The Philadelphia Eagles aren’t wasting any time in trying to find Andy Reid’s successor.
Just one day after Reid’s 14-year tenure as head coach ended, the team confirmed Tuesday that owner Jeffrey Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman and president Don Smolenski have arranged interviews with Atlanta Falcons assistant coaches Keith Armstrong, Dirk Koetter and Mike Nolan.
League rules permit assistant coaches with teams that have first-round byes to interview with other teams. The Falcons are the No. 1 seed in the upcoming NFC playoffs.
Meanwhile, Reid — who won a franchise-record 140 games before getting fired — has emerged as the top candidate to become the coach of the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals fired coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves on Monday. The Cards are scheduled to interview Reid and Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
“I think Andy is an outstanding football coach,” Lurie said Monday while announcing Reid’s dismissal. “That’s what Andy wants to do. He doesn’t want to transition to other aspects of football operations. He’s a football coach. He wants to coach right now. He’s really energized and excited and someone is going to get one heck of a football coach.”
Armstrong is an intriguing candidate. The 47-year-old native of Levittown, Pa., played running back for Temple University in 1983-86, where he was a teammate of current Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, and was a graduate assistant for the Owls in 1987. Armstrong is in his 19th season as an NFL assistant and has been the Falcons’ special teams coordinator since 2008 following stints with Atlanta (secondary coach 1994-96), Chicago (special teams 1997-2000) and Miami (special teams 2001-07).
Koetter is expected to be a hot candidate with several of the seven NFL teams that are looking for a new coach. A former coach at Boise State (1998-2000) and Arizona State (2001-06), he’s known as one of the NFL’s top offensive coaches. The 52-year-old is in his first season with the Falcons after spending five seasons (2007-11) as Jacksonville’s offensive coordinator.
If the Eagles want to go with a defensive-oriented coach, Nolan would be an attractive option. The 53-year-old former San Francisco coach has been an NFL defensive coordinator for 14 seasons with the New York Giants (1993-96), Washington (2000), Baltimore (2002-04), Denver (2009), Miami (2010-11) and Atlanta (2012). He was the 49ers’ coach for four seasons (2005-08).
The Eagles also have been linked to other top coaching candidates such as University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly, Penn State coach Bill O’Brien. San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman, a Ventnor native and Holy Spirit High School graduate, also could be a possibility.
“I think the most important thing is to find the right leader,” Lurie said Monday. “I’m not one who wants to buy schemes, wants to buy approaches that are necessarily finite. What you’ve got to find is somebody who is strategic. Somebody who is a strong leader. Somebody who is very comfortable in his own skin. That, to me, is probably one of the one or two top traits because players today see right through you if you’re not.
“But there’s a lot of other characteristics that go into it. I’m looking for someone that’s innovative. Somebody that is not afraid to take risks. Somebody that looks at and studies the league and studies the college world so that you can take advantage of trends. So, a student of the game who is obsessed and is completely driven to be the best. That’s what you’re looking for.”
The Eagles’ next coach will report directly to Lurie, but Roseman also will be heavily involved in personnel decisions.
While critics have questioned Roseman’s football acumen — he is an attorney who joined the Eagles in 2000 as a salary cap expert — Lurie lauded his eye for talent. While not naming anyone specifically, Lurie insisted that Roseman was not to blame for any of the draft mistakes or free agent signings that took place prior to 2012. Reid had final say on all personnel matters and former president Joe Banner, who is now Cleveland’s president, was also heavily involved.
“We were 4-12 this season, so I completely understand the skepticism,” Roseman said Monday. “We definitely overvalued the talent on this roster. We have to figure out what went wrong here and we have to fix it. Winning teams are able to respond to adversity and overcome it and this team didn’t do that this year.”
Changing the culture in the locker room would be a start.
A number of veteran players, including wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, running back LeSean McCoy and quarterback Michael Vick, suggested that some of their teammates lost their focus and didn’t play all out down the stretch, especially in last Sunday’s 42-7 loss to the Giants.
“Out of respect and based on past history, you should come in and want to work and want to be the best and want to follow the leader,” Vick said Monday. “And that’s what guys have got to start understanding. You’ve got to follow the leader, and if you don’t, you end up in the situation we’re in now. There are guys in here who gave it their all, but we needed consistent effort from every guy in this locker room.”
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