Relax! The Eagles still have time to find a coach


Relax! The Eagles still have time to find a coach

Youre panicked. Youre freaking out. Your fingernails are down to their cuticles.

Nine days have passed since the Eagles fired Andy Reid and began their search for a new head coach -- nine whole days! -- and it seems like an eternity.

Youve seen them interview and get spurned by two college coaches. Youve heard about Lovie Smiths arranged meeting on Thursday. Youve read about their meetings last week with three NFL assistants and about three more slated for the near future.

Meanwhile, the Bills have already found their front man, and Reid was unemployed all of four days before landing another head coaching gig. Even some quality assistants have found new work.

So you wonder: Whats taking the search committee of Jeffrey Lurie, president Don Smolenski and general manager Howie Roseman so long? You fear too much time has passed and the new guy will have trouble finding quality assistants to round out his staff.

If youre one of those people, just relax. Breathe in. Exhale.

History suggests that the Eagles havent taken any longer to hire a new coach than most other teams have over the past several years. And theres no correlation between the timing of a hire and the teams future success.

Today is Jan. 9. Last year on Jan. 9, only one of the seven NFL teams looking for a new head coach had hired one, and the Chiefs didnt have to look very far for Romeo Crennel. They simply removed the interim tag from Crennels title after the former defensive coordinator had taken over for the fired Todd Haley 13 games into the 2011 season.

Crennel then coached Kansas City to the NFLs worst record at 2-14 and was immediately fired and replaced four days later by Reid. For the second straight year, the Chiefs became the fastest team to replace its head coach.

Of those seven teams last year that sought a new head coach, four didnt hire until Jan. 20 or later. The Colts were the sixth of seven teams to make a hire when they tabbed Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. One year after going 2-14, Indianapolis went 11-5 to earn the first AFC wild card.

Jeffrey has been very adamant with us that the key is getting the right guy, Roseman said Wednesday to the teams official Web site. The key isnt getting the right guy as quickly as possible. So thats what were going to do.

For several of the NFLs most stable franchises, the right guy wasnt hired within the first 10 days of January.

The Steelers hired Mike Tomlin on Jan. 22, 2007. Theyve since appeared in two Super Bowls, winning the first one for their sixth title overall. Under Tomlin, they have never finished with a losing record and averaged almost 11 wins per season.

The Ravens hired John Harbaugh on Jan. 19, 2009 and have qualified for the playoffs each of the five years since, an NFL record for a new head coach. Baltimore has averaged 10.8 wins per season under Harbaugh.

The Broncos hired John Fox on Jan. 13, 2011; the Falcons named Mike Smith on Jan. 24, 2008; and the Seahawks signed Pete Carroll on Jan. 11, 2010. In their 10 combined seasons since being hired, the trio has made the postseason eight times.

Excluding the three teams that removed the interim tag on their head coach, 13 teams have hired and fired new head coaches in the past three years. The earliest of those hires was San Franciscos tabbing of Jim Harbaugh on Jan. 7, 2011, but Harbaugh came from the college ranks and was the 49ers top choice. The Redskins hired Mike Shanahan on Jan. 6, 2010, but the former Broncos coach had taken the 2009 season off after Denver fired him following the 2008 season.

In the past three years, the earliest an NFL team has hired an assistant from another NFL team was when the Panthers hired Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera on Jan. 11, 2011. Carolina hasnt made the playoffs in Riveras two seasons although the Panthers improved in the win-loss column by one game. The latest in that time frame that an NFL assistant accepted a head coaching job was last year, when the Colts and Pagano agreed to terms on Jan 25.

None of the six new head coaches over the past three years who came from another NFL team and was hired before Jan. 11, which isnt coincidence. Teams with head coach openings frequently get their next guy from a playoff teams. NFL rules permit assistants from playoff teams from agreeing to terms elsewhere until their respective team has been eliminated from the postseason.

The Dolphins last year hired Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin as head coach just five days after Green Bay was eliminated from the postseason by the Giants in an NFC divisional round game.

The Eagles have already interviewed offensive coordinator Mike McCoy of the AFC top-seeded Broncos, who have a home game Saturday against the Ravens in the divisional round, as well as defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and special teams coach Keith Armstrong of the NFC top-seeded Falcons.

