By Jeff McLane The Philadelphia Inquirer
PHILADELPHIA — The Eagles and Gus Bradley are scheduled to meet Tuesday for a second interview, a strong indication that the Seahawks defensive coordinator is either the teamâ??s top choice to be the head coach or at least is a front-runner.
Bradley will be the first of the Eaglesâ?? candidates to meet with the team for a confirmed follow-up interview.
The Eagles have said nothing publicly about their interest in the 46-year-old coach. It would serve little purpose for them to reveal their top choice. But the scuttlebutt around the NFL is that they were narrowing their sights on Bradley after they were rebuffed by three college coaches.
Owner Jeffrey Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman, and team president Don Smolenski flew to Atlanta on Saturday to meet with Bradley. The interview went â??greatâ? and a second meeting was likely, according to a FoxSports report on Sunday.
Two days later, after Seattle was eliminated from the playoffs by the Falcons, the Eagles decided they wanted another sit-down. This one will take place in Philadelphia. If all goes well, the Eagles could introduce their next head coach in the next few days.
Bradley already has interviewed with the Chargers, and the Jaguars reportedly are sniffing around as well. So Lurie might pull out all the stops to get the Minnesota native.
The Eagles began the day Monday by interviewing former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, who became the latest addition to join Lurieâ??s extensive list of candidates.
The Eagles have interviewed 11 known candidates. They have one more coach theyâ??ve been granted permission to speak with and were set to meet with an additional two who never got around to their interviews for separate reasons.
That makes 14 prospects who have been linked to the Eagles. There probably have been more: Team officials have been selective in revealing and confirming who they have interviewed.
But of those 14, only eight are still available, and really only seven if Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong is discounted. He is not considered a serious candidate.
The seven are a wide array â?? recently-fired head coaches, offensive coordinators, defensive coordinators, and a former head coach-turned broadcaster.
The Eagles pursued a trio of college coaches, but each elected to stay at his school. The team now appears set on selecting a coach with an extensive NFL background or a coordinator who has paid his dues in the pros.
Whisenhunt would fall into the former category. He was fired by the Cardinals on Dec. 31 after six seasons in Arizona. The first three years were successful for the most part, the last three not so much.
The 50-year-old Whisenhunt went 31-23, including the postseason, in his first three years and reached the Super Bowl in his second season. The Cardinals topped the Eagles to advance to the final against the Steelers. They lost, 27-23.
Arizona qualified for the postseason the next season, but lost to the eventual-champion Saints in the second round. Quarterback Kurt Warner retired after the season and the teamâ??s â?? and Whisenhuntâ??s â?? fortunes went downhill from there.
The Cardinals went 18-30 from 2010-12 with an assortment of quarterbacks. Whisenhunt was not solely responsible. Matt Leinart, Kevin Kolb, and others failed to develop into competent starters, but it remains a blemish on his record.
He had great success with quarterback Ben Roeth lisberger when he was the Steelersâ?? offensive coordinator from 2004-06. Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl after the 2005 season and was statistically above average in yards and points with a run-based attack.
Of the four other teams left with vacancies, Whisenhunt also interviewed with the Chargers.
The Eagles seem to be nearing a final decision. Aside from Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and Armstrong, they have not been linked to any of the assistants on the four remaining teams in the playoffs. Nolan, who interviewed with the Eagles on Jan. 2, has decided to stay in Atlanta.
They interviewed Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden on Monday after Whisenhunt. Gruden has met with the Cardinals and Chargers and is scheduled to interview for the Jaguarsâ?? vacancy.
There were reports that the Eagles were set to meet with Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians on Tuesday, but the team said that was not the case. The Eagles were granted permission to meet with the former Temple head coach.
Aside from Bradley, Whisenhunt, Gruden, Nolan, and Armstrong, they have interviewed Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy (Jan. 6), former Ravens head coach Brian Billick (Jan. 7), and former Bears coach Lovie Smith (Jan. 10).
McCoy has interviewed with the Bears, Cardinals, and Chargers. Smith met with the Chargers. The Eagles reportedly were the only team to meet with Billick. When asked about his interest in returning to coaching, he told NFL.com: â??I would never say never.â?
The Eagles also met with Penn State coach Bill Oâ??Brien (Jan. 3), Oregon coach Chip Kelly (Jan. 5), and Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly (Jan. 8). All three college coaches ultimately decided to stay put.
The Eagles were granted permission to interview Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, but he took a contract extension and elected to stay in Atlanta. They were scheduled to meet with Syracuse coach Doug Marrone, but he was hired by the Bills before they had a chance to meet.