Maybe They Got a Group Rate on Air Fare? Thoughts on Eagles Interviewing Falcons Trio Updated

Maybe They Got a Group Rate on Air Fare? Thoughts on Eagles Interviewing Falcons Trio Updated

You gotta hand it to the Eagles – they are being economical.
Jeff Lurie revealed his first round of interviews for the club’s opening at
head coach (still feels a little funny writing that), and all three of the
candidates just happen to be working in the same building.

The Birds were granted permission to meet with a trio of
assistants from the Atlanta Falcons during their bye week: offensive
coordinator Dirk Koetter, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, and special teams
coach Keith Armstrong.

• Koetter is the least surprising of the bunch. His name has
become one of the most popular on the market after one year in Atlanta, where
he added more of an emphasis on both the vertical passing attack and the
no-huddle offense. The results are hard to deny: quarterback Matt Ryan just
completed the best season of his career, setting personal bests in nearly every
meaningful category: attempts (615), yards (4,719), touchdowns (32), and passer
rating (99.1) en route to 13 wins. He also led the NFL with a 68.6 completion
percentage.

We wrote about Koetter a few weeks back when Ray Didinger
revealed there is some history with Nick Foles. While the head coach at Arizona
St., Koetter actually recruited Foles out of high school, but Koetter was fired
and Foles uncommitted. However, it’s at least plausible Koetter would be
receptive to working with Foles at this level, who happens to share some basic
attributes with Ryan. That in itself isn’t a reason to hire the guy – can’t say
I would have a problem with it though. He’s worth talking to anyway.

• While Koetter has only been an NFL coordinator since 2007,
Nolan’s big league experience is far more expansive. In fact, he’s been around
professional football his entire life. His father, Dick, enjoyed a nine-year
career as a defensive back, then went on to coach in the league for nearly 30
years, including three in the Saints’ head job. The Falcons are Mike’s seventh
stop as a defensive coordinator, while in between he spent three-and-a-half
unremarkable years as San Francisco’s chief, compiling an 18-37 record between
2005 and 2008. This was his first season in Atlanta, and his unit ranks fifth
in points allowed and takeaways.

Nolan is most often associated with the 3-4 defense, which
he utilized for most of his career, but has stuck with a 4-3 in Atlanta likely due
to the personnel – he’s flexible. His previous head coaching stint is certainly
a black mark, but when he got there, the 49ers had gone 2-14 the year before,
so they were a complete mess to say the least. Then again, his public feuding with
quarterback Alex Smith didn’t help matters, either. It wouldn’t be entirely
fair to judge him based on that experience, but I think I like Nolan better as
a coordinator all the same.

• Armstrong seems a little out of nowhere, but he brings some
local flare to the group having grown up in Bucks County and graduated from
Temple. He’s been coaching in the NFL since 1993, specifically on special teams
from ’97 on. Can’t say we know as much about his qualifications, but apparently
he is generating some buzz around the league, as he is expected to meet with
the Bears as well.

Of the three, Koetter appears to be the real target, but
then there’s no harm in meeting other qualified coaches along the way.
Meanwhile, there is a ton of speculation about certain college coaches, but the
only other confirmed interview on the Eagles’ plate as of this writing is
Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.

UPDATE: Looks like Koetter may be off the board before he ever got here.

Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

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Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State’s offense rewrote the Big Ten Championship’s offensive record book Saturday night but its 38-31 victory over Wisconsin wasn’t secure until the final minute.

And Linebacker U. got the game-saving play from the secondary.

Wisconsin, armed with a pair of timeouts and lining up for a fourth-and-1 play from the Nittany Lions’ 24, called on Corey Clement. Clement, who’d already racked up 166 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, got the ball but never got close to the marker.

Grant Haley made sure of it.

The junior cornerback wrapped up Clement’s legs and safety Marcus Allen kept Clement from leaning forward and the game was over. Penn State (11-2) has the 2016 Big Ten title and, at worst, will play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2009.

“They ran [a counter] early in the game and split it for a touchdown,” Haley said of the final play. “I saw them set the edge, so I got triggered really well and Marcus finished off the play.”

Haley and company watched the Badgers run wild in the first half; 164 yards and three touchdowns, including Clement’s 67-yard scamper. Wisconsin, one of the conference’s best rushing teams this season, managed less than half that total (77) in the second half.

“They really weren’t running that many plays,” Haley added. “We just came out in the second half and had a jolt. 

“We just had the energy going into the second half.”

Wisconsin got the ball twice in the fourth quarter but managed only 65 yards - 51 of which came on its final drive.

“Give credit to Penn State for coming out in the second half and making those adjustments and allowing those big plays to happen,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. 

Give plenty of credit, too, to the Nittany Lions’ offense. 

Quarterback Trace McSorley was named the game’s most valuable player after completing 17 of his 25 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns - both championship game records. He helped Penn State complete the biggest comeback in the game’s six year history after his team fell behind 28-7 in the first half and also finished the regular season with 3,360 yards and 25 touchdown passes, both school records.

Saeed Blacknall had six catches for a Big Ten Championship-record 155 yards and two touchdowns and DaeShean Hamilton finished with 118 yards on eight grabs.

Tailback Saquon Barkley, injured in last weekend’s victory over Michigan State, returned with 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground and caught an 18-yard scoring pass from McSorley early in the fourth quarter to put the Nittany Lions ahead for good.

Penn State, in its first-ever trip to this game, is coming home from it with just its second outright Big Ten title. It’s on a nine-game winning streak that has seen it average 40 points per contest.

It also could present the College Football Playoff selection committee with a bit of quandary. The Nittany Lions, who were ranked seventh by the committee last week, topped the No. 6 Badgers and claimed a conference championship, something likely playoff teams Alabama, Clemson and Washington all boast.

On the flip side, Penn State’s last defeat was a lopsided 49-10 loss at Michigan, which sits at No. 5 in the rankings and likely won’t move into the top four after losing last week to No. 2 Ohio State.

Penn State coach James Franklin stated his team’s case after Saturday night’s win, but also made it clear he and his team won’t be moping their way to Pasadena, Calif., where the conference champion is slotted if it is not chosen for the playoff.

“We’ve got great options in front of us,” he said. “I hear people on TV talking about they feel like maybe the playoff has taken away from the bowls. 

“Are you kidding me? The Rose Bowl? It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.”

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Jordan Matthews will not play Sunday against the Bengals after missing practice all week with an ankle sprain, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Matthews is the Eagles' leading receiver with 57 catches for 686 yards and three touchdowns. The team has called him a game-time decision.

Second-year receiver Nelson Agholor will reportedly be inserted back into the lineup. If Matthews doesn't play the Eagles will have only four healthy receivers active on Sunday: Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham and undrafted rookies Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner.