A couple of teams currently in need of a head coach called Monte Kiffin recently to ask him for his opinion of Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
Kiffin's recommendation: Hire him. Hire him the minute the Seahawks' season is officially over. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Do not bother talking to anyone else. He's your man.
"I try not to exaggerate," Kiffin, who once called Bradley a once-in-a-lifetime coach, told the Daily News in a telephone interview last week. "But this guy is good.
"I've told people I've talked to in the last week or so, if you interview him, there's a good chance you'll hire him. He'll walk in [to the interview] and take over the room."
As everyone is aware, Bradley, 46, is a candidate for the Eagles' vacant head-coaching position. They aren't the only team interested in him, though.
He interviewed Thursday night with the Chargers, and league sources say at least one other team wants to talk to him once the Seahawks are eliminated from the playoffs.
While neither the Eagles nor the Seahawks will confirm it, Bradley is expected to meet briefly with the Birds' three-man interview triumvirate - owner Jeff Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman and president Don Smolinski - this weekend in Atlanta, where his team will play the Falcons in the divisional round of the playoffs.
"Philadelphia should strongly consider hiring him," Kiffin said. "I think he's special."
Unlike most of the candidates the Eagles already have interviewed or plan to interview, Bradley is a defensive coach. Lurie went offense in '99 when he hired Reid, and, with a young quarterback in Nick Foles, the popular thinking is that he'll go offense again. And maybe he will.
But the Eagles' offense looks like the French Riviera right now compared with the toxic waste dump that is the Eagles' defense, which gave up a franchise-record 33 touchdown passes, had a league-low 13 takeaways and finished tied for 29th in the league in points allowed last season.
"The thing people wonder is, if you hire a defensive guy, who will he hire to run the offense?" Kiffin said. "I don't know. I have no idea. I haven't talked to him about who he might hire. He's so dedicated to the Seahawks right now. That's all he's thinking about. He wants to win that game on Sunday. That's the most important thing to him.
"But I'm confident he'll make some great hires. He's been in the league for a while now. He was under Jon Gruden. That's a pretty good guy to be under. We had some good people on that [Bucs] staff. He's been under Pete [Carroll] for 3 years."
Bradley was an under-the-radar defensive coordinator at North Dakota State when Gruden and Kiffin brought him to the Bucs in '06. He spent a year as a defensive quality control coach, but so impressed Kiffin that he was promoted to linebackers coach the next year.
Gruden was fired after the '08 season and Kiffin went to work for his son, first at the University of Tennessee, and then USC. But he recommended Bradley to then-Seahawks coach Jim Mora for the defensive coordinator's job.
When Mora was abruptly fired after the '09 season and replaced by Carroll, Carroll called Kiffin and asked him about potential defensive coordinators.
"Pete and I go way back," Kiffin said. "He said he was looking for a coordinator. I said, 'What are you talking about? You already got the guy you should hire.' And he went down the hall [of the Seahawks' training facility] and hired Gus."
Bradley has done an outstanding job with the Seahawks' defense. They finished first in the league in points allowed and fourth in takeaways and yards allowed this season.
Not all good coordinators have what it takes to be good head coaches. But Kiffin is confident that Bradley can and will make the leap.
"He was born to be a head coach," he said. "I'll tell you that right now. I promise you. He will be a head coach in the NFL and a good one.
"He's great with players. They really respond to him. They work hard for him. He's a great people person. The fans will love him. The players will love him. Everybody in the building will love him.
"He's tough, but he knows when to pull off. He knows when to be tough and when not to be tough."
Kiffin, 72, is returning to the NFL sidelines after spending the last 4 years serving as his son's defensive coordinator at Tennessee and USC. He interviewed with the Cowboys on Thursday and was named their defensive coordinator the next day, replacing Rob Ryan. "I had an [NFL] offer last year, but I wanted to stay one more year with my son," he said. "I'm definitely ready to get back in."
Why, you might ask, are so many fired head coaches with years remaining on their contracts, so eager to get right back into coaching rather than take a year off with pay? For a possible answer to that, I give you something a former NFL coach once told me after his own short-lived retirement. "My God," he said, "I forgot how much time you've got to spend with your wife when you're not coaching."
Dr. James Andrews' explanation that he didn't get a chance to examine Robert Griffin III on the sideline last week is a copout. The NFL has placed replay monitors on the sideline so that a team's trainer or physicians can review a play to gauge the severity of an injury. There has been no indication Andrews or Redskins trainer Larry Hess ever did that last week.
