There are expected to be a lot of NFL head-coaching vacancies after the season. At least five and possibly as many as 10. If the Eagles continue their southward migration, they will be one of those teams looking for a new head coach.
A name that will come up in the conversation at just about every place with an opening, including One NovaCare Way, is that of Jon Gruden.
It has been 4 years since Gruden was fired by the Tampa Bay Bucs and 3 years since he went to work for ESPN as an analyst on the "Monday Night Football" broadcasts.
Every time he has been asked about getting back into coaching, he's said the same thing: He's very happy doing his TV gig, but he'll never say never to a possible return.
So what are we to make of a report this week by Howard Eskin, of Fox 29, that Gruden "wants to coach again"? Is Chucky really ready to say goodbye to the good life of the broadcast booth and get back into the 18-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week meat grinder that is NFL coaching? Or is he just looking to get his ego massaged?
"I think somewhere down the road he will [coach again]," Ron Jaworski, Gruden's friend and ESPN colleague, said Friday. "I don't know if it's tomorrow or next year or when it will be. But Jon is a coach. He got screwed in Tampa. He was hurt by that. Once he gets over that, and I think by now he probably has, then he'll look for the right opportunity again.
"Sometimes when these guys get away from it [coaching], they say, 'Wow, there is another side to this,' and they kind of enjoy the other side and don't want to get back in. But my gut feeling is that Jon will get back in at some point."
Gruden, 49, was the Eagles' offensive coordinator on Ray Rhodes' staff from 1995 through 1997 before leaving to become the Raiders' head coach in 1998 at the tender age of 35. He liked coaching in Philadelphia.
Loved the passion of the fans here. Chucky is a 700-level kind of guy.
Every time I see him, he always smiles and mentions the pre-EZPass exchanges he used to have with the toll takers on the Walt Whitman Bridge. After a win, they loved him. After a loss, they'd shoot him the finger.
If he's sincere about coaching again, my educated guess is that the Eagles' job, if it indeed becomes available, would intrigue him.
"There are going to be seven or eight opportunities and you're going to see many of the same guys being discussed," Jaworski said. "Jon certainly will be one of them. I know he loves Philadelphia and loved living here.
"When you're considering a job, you look at the entire dynamic of the organization and see how you fit. That's something Jon would do. If he decided to get back into coaching, here or someplace else, he'll be successful."
Gruden won the Super Bowl in 2002 in his first season as the Bucs' head coach, largely with players acquired when Tony Dungy was at the helm. In his next six seasons there, the Bucs were 45-51 and qualified for the playoffs only twice.
Talent evaluation isn't Gruden's strong suit. Coaching and motivating players is. If you're an owner, you wouldn't want to bring him in and make him king. And Jaworski said Gruden wouldn't necessarily want to be king. All he wouldd want is a general manager who's on the same page as he is.
"He's going to want to have someone he can trust and communicate with," Jaws said. "No question of that. And it's not just Jon. Any head coach that comes in is going to want to have that good relationship [with a GM].
"Look what happened in Carolina. You could see there was a disconnect there between Ron [Rivera] and [recently fired GM] Marty Hurney. They signed [running backs] DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert, and then they don't run the ball. That's the kind of disconnect you can't have.
"For Jon, it's not about power. It's about working in harmony."
Regardless of what happens with Reid after the season, Eagles GM Howie Roseman isn't going anywhere. He signed a contract extension in June.
Could Chucky work in harmony with Roseman? Could he trust him to make the right personnel calls?
Stay tuned. First, we have to see whether Gruden is serious about coaching again.
Another name expected to be on a lot of short lists when head-coaching jobs open up in January is University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly. Jaworski is lukewarm on the idea of an NFL team bringing in a college coach such as Kelly. "As much as I love Chip Kelly and some of these other great college coaches, you do not revolutionize the NFL," he said. "There is a certain style that you have to play in the NFL to be successful. The Robert Griffins, the Cam Newtons, they're nice little novelties. But they eventually have to learn how to play from the pocket and run a pro-style offense." Two former college coaches - the 49ers' Jim Harbaugh (Stanford) and the Bucs' Greg Schiano (Rutgers) - are doing pretty well in the NFL. But Harbaugh was a former NFL quarterback and former NFL assistant before he became a college head coach. And Schiano spent time as an assistant with the Bears and ran a pro-style program at Rutgers.
