In 2016, when the Eagles hired Doug Pederson, I was very skeptical of the hire.
Looking back the main thing I got wrong was I didn’t know Pederson personally. I didn’t know what an awesome job he would do leading the locker room. I didn’t know he would have a great feel for the game and know how to get his team ready each Sunday. He had an “it” factor that the other coaches in the 2016 hiring cycle did not.
Pederson wasn’t a perfect head coach, but his best qualities were hard to see — something that is very important to remember as the Eagles begin their next search for a head coach.
We have no idea how this batch of coaching candidates will react to leading an NFL locker room or how the players will react to them. We don’t know how they will handle a city like Philadelphia. That, likely more than scheme or resume, will decide how successful they are in the NFL. I will say that none of these candidates look like slam dunks like some did in 2016. They all have some positives, but at the same time, some very real concerns.
For better or worse, however, the Eagles are going to hire one of them. Based off of what we do know, however, here is my initial ranking of the top candidates for the job:
1. Lincoln Riley, HC, Oklahoma: Going all-in on another college coach? Yes, I get the hesitation. But for as bad as it finished with Chip Kelly, he did indeed come to the NFL and succeed initially, winning 20 games and one division title his first two seasons. His downfall was personnel more than scheme (although towards the end a lack of adjustments hurt him as well).
Riley comes with risks like Kelly did, but the reward could be huge. Riley has built one of the best offenses in college football despite having a new quarterback each year. His offense has remained creative despite all the changes. That is a great sign, as it shows he not only knows how to adjust to different quarterbacks, but he has a track record of coaching them up as well.
Riley is a program builder who knows how to build with the future in mind. He already has a relationship with Howie Roseman, which can only help him navigate working with the general manager.
Riley checks off all the boxes — a brilliant offensive mind, a great quarterback coach and an exciting hire that would come here to build, not win right away. Riley is a risk, but he could also be the next great NFL coach, and passing on him if he is willing to come feels like a decision the team would regret.
2. Brian Daboll, OC, Buffalo Bills: There is a lot to like about Daboll. He has a lot of experience in the NFL. He has also worked at Alabama with Nick Saban (and Jalen Hurts). He would be coming from a winning team, and got a chance to see Sean McDermott build (what seems like) a great culture in Buffalo. Add in that he has experience calling plays and Daboll has the foundation you look for in an impressive candidate.
Perhaps the most appealing part of his resume is what he did with Josh Allen. Allen is a special talent, and better than Carson Wentz, but came into the league with the same issues as Wentz. Watching Daboll turn Allen into a league MVP could give the Eagles hope for what he might accomplish with Wentz or Jalen Hurts. More than anything the Eagles need to fix the quarterback position and there is reason to believe Daboll might be the best in the field to do that.
The concern with Daboll? As impressive as his work with Allen was, it is easily the most impressive thing on his resume. Hiring a head coach off of one year of production from Josh Allen just feels a bit risky and reactionary.
Still, Daboll checks off enough boxes to definitely be intrigued by.
3. Duce Staley, RB Coach, Eagles: Staley has one hole on his resume that is hard to over look — he has never called plays. He also hasn’t coached quarterbacks. It is possible those alone cross him off the Eagles’ list, despite what they might say.
Crossing Staley off for those reason, however, would be a mistake.
Pederson showed how important it is to have the control and support of the locker room. Of all the coaches on this list Staley seems to have the best “it” factor — that head coach that would come in and instantly have the respect of all the players on the team. Former and current players are already tweeting their support for Staley to get the job.
While that is a special quality, it shouldn’t be looked at as his only one. Staley has an extremely sharp football mind, and 94WIP’s Jon Ritchie — who played with Staley — said the running back is the smartest football player he has ever been around. That is probably why of all the positions on the team, the running backs have been some of the best coached.
There is no doubt that Staley would need to be surrounded by a strong staff like Pederson was early on in his coaching career. If the Eagles can find the right offensive and defensive coordinator, however, Staley has a chance to be a special head coach.
4. Joe Brady, OC, Carolina Panthers: Brady, like Riley, is a high-risk, high-reward candidate.
He is viewed around the league as one of the best up-and-coming offensive minds. He has the potential to be the next Sean McVay or Kyle Shanahan. If the Eagles pass on him now, they might not get another chance.
Still, Brady is just 31-years old. McVay was able to take over at 30, but McVay has also proved to be a dynamic personality. Is Brady going to be able to control the locker room? Can he manage a coaching staff that will have people on it that might literally be twice his age?
I’m willing to take a chance on Brady for the upside, but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t be extremely nervous about it.
You can reach Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at email@example.com!