They also plan to meet with Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who will coach Sunday against Atlanta at the Georgia Dome.

These meetings last hours upon hours, so it makes sense that the Eagles would find the right time and place to really get to know the person theyve targeted -- especially for the franchises first coaching search in 15 years.

Being a head coach of a National Football League team, thats a big job, Roseman added. Youre a CEO, so you have to have a plan and know what youre doing in every area. You would be surprised in how detailed these people are -- whether it comes to strength and conditioning or a training staff or equipment of video, they have the answers and its very interesting to hear.

E-mail Geoff Mosher at

NBA draft profile: F Dragan Bender


NBA draft profile: F Dragan Bender

Dragan Bender

Position: Power forward
Height: 7-1
Weight: 225
Team: Maccabi Tel Aviv

Croatia’s latest basketball export is just 18 years old. He won’t turn 19 until November. Like a lot of teenagers, he’s hardly a fully finished product. The kid is raw, but his obvious potential figures to make him a high lottery pick in the upcoming draft.

Through 38 games with Maccabi Tel Aviv this season, Bender averaged just 12.9 minutes. He took 3.7 shots per game. He shot 42.3 percent from the floor, 33.8 percent from deep (on 2.0 attempts per game) and 71.9 percent from the line. He didn’t get to the line very often, by the way. In fact, he hardly got there at all, taking less than one attempt per game from the stripe.

But Bender’s appeal isn’t about what he is right now; it’s rooted in what he could become with time. There’s a reason why all 30 NBA teams sent someone to watch him play this year, according to DraftExpress. Investing in him could yield a significant return. Also, dude’s name is Dragan Bender. He was destined to become a pro athlete or conquer King’s Landing. Either way, good things ahead.

Bender has been on the NBA’s projection radar for a while now. He’s worked hard to develop his shooting. Initially thought of as a non-shooter with wonky mechanics, Bender changed his stroke. It’s more compact and efficient now. Despite the small sample size, Bender had a 54.1 true shooting percentage and a 51.4 effective field goal percentage through 38 games this season.

He could pass more, but when he does he’s pretty savvy — particularly with the full-court outlet pass. Defensively, he’s not a rim protector, but he has a long wingspan (7-2) that should help him be a good pick-and-roll defender with time. In the increasingly switch-everything NBA, that’s a plus.

Also, did we mention his name is Dragan Bender? Donald Bender works in Croatian finance. Dave Bender has a nice B&B on Hvar Island. Dragan Bender is a potential NBA star.

He’s reportedly put on some weight recently and worked hard to develop a better base, but he’s 7-1 and 225 pounds. Someone needs to feed him lots of sandwiches and protein shakes. Adding muscle for the long-slog NBA season will be important.

In addition to having a still-developing body and skill set, he hasn’t faced top-level international competition yet on a regular basis. He needs minutes against the best in the world, and in order to get those minutes he’ll have to refine his game – particularly his ball-handling and driving, which are still works in progress.

Unlike some other recent NBA imports (Nikola Mirotic and Kristaps Porzingis among them), it’s probably going to take a while before Bender can be a consistent contributor in the league. Any team that takes him has to acknowledge the inherent time commitment.

How he’d fit with the Sixers 
If we’re talking about how he’d fit with the Sixers, who had a long-term plan and weren’t in a hurry to rush anything, the Sixers who embarked on an open-ended journey with no fixed timetable or end point, you could make a case for Bender (but not with the first overall pick). Five or seven years from now, Bender could be a polished product – an outside shooting threat with, perhaps, an expanded offensive game that allows him to put the ball on the floor and optimize his passing and scoring. You could imagine him growing defensively and creating mismatch problems. You could envision it – over time.

The question is whether these Sixers, who keep talking about transitioning from the rebuild into whatever comes next, are about to scrap the slow-and-low approach to cooking their roster in favor of adding on-court heat and off-court PR sizzle. If that’s the case, Bender wouldn’t fit well at all. Not to mention that taking Bender means adding another body to an already clogged frontcourt.

