The circus is in town, and it has settled into Lincoln Financial Field and it’s environs. I teased in an earlier post about the absurdities of the names that are being bandied about for the position. I maintain that Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher will not be the next Eagles coach. They’re pipe dreams, and I believe, the wrong men for the job.
Now I hear that Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly has been tapped for an interview. After his team’s scintillating performance against Alabama, I can see why they’d be so hot to trot. Just remember the Chip Kelly and Bill O’Brien lesson: both will likely look for more money from their respective schools, and neither, I believe, had any intention of taking a pro job.
So what else was on what passes for my mind? The Eagles will apparently be interviewing former Chicago Bears head man Lovie Smith. He’s an interesting coach, but, in essence, he’s very much like Andy Reid. Appearances in the playoffs, losses where there should have been wins, and considered a disappointment despite an overall enviable record. If your team is the Seahawks or Browns, Lovie Smith would be a great coach.
Not if you’re the Eagles. The Eagles need someone who is no-nonsense, a regular guy. Someone who comes with little fanfare, has a fairly deep NFL coaching resume, and – most important of all: Can get players to believe in his way and has a strong coaching tree.
In the last 20 years, few coaches have impacted the NFL more than Bill Parcells. His coaching tree includes Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin, who have five Super Bowl wins between them. Parcells is pretty much responsible for the Giants, Patriots, Jets and Cowboys having been competitive teams. All of these teams were in pretty dubious shape when he took over, and all of them improved immediately and for a good long while.
And then there’s the Dolphins. Parcells was named Executive VP of Football Operations in 2008 and named Tony Sparano coach. Sparano led the Fins to an 11-5 record in 2008 and a playoff appearance. Things didn’t go as well after that, and both Parcells and Sparano were gone after the 2011 season. Sparano then resurfaced as the offensive coordinator of the Jets in 2012. He was fired on January 7th after a lackluster season.
The Eagles could do a lot worse than Tony Sparano. The Dolphins were thin on talent in 2011, but they never quit on Sparano, winning six of the last nine games. This was done under great duress, during a time when the Dolphins managment very publicly and unprofessionally wooed coaches while Sparano still held the job. With this type of base leadership, it’s no wonder Sparano couldn’t make a truly decent team there.
Now, stop that scoffing and reread that last paragraph. When was the last time any Eagles team played with that much heart? They quit on Reid. It’s clear that Reid was gone anyway, but there was no team unity and no indication that the team felt anything for their coach. All I got from them was that they were waiting for the season to end. And so it did. With a big splat.
Sparano had to deal with his management interviewing other coaches while he was trying to save a sinking ship. The Fins started the season 0-7 and finished 6-10. That means that they were 1-7 and 5-3 if you split the seasons. Compare that to this year’s Eagles: 3-5 and 1-7.
I like the idea of a coach that inspires loyalty in his team, a coach that the players supported. A coach that the players felt that they had let down. A coach that the players were not happy to see leaving town.
Again, compare that to the Eagles. The fans, and seemingly, the players, were not all that upset about seeing Reid leaving. Everyone who bleeds Eagles green seems all too happy to blame Reid for the team’s woeful performance. Not much team unity or coach loyalty at all.
Oh – and in additon to being a part of Parcell’s coaching tree, Sparano has also spent time on the staffs of Marty Schottenheimer, Coughlin and Wade Phillips. This is a pretty good pedigree.
Philadelphia wants a winner, and it’s clear from the coach talk that the fans are willing to divorce reality when they talk about who should replace Andy Reid. More than anything, the Eagles need someone who is accountable, has a good coaching pedigree and doesn’t get into petty skirmishes with media or players. They need a good football coach.
They could do a lot worse than Tony Sparano. I expect some dissension and dismissiveness directed toward this recommendation, but I stand by it. Compared to some of the other names being proposed, is this idea really all that ridiculous? I think not.