Now that Chip Kelly is out of the NovaCare Complex, Jeffery Lurie, Howie Roseman, and Tom Donahoe will have begun their search for the team’s 23rd head coach. This off-season’s selections, unfortunately, will not be as plentiful as the large coaching change of 2013, but there are a few bright stars among this class that are well worth the look. Let us go through the top five candidates that could be in line for a head coaching gig for the 2016 NFL season and that also fit the mold of what the Philadelphia brass might be looking for.
He is this year’s number one. Hue Jackson has brought a fierce intensity to the Cincinnati Bengals as well as brought a touch of swagger to one of the league’s hottest offenses, not to mention the fact that he was able to run the same scheme with second-year, fifth-round draft pick A.J. McCarron.
Last year, Jackson’s Bengals ranked 15th in offense and this year they rank fourth. For 2015, quarterback Andy Dalton has thrown 3,250 yards with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Then, when Dalton broke his thumb, McCarron came in and threw four touchdowns for 694 yards in the timespan of two games, one of which came against the NFL’s top ranked defense – the Denver Broncos – and only lost by three points in overtime.
The downside to Jackson becoming a head coach in Philly is the same intensity that he brings to every team he has been with. In Oakland, his “Build a Bully” mentality was perfect for the Oakland Raiders and one of the reasons then-owner Al Davis hired the coordinator. This tenacity and possible-swagger influx could be too much for Lurie, Roseman, and Donahoe, who have just released a coach whose emphasis on culture inevitably led to his dismissal.
Still, Jackson’s upside is tremendous and his personality is already built for the Philadelphia fan base. If he can push the Bengals further than the first round of the playoffs, the brass in the City of Brotherly Love may have their work cut out for them.
Repeat after me, Pat Shurmur did not call the plays for the Eagles from 2013 to 2015. Good. Feel a little better? Now what he did do was call plays for Sam Bradford’s rookie season, when the Oklahoma quarterback was named Offensive Rookie of the Year. He also helped mold Donovan McNabb into the QB that he was.
Shurmur has a length history with the Eagles, serving at the offensive line and tight end coach from 1999-2001 and then as quarterback coach from 2002-2008. He would eventually become the offensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams and later the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
His stint in Cleveland was not particularly positive as he accumulated a record of 9-23 in his two seasons before being fired in 2012 by new owner Jimmy Haslam. However, he did help Colt McCoy register his best single-season performance with 2,733 yards and 14 TDs in a 13-game span.
Bottom line, Shurmur is a quarterback guru who hates the media and will likely have to surround himself with top shelf coordinators to have any shot of success. The upside would be his familiarity with the players in Philly, his knowledge of being a head coach in previous years, and his own personal comfort in not moving at the end of the season to a different city. The downside: mediocrity.
McDermott, like Shurmur, also has a deep background with the Eagles during the Andy Reid era. Starting in 1999, he served as a scouting coordinator and would eventually reach the title of defensive coordinator in 2009. McDermott’s unit was thin on talent during the closing years of Reid’s tenure and therefore received a healthy dose of blame for a defense that ranked 19th in 2009 and 21st in 2010.
After being fired from the Eagles, McDermott was hired to be the defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers, and in doing so has help build a defense that has gone from ranking 27th in his inaugural season to ninth in 2015. As a disciple of the late, great Jim Johnson, McDermott implements a combination of Johnson’s “blitz first, ask questions later” mentality as well as winning in the trenches, as the Panthers rank fifth in yards rushing.
The 41-year-old coordinator has also thrived from a unit comprised of linebackers Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, and defensive lineman Kawann Short, and in fairness, McDermott has also had to think on the fly to replace pieces of his defense with aging veterans; i.e. Jared Allen for Greg Hardy, Thomas Davis for Shaq Thompson, Cortland Finnegan for Bené Benwikere.
McDermott’s familiarity in Philly would be a lukewarm welcome home party, as the fans will immediately begin looking for a top ten defense; even if that does include going back to a 4-3 after three years under a 3-4. He will also have to surround himself with likeminded defensive coaches as well as a solid offensive coordinator, possibly Pat Shurmur?
Possibly the number two ranked head coaching candidate for the 2016 season, Gase established himself well enough that he almost became the head coach of the recently disestablished Jim Harbaugh San Francisco 49ers last year.
Gase first made a reputation after receiving stellar remarks from Peyton Manning as the Broncos quarterback coach. Gase later became the OC, where he helped guide the offense to Super Bowl 48, and to a 12-4 record the following season.
This year, Gase was tagged by coach John Fox to be his offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears, and has helped rejuvenate Jay Cutler, who has amassed 3,414 yards with 19 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. And while Cutler is nine touchdowns short of his total last season, he has also lowered his interception total by 10.
With decreased production from workhorse Matt Forte, coupled with the loss of Brandon Marshall to free agency as well as the injuries to both Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White, the offense was never expected to go out and put up New England Patriot-type numbers. However, given that the Bears are ranked higher offensively than they were a year ago, makes Gase’s case all the more intriguing for a possible head coaching hire.
Patricia might have more going for him than meets the eye. He has been calling plays on the defensive side of the ball since the departure of previous-coordinator Dean Pees and was instrumental in the victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl 49.
Outside of the green light from Bill Belichick and all the playoff berths, not much is known – personaility wise anyway – about 41-year-old, which makes his candidacy for a head coach all the more questionable.
The previous four potential head coaches have all either been head coaches in the past or have learned from some of the best as an assistant. Patricia, while having served 11 of his 19 years of coaching in the NFL, appears to still be fairly green regarding commanding an entire franchise.
In all, he’s an up-and-coming who will have learned from the very best and knows how to stretch a defense financially. The Patriots in recent years have been a no-name defense, meaning that not one particular player stands out every week and through the “do your job” mentality, no one player is above the system and structure of the defense. This makes the concept of having to build a champion-caliber defense over years of drafting and free agency much more doable in order to win now.