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.

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).