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Eagles to Interview Lovie Smith as Options Dwindle

Jan 8, 2013, 4:40 PM EDT

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We started with seven NFL head coaching vacancies, but we’re
down to five. Andy Reid and Doug Marrone are off the market, while Chip Kelly,
Bill O’Brien, and Dirk Koetter are all staying put – apparently Jon Gruden has
no interest. After one week of searching, the only coaches the Eagles have
interviewed that are still candidates for the job are Mike McCoy, Mike Nolan,
and Keith Armstrong.

No need to panic though. The process may be moving at a
snail’s pace – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing by the way – but there are
some excellent prospects available.

The Eagles received permission to speak to three more: Colts
offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley,
and Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. However, rumor has it Jay intends
to stay in Cincinnati – perhaps part of a power play in advance of his
scheduled meetings, but it’s out there nonetheless – and there is at least some
sentiment the 60-year-old Arians could remain in Indianapolis as well.

So with the pool of candidates getting shallower by the day,
the Eagles will do something I was fairly certain they would not, which is
interview dismissed Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Smith is a fine coach, and worthy
of consideration. I just didn’t think Jeffrey Lurie would be interested in what
amounts to the defensive-minded, less-successful version of Reid.

In nine years with Chicago, Lovie brought tremendous
stability to the organization. He had the Bears back in the playoffs in his
second season, playing in the Super Bowl in his third, and they haven’t
finished with fewer than seven wins in a campaign since. Smith was finally fired
because the team failed to qualify for the tournament in back-to-back seasons,
even though they won 10 games in 2012.

Where Lovie is like Andy though is his teams were always in
the mix, but never quite capitalized in big moments. Actually, in that respect,
Lovie is worse than Andy. The Bears were competitive virtually every season,
but only managed to reach the postseason three times.

The comparisons run a bit deeper than that. Both men failed to
correct problems that plagued their teams for years at a time – in Chicago’s
case, essentially the entire offense. And if clock management is your pet
peeve, Bears fans will be the first to tell you Lovie is not an improvement.

That doesn’t mean Lurie shouldn’t hire Smith, not saying
that at all. I think what often gets taken for granted is every situation is
different, and some of the reasons why Smith didn’t achieve ultimate success in
Chicago are circumstantial. Plenty of head coaches flame out at their first
head job, move on, recover, and reach the mountain top the next time around –Tom
Coughlin, Tony Dungy, Bill Belichick, Jon Gruden, Dick Vermeil, and so on.

Having said that, the timing of the announcement doesn’t
exactly lend the appearance the Eagles’ search is going as planned. There may
be a handful of quality candidates up for grabs, but there are still five teams
filling positions, while the list of options only continues to shrink.