Marty Mornhinweg Officially a Head Coaching Candidate, and Examining Potential Successors

Marty Mornhinweg Officially a Head Coaching Candidate, and Examining Potential Successors

Round and round the coaching carousel goes. While Andy Reid keeps on showing up for work these last 12 years and still going strong, a handful of NFL coaches haven't even made it past two. One such coach is Eric Mangini in Cleveland, who finds himself out of work again after a pair of 5-11 finishes. Now it's reported another man who knows something about two-and-outs, Marty Mornhinweg, could be the front-runner to replace him.

Mornhinweg's star has been resurrected since joining the Eagles' staff. As head coach of the Detroit Lions, he managed to win five games in two full seasons. Some of that is because it was, you know, the Lions, but he also once famously chose the wind instead of the ball after winning the coin toss in overtime. That kind of thing can make it hard to be taken seriously as a potential head coaching candidate in the future.

Mornhinweg became the Birds' offensive coordinator after Brad Childress departed in 2006, and since then has developed the most prolific offense in franchise history. They surpassed the club record for scoring for the third consecutive season, which is especially impressive considering the change at quarterback. Due to his success, it really isn't a surprise to see his name back in the conversation, but why Cleveland?

The Browns' front office went through a restructuring last off-season, hiring Reid's mentor Mike Holmgren as President and former Eagles General Manager Tom Heckert for the same role. Mornhinweg also worked under Holmgren and was the quarterbacks coach when the Packers won the Super Bowl in 1996. He obviously knows Heckert as well, so there is a level of familiarity between the three men that could give Marty the edge.

Sources are now acknowledging the Browns have requested an interview with Mornhinweg. They may not have needed to make a formal request at all if the Birds don't beat the Packers this Sunday, nor would any other NFL team searching for a head coach. The fact is, the Eagles probably need to prepare for life without him in the immediate or near future, one way or another.

One popular theory had Childress returning to Philadelphia after his firing in Minnesota. Reid even embraced the idea, welcoming his former understudy with open arms. Such a situation would be unique however. While disgraced head coaches sometimes go back to work under their students, the pupils rarely, if ever, go back to work for their old master. How would that look? Sort of like it was the only job he could get.

The most likely candidate to replace Mornhinweg if/when he is hired away might be current quarterbacks coach James Urban. Urban joined the Eagles as an assistant in 2004, and has been climbing the coaching ranks ever since. He became much more widely known this season for the work he did with Michael Vick in the off-season, which was said to be highly influential in the quarterback's incredible transformation.

It's not just Vick either. Last season, Donovan McNabb posted his highest passer rating since 2004. Urban has also worked with Kevin Kolb, who many observers believe can be a quality starting quarterback in the NFL. His resume is growing, and the offensive coordinator position looks like the logical next step.

Andy could also go outside the organization, but that seems unnecessary with a talented in-house option. Who knows, Marty could interview and not wind up getting any jobs... this time at least. With such strong ties inside the Browns organization though, and rumors as far back as a year ago Cleveland would be his eventual landing spot, it's looking like his run in Philly is coming to its end.

>> Source: Browns plan to interview Mornhinweg [CSN]

Robert Covington, Sixers show 'swagger' without Joel Embiid in comeback win

Robert Covington, Sixers show 'swagger' without Joel Embiid in comeback win

BOX SCORE

The Sixers began the season looking lost without Joel Embiid. Now they are finding ways to win when he is not on the court. 

Embiid suffered a left knee contusion in the second half of Friday’s 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers (see story). He was sidelined for the decisive 8:50 of the game (see Instant Replay).

The Sixers trailed, 81-78, when he subbed out for the second time because of the injury, and outscored the Trail Blazers, 15-11, from that point on.

So how was this team that battled with inconsistency and reliance on Embiid able to pull out a comeback win punctuated in the final seconds? Ask the Sixers and they’ll give varying answers, a sign they are getting the job done in multiple ways and aren’t relying on just one key to success.

The most glaring difference was the hero of the game. Robert Covington drained two three-pointers in the final 40 seconds. His trey from Dario Saric with 38.2 remaining cut the Trail Blazers' lead to just one, 91-90. With 4.5 to go, he nailed the game-winning three from T.J. McConnell to give the Sixers their eighth victory in 10 games (see feature highlight).

“That’s resilient Cov,” Nerlens Noel said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a good shot or a bad shot; he’ll pull it in your face. That’s the confidence he has and that’s the confidence we need him to have. He steps up and makes two big shots like that, that’s enough said. He won us that game.”

Critics have called out Covington’s up-and-down performance from three all season. (They’ve made their feelings known with loud boos at home games.) Covington shot 5 for 12 behind the arc on the night but his 2 for 3 performance in the fourth was what mattered most. 

