<
>

Doug Pederson leads way as Eagles' search winds down

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles' coaching search is either on hold or it’s over. Owner Jeff Lurie is in Houston for NFL meetings, so we may know whether a team will be moving to Los Angeles before we know the identity of the next Eagles coach.

Lurie and his search committee have interview six candidates. One has been hired as the new head coach of the Miami Dolphins. There is a chance that Lurie will set up interviews with more candidates (defensive coordinators Paul Guenther of Cincinnati or Teryl Austin of Detroit, for example) after returning from Houston.

But all signs point to the Eagles making a decision when Lurie is back from Houston. That means choosing from the candidates they’ve already interviewed.

Based on what we know -- from Lurie’s history, from events so far, from conversations with people who know Lurie and his team -- here’s a breakdown of each candidate, from most to least likely to be hired.

Doug Pederson, offensive coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs: Because the Chiefs had a playoff game Saturday, the Eagles couldn’t interview Pederson until Sunday. Their interviews last week with Pat Shurmur, Adam Gase and Ben McAdoo could have been a way to fill in the time until they could talk to Pederson -- while also providing potential backup candidates.

If hiring Pederson looks like a leap of faith, remember that Lurie once made a similar leap of faith by hiring the Green Bay Packers’ quarterbacks coach. Andy Reid took Lurie’s team to a Super Bowl and coached for 14 mostly successful years.

As a quarterback, Pederson followed Reid from Green Bay to Philadelphia. As a coach, he followed Reid from Philadelphia to Kansas City. Lurie appears to be clearing out the Kelly era with a return to the Reid model. Pederson would be a pretty comfortable fit.

The down side: Until someone is a head coach, there’s no way to know how effective he will be. That’s as true for Pederson as it is for McAdoo or Gase or Guenther. Lurie would be rolling the dice on any of them, but at least Pederson represents familiar dice.

Ben McAdoo, offensive coordinator, New York Giants: He doesn’t have the direct connection to Reid, but McAdoo followed Reid’s career path. He coached tight ends and then quarterbacks in Green Bay before spending two years as the Giants’ offensive coordinator.

In those two years, McAdoo, helped rejuvenate quarterback Eli Manning. The drafting of Odell Beckham Jr. may have helped with that, of course. And it’s also true that the Giants went 6-10 in each of the last two years. That had more to do with their defense, but it still shows up on McAdoo’s resume.

Overall, McAdoo is a guy who will be a head coach before too long. That’s clear. For Lurie, it’s a matter of taking the chance that he’ll be a great one.

The down side: Hiring McAdoo would be senseless without getting him a quarterback he can work with. He may work well with Bradford, but no one will know until they’re actually working together.

Tom Coughlin, former head coach, New York Giants: Yes, Coughlin had a losing record in each of his last three seasons with the Giants. Yes, a few flagrant in-game miscues cost the Giants wins in 2015. All of that is true.

But there aren’t many opportunities to hire a two-time Super Bowl winner as your head coach. Coughlin is like the anti-Reid in that sense: He seldom reached double-digit wins in his 12 years with the Giants, but he got to two Super Bowls and found a way to win them.

Reid was good for 10 to 12 wins almost every year. He went to five NFC Championship Games and lost four of them. When he got to a Super Bowl, he lost to the team Coughlin beat twice for the title.

The down side: No head coach has ever won a Super Bowl with one team and then gone on to win a Super Bowl with a second team. That’s what Coughlin would be seeking to do. More immediately, though, Coughlin is already talking to the San Francisco 49ers. So it’s not out of the question that he has a new contract before Lurie gets home from Houston.

Pat Shurmur, offensive coordinator, Philadelphia Eagles: Shurmur may have lost some of his appeal because of his role in Chip Kelly's administration, ironically enough. Shurmer took the job as offensive coordinator hoping some of Kelly's appeal would rub off.

But Shurmur would represent stability and continuity, two qualities Lurie seems to value here. He has the same quality as Pederson, in that he has worked for the Eagles under Reid.

Unlike Pederson, Shurmur has a relationship with quarterback Sam Bradford, who could become a free agent in March. There’s a chance Lurie and Howie Roseman expect to let Bradford walk, in which case Shurmur’s connection doesn’t matter. But given the dearth of options at QB, hiring a guy who would attract Bradford isn’t the worst idea.

The down side: Shurmur has been a head coach without much success. That was in the coaches’ graveyard known as Cleveland, Ohio, but it still counts.

Duce Staley, running backs coach, Philadelphia Eagles. It may be unfair to rank Staley fifth among the five candidates on this list. But it has been 11 days since he was interviewed. If he’d blown Lurie and Co. away, you have to think they would have made that known by now.

And that’s what Staley had to do. He’s a great Eagle and a promising young coach. It won’t be surprising if Staley remains on the staff, especially if Pederson or Shurmur get the top job. But it’s hard to picture Staley making the leap from position coach to head coach at this point.

The down side: Experience. Staley would be better served getting a chance to gain more varied experience than being rushed into a head coaching job.