Eagles Must Take Advantage of Time with Top Assistants
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The machinations of the NFL's coaching carousel probably need to change but interviews of hot candidates are not a distraction
It's just business as usual in the NFL.
When you look at the playing field, each of the NFL's top four seeds is about to go through the same thing.
New England has already received requests to interview both of their coordinators during the bye week -- Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels -- while the Vikings are getting requests for Pat Shurmur and potentially George Edwards. Even Pittsburgh, which doesn't have "hot coordinators" is dealing with interest around Mike Munchak and rumbling that offensive coordinator Todd Haley may be Dallas bound after the season.
As for the Eagles, an NFL source confirmed to 973espn.com that new Giants general manager Dave Gettleman wants to speak with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo is on the radar of Chicago and Arizona because of his day-to-day work in the development of Carson Wentz.
Before it's all said and done offensive coordinator Frank Reich could also get an opportunity to interview elsewhere despite flying under the radar of the national media.
“Everybody gets paid when you’re winning,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins surmised.
As a former head coach in Detroit who was brought into Philadelphia for Doug Pederson, Schwartz has almost been an assistant head coach with the Eagles, completely in charge of his side of the football.
He's also gone out of his way to publicly support Pederson at every turn because his powerful personality and ability to control a room are often mistaken for ambition.
That's not to say Schwartz doesn't want to become a head coach again. He does and that's why he came to Philadelphia in the first place but he's always realized that the best way to do that is by building up his defense, not by undercutting the head coach behind the scenes.
Some speculated the latter was what was going on when former general manager Mike Lombardi, a long-time Schwartz friend, called Pederson "the least prepared" coach he's seen during his time in the business, a laughable critique torpedoed by the Eagles' 13-3 season.
The issue for the Eagles moving forward toward the divisional playoff isn't any pending interview during the bye week. It's the realization that one of the NFL's best defensive minds and one of the brighter young quarterback tutors could be gone by the time the 2018 season rolls around.
“Any time you have success as a team, I think your assistant coaches are going to be looked at for potential jobs,” Pederson said following the meaningless season-ending 6-0 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
The bridge is here but there is no need to overreact.
Assistant coaches who ignore their current duties to try to advance their careers don't get interviews in the first place so all will be locked in when it counts and any continued Eagles' success only further enhances what are already impressive resumes.
Meanwhile, the organizations doing the interviews travel to the city of those they are interested in so it's not like anyone is leaving town during this important preparation time.
The window for interviewing assistants on playoff teams with first-round byes is this week. From there, it only opens again for the Eagles when they are eliminated or if Philadelphia reaches Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis, where the bye week can again be used to talk.
The interest in Schwartz was public before "Black Monday" with one report describing him as the favorite for Gettleman up the turnpike, smoke that could become fire when you consider the ex-Panthers GM did have success in Charlotte with another defensive-minded mentor in Ron Rivera.
Either way Schwartz is probably ready for his second chance at a head-coaching job and there's not much the Eagles' can do about it other than taking advantage of the time they have with a guy who is in the conversation with names like Bill Belichick, Mike Zimmer and Wade Phillips when it comes to the best defensive minds in football.
"I'm just worried about right now," veteran defensive end Chris Long said when asked about the potential of Schwartz moving on after the Dallas game. "I'm worried about the playoffs. I'm worried about whoever we play here in two weeks. Anything after the next month or two, that doesn't really concern me."
Rodney McLeod took a similar approach but only after putting the stamp of approval on his boss.
"Jim Schwartz has done a heck of a job here," the safety said. "He's a great coach, good leader, is definitely a good mentor as well. I'm not surprised that they are pursuing him. But at the end of the day, we're not focused on that. We're focused on the task at hand, which is figuring out who we play next in these playoff games and that's the complete focus and mentality. And I'm sure it is for him too."
The top in-house candidate to replace Schwartz would likely be secondary coach Cory Undlin but don't rule out a "trade" of sorts with Giants interim coach Steve Spagnuolo coming back down the Jersey Turnpike as a more tested option.
“None of that is my concern,” Jenkins said. “We’re just trying to get to the next week. I’m not thinking about it unless he’s going to be somebody else’s coach next week."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen