Q. I was watching Daily News Live the other day and I saw your top three candidates for the Eagles' head coaching position. You had (Seattle assistant coach) Gus Bradley as No. 1 and you had Jon Gruden as No. 2. Why do you think the Eagles have not shown an interest in him? Or Bill Cowher for that matter?
- Sharon G.Cherry Hill, N.J.
A. Bill Cowher said last week that he had no desire to return to coaching. I believe him. He has been away from the game for six years and appears to enjoy his new life as a TV analyst. I think he is this generations John Madden. I dont think he is coming back.
Jon Gruden? Thats another story.
I know he signed a contract extension with ESPN and it is clear the network regards him as a marquee talent. He could stay in TV and have a very nice career. But unlike Cowher, I dont think Gruden is through with coaching. I think he still has that fire in his belly. He is just waiting for the right opportunity.
From all accounts, the Eagles have not reached out to Gruden at any point in their search for a new head coach. If thats true, I find it baffling. They should at the very least call to see if he would be interested.
If the Eagles have interest in Jay Gruden, whom they are planning to interview this week, why wouldnt they have an interest in the guy who taught Jay everything he knows about football? I mean, why pursue Jay Gruden when his older brother is out there and actually has head coaching experience and a Super Bowl ring?
Maybe Jon really isnt interested in the Eagles. Maybe he doesnt want to get in the way of his brothers opportunity. There could be other factors involved. I just know that if the Eagles dont even contact him, they are making a mistake.
I like Gus Bradley, I think he is a really good candidate, but Id want to talk to Gruden at some point in this process.
Gruden is still a young man. He wont turn 50 until August. He was an NFL head coach for 11 seasons with Oakland and Tampa Bay. In five of those seasons, his teams won the division title. His career record was 95-81. The Bucs let him go in January 2009, after a late season collapse saw the team lose its final four regular season games and miss the playoffs at 9-7.
But that was four years ago, plenty of time for Gruden to recharge his batteries and re-focus. Dick Vermeil often said he was a much better coach when he came back to the NFL with St. Louis after 14 seasons away. The time away had given him a perspective that he didnt have before. He watched the game evolve and incorporated some of those new ideas into his program with the Rams. It helped him win a Super Bowl.
I think Gruden could do the same thing. He has spent the past four seasons traveling the NFL circuit for ESPN. As an analyst for Monday Night Football, he visits with each team and spends time with the coaching staffs and players. He studies film and takes notes, and knowing Gruden, he files it all away. He is picking the brains of the best coaches on everything -- from how to run the read-option offense to how to run a more efficient practice.
He also studied personnel as part of his preparation for ESPNs draft coverage. Anyone who has seen his film study with the top college quarterbacks knows how thoroughly he breaks down the individual players and assesses their strengths and weaknesses. So there is no doubt in my mind that he has the Xs and Os part of the current game down cold.
The other part is the fire and intensity he would bring to the job. The Eagles desperately need someone who will make it clear this is a new day and a new direction. Gruden will do that. One of the first things he did in Oakland was get rid of the slackers -- goodbye Chester McGlockton - and the busts - see ya, Larry Brown. It didnt matter if they were first-round draft picks or high-priced free agents; if they werent getting it done, they were gone. The Eagles need to send the same message to their locker room.
The Eagles became too comfortable under Andy Reid. He protected the players, never singling them out for blame. They repaid him by quitting on him. There was little or no accountability. Demetress Bell signed for a lot of money and played his way out of the lineup. He didnt see the field in the last five weeks, so why was he still hanging around collecting a paycheck? Thats just one example. There were others.
It was the most comfortable 4-12 team I ever saw. If nothing else, Jon Gruden would make the Eagles uncomfortable and that is the first step in getting better. I dont know why Jeff Lurie and company have not seen fit to contact him, but I think it is a mistake. He is certainly worth an interview.