As the Eagles turn the page from Andy Reid to the search for the organization's next head coach, there will be no shortage of competition. On what has come to be deemed "Black Monday," the NFL has seen seven head coaches relieved of their duties, with rumors that a few more could follow in the days and weeks to come. So for the Eagles, it won't be as simple as identifying the right coaching candidate and plugging him into the job right away.
Fortunately though, according to Eagles Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie, the Eagles have, from the top of the organization on down, the most to offer any candidate who is looking to take a head coaching job.
"I'm very confident that this is the most attractive place for a head coach to work in the National Football League," Lurie said Monday. "Other teams can argue the same thing, but I am very confident that we have an incredible fan base. There are incredible fan bases in a few other cities, maybe many other cities. This one's amazing. They want what we want and that's an obsession not just to be good, but to be great, and that's big. This is a huge media market; prime-time games. If you want to be at the forefront of NFL in America, this is a top-four, top-five media market. That's great. Facilities, about the best facilities in the National Football League. History of an owner-coach relationship, I think virtually unmatched. I think that the resources, any coach coming here knows there's no limitation on the resources in any direction, financial or otherwise, that's put towards the football program. Everyone knows that in the league. I think that a winning culture, to come into an organization that is used to winning, used to winning big and it's part of the mantra and the culture in an organization, that's huge because when Andy came, we had to change the culture, turn it around and that's a much harder job. This job is taking a culture that exists. There's been some negative turns in the performance of the team, especially this season and last, and I think that it's ripe for a real smart, forward-thinking coach who wants to get his hand on a great situation. To me, this is the best situation for a coach to look at."
Spearheading the coaching search for the Eagles is a triumvirate of decision makers that includes Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman and team president Don Smolenski.
"I couldn't be more confident in having them be part of the process," Lurie said. "Don is a breath of fresh air and is a real forward-thinking leader. He's been in the NFL for 15 years and he knows where they fail, where they succeed. I think he will be able to both present the Eagles in a terrific light and be able to help in the evaluation of the coaching world. Howie has a great relationship with every agent, and I think just has a mind that is very valuable in terms of evaluating people, evaluating coaches, and an understanding of where the league is at.
"In the end, it's going to be a subjective decision on my part. I take it very seriously, and there is no guarantee that I'll make a great decision. I'm confident I will. It is what it is – you're making judgments about people that you hope to work with for 15 years or more. Those are judgments made based on research, interviewing, and a real understanding of them, but you don't fully. With all that, I'm very confident in everything that has to take place."
Lurie added that while the team has a "very, very defined list of candidates," there is no preference for an offensive coach or a college coach or for any other subcategory of prospective candidate.
"I think the most important thing is to find the right leader," he said. "I'm not one who wants to buy schemes, wants to buy approaches that are necessarily finite. What you've got to find is somebody who is strategic. Somebody who is a strong leader. Somebody who is very comfortable in his own skin. That, to me, is probably one of the one or two top traits because players today see right through if you're not. If you're a salesman coach, that's not going to work. Somebody who is completely comfortable in his role and in who they are as a person, that's the most important thing. But there are a lot of other characteristics that go into it. How well does the person hire? Is he going to surround himself with strong coordinators and good assistant coaches? In this league, that's one of the most underrated aspects. If you don't hire the best around you, they may not be name coaches but you've got to hire great teachers and strong coordinators, I think you're operating at a disadvantage and I'm looking for that. I'm looking for someone that's innovative. Somebody who is not afraid to take risks. Somebody who looks (at) and studies the league and studies the college world and decides what the best inefficiencies are on offense and defense and special teams and can execute it with their coaches so that you take advantage of trends and take advantage of, again, inefficiencies in terms of where the game is at and understand where it's going. So, a student of the game who is obsessed and who absolutely and, on his own, is completely driven to be the best, that's what you're looking for."
Lurie said the Eagles will begin the process of contacting prospective coaching candidates immediately. Under the NFL rules, the Eagles can now contact any assistant coach whose season has been completed or any assistant coach on a playoff team that has a bye week to open the playoffs. That's in addition to the freedom to contact any college coach or candidate currently not employed by an NFL team. Though Lurie said the Eagles are anxious to begin the process, it's important that they exercise patience.
"I think it's better to find the right leader than it is to make the fastest decision," Lurie said. "The rules are such in the NFL that you have to interview people according to the guidelines (such as) teams in and out of the playoffs, (and) you may have to wait until a team has completed their Super Bowl run. The important thing is to find the right coach, not to make the fastest decision. That's our priority."
Continuing the thread of what makes the Eagles' head coaching vacancy such an attractive position, Lurie said that his history of commitment to head coaches should help attract the best of the best. In the NFL, Lurie said, the formula for success is one of consistently adhering to a philosophy, trusting that there's enough security to be patient in one's approach.
"I think to be really successful in this league, you've got to be able to have the freedom to make short-term plans, mid-term plans and long-term plans and if you feel like you're under the gun where you're going to be given two years and that's it or this year has to be absolutely the panacea to every problem you have, you're not going to get the best coaching," said Lurie. "So, when a coach comes to the Philadelphia Eagles and the next coach will feel this way, he knows he's going to have the owner's support to both plan in the short run, plan in the midterm and have long-term strategy as well. That, to me, is crucial because every decision you make needs to balance the three and when you start to reach for short-term panaceas or short-term solutions that are not consistent with your culture and your football program, that's when you end up 4-12."
Lurie also acknowledged that while the organization is internally excited about the prospect of Nick Foles as a quarterback, the future of the position "is going to be a decision made by the new head coach, not by the owner."
As for the remaining members of Reid's coaching staff, the majority of the assistant coaches are still under contract.
" They're going to do their player evaluations this week, which is important because it's always helpful to see how a position coach or a coordinator feels about certain players," Lurie said. "They will be free to abide the anti-tampering rules and interview for other jobs. It's my priority that whoever we bring in as head coach will have an opportunity to meet them and for those who want to stay, consider them. There are some people there who are really deserving. They've worked hard, and they'll all have that opportunity."
Finally, Lurie promised that following the last-place finish in the NFC East this season, there will be brighter days ahead for the Eagles organization.
"I think in life, whenever you have either a downturn or a problem or something that you've got to face (like a) challenge, it should, if you are healthy about it, make you stronger," he said. "That's exactly what's going to happen here. We're used to winning and we're used to winning big. It's rare that we're not in the playoffs or playing in the (conference) championship game, and that's what we've got to return to. And then for our incredible fan base that have been so supportive, every ounce of our effort and my effort goes towards not only having that excellence of being in the playoffs, but the ultimate goal of winning a championship for Philadelphia."
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