NFL Coaches Hot Seat: Top Candidates to Replace Embattled Andy Reid

Ian StancatoContributor IIINovember 18, 2011

NFL Coaches Hot Seat: Top Candidates to Replace Embattled Andy Reid

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    The Philadelphia Eagles are in last place in the NFC East at 3-6, and all signs point to this being Andy Reid's last season in Philadelphia.

    With the team built entirely in his image, the players all of his choosing, the coaching staff (the equally embattled Juan Castillo included) all employed at his appointment, and the number of valid excuses dwindling, the vast majority of Eagles fans are ready to move toward a new era.

    The cupboard is not bare in Philadelphia. The team is extremely talented and whomever is to take over for Reid, should he be fired, will be expected to produce a winner right away.

    For that reason, it is important that Reid's successor be carefully chosen. His coaching philosophy must fit the core of the current roster. Some roster changes are inevitable; however, the core of the Eagles' roster is well constructed as it currently stands.

    What must change for the Eagles to be successful is how the team is coached.

    Here are four potential candidates to replace Andy Reid in Philadelphia, and the chances of each coming to fruition.

Jon Gruden

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    Jon Gruden has been a popular topic of speculation for almost every team searching for a new coach in the last few seasons since his departure from Tampa Bay.

    Gruden would be a good fit in Philadelphia given his familiarity with the organization, having coached here in the '90s as offensive coordinator, and his offensive philosophy, which is similar to Reid's and would thus be a good fit for the current roster.

    The toughest task for any team courting Gruden would be to convince him to leave the press box, where he seems comfortable and happy.

Jon Gruden (cont.)

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    If Gruden were offered the position, one would have to believe that he would at least strongly consider accepting.

    The core of the team is in place and the roster is familiar with the "West Coast Offense" that Gruden runs.

    A key point in whether Gruden accepts the position will likely come down to the willingness of the Eagles' organization to give Gruden both security in the form of a long-term contract with lots of guaranteed money, and the freedom to build the coaching staff to his liking.

Brian Billick

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    Despite the defensive personality of his Baltimore Ravens, Brian Billick is actually an offensive-minded coach. He rose to fame while leading the Minnesota Vikings to one of the most productive offensive seasons ever, behind Randall Cunningham, Cris Carter and Randy Moss.

    Billick was also, like Reid, very much a player's coach. The HBO series "Hard Knocks" had one of its more memorable seasons while following the training camp of the Billick-led Ravens.

    Given his success in Minnesota with a very similar offensive roster, Billick would be an attractive candidate for the Eagles. Michael Vick is the new version of Randall Cunningham, and Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson have the potential to be equally as talented a duo as Carter and Moss.

    Many forget how important running back Robert Smith was to the success of the Vikings, and his style was very similar to that of LeSean McCoy.

Brian Billick (cont.)

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    One would have to believe that, if offered, Billick would also strongly consider taking the job.

    The Eagles' offensive roster is the closest thing Billick will have ever had to that legendary Vikings offense in terms of personnel, and Billick most definitely recognizes that.

    Key to whether Billick accepts the position will likely be what kind of position the Eagles put him in defensively. Billick won his only Super Bowl on the strength of Marvin Lewis' defense, so he obviously recognizes the importance of a strong defensive unit.

    A potential selling point to convince Billick to come out of the broadcast booth would be to allow him to choose a Lewis disciple as defensive coordinator, someone like current Bengals' defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

    Behind Zimmer and Billick, the Eagles could get back to their winning ways very quickly.

Chip Kelly

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    A name not yet mentioned on most Eagles fans' radar, Oregon's Chip Kelly could be an interesting candidate.

    His offensive schemes are built around speed, something the Eagles have plenty of. With Michael Vick at the helm and Jackson, Maclin and McCoy among the ranks, the Eagles have one of the fastest offensive units in the country, and one can only imagine what the creative Kelly might be able to come up with.

