PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02: Head coach Chip Kelly of the Oregon Ducks looks on while taking on the Wisconsin Badgers at the 98th Rose Bowl Game on January 2, 2012 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Playoff football was upstaged this week in Philadelphia as the Eagles coaching search stretched on.
While the Packers took care of Joe Webb (remember him?) and RGIII suffered a horrific and entirely foreseeable injury, all eyes in Eagles-land were looking toward Chip Kelly.
Kelly flirted with three teams, taking interviews with the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, and the Eagles. Although the Browns have tried to distance themselves in recent reports, they clearly were all in on Kelly. Ex-Eagles President Joe Banner made a full-court press to get him for Cleveland and came up short. And the Birds, while less committed to Kelly, certainly had him high on their list. They conducted a nine-hour lunch with Kelly on Saturday, which is easily the most absurd job interview description I've ever heard.
Ultimately, I think it's sad for the NFL that we won't have Kelly coaching in 2013. There's far too much talk about whether or not his offense could work at the professional level, instead of embracing the excitement of something new. Whether Kelly will ever coach in the NFL is now a serious question. He had his pick between three teams in different situations and chose to remain in Oregon instead. That's fine. There's a lot about the school that beats coming to Philly, especially in terms of control and lifestyle. There's no reason to draw broad conclusions about the Eagles job, as some have done, just because Kelly turned them down. I wish him all the best and hope that someday he finds a situation that feels comfortable. Those doors will always be open.
In other news, the Bills actually hired someone, Syracuse coach Doug Marrone. To me, he was a nice backup option, but nothing more. Like Steve Sarkisian, Marrone has turned around a school with awful recent history and made them respectable. He finished his four seasons at Syracuse with a 25-25 record, a major improvement from their 10-37 record under previous coach Greg Robinson. Still, the team plays in an increasingly makeshift Big East and his fourth season -- an 8-5 bowl-winning one -- wasn't so impressive. Marrone was offensive coordinator under Sean Payton with the Saints for three years prior, but how much of that offense was set by Payton? Fine hire, but I'm not sad at all that the Eagles didn't get a chance to interview him.
The Eagles are scheduling interviews with other people right now. Bruce Arians, the Colts offensive coordinator, missed that team's first round playoff loss because he was admitted to the hospital with nausea and headaches. Hopefully all is well with him, but I'm not in love with his candidacy either. As someone who started coaching football in the late 1970s, Arians is no young man (a decade older than Marty Mornhinweg). He has bounced around over the last decade as offensive coordinator in the NFL, but only started to get serious head coaching consideration this year when he filled in admirably for Chuck Pagano. Arians is riding high based on that goodwill, but the Colts were one of the worst playoff teams in recent memory. When you step back and dispassionately assess the situation, there's nothing that stands out as particularly promising about him..
Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, on the other hand, is a new name that sounds much more promising. The skinny on Bradley is simple. First, look at Sunday's game. After allowing 14 points early to the dangerous Redskins on Sunday, his innovative hybrid defense tightened up and didn't allow another point. No wonder the Seahawks are ranked fourth in the NFL in defensive DVOA. Second, read what Monte Kiffin had to say about Bradley when he recommended him to then-Seahawks coach Jim Mora Jr. back in 2009:
"Monte says, 'J.L., listen to me. I have got a guy here in Tampa that is one of, if not, the finest football coaches I have ever worked with. He's an A-plus. He's a once-in-a-lifetime coach. You need to talk to him,' " Mora recalled. "He said, 'J.L., this guy is special. You have to bring him in. You have to talk to him.' "
Finally, watch Bradley lay into his defense on the sideline. Wouldn't it be fun to have a coach with that much fire on the sidelines in Philly? The 46 year-old only arrived in the NFL in 2006 after spending 15 years in the FCS college ranks (i.e. Division I-AA), but everyone praises him. You can read much more about Bradley here and here and here. As long as he can hire an experienced offensive staff, there's much to like about his candidacy.