Who are the best candidates to replace Doug Pederson?
Just years removed from bringing a Super Bowl to Philadelphia, Doug Pederson is out.
The decision was reported on Monday. Pederson had spent the day meeting with ownership about his vision for the future, and word leaked out in the afternoon that the organization had decided to go in a different direction. Given the Eagles’ roster this season expectations were high this summer in Philadelphia. But with the team winning just four games and facing questions about quarterback Carson Wentz, it seems ownership is looking for a big change.
Now, the Eagles join the hiring fray at a disadvantage, with numerous other organizations having already made a decision. Still, who are the best options to replace Pederson? They’ll probably face a big question out of the gate: What to do about Wentz?
Eric Bieniemy, offensive coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs
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It has become old hat by now. Anytime a head coaching vacancy is discussed, Eric Bieniemy is the first name mentioned. But if the Philadelphia Eagles are serious about committing to Carson Wentz going forward, this might be the ideal hire. After all, Wentz cut his teeth under Doug Pederson, a branch off the Andy Reid coaching tree. Bieniemy is another such branch, and a strong looking one at that. The move to Bieniemy would allow for some continuity in offensive philosophy. You can imagine Wentz – and to an extent Jalen Hurts – would be quite familiar with the playbook on day one. With a need to fill a defensive coordinator spot as well, Bieniemy can hire someone he knows and trusts to handle that spot, or look to a more veteran presence – Wade Phillips perhaps – to handle that job while he focuses his time and attention on the offense. The Eagles are in a tough place in terms of the salary cap, and with his contract they might not find a lot of takers on the trade market for Wentz. Given this, a coach that continues the offensive program might be the best fit, and Bieniemy is that guy.
Joe Brady, offensive coordinator, Carolina Panthers
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Joe Brady’s sudden rise to “potential NFL head coach” accelerated over the past few weeks, with word that a few different teams have interviewed him for a head coaching job. That would be a quick rise from just two years ago, when he was the passing game coordinator for the LSU Tigers. But Brady’s offense turned Joe Burrow into a Heisman Trophy winner and the first-overall selection, and many organizations are hopeful that his system would have the same kind of impact on theirs. After all, with Teddy Bridgewater running the show this season in Carolina (and Christian McCaffrey sidelined with injury for most of the year) the Panthers offense still put up points and generated a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore. Could that be replicated in Philadelphia?
Robert Saleh, defensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers
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Given that the most pressing questions facing the Philadelphia Eagles this season are on the offensive side of the football, it might be an outside-the-box move to hire a defensive coordinator as the next head coach. But should ownership go down this road, Robert Saleh is the best candidate available. Despite the ups-and-downs in San Francisco this season Saleh kept that defense playing at a solid level. When Richard Sherman comes out and bangs the table for Saleh as a head coach, people should pay attention: https://twitter.com/BillyM_91/status/1333215807007023105 Hiring Saleh to turn around the organization might be the kind of move that pays off in the long run. That would also require a smart offensive mind to take over that side of the football. Names to keep in mind there are Pep Hamilton, who did tremendous work with Justin Herbert this season, or San Francisco 49ers passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur.
Pep Hamilton, quarterbacks coach, Los Angeles Chargers
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Speaking of Mr. Hamilton… I have tried to make the case over the past few weeks that teams should be getting Pep Hamilton on the phone for a variety of positions, whether offensive coordinator or head coach. Hamilton’s work with Justin Herbert this season has been impressive, turning the prospect into one of the premier young talents at the quarterback position in the course of a single season. But beyond his work with Herbert, Hamilton also has experience as a head coach and even a general manager, as he served in that dual capacity with the Washington XFL franchise a year ago before the league folded due to the COVID-19 crisis. So he has experience building an organization from the ground up, and developing – dare we say fixing? – quarterbacks. Whether for head coach, or offensive coordinator, Hamilton should be on Philadelphia’s call list.
Duce Staley, assistant head coach, Philadelphia Eagles
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There is a chance that the Philadelphia Eagles promote from within, and the logical candidate should that be the direction the organization takes is current assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley. Following his own playing days, Staley immediately went into coaching. He started with the Eagles as a coaching intern and has worked his way up to his current position, spending time as a special teams quality control coach, a running backs coach, and now as an assistant head coach. When the team made the decision to hire Doug Pederson back in 2016, Staley interviewed for the head job, so the organization has already viewed him as a candidate. It speaks to how the organization feels about him that he was kept on after the Eagles hired Pederson.
Brian Daboll, offensive coordinator, Buffalo Bills
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Brian Daboll has a strong resume for any head coaching vacancy. That resume? The season we have seen from Josh Allen. Daboll has helped turn a raw, talented quarterback into the more refined passer we are seeing today. Could he work the same magic with Carson Wentz? Perhaps Daboll’s best work was done in the middle of this season. When Allen started to struggle mid-year against zone coverages, Daboll fixed the issue by getting Allen to take what defenses were giving him underneath, and to trust his ability to attack windows downfield when he had the chance. According to Sports Info Solutions during a stretch earlier in the year (Tennessee, Kansas City and the first game against New England) Allen’s numbers against zone were a bit shaky: 35 of 42 for 332 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTS and an NFL Passer Rating of 67.96. Later in the year against San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Denver and New England in Week 16? 52 of 74 for 617 yards, 4 TDs 1 INT. An NFL passer rating of 107.77. The Eagles might like that a lot.
Lincoln Riley, head coach, Oklahoma
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Right now the assumption is that the organization wants to try and fix Carson Wentz. That might be the right assumption, given the financial considerations. But what if the idea is really to try and build around Jalen Hurts? Then who better to hire than Lincoln Riley, who was his head coach for his final season in college? Riley helped Hurts become a Heisman Trophy finalist and a second-round pick. If you are looking to build around Hurts, and not Wentz, hiring someone that will offer a ton of schematic familiarity to your young QB seems like a wise move.