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

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

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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In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as he liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fade away jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guy’s first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of (Hakeem) Olajuawon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).