The problem is that the Eagles are building in the wrong direction. Leadership starts at the top, and Jeffrey Lurie desperately needs to find himself a head-personnel man with unquestioned authority who can take the lead role in building a stable future, from the head coach all the way down. The notion that Howie Roseman is that kind of guy is absurd when you consider that everybody he has ever worked with is gone and the problems still linger. Frankly, where the Eagles really need some experience is at the ownership level, because it is becoming increasingly obvious that Lurie spent a decade leaning on the dual crutches of Reid and Joe Banner.
The Eagles are setting themselves up for failure by allowing a guy who spent the previous three years engaged in a power struggle with the former head coach to have a voice in picking a new one. Lurie is setting the Eagles up to err on the side of a candidate whose primary qualification is that he does not make Roseman feel threatened. That's an awful way to run a business.
Staff: No 10, Yes 6
Bob Vetrone Jr....Yes