Is Atlantas Dirk Koetter the Head Coach for Nick Foles?

Is Atlantas Dirk Koetter the Head Coach for Nick Foles?

Within a matter of weeks, Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman
will be interviewing a number of qualified candidates for the Eagles’ head
coaching job. Among the high-profile names already rumored to be in line for
the position are Super Bowl XXXVII champion Jon Gruden, and the innovative Chip
Kelly at the University of Oregon. More are sure to follow.

But coaching searches are not necessarily all about catching
the biggest fish in the ocean – more like finding a pair of pants that fit just
right. If the comfort of Nick Foles is what’s at stake here, Atlanta Falcons
offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter could be just the man to nurture this particular
quarterback.

On Wednesday’s edition of Daily News Live (video below), Ray Didinger
revealed some little-known history – at least in Philly – between the coach and
quarterback. In 2006, Koetter was the head coach of the Arizona State Sun
Devils, Foles his recruit. The long-time college coach was fired at the
conclusion of the season however, setting off the series of events that
eventually led to Foles landing with cross-desert rival Arizona.

Fast forward to 2012, where Koetter is widely viewed as NFL-head
coach material, and Foles is a developmental quarterback with upside. It’s almost
as if the two were meant to be all along.

Recruiting a quarterback for perennial also-ran Arizona
State, and coaching him in the NFL are two very different things obviously. It
doesn’t mean Koetter is automatically enamored with the idea of being chained
to Foles at his next stop, nor does it require the Eagles hire this coach and
only this coach to continue on the path with this quarterback.

Of course, Philadelphia could do worse than Koetter, and he
should undoubtedly be in the mix.

Quick background: played QB at Division I-AA Idaho State
from ‘77-’80 before working his way up through the college ranks for 20 years –
a back-story that includes three run-ins with Andy Reid – eventually earning
head coaching gigs at Boise St. and ASU. After his firing, jumped to the
Jacksonville Jaguars as offensive coordinator, then just this year took the
Atlanta job.

The 12-2 Falcons are ranked seventh overall in total
offense, seventh in points scored. They also feature the league’s fifth-ranked
passing attack, led by Matt Ryan. The Exton, Pa. native happens to be in the
midst of the best season in his five-year professional career, completing 68.5%
of his passes, averaging over 300 yards per game, and tossing 27 touchdowns to
14 picks.

Beyond the numbers, two areas stand out. First, while Ryan
has a better pedigree as a third-overall draft pick, he and Foles do share
similar skill sets as classical pocket passers. Second, Koetter managed to overhaul
Atlanta’s offense in one offseason, turning their somewhat conservative
approach into the modernized, downfield attack that has become increasingly
common in the NFL.

Again, it would be surprising if he was not among the
coaches who receive a phone call on the first of January. By no means is this
to suggest it’s Koetter or bust, but the links to Foles are clearly defined –
not to mention Reid, whose word believe it or not may have some influence in this
matter.

The Jon Grudens and Chip Kellys of the world are out there,
but so too are dozens of relatively anonymous coaches, some of whom have
qualities or connections that might make them a better fit. Needless to say, next
month is going to be extremely interesting.

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Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dougie Hamilton scored 1:09 into overtime, Chad Johnson stopped 27 shots and the Calgary Flames beat the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 on Thursday night.

Mark Giordano scored for the Flames in a chippy game filled with big hits and multiple fights.

Hamilton capped a fast-paced overtime by deking Arizona's Mike Smith with a forehand before flipping in a backhander. Calgary has won five straight and eight of 11 (8-2-1).

Max Domi scored before leaving with an upper-body injury and Smith stopped 33 shots for the Coyotes, who have lost six straight and 11 of 14 (3-7-4).

Arizona captain Shane Doan became Arizona's all-time assist leader and is the fifth player in NHL history to own his team's records for games played, goals, assists, points, game-winning goals and power-play goals (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins roll over Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby got his 18th goal and added an assist to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Florida Panthers 5-1 on Thursday night.

Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, Matt Cullen and Carl Hagelin also scored for Pittsburgh. Matt Murray made 28 saves.

The Penguins have won four straight and five of their past six.

Jaromir Jagr scored his 755th career goal, and Roberto Luongo stopped 25 shots for the Panthers. Luongo allowed three goals on Pittsburgh's first five shots.

Panthers coach Tom Rowe, who replaced Gerard Gallant on Nov. 28, made his home debut. The Panthers have lost five of six under Rowe, but managed a point in three of those losses (see full recap).

Price loses cool as Habs beat Devils
MONTREAL -- Carey Price lost his temper after being bumped twice in his crease and made 19 saves to help the Montreal Canadiens beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Thursday night.

Torrey Mitchell scored twice and Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen and Max Pacioretty also had goals for the Canadiens in their return from a five-game trip.

Adam Henrique scored a goal and set up one by Taylor Hall for New Jersey, which ended a two-game winning streak.

Montreal had a season-high 49 shots on Cory Schneider.

A wild first period included three goals, four goal reviews and Price's meltdown (see full recap).