Top 10 Philadelphia Eagles Head Coaching Candidates

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJanuary 1, 2013

Apr 28, 2011; New York, NY, USA; ESPN analyst Jon Gruden during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles begin their search for a new head coach right now, with interviews reportedly lined up with three Atlanta Falcons coordinators this week.

The relatively unknown Andy Reid wasn't an overly popular choice in 1999, so it's possible Jeffrey Lurie casts a wide net and hires someone unexpected. I don't necessarily think that's the wrong route to go, but I get the feeling they're aiming for a proven winner this time. 

That's why Jon Gruden leads my list of preferred candidates.


1. Jon Gruden

Gruden's been out of the league four years now and there's increased speculation that he might be open to returning to the sideline. He ran the Eagles' offense for three years early in Lurie's tenure as the owner before becoming head coach of the Raiders in 1998, and he can offer everything the Eagles should be looking for. He's a proven winner with NFL experience and a Super Bowl ring, he's still relatively young, he's a great leader and he's a quarterback-coaching genius. 

I don't think the Eagles should give him full say over personnel, but I'm not sure Gruden will need that anyway. So long as that's the case, I believe they'd be smart to break the bank for Chucky. 


2. Chip Kelly

Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Kelly is at the top of the Eagles' list, but they'll have to wait for his season at Oregon to end Thursday before getting a chance to sit down with him. 

Kelly intrigues me but also scares me, and I'm sure a lot of Eagles fans feel the same way. First, they need a coach, not a new system (one that might not work at this level), and second, we don't know for sure that his success will translate to the NFL. Everyone wants the next Pete Carroll or Jim Harbaugh, but it's risky giving huge bucks (and maybe even personnel control?) to a guy like Kelly. 

At the same time, he's considered to be one of the most brilliant offensive minds in the game. 


3. Mike McCoy

Long considered a nice fit and a top candidate, the Broncos offensive coordinator has had success with such quarterbacks as Jake Delhomme, Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow. He won't likely want to come into Philadelphia and make major changes, which is good.

At the age of 40, this is a great time for McCoy to make the jump to a head coaching gig. But with Denver on a roll right now, the Eagles might have to wait until after the Super Bowl to wrap him up. 


4. Mike Zimmer

I think the Eagles should lean heavily toward hiring an offensive-minded head coach, but if they go in another direction with things or if they lose out on Gruden, Kelly and McCoy, Zimmer should be at the top of the list. 

The 56-year-old Bengals defensive coordinator has one of the best units in the league every year, which is a big reason why he's such a popular head coaching candidate every January. His players love him and he clearly has the attitude and personality required of a successful head coach. 


5. Jay Gruden

He's either the "other" Bengals assistant or the "other" Gruden. Regardless, Jay Gruden has done some fantastic things with Andy Dalton and the young Cincinnati offense. The 45-year-old has only been in the NFL for two years, but he has experience as a head coach in the UFL, which I feel is still pretty valuable.

Of course, he might also be a strong candidate to come run the offense if his older brother Jon gets the gig.


6. Bruce Arians

The 60-year-old has never been a head coach but he's earned a chance to land a job because of the way he got results while filling in for the sick Chuck Pagano this season in Indianapolis. He's also the man who coached both Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck as rookies, so he'd be perfect for Nick Foles.

I'm leaning toward some of the younger candidates who have been head coaches, but I wouldn't have a problem with the Eagles going this route.


7. Greg Roman

Here's a guy who has done some great things with the 49ers offense and would actually ensure that LeSean McCoy gets enough touches throughout games. 

Roman coached Andrew Luck at Stanford and is a Jim Harbaugh disciple. As a result, he's getting a lot of attention right now. If those top few candidates aren't available and Roman interviews well with Lurie and GM Howie Roseman, it'd be cool to see him get his first head-coaching shot in Philly.


8. Dirk Koetter

Koetter's a very popular man right now. The Falcons offensive coordinator reportedly has interviews lined up with three different teams, including the Eagles. It must be something about his personality or his reputation, because his track record in Jacksonville and Atlanta doesn't exactly make him a compelling candidate. 

It is encouraging, though, that Koetter was fairly successful as a head coach at Boise State and Arizona State between 1998 and 2006. 


9. Bill O'Brien

Do the Eagles really want to bark up the Bill Belichick coaching tree at this point? Even if O'Brien decides to leave Penn State, which is questionable, he's unproven and will cost a lot of cash. I'm intrigued by anyone who's learned from Belichick, but O'Brien has yet to prove that he can be successful outside of that system. 

What I'm saying is, ultimately, there are safer options. 


10. Mike Nolan

Nolan makes the list because he has an interview this week and is one of very few candidates with experience as an NFL head coach, which I think is a big plus. It's crazy that eight of the other nine men on here don't have that. 

But Nolan wasn't successful when he ran the 49ers, going 18-37 in four losing seasons. He's only 53 and that might have been bad timing in San Francisco, but do the Eagles really want to go with a retread when there are so many quality options?