ESPN analyst and Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young said you can't forbid players from playing hurt, but a coach and trainer need to know when that player is incapable of protecting himself.
"Some of the great John Wayne hero things that have ever happened in football happened because people play hurt," Young said. "But when you're injured and can't protect yourself, then you must leave the field. But watching that game, I didn't sense that Robert couldn't protect himself."
The wide-nine soon could be headed for extinction. The Eagles ditched it when they fired Jim Washburn in December. Now, word out of Detroit is that the Lions likely will reduce their use of it next season after finishing 20th in sacks per pass play.
Five Eagles made Pro Football Focus' All-NFC East team - guard Evan Mathis, defensive end Brandon Graham, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans and special-teamer Colt Anderson. Graham was ranked second in the league by PFF among 4-3 defensive ends. He had 5 1/2 sacks, eight hits and 31 hurries in only 220 pass-rushing opportunities. The Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul, who was rated third overall, had 6 1/2 sacks, four hits and 44 hurries in 523 pass-rushing chances. Mathis was PFF's top-rated guard in the league. His 51.3 overall rating was more than twice the second-rated guard, Baltimore's Marshal Yanda (24.2). Mathis gave up only one sack and was called for only four penalties (two false starts, two holds), despite the fact that left tackle Jason Peters missed the entire season and center Jason Kelce played in only two games.
Much like former Penn State quarterback Michael Robinson, I think Tim Tebow has the skills and body type to have a decent career as an NFL fullback. Unfortunately, his Kim Kardashian-like celebrity status would make him too much of a distraction for a team to be willing to use him that way.
I don't know this for certain, but I'm guessing that Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan didn't follow Jeff Lurie's lead and give Mike Mularkey a game ball and let the organization serenade him with "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" when he fired him after just one season this week.
A lot of people thought the MVP Award was a two-horse race between Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (my choice) and Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. But what about the Packers' Aaron Rodgers? Rodgers got my quarterback vote on my Associated Press All-Pro ballot over Manning. Rodgers' had a higher passer rating, more touchdowns, a better interception percentage and a better third-down passer rating than Manning.
Should the Eagles go offense (Mike McCoy, Bruce Arians) or defense (Gus Bradley) with their next head coach? Does it matter? FOX Sports studio analyst Jimmy Johnson, who won a couple of Super Bowls as the Cowboys' head coach, says no. "There's so much more that goes into being a successful head coach," Johnson said. "X's and O's probably are one of the least important qualities that you look for in a head coach."
Figuring the Eagles
Todd Bowles is a good defensive coach. But the difference in the Eagles' numbers in the 10 games he spent as defensive coordinator compared with the six under Juan Castillo are absolutely mind-boggling. Take a gander:
First 6 games: 52.6 percent completion, 6.2 yards per attempt, 7 TD, 7 INT, 69.4 passer rating
Last 10 games: 66.8 percent completion, 8.7 yards per attempt, 27 TD, 1 INT, 127.2 passer rating
THIRD-DOWN PASS DEFENSE
First 6 games: 50.0 percent completion, 5.0 yards per attempt, 4 TD, 2 INT 72.5 passer rating
Last 10 games: 65.3 percent completion, 9.6 yards per attempt, 8 TD, 0 INT, 132.3 passer rating
First 6 games: 4.1 yards per attempt, 2 TD, 13 runs of 10+ yards
Last 10 games: 4.3 yards per attempt, 9 TD, 48 runs of 10+ yards.
In the four seasons since Jim Johnson's death, the Eagles have given up a league-high 118 touchdown passes, including a franchise-record 33 this season. Interestingly, they rank pretty high in several other key defensive categories over the last 4 years. They are fourth in sacks (163), sixth in interceptions (71), eighth in passing yards allowed (215.6 per game) and 10th in opponent completion percentage (59.3).
Despite the offseason upgrade at linebacker, the Eagles were only marginally better at covering tight ends than they were in 2011. They gave up five more receptions (71) in '12, but one fewer touchdown catch (four) and a half-yard less per reception (11.1). They showed much more improvement defending running backs in the passing game. Receptions dropped from 81 to 62, yards from 774 to 476, touchdowns from 9 to 7 and yards per catch from 9.6 to 7.7.
In 103 career starts, Mike Vick has only 10 games with 20 or more completions and zero interceptions. He has thrown two or more touchdown passes and no interceptions only 17 times. He has thrown three or more TD passes in a game only seven times.
