By Jeff McLane The Philadelphia Inquirer
PHILADELPHIA — What now?
After channeling their energy into recruiting one of the bright minds from the college game and ultimately missing out, the Eagles are on to what can only be described as Plan B.
There are still a number of attractive candidates for the Eagles to pursue as their next head coach, and in the end, the Eagles will probably claim that they got their man. But it will be difficult for them to deny that Chip Kelly and Bill O’Brien were their top targets.
The show must go on, however. The Eagles interviewed Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy on Sunday for approximately three hours in Denver. And they have interviews lined up with Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, although dates have yet to be set.
Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden was also granted permission by the Bengals to interview with the Eagles, the team said.
Bradley, 46, can interview this week even though Seattle has a game Sunday at Atlanta. If the Eagles and Bradley or McCoy were to come to an agreement, the team would not be permitted to sign either to a contract or announce the hiring until after their teams were finished with the playoffs.
In other words, this coaching search could last until after the Super Bowl. It should be noted that no NFL team has hired a head coach from a Super Bowl team since 2009 when the Chiefs waited for Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
Right now, the Eagles are the only team that has Bradley lined up for an interview. McCoy also met with the Bears and Cardinals over the weekend.
Arians’ Colts were knocked out of the playoffs by the Ravens on Sunday. He was not at the game, however, because of an undisclosed illness. He was released from a Baltimore-area hospital on Monday.
The 61-year-old former Temple head coach is also being courted by the Chargers and the Bears, but Indianapolis reportedly was prepared to keep Arians from leaving. The Colts went 9-3 with Arians as their interim coach as Chuck Pagano took a two-month leave to fight Leukemia.
Gruden is also expected to interview with the Cardinals. The Bengals were knocked out the playoffs on Saturday with a loss in Houston. Several teams approached Gruden about interviewing last January, but he took his name out of the running and decided to stay in Cincinnati.
The 45-year-old old coach is the younger brother of former Eagles offensive coordinator Jon Gruden. Jay Gruden got his start coaching in the Arena Football League and spent most of the last 15 years there, but he worked as an offensive assistant under his brother at Tampa Bay.
During Gruden’s two years running the Bengals offense, it finished 20th and 22nd in total yards and 18th and 12th in points. Gruden has received credit for the development of Andy Dalton, although the quarterback is 0-2 in playoff games.
There are number of names the Eagles have yet to be linked to, but they still could have their eyes on them. Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has done an impressive job nurturing rookie quarterback Russell Wilson this season. The Bears are the only team scheduled to interview the 43-year-old coach.
The Bengals’ Mike Zimmer has coached in the NFL since 1994 and has been a defensive coordinator for 13 years. His units have finished in the top 10 in scoring defense in three of last four seasons. He had two interviews last year, but at 56 his window may have closed.
Greg Roman, 40, has not had an interview but has been linked to Jacksonville if Mike Murlarkey doesn’t survive a change in general managers. The 49ers offensive coordinator is from Ventnor, N.J.
The Eagles could go the ex-head coach route. Lovie Smith (Bears) and Ken Whisenhunt (Cardinals) are considered two of the recently fired who might deserve another shot. Marc Trestman, 56, will reportedly interview with the Browns. He has been in the Canadian Football League for the last five years but has a lot of NFL experience as a coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Aside from McCoy, Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and special-teams coordinator Keith Armstrong are the only NFL assistants the Eagles have interviewed. The Eagles were set to meet with Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, but he signed a contract extension and decided to stay in Atlanta.
The Eagles were set to interview Syracuse coach Doug Marrone on Sunday, but the Bills snagged him only hours earlier.
Kelly decided on Sunday evening to stay at Oregon after deliberating for nearly a day following the Eagles’ nine-hour full-court press. If he was leaving college, it was for the Eagles, even though he also interviewed with the Browns and the Bills a day earlier.
But for the second straight year, Kelly, who spurned an offer from the Buccaneers last January, opted to stay in the college ranks. O’Brien made the same decision after the Eagles and Browns courted him last week. The Penn State coach didn’t seem as close to leaving as Kelly, however, and elected to stay in State College.
The Eagles had all three college coaches high on their list. They’re scratched off now. It’s time to turn the page and start all over.