Eagles Still Contemplating Assistant Coach Hires

Ed Kracz

Most teams have filled their coaching vacancies, yet the Eagles keep creating them.

Another one sprung up Friday when defensive line coach Phillip Daniels took to Twitter to announce he was out. That leaves the Eagles with four jobs on head coach Doug Pederson’s staff.

The headliner among the openings is that of offensive coordinator. He is the one who will be on the frontlines, holding weekly press conferences, having his feet held to the fire of a demanding fan base.

That doesn’t mean the other three are less important. In fact, the openings for assistant to coach receivers, defensive backs and the defensive line could be viewed as more important.

Position coaches work primarily behind the scenes. They are teachers more than coaches. Their job is to make sure technique is honed and perfected.

It may be easier to do that with a player who has enough talent that he is drafted in the first or second round, but even that player needs to be taught.

Harold Carmichael’s career began in 1971 as a seventh-round draft pick but it wasn’t until the right receivers coach was brought in for the 1973 season that Carmichael took flight on a Hall of Fame career.

Boyd Dowler was the coach who taught Carmichael how to run routes. At 6-8, he had to do it differently because he didn’t have the same stride as a smaller pass catcher.

“I was stumbling, not getting to the right depth, or getting too deep and the ball had been thrown past me,” said Carmichael. “I had to kind of break down and adjust to that when Dowler came in and said, ‘Harold, you can’t run little patterns like a wide receiver, your strides are too long. You have to do it this way. We’re going to tweak the pass patterns a little bit for you, so we can get the ball to you on time and you’re making your cut at right time.’”

Maybe the Eagles need a Boyd Dowler-type to unlock the secret for J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, one who can grow Greg Ward, and one who can help mold whichever ever receiver the Eagles pick in this spring’s draft.

Every player is different and individual instruction is paramount. Strengths and weaknesses must be identified.

Same thing on the defensive line. A coach must find a way to get the best from Shareef Miller, who couldn’t get on the field as a rookie, and help develop Daeshon Hall and even Joe Ostman, who was on IR all of last season, and whichever defensive lineman the Eagles draft.

A defensive backs coach will need to, well, work miracles.

The offensive coordinator job may have to wait, depending on the outcome of Sunday’s two championship games.

The Eagles have reportedly put in a request to interview Kansas City Chiefs