My midseason coach of the year? There are a lot of worthy candidates, but my vote goes to Colts interim head coach Bruce Arians.
Arians, the former Temple coach and longtime NFL assistant who is filling in for Chuck Pagano while he battles leukemia, has a team that won only two games last season at a 6-3.
According to Las Vegas oddsmaker Bovada, the Eagles' odds of winning the Super Bowl have plummeted to 90-to-1. Eight other NFC teams have better odds.
An NFL pro personnel scout on the Eagles: "That team has fallen so far. It's hard to believe. The disorganization. The blown coverages. Not lining up right. The intensity you need to play with."
The Eagles are a respectable 10th in the league in total offense (yards) and 15th in total defense (yards allowed). But it's what's happening with those offensive and defensive yards that tells a more revealing story. The Eagles offense is 32nd in points per 100 yards and the defense is 20th in points allowed per 100 yards. And they are 31st – ahead of only 1-7 Kansas City – in offensive and defensive points per 100 yards differential. A team-by-team breakdown:
Figuring the Eagles
The Eagles' 10 missed tackles against the Saints were not a season high. They had 11 in their Week 5 loss to the Steelers. Had nine in their Week 3 loss to the Cardinals. For the season, they have 57 missed tackles, per Pro Football Focus, the website that tracks the statistic.
That puts them slightly ahead of last year's pace, when they finished with 108. The five Eagles with the most missed tackles this season: linebacker Mychal Kendricks (11), safety Kurt Coleman (10), safety Nate Allen (nine), cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (five) and cornerback Brandon Boykin (four). Coleman already has only one fewer missed tackle through eight games than he had all of last season.
LeSean McCoy's 56 first-quarter rushing yards against the Saints were only 7 fewer yards than he had in the first quarters of the Eagles' first seven games. He is 20th in the league in first-quarter rushing yards with 119, and 10th overall with 623.
Six of the Eagles' 19 turnovers have occurred in the red zone. That's the most red-zone giveaways in the league. The Lions are second with five. No one else has more than three. Vick has completed only 18 of 41 pass attempts in the red zone. He has been sacked six times inside the opponents' 20.
Seven of Vick's last 12 sacks have happened in the fourth quarter or overtime.
According to Pro Football Focus, Vick has held on to the ball an average of 3.12 seconds on pass plays this season. The only quarterback with a higher average is Seahawks rookie Russell Wilson (3.14 seconds). The next three after Wilson and Vick: the Panthers' Cam Newton (3.04), the Redskins' Robert Griffin III (3.01) and the 49ers' Alex Smith (2.90).
The three quarterbacks who get the ball out the quickest: the Patriots' Tom Brady (2.49), the Titans' Matt Hasselbeck (2.50), the Broncos' Peyton Manning (2.51).
And, yes, I have noticed that all of the quarterbacks who have held on to the ball the longest are mobile.
DeSean Jackson has a team-high 37 receptions, but only six of his catches have been in the fourth quarter and only two have been in the red zone.
The Eagles have twice as many turnovers on their first and second possessions of games (four) as they do scores (two).
In the Eagles' first six games, opposing quarterbacks had a 69.4 passer rating, .526 completion percentage and 6.2 yards-per-attempt average. In their last two games: a 133.1 passer rating, .768 completion percentage and 8.9 yards-per-attempt average.
In their last two games, opposing quarterbacks have completed 12 of 15 third-down pass attempts against the Eagles. Ten of those 12 completions resulted in first downs.