NBA comparison
Lots of people have drawn a parallel between Bender and Porzingis. That’s the easy, reflexive comparison. Both are tall, lanky stretch fours from a not dissimilar region of the world. But really that’s unfair to Bender. Porzingis declared for the NBA draft back in 2014, only to withdraw his name and wait until last year. The wait helped elevate him to more of a known commodity. At that point, he had played three seasons for Sevilla of Liga ACB in Spain, one of the best leagues in Europe that features some of the premiere international talent. Bender isn’t there yet in terms of experience, and their games aren’t one-to-one equivelants anyway. Bender might ultimately shake out as something closer to Andrei Kirilenko (if he can improve his handle) or Nikola Mirotic.

Draft projection
Top five. If he lasts any longer, it will be a surprise.

Eagles mailbag: Jordan Matthews; injury concern, leading rusher


Eagles mailbag: Jordan Matthews; injury concern, leading rusher

Another day, another mailbag. 

I hope you're enjoying your Memorial Day Weekend. If you're reading this on the beach or at a BBQ, well done. 

Yesterday, I answered the first round of your questions about Doug Pederson, Brandon Spikes and the possibility of adding another running back. 

Today, I'll answer some more: 

At times, Jordan Matthews will still be in the slot this season. But he won't be there all the time. 

In Doug Pederson's offense, the receivers will move around quite a bit, which means we'll see Matthews lining up out wide on both sides and in the slot. He has the ability to do both. Either way, he's going to be on the field. He's clearly the Eagles best receiver and they're not going to take him off the field. 

I think there's a good chance we'll see some Josh Huff in the slot this year, which would make a ton of sense to me. Huff is at his best when he gets the ball in his hands and can make something happen. He's shifty enough to play in the middle. 

The idea that slot receivers are just small, shifty guys is outdated. It's all about matchups and Pederson won't be afraid to move his receivers around to find the best ones. 

Good question. I'll give you two names. One on offense and one on defense. 

Now, I didn't just pick the best players, I picked the best players with the biggest drop off to their backups. So on offense, it's Jason Peters and on defense it's Jordan Hicks. 

The scary thing: it wouldn't be shocking if either of these two go down in 2016. 

If Peters goes down, the Eagles will be fine at left tackle, because Lane Johnson will shift over. But that means either Dennis Kelly or Halapoulivaati Vaitai will come in. We all know what's happened in the past when Kelly comes in, and Vaitai is just a rookie. Not a ton of great depth at tackle. 

As for Hicks, we saw what happened to the defense when he went out last season. And this year, the team has virtually no depth at linebacker. If Hicks went down, either veteran special teams player Najee Goode or rookie Joe Walker would need to fill in. Yikes. 

I understand it's kind of a cop-out to just pick the top running back on the depth chart, but that's what I'm doing. I know Ryan Mathews has a lengthy injury history, but I can't see Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood or Kenjon Barner being the team's leading rusher. 

And when healthy, Mathews was the team's best running back in 2015, going for 539 yards on 106 carries, an average of 5.1 yards per attempt. If he manages to play 12 games this year, I think he'll be the team's leading rusher. 

Phillies pitching prospect Mark Appel hits DL with shoulder strain


Phillies pitching prospect Mark Appel hits DL with shoulder strain

Mark Appel, whose fastball velocity was down considerably in the first inning of his last start, was placed on the disabled list Friday with a shoulder strain.

Appel, 24, is 3-3 with a 4.46 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in eight starts for Triple A Lehigh Valley in his first year in the Phillies' system. He's struggled his last four times out, allowing 18 runs (15 earned) in 16⅓ innings on 20 hits and 11 walks.

The No. 1 overall pick in 2013 out of Stanford, Appel has had a disappointing pro career to this point. In 62 minor-league games (61 starts), he has a 5.04 ERA. The Phillies acquired him from Houston as part of the Ken Giles trade this past winter.

Appel's trip to the DL creates an opportunity for right-hander Ben Lively, who was promoted from Double A Reading to Triple A to take Appel's place in the IronPigs' rotation. Lively, acquired from the Reds for Marlon Byrd prior to the 2015 season, is 7-0 with a 1.87 ERA this season.

Rehab updates
Leftfielder Cody Asche and left-handed reliever Mario Hollands had their rehab assignments transferred to Triple A Lehigh Valley. 

Asche is 5 for 34 (.147) with two home runs and 12 strikeouts during his stints with Clearwater and Reading. 

Hollands has been sharp, posting a 1.04 ERA in 8⅔ innings with 12 strikeouts and one walk.