Greg Roman has turned around the 49ers offense, could he do the same in Philly?
Who will replace Andy Reid in 2013? With this season spiraling out of control, that's one of the few relevant questions left to ponder. As such, I hope you'll indulge me in an ongoing series discussing potential top candidates for the Eagles head coaching job.
Who Is Greg Roman?
The 40-year-old San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator has popped up on the radar for possible NFL coaches recently. A native of Ventor, N.J., Roman was reported as a finalist for the Penn State job that went to Bill O'Brien a year ago and has been mentioned for a few other jobs. He graduated in 1993 from John Carroll University in Ohio, where he started for two years on the defensive line. Two years after he left, he got a job as the strength and conditioning assistant/defensive quality control coach with the expansion Carolina Panthers. He toiled in grunt work for the Panthers for seven years, moving to offensive quality control coach, then offensive assistant, and finally assistant offensive line coach.
Roman then left to reunite with former Panthers head coach Dom Capers with the Houston Texans. He started as tight ends coach in 2002, then moved to quarterbacks coach in 2004. Roman coached David Carr from 04-05, with little to show for it, and was canned with Capers after 2005. He caught on with the Ravens for two years back as assistant offensive line coach, before Brian Billick was fired after 2007.
After a year in exile, coaching at his high school alma mater, Roman was tapped by Jim Harbaugh to work for him at Stanford. His job title was bizarre (Tight Ends/Offensive Tackles/Running Game Coordinator), but Roman was a key figure in producing two years of top pro-style offense, the first centered on running back Toby Gerhart and the second on quarterback Andrew Luck.
When Harbaugh jumped to the 49ers, he brought Roman along as offensive coordinator. The San Francisco offense was only 18th in DVOA last season, but Roman and Harbaugh were the first coaches to make Alex Smith into a viable starting quarterback, by simplifying the game. They made it to the NFC championship game in their first year with what Harbaugh called "a Greg Roman offense." This year they promoted Colin Kaepernick under center, utilizing college spread concepts and the pistol formation to build a completely different offense that currently ranks 5th in DVOA.
Why Hire Greg Roman?
There are a few solid reasons to consider Roman. First, I'm not sure there's been a more successful coach anywhere in football than Jim Harbaugh over the last few years (college and pro). He has won more than 75 percent of his games while Roman has been on board. It would be nice to benefit from the lessons Roman learned during that time.
And while Roman is still young, his offensive flexibility has been impressive. One Niners blogger described hearing players call Roman an offensive genius and "mad scientist." The results speak for themselves -- in college or the pros, with Luck, Smith or Kaepernick. Whether the Eagles end up developing Nick Foles or another young quarterback, Roman's ability to adapt his scheme and add new wrinkles would be helpful.
Why Not Hire Greg Roman?
While youth can be an asset in head coach hires, my biggest question with Roman is that he may not have enough top-level experience. That he has ridden Harbaugh's coattails straight to the top is one of his best selling points, but it's also a weakness. We don't know how much the success is due to Harbaugh rather than Roman. He has 15 years of NFL experience, but most of that was spent bouncing around as a lowly assistant. Only the most recent two were as a coordinator. Before Harbaugh rescued him, Roman was forced to spend a year coaching high schoolers. (Note: Roman said he had multiple offers to return to the NFL.)
Due to his success in San Fran, Roman is a natural finalist for any head coaching job. I hold strong reservations along the line noted above, but similar things could have been said about Andy Reid back in the day. If Roman came to the interview with a clear plan in hand and demonstrated leadership and management smarts, that would go a long way toward convincing me that he's ready to run a team of his own.