Red Zone as in Dead Zone
It will go down as one of the most inept displays of red-zone football in Eagles history. Five red-zone possessions in Monday night's 28-13 loss to the Saints, no touchdowns, two field goals. Nineteen plays from scrimmage, one net yard, two sacks, two turnovers. Thirteen pass attempts, three completions. Three rushing attempts for -1 yard. A play-by-play look at the Eagles' red-zone woes against the Saints:
FROM THE LIP:
"I think it's great. You don't have somebody who's got a ton of money but doesn't know a whole lot about football trying to tell you what to do." - Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, on playing for a community-owned team
"The No. 1 motivator [in the NFL] is fear. Fear of maybe letting down your teammates or being embarrassed or chastised or fear of losing your job. Where is the fear in Dallas? There is no fear in Dallas. It's a country club where everybody is buddies." - Fox Sports studio analyst and former Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson, on the Cowboys
"I think the focus [with the Jets] has changed, subtly. It's more toward grabbing headlines [than winning]. Everything starts at the top. You can go back to when the seat licenses were initiated and how that was conducted. I don't think winning has been put at the top of the board. Winning headlines has replaced that." - Former Jets QB Joe Namath, on his old team's priorities under owner Woody Johnson
"The one thing between a quarterback and his offensive line is constant communication. You're always talking. We treat practice like a game, treat meetings like a game, where we're constantly talking, trying to be on the same page, especially when you play on the road." - Broncos QB Peyton Manning
BY THE NUMBERS:
Bucs RB Doug Martin's 486 yards from scrimmage in the last two games are the most in back-to-back games since Walter Payton had 502 YFS in back-to-back games in 1977.
Bears CB Charles Tillman already has seven forced fumbles this season. Since 2003, he has 36 forced fumbles. The only player with more during that period is Colts DE/LB Robert Mathis. Tillman is the only player in the top eight in forced fumbles since 2003 who isn't a pass-rusher.
With a win Sunday against New Orleans, the Falcons would become the ninth team since realignment in 2002 to start a season 9-0. Four of the other eight made it to the Super Bowl. Two - the '06 Colts and the '09 Saints - won it.
Eli Manning has a 27-5 record as a starter in October, but is 29-37 in November and December.
The NFL is averaging 45.7 points per game this season. If it stays at that rate, it would be the most since 1965, when the league averaged 46.1 points per game.
Through the first 9 weeks, 647 of 1,315 kickoffs, or 49.2 percent, have resulted in touchbacks. The Raiders have the highest kickoff touchback percentage (70.2). The Giants have the lowest (16.7). The Eagles are at 32.4 (11 touchbacks in 34 kickoffs).
That's sayin' thumbthing
THUMBS UP: To the NFL teams and players who have donated money to the victims of Hurricane Sandy. The Dolphins and Giants gave $500,000 each to Sandy relief. The Vikings chipped in $100,000 and the Colts $65,000. Packers cornerback Charles Woodson personally donated $100,000, and the league and players union jointly made a $1 million contribution.
THUMBS DOWN: To the same league and players union, which still haven't begun testing for HGH. The two sides agreed to HGH testing last August as part of the new labor agreement. But they haven't been able to settle on the testing procedure and protocol. A year ago, it seemed a high priority. Now, with the relationship between the league and union seemingly deteriorating weekly, it's not even being discussed.
1. Falcons 8-0 (1 last week)
2. Texans 7-1 (2)
3. 49ers 6-2 (3)
4. Ravens 6-2 (4)
5. Bears 7-1 (5)
6. Patriots 5-3 (7)
7. Packers 6-3 (8)
8. Giants 6-3 (6)
9. Broncos 5-3 (9)
11. Steelers 5-3 (15)
13. Vikings 5-4 (10)
15. Chargers 4-4 (14)
16. Dolphins 4-4 (12)
18. Cardinals 4-5 (16)
20. Rams 3-5 (20)
21. Eagles 3-5 (17)
22. Cowboys 3-5 (21)
23. Panthers 2-6 (30)
24. Redskins 3-6 (19)
25. Bengals 3-5 (22)
26. Jets 3-5 (25)
27. Bills 3-5 (26)
28. Browns 2-6 (27)
29. Raiders 3-5 (28)
30. Titans 3-6 (29)
31. Jaguars 1-7 (31)
32. Chiefs 1-7 (32)
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