“I am a fighter, that’s what I have been my whole life,” he said. “Just because fans are booing me at one point doesn't mean anything. I just keep working. I am not going to let that deteriorate my game. It goes in one ear and out the other.”

Without Embiid in the game, the Sixers had to rely on a total team effort. After he went to the bench, the final points were scored by a combination of Covington, Gerald Henderson, Noel, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and McConnell.

“Ball movement,” head coach Brett Brown said. “We had 25 assists out of 36 made baskets. It’s not like we’re going to give the ball to Damian Lillard (guard for the Blazers). That’s not who we are. Whatever we do, it has to be done by committee, by a group, by a team. It’s even more exposed when Joel isn’t in the game. They did that. Unlikely people ended up with the ball sometimes in unlikely spots. … You have to move the ball. That’s what the team has learned without Joel.” 

Several of the players on the court in critical moments were from the second unit. Since Brown locked in on his rotation, the reserves don’t have a drop-off in confidence from the starters. 

“It’s the mentality,” Covington said. “Everybody has that swagger about us right now because once Joel comes out, the next person steps in and fills that void. It’s a matter of that contagious feeling that trickles into the second unit that’s making us that much more valuable.”

Then there's always defense, the foundation of any solid NBA team and a focal point for the Sixers. Noel saw that as the difference-maker when subbing in and out. The Trail Blazers scored just two points in the final 1:56. 

"The second unit goes there and does a great job guarding the yard, not letting up easy baskets," Noel said. "The offensive side is fluid motion. Guys get shots, pick-and-roll, it opens up open threes for guys, driving lines, pump fakes, it’s a great unity."

Embiid liked what he saw from a distance. He will not travel with the team to their game on Saturday against the Hawks in Atlanta. 

"I’m just happy we’ve been closing out games, and the main thing I’m really happy [about] is they’ve been able to do it without me," he said. "That’s going to give us a lot of confidence when I’m missing back-to-backs. My teammates are going to have more confidence to come in and play the same way."

Joel Embiid feels 'great' after injury scare to left knee

Joel Embiid feels 'great' after injury scare to left knee

Of the nearly 20,000 people in the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night, Joel Embiid was seemingly the least concerned when he came down and injured his left knee. 

Fans held their breath and the Sixers looked on anxiously as the standout big man got up in visible discomfort and limped off the court (see highlights). Embiid, however, wasn’t worried. 

“I knew it was OK. I just landed the wrong way,” he said after the Sixers' 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers (see Instant Replay). “I’m great. The knee’s fine. They did an MRI and stuff, everything looked good.”

Embiid ran off the court on his own, was diagnosed with a left knee contusion and was cleared to return to the game. He aggravated his knee again driving to the basket and this time, the team held him out to be careful.

“The review is that he hyperextended his left knee,” head coach Brett Brown said. “There was a minor tweak again, and for precautionary reasons only, the doctors did not allow him to return. There will be more information given as we know it. But quickly, that's what we know.”

Embiid understood the team’s decision to sideline him for the final 8:50 while the Sixers went on a comeback run (see feature highlight). He still finished the game with an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double, five assists and four blocks in only 22 minutes.

“Obviously those guys, the front office, they care about my future, so they just shut it down,” Embiid said. “But I was fine.”

Embiid will not travel to Atlanta for Saturday’s game against the Hawks (pre-scheduled rest). He expects to be available for Tuesday’s home matchup against the Clippers. 

"You know how tough he is," Nerlens Noel said. "If it isn’t anything serious, he’ll be right back. At the end of the game, he was telling me was he was feeling great and there was no pain. He wanted to come back in the game … he’s a trooper. He always gives it his all and always plays hard."

Injuries to any player are worrisome, especially a franchise centerpiece with two years of rehab (foot) behind him. The Sixers have been methodical and cautious with his playing time. Embiid is on a 28-minute restriction and can play in only one game of a back-to-back series. 

The same player who is so closely watched, though, also plays with sky-high energy that doesn’t have a brake pedal. 

“You're concerned,” Brown said of seeing Embiid get injured. “It's clear to all of us that he plays with such reckless abandon. I think that we're all going to be seeing this and feeling this regularly. From flying into stands to stalking somebody in the open court to block a shot to the collision he often is in trying to draw fouls. That's just who he is. 

“I think that as he just plays more basketball and continues to grow, to not necessarily avoid those situations, just to perhaps manage them a little bit more. Right now, he's just a young guy that's just playing that doesn't know what he doesn't know and has a fearless approach underneath all that attitude.”

Fearless is an accurate description considering Embiid's trouble-free reaction to the awkward way his leg bent (he hadn’t seen a replay). 

“I kind of had that in college, too,” he said. “I think I’m flexible, so it’s supposed to happen.”