    There are two major concerns that come to mind if Kelly is their guy, however.

    First, coaches who were successful in college have been notoriously unsuccessful in the pros. Nick Saban, Bobby Petrino and Steve Spurrier, among others, quickly come to mind.

    Second, Kelly's Ducks are not very good defensively. Obviously, if the Eagles were to hire Kelly, they would also need to address the defensive side of the ball separately.

Chip Kelly (cont.)

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    The questions surrounding a hiring like Kelly's would be valid.

    The solution? If Kelly is offered the job, require that he hire current Jets defensive coordinator and Rex Ryan understudy Mike Pettine as his defensive coordinator.

    The Eagles organization must provide the structure and framework within which Kelly can work in order to make his transition from college to the pros smoother than those who have tried in the past.

    Pettine, a Philly native, would likely relish the chance to get out from under Ryan's large shadow and run his own "D" in his hometown.

    By hiring him, the Eagles would take a lot of pressure off of Kelly and allow him to focus on what he does best: running the offensive side of the ball.

Joe Philbin

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    Another name not often mentioned in any rumor mill is Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. Given the Packers' success this year and last, one can only imagine it is only a matter of time before his name gets tossed into the ring.

    Philbin has been the Packers' offensive coordinator since 2007. He has helped to groom Aaron Rodgers into arguably the game's best quarterback.

    His offense has been nearly unstoppable this season and the Packers offense, from a personnel standpoint, is built similarly to the Eagles. Great wide receivers, elite quarterbacks and fast, slick running backs, the teams are nearly mirror images.

    Interestingly enough, it wouldn't be the first time the Eagles hired a Packers coach. Guess who was hired with little fanfare out of Green Bay in 1999? That's right, Andy Reid.

Joe Philbin (cont.)

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    Like Kelly, if the Eagles are to hire Philbin, they must also move to hire an equally as gifted defensive mind for their defensive coordinator.

    Unlike Billick and Gruden, Kelly and Philbin have not run an entire NFL team before and for both, the transition would be made smoother if the Eagles were to provide for them stability on the defensive side of the ball so both coaches may do what they do best: focus on offense.

    Again, like Kelly, if the Eagles choose to hire Philbin, they should strongly consider trying to hire Pettine away from the Jets. Ryan's defenses are amongst the most electrifying in the league, and he is a master at disguising both coverages and weaknesses.

    Pettine is sure to have absorbed a lot of knowledge from his years with Ryan, as he coached under him in Baltimore before moving with him to New York.

What Should Happen?

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    The Eagles should strongly consider hiring either Kelly or Philbin as their next head coach. Both are obviously adept at coaching the offensive side of the ball and, given their current roster, this is the greatest asset the Eagles have at this point.

    With either coach, the Eagles need to bring in a defensive coordinator who is strong-willed enough to build a defense with an identity entirely separate from that of the offense, which is why they should consider an up-and-comer like Pettine.

    Rex Ryan became a head coach because he built a defense in his identity in Baltimore and that defense was successful because it dared to form its own identity.

    The Eagles have not been able to achieve the same level of success as they did in the early 2000s because their defense has not had an identity since Jim Johnson, former defensive coordinator, left.

    Bringing in a head coach who will allow the defense to operate as a separate unit is the only way to reignite the Eagles' defense at this point.

    With Billick and Gruden, the concern would be that, like Reid, they would want the entire team built under their identity. Rarely does that work.

    If the Eagles are to rebuild themselves into a contender, they will need to bring in an offensive-minded head coach and a brash defensive coordinator.

What Will Happen?

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    Jeffrey Lurie and his management staff have only made one hire in their entire tenure as Eagles' owners. That hire was Andy Reid, whom no one had even talked about as a possibility.

    It is unlikely that a front office who went so far off the radar for their first hire and found success, would go mainstream with their second, so look for the Eagles' next head coach to be someone you've never heard of.