Eagles quarterbacks completed only 41.3 percent of their red-zone attempts this season compared with 52.1 last year. On the plus side, they threw only two red-zone interceptions (both by Vick), compared with five last year.
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and OT King Dunlap were the Eagles' two most penalized players this season. Rodgers-Cromartie was flagged 12 times, including six times for pass interference. Dunlap was flagged 10 times, including seven times for holding and twice for illegal use of hands. To his credit, Dunlap didn't have a single false start penalty in 838 snaps. Demetress Bell, on the other hand, had a team-high five in only 462 snaps. Rookie Dennis Kelly was flagged only two times in 703 snaps - once for a false start and once for holding.
FROM THE LIP:
"I don't think you have to be vocal to be a leader. At the quarterback position, obviously, you're going to have to speak up at times. But I think you can lead more by your actions and showing people that you're prepared, and [by] the decisions you make on the field." - 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick
"My confidence in him as a coach gives me confidence to keep him as a coach. I think Rex Ryan is perfect for the New York Jets. He's just like a New York Jets fan in many respects." - Jets owner Woody Johnson on why he didn't fire Ryan
"Nobody has been at .500 and spent as much cash as I've spent." - Cowboys owner Jerry Jones
"I have no sour grapes. I know I did a hell of a job. It doesn't matter if I coach here or not. I will find another spot. I'm too damn good." - Rob Ryan after being fired as the Cowboys' defensive coordinator
"If Josh McDaniels is the coach-in-waiting up there [in New England], he's liable to be waiting a long time. I don't know that Bill would be all that excited if he didn't have football in his life on a daily basis." - FOX Sports studio analyst Jimmy Johnson on the possibility of McDaniels eventually replacing Bill Belichick as the Patriots' head coach
BY THE NUMBERS:
Aaron Rodgers has a 105.4 career postseason passer rating, which is higher than any of the other seven QBs still in the tournament. He has thrown 16 touchdown passes and only four interceptions and has a 66 percent completion rate in eight postseason games. Seahawks rookie Russell Wilson technically is second with a 92.9 rating, but has played in only one game. Peyton Manning has an 88.4 playoff rating. Tom Brady is at 87.8.
The Ravens' Joe Flacco is the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to start a postseason game in each of his first five seasons. He has won at least one playoff game in each of those 5 years.
Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly led all rookies in tackles this season with 164. Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner was second with 140, and Bucs LB Lavonte David was third with 139.
The Seahawks have rushed for 100 or more yards in 22 of their last 26 games, including the postseason.
Texans QB Matt Schaub has only one touchdown pass and four interceptions in his last five games.
Since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format in 1990, No. 1 seeds in the NFC are 18-4 in the divisional round. AFC No. 1 seeds are 13-9.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick is tied with Joe Gibbs for the third most playoff wins in NFL history (17). He's two behind Don Shula and three behind Tom Landry.
That's saying thumbthing
THUMBS UP: To Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who brought a little sunshine into the life of a cancer-stricken Fairport, N.Y., teenager. Peterson called Blake Cognata in response to a Twitter campaign by the boy's friends. Cognata has had Ewing's sarcoma, a cancer that attacks the bones, since last February. "It was just the most amazing thing," Blake's mother, Diane Calcagno, told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. "He's been glowing all night." Blake's friends had been directing tweets to Peterson's account with the hastag #APCallBlake. Within 90 minutes, Peterson called him. "It was on his heart, and he just felt he had to do it," Peterson's assistant, Chris Brown, told the newspaper. "If a conversation can bring a little bit of joy, it's the least Adrian can do." Peterson gave Blake his cellphone number and told him to call him anytime he wanted to talk.
THUMBS DOWN: To that consummately confident ladies man, Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett, who made a Twitter play for Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron's girlfriend, Katherine Webb, during Monday night's national championship game. ESPN's cameras repeatedly zoomed in on Webb, who is the reigning Miss Alabama USA, during the game. Dockett apparently thought that with McCarron busy obliterating Notre Dame, he could make a play for Webb. "Hit me (240) 464-4150 when game over, lets go to wing stop then King of diamond," he tweeted King of Diamond is a South Florida strip club. Classy guy, that Darnell. And that really is - or was - his cell number. He apparently intended to send her a direct message, but, well, defensive linemen aren't as smart as offensive linemen or quarterbacks.