FIERRO: Here are 5 candidates to replace Doug Pederson as Philadelphia Eagles head coach
Now that Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie has fired Doug Pederson as the team's head coach, who could be next in line for the job?
Lurie has to know that he must act quickly. Many top candidates around the NFL already have been interviewed by multiple teams with established job openings. If Lurie arrives at that party too late, he’ll be dealing with a depleted gene pool, which coincidentally is also the best way to describe the Eagles’ roster.
Here are five candidates who deserve priority consideration from Lurie as he seeks his fifth head-coaching hire since becoming majority owner of the team in 1994.
1. Brian Daboll, Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator: The very reason Lurie could have second thoughts about Pederson is pure envy of how Daboll helped make the Bills an elite contender in such a short time.
Two years ago, the Bills had a rookie quarterback, Josh Allen, who was worse than the Eagles’ Carson Wentz is now, and the Bills were 6-10. Now, with major help from Daboll working with him on dissecting defenses and changing his arm slot, Allen is punctuating a season that’s better by every measure than Wentz’s 2017 MVP-caliber performance.
Allen completed 69.2 percent of his passes for 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while averaging 4.1 yards on 102 rushing attempts, eight of which were touchdowns. On Saturday, he led the Bills to their first playoff win since 1995 despite a poor performance by their defense and special teams.
Daboll, who also has college experience, calls the Bills’ offensive plays
Again, what should temper Lurie’s thoughts is that Allen had a pair of All-Pro receivers this season in Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley. And a line that protected him infinitely better than the Eagles protected Wentz, who absorbed a league-high 50 sacks in just 12 games.
2. Arthur Smith, Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator: Smith has helped transform a quarterback who was lost when he arrived in Nashville into one of the league’s elite. Ryan Tannehill last season completed 70.2 percent of his passes and led the league with an average of 9.6 yards per attempt as the Titans advanced to the AFC championship game. This season, he tossed a career-high 33 touchdown passes.
Of course, Tannehill has been helped by a devastating running attack behind the best running back in the game, Derrick Henry, who’s led the league in rushing in each of the last two seasons and this year cracked the 2,000-yard plateau.
3. Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley: Rarely do men who jump from college coaching into the NFL for the first time as head coaches succeed. The Eagles should know this most of all after nearly allowing Chip Kelly to completely wreck their roster.
But they would owe it to themselves to do their due diligence on Riley, who resurrected Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts’ college career and turned him into a Heisman Trophy contender.
Riley has an incredible track record of crafting high-powered offenses and creating an identity Lurie has long dreamed about for his team.
4. Baltimore Ravens QB coach James Urban: The former Eagles’ QB coach was Lamar Jackson’s position coach when he earned the NFL MVP award last season.
But Urban also is an intriguing name because he was Michael Vick’s position coach for the best season Vick ever had, 2010. Vick that season produced career-bests in touchdown passes (21, despite playing just 12 games), completion percentage (62.6), interception percentage (1.6) and yards per attempt (8.1) as the Eagles captured the NFC East crown before losing in the playoffs by five points to eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay in a game marred by two missed David Akers field goals.
5. Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy: There is always a risk in hiring a coordinator who didn’t call plays.
On the other hand, that’s what they did when they poached Pederson, who was Bieniemy’s predecessor. That worked out pretty well for the Eagles. At least for awhile.
But the Eagles were fortunate that Pederson agreed to such little control.
If Lurie wants to lure a top candidate this time around, he’s going to have to give him total control over his staff and the 53-man roster at the very least.
If they won’t relinquish that, the Eagles sadly will just be in for more of the same.