The Philadelphia Eagles have moved on from Doug Pederson as head coach after five seasons at the helm. Pederson, the only Super Bowl-winning head coach in franchise history, is out after the Eagles went on the downswing after winning the NFL championship three years ago. Philadelphia was just 22-25-1 since capturing the Super Bowl LII title, culminating in a 4-11-1 season in 2020 -- the franchise's worst season since Andy Reid's final year as head coach (2012).
As the Eagles offense struggled under Pederson, franchise quarterback Carson Wentz also regressed significantly this season. Wentz was one of the worst quarterbacks in football, setting a career-low in completion percentage (57.4), passing yards (2,620), and passer rating (72.8) while leading the league in interceptions (15) and giveaways (19). Wentz was benched after 12 games in favor of Jalen Hurts, who provided a spark in the offense despite the Eagles failing to significantly improve their points per game average.
The Eagles have a decision to make between Wentz and Hurts this offseason (or maybe they keep both for 2021), but the franchise will certainly value Wentz's future in mind as they seek a new head coach -- and if Wentz can be salvaged with a massive contract set to kick in.
Here are 10 candidates the Eagles should consider as they search for their next head coach to lead the franchise:
1. Eric Bieniemy
Current role: Offensive coordinator -- Kansas City Chiefs
The Eagles have dug into the Andy Reid coaching tree once before with Pederson -- and won their first Super Bowl in franchise history. Reid was the most successful head coach in franchise history, making five NFC Championship Game appearances in eight seasons and compiling a .583 win percentage in 14 seasons as the Eagles head coach. Reid disciples have succeeded in the NFL and changed franchises (see John Harbaugh with the Baltimore Ravens and Sean McDermott with the Buffalo Bills).
Bieniemy may be the best assistant coach Reid has ever had as the offensive coordinator of one of the greatest offenses in NFL history. The Chiefs offense was first in total yards per game (415.8) this season under Bieniemy (sixth in 2019, first in 2018) and has led the NFL with 406.9 yards per game over the past three seasons. Patrick Mahomes won a league MVP and Super Bowl MVP with Bieniemy as his offensive coordinator -- throwing for 13,868 yards for 114 touchdowns to just 23 interceptions (109.8 passer rating).
If the Eagles seek Bieniemy, he could either work with reinventing Wentz or develop Hurts. Bieniemy played for the Eagles as a running back in 1999 (under Reid) and has been on Reid's staff in Kansas City since 2013. There's familiarity with Philadelphia's front office and ownership, which could get Bieniemy to Eagles.
2. Arthur Smith
Current role: Offensive coordinator -- Tennessee Titans
Smith is a hot candidate after the work he has done with Ryan Tannehill since he became the Titans quarterback in Week 7. Tannehill is first in the league in yards per attempt (8.5), third in touchdowns (550) and third in passer rating (111.3) among NFL quarterbacks since becoming the Titans starter -- some of the best numbers in the NFL at the position. Then there's Derrick Henry, who has led the NFL with 3,565 yards rushing over the past two seasons (875 more than the second on the list, Dalvin Cook). The Titans offense was tied for second in total yards per game (396.4) and fourth in points per game (30.7) in 2020.
If there's any coach that can fix Wentz and make him one of the game's top quarterbacks again, Smith is the guy. The Eagles will certainly take the Carson Wentz that threw 81 touchdowns to just 21 interceptions from 2017 to 2019.
3. Brian Daboll
Current role: Offensive coordinator -- Buffalo Bills
Daboll is the architect of the emergence of Josh Allen as the NFL's most-improved quarterback -- and one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL this season. Allen set Bills franchise marks in passing yards (4,544) and passing touchdowns (37) in a season while leading the league in completion percentage inside the pocket (73.4). The Bills offense was second in points per game (31.3) and tied for second in total yards per game (396.4) in 2020, thanks to the emergence of Allen and a solid mix of run plays and pass plays.
Daboll comes from a winning culture with five Super Bowl rings under Bill Belichick and has established himself as a rising play caller in the league. Given his work with Allen, the Eagles would be wise to give Daboll a call and see what he has in store for Wentz or Hurts.
4. James Urban
Current role: Quarterbacks coach -- Baltimore Ravens
If the Eagles want to commit to Hurts as the starting quarterback, they should strongly consider the work Urban has done with Lamar Jackson over the last two years. Jackson is the first quarterback to have two 1,000-yard rushing seasons and won the NFL MVP in 2019 while leading the league in touchdown passes. Over the last two seasons, Jackson has completed 65.25% of his passes for 5,884 yards with 62 touchdowns to 15 interceptions (106.6 rating) and 2,211 rushing yards to 14 touchdowns (6.6 yards per carry).
Urban is also a former assistant coach under Reid from 2004 to 2010, coaching Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick to a Pro Bowl when he was the team's quarterbacks coach in his last two seasons (2009, 2010). His work with quarterbacks and the opportunity to call plays for the first time could be enough for a good marriage between the Eagles and Urban (who actually turned down a chance to be the Eagles offensive coordinator last year).
Urban isn't on the radar for head coaching vacancies, but neither was Reid in 1999. That turned out well for Philadelphia.
5. Lincoln Riley
Current role: Head coach -- Oklahoma Sooners
Getting Riley to leave the college ranks to the NFL will be difficult, but that doesn't mean Riley could be intrigued by the possibility of working with Hurts again. Riley is an innovator in football circles, allowing his playmakers to get the ball in space as a result of quick passes -- giving his quarterback multiple options before the ball is snapped. Hurts thrived with the options presented to get rid of the ball quickly or use his legs to make a play and move the chains.
