Finding A Coach Is Hard Work

The Eagles are having a very difficult time finding a new head coach. They’ve interviewed 47 candidates including Chip Kelly, Brian Billick, Mike Nolan, Brian Kelly, Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer, Mike McCoy, Matt McCoy, Bill O’Brien, Conan O’Brien and Soledad O’Brien. They also unsuccessfully tried to interview Nick Saban, Lou Saban and a DVD of Vince Lombardi.

They are missing two candidates who are clearly top notch.

Early in the process Chip Kelly was a fan favorite, then Brian Kelly appeared to be a favorite for the Eagles. Both turned them down to stay in college. Third time’s a charm with a Kelly though. Coach Kelly “specializes in working with dedicated professionals–leaders, teams and organizations–ready to take their leadership and results to the next level.” Isn’t that exactly what the Eagles need? Look at this, it’s a gold mine:

“I can confidently advocate that, as a coach and facilitator, Kelly will carefully and encouragingly guide one down a path of self-discovery and enlightenment. As an individual, she is absolutely above reproach. Kelly is intelligent, insightful, kind, supportive, motivational, respectful and honorable. Her ability to work with diverse personalities with patience and consideration is key to her success. It is through her interactions with my executive team that we have realized great advancements in productivity, innovation, and accountability.”

“I’ll be honest and say that I was skeptical about the value of coaching. However, I gained so much value from my time with Coach Kelly. My sessions allowed me to focus on the true issues I was facing instead of all of the ‘noise’ that accompanies everyday life. I think that having a neutral party listen to my ideas, frustrations and challenges allowed me to see my situation from an entirely new perspective.”

The only downside to this hiring is that it seems Coach Kelly would keep Mike Vick. But I trust it is for the better.

Coach Kelly is short on football experience, but sometimes you have to role the dice. There could be problems with winning the respect of the players, understand tactics, hell just understanding football. Fortunately there’s another candidate out there. One with decades of football coaching under his belt, who has won the respect of his players at every stop and pro experience, offensive experience and defensive experience. There isn’t a more qualified person to replace Andy Reid than this person. But first, to understand how to best replace Andy Reid we must first understand how it all went wrong.

The seeds were laid in the late 2000s with poor drafting, but the turning point was of course the 2011 off-season. After a close loss to the eventual Super Bowl champions in 2010, and coming off the best decade in team history, Andy Reid instituted two dramatic changes that in the end cost him his job. Gone was the blitz heavy defense that helped carry the team to 5 NFC Championship Games, gone was the offensive line system he brought over from Green Bay that shone from stability and coaching.

In its place was Jim Washburn’s sieve of a defensive line that started strong but within a year would go an unfathomable 3 straight games without a sack. Juan Castillo struggled with it and Todd Bowles, who it should be noted had never been a defensive coordinator either, had no idea how to work with it. The roster wasn’t built to play with the Wide 9, they were set up to fail. In retrospect Castillo’s defense wasn’t nearly as bad as it seemed, those who defended Castillo got a measure of vindication when Bowles’ defenses played horrible with Washburn. It’s fair to wonder what might have been had he not had Washburn forced upon him, once the Wide 9 was gone, the defense improved in a hurry. Reid basically admitted as much at the end of the season.

Replacing the tried and true Juan Castillo, Howard Mudd’s offensive line philosophy convinced the front office to draft in the first round a 26 year old who only played football for 4 years. Depth was an enormous issue. Yes, any line will be awful if it loses 4 starters, but the Eagles struggled when faced with one injury. In previous years there was always someone waiting in the wings. Jamaal Jackson seamlessly replaced Hank Fraley, Todd Herremans took over for Artis Hicks and soared, Shawn Andrews was a big improvement over Jermaine Mayberry… “next man up” worked very well for a decade before Mudd, the Eagles were always good at developing quality backups. Having a former line coach as your head coach helps. Under Mudd, the Eagles had no one in reserve, twice starting someone off the unemployment line within a week of being signed. Obviously the front office could not identify the types of players Mudd needed. It’s clear now–and there were plenty of signs before–that the main reason Mudd’s lines were so effective in Indy were because Peyton Manning is a Zeus among gods. With no protection and a QB who didn’t handle pressure well, the offense predictably struggled, turning the ball over a lot and struggling to score. The same fate cost Ken Wisenhunt his job this year, it helped cause Lovie Smith his job and it will always get coaches fired.

Replacing a great coach is never easy. Pete Carroll couldn’t fill Bill Parcells’ shoes in New England, but Bill Belichick, a long time assistant to Parcells, did. The 49ers continued their dominance of the 80s by keeping their well oiled in-house coaching machine going in the 90s with George Seifert and Steve Mariucci. The Steelers have had three coaches since the 60s. Clearly, there is strength in stability. Great organizations have it, and the Eagles are one of the best franchises in the NFL. It needs more than rolling the dice on Chip Kelly, who has no NFL experience. Sorry retreads like Mike Nolan simply aren’t good enough. It can do better than what will be another name in the long line of failed Belichick assistants in Bill O’Brien. It needs a coach who both understands all the things that made this team great and understands all the things that made it go horribly wrong.

That man is Juan Castillo. It will be tough to sell the fans on this move but then Juan has never shied away from hard work.

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