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First Wave Of Candidates Emerges

Posted Jan 2, 2013

The promise is to leave “no stone unturned,” and as the Eagles dig in to the frantic side of finding the next head coach, we’re learning just what that means. Three candidates, with vastly different backgrounds, are confirmed to be interviewed …

In what promises to be an exhaustive search, the Eagles have identified the initial three candidates to meet. They are, in no particular order, Atlanta defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, Atlanta special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong and Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.

Hang on to your Midnight Green hats, folks, this is just the start …

In Nolan, the Eagles have identified a candidate with head coaching experience (San Francisco, 2005-2008) and decades of success on the defensive side of the football. Nolan has been a coordinator in New York (both Giants and Jets), Washington, Baltimore, Denver and Miami prior to signing on with Atlanta following the 2011 season.

With Nolan in charge, the Falcons have been a ball-hawking machine defensively this year to supplement the already-strong offense. He has impressed a lot of people along the way.

“The Eagles are going to be blown away when they sit down with Mike Nolan,” said Brian Baldinger from the NFL Network. “He’s a dynamic guy.”

Armstrong has local ties, having grown up in Bucks County and having played his college football at Temple. He started coaching immediately after his collegiate playing days were over, has worked his way up the ranks and is now one of the most highly-regarded special teams coordinators in the league who is also attracting a lot of attention for head-coaching positions.

Atlanta’s special teams have been among the league’s best in the five years Armstrong has run the show there. The Falcons are aggressive, calculated with their approach and very, very successful, ranking among the top 10 special teams according to cumulative numbers.

Armstrong has also been the special teams coach in Chicago and Miami, and has rounded out his coaching experience on both sides of the line of scrimmage in strong college programs.

As I write, Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman and team president Don Smolenski are in the air on their way to Atlanta to meet with both Nolan and Armstrong.

McCoy is a rising star in the coaching ranks. He is in his fourth season with Denver and has shown his versatility by scheming for success with a variety of quarterbacks. The two most recent examples are Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning, who are as different as you will find in this league. Yet McCoy made it work with both Tebow in 2011 and Manning in 2012, and is also attracting a lot of attention from those teams looking for head coaches.

McCoy actually spent time in the Eagles’ training camp in 1998 after his fine career as a quarterback at Long Beach State and the University of Utah, and then went on to play professionally in the Canadian League before moving into coaching. McCoy coached with the Panthers prior to joining Denver. The Eagles have not yet scheduled their meeting with McCoy, though one would presumably take place between now and Sunday, before McCoy gets back to the important business of preparing for a playoff game.

This is just the beginning. The Eagles are likely to introduce more candidates in the days ahead as Lurie, Roseman and Smolenski continue the search for the next man to lead the organization.

There are seven head coaching jobs open in the NFL, with more potentially coming in the near future. The competition is fierce to find the right man for the job, and I’m not sure the NFL has ever had a Coach Carousel quite as lively and filled with as many quality prospects as now.

Is there a timeframe? It could happen in the next two weeks or it could happen after the Super Bowl. Lurie’s approach is to exhaust all options until he finds the exact, right fit for the job. He’s looking for a leader who fits the mold of forward-thinking football mind in a city that loves its Eagles more than anything.  

And so, the Eagles are in the thick of the frenzy right now as they learn more about the candidates they’ve identified to date. I’m not sure there is a “favorite” in the race right now. Lurie and Co. have an open mind, but they are very certain about the characteristics they must have in the next head coach.

By the way, we'll be aggregating all the rumors here on PhiladelphiaEagles.com on our Rumor Mill page.

So, stay tuned! This thing is moving fast and furious and, well, why not have some fun with it while the legwork is being done away from the NovaCare Complex? There isn’t a more important decision to be made in Lurie’s tenure as the team’s owner, and he’s not going to stop until he gets it just right.

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