A former college quarterback at Texas Tech, the Sooners are 45-8 in the four seasons with Riley as head coach. Riley has developed Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray into No. 1 overall picks and reinvented Hurts' game. His knowledge of the air raid offense and his development of quarterbacks should intrigue the Eagles. Maybe his offensive system could fix Wentz if the Eagles keep him around.
6. Jim Caldwell
Current role: Unemployed
If the Eagles went a head coach with experience, Caldwell is a very ideal candidate. Caldwell spent seven seasons as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions, compiling a 62-50 record in his head coaching career with three 10-win seasons -- including leading the Colts to an appearance in Super Bowl XLIV. Caldwell went 26-22 from 2009 to 2011 with the Colts -- 24-8 in the two years he had Peyton Manning at quarterback (Manning missed all of 2011 with a neck injury).
Caldwell was hired by the Lions in 2014 after two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, which included a stint as the offensive coordinator -- that guided Joe Flacco to 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in the 2012 postseason -- leading Baltimore to the Super Bowl XLVII title. He finished 36-28 in four seasons with Detroit, taking the Lions to two postseason appearances.
Caldwell is 65 years old, but his work with quarterbacks and getting the most out of them speaks for itself. He's had a top-10 passing offense four times and helped Matthew Stafford throw 107 touchdown passes and have 17,292 passing yards in the four years he was head coach.
Caldwell could reinvent Wentz and get the Eagles back to playoff contention immediately. He deserves another shot in the NFL as a head coach after his stint in Detroit.
7. Mike Kafka
Current role: Quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator -- Kansas City Chiefs
The Eagles tried to get Kafka to become their offensive coordinator last year, but they were blocked by the Chiefs after Kansas City promoted him to their passing game coordinator. The 33-year old Kafka -- a former Eagles quarterback -- guided the Chiefs passing offense to the most passing yards per game in the NFL (300.4). Kansas City was fifth in 2019 and third in 2018 in passing offense, Kafka's other two seasons as quarterbacks coach.
Just look at Mahomes' success for how well Kafka has done as quarterbacks coach. A head coaching job will be heading Kafka's way soon, but he'll be Bieniemy's successor as the Chiefs offensive coordinator. Kafka owes it to himself if the Eagles ask for an interview, a young voice the team needs -- and someone who can work with Wentz and Hurts. Let's not forget he's from the Reid tree, so there's another positive going for him. Kafka will be a head coach in the NFL at some point.
8. Robert Saleh
Current role: Defensive coordinator -- San Francisco 49ers
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie hasn't hired a defensive head coach since Ray Rhodes in 1995 and has favored offensive coaches in his other head coaching searches, but the Eagles owe it to themselves to give Saleh a look. Saleh is one of the rising coaches in the NFL, as the 49ers have allowed the fewest yards per game in the league over the last two years (298.1) and the 10th-fewest points in the league. Saleh won Super Bowl XLVIII with the Seahawks in 2013 as a defensive quality control coach, helping guide the "Legion of Boom" into one of the dominant defenses in the league.
The Eagles need to revamp their defense and already have one of the best pass rushing units in the league. Actually focusing on the linebacker position and having a competent secondary would help the Eagles compete with the high-powered offenses in the league. Saleh can hire an offensive play caller to work on that side of the ball and develop a quarterback.
Hiring a defensive coach is a long shot for the Eagles, but Saleh is one of the best in the league in that department. His players also play hard for him -- just ask the 2020 49ers in the final month of the season.
9. Brandon Staley
Current role: Defensive coordinator -- Los Angeles Rams
Staley is one of the rising young defensive minds in the NFL -- just look at his work in his first season as the Rams defensive coordinator.
First in the NFL in opponent yards per play 4.6)
First in the NFL in pass defense (190.7)
First in the NFL in opponent big plays (20-plus yards) allowed (38)
First in the NFL in total defense (281.9)
First in the NFL in scoring defense (18.5)
First in the NFL in opponent three-and-out percentage (27.9%)
Second in the NFL in sacks (53)
Third in the NFL in rush defense (91.3)
Third in the NFL in third down defense (35.4%)
The 38-year old Staley is bound to get a big raise from the Rams, but he's earned a promotion to be a head coach already. His defensive scheme is relentless in getting to the quarterback, which greatly benefits the Eagles. Staley can turn the Eagles defense around and hire a young mastermind play caller to work on reinvigorating a dormant offense. Like Saleh, wouldn't hurt the Eagles to give Staley an interview.
10. Duce Staley
Current role: Assistant head coach -- Philadelphia Eagles
If the Eagles want to promote from within, Staley would be a popular choice to be the next Eagles head coach. A fan favorite from his playing days as an Eagles running back, Staley has earned an opportunity to interview for the job again -- and a chance to actually call plays.
Staley is one of the few head coaches on Pederson's staff that actually develops players (see Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, and Corey Clement over the years) and gets the most out of them. Eagles players respect Staley in the locker room and he has been a motivator on the coaching staff.
The Eagles deserve to hear what Staley has to offer. A commitment to the running game in an evolving run-heavy NFL could be just what Wentz or Hurts need over the next several seasons. better to have either quarterback as an efficient passer than someone who doesn't have to carry the team every week. That's what Staley will provide to the Eagles offense, a fresh look for a stale unit.