Eagles enter uncertain offseason
PHILADELPHIA — Jeffrey Lurie is looking for a coach instead of watching his team chase the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
The Philadelphia Eagles began the season with Super Bowl aspirations and finished it without a coach. Chip Kelly was fired last week to cap a disappointing year that fell way short of expectations.
The Eagles (7-9) weren't only considered contenders in Philadelphia. They had the third-best odds to win the Super Bowl going into the schedule after consecutive 10-6 seasons under Kelly.
But Lurie, the team chairman and CEO, quickly pulled the plug on Kelly after giving the coach full control of personnel decisions last offseason. He didn't agree with Kelly's direction and wasn't pleased with his personality traits. Some players complained that Kelly was distant and unapproachable, though others supported him and his innovative ways.
Now the search is on for the next head coach. The Eagles haven't won a championship since 1960, so whoever gets the job should know anything less won't be considered a success in this town.
Some things to look for this offseason:
Coaching search: Running backs coach Duce Staley and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur were interviewed. Bears OC Adam Gase and Panthers DC Sean McDermott are two of the hot names. Lurie and his group don't make quick decisions. They consider many candidates and take a deliberate approach.
Bradford's future: Sam Bradford is set to become a free agent after a strong second half that should boost his marketability. Bradford completed 68 percent of his passes with 10 TDs and only four interceptions after Week 8. He wanted to stay when Kelly was here. The Eagles could keep him for a year on a franchise tag, but would have to pay him more than $20 million.
Salvaging DeMarco: DeMarco Murray was a bust after Kelly gave him $21 million guaranteed in free agency. He didn't fit Kelly's scheme and prefers to run the ball from deep in the backfield instead of the shotgun formation. Murray broke off his longest run, 54 yards for a score, on his first carry with Kelly gone. Yes, it came with Bradford under center and Murray lined up several yards behind him.
The Eagles would take a major cap hit if they released or traded him, so he's here for another year at least. The new coach should figure out the best way to maximize Murray's strengths.
Core guys: Defensive end Fletcher Cox, linebacker Jordan Hicks, cornerback Eric Rowe, wide receiver Jordan Matthews, tight end Zach Ertz and right tackle Lane Johnson should be part of the solution going forward. Murray, cornerback Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso need to perform better in their second seasons in Philadelphia. Safety Malcolm Jenkins and linebackers Connor Barwin are solid veterans to keep around. Left tackle Jason Peters is declining and could be released for cap reasons unless he restructures his deal.
Draft strategy: The Eagles have the 13th pick in the first round, but traded their second-round pick to the Rams for Bradford. They have several holes to fill, especially on the offensive line. They do have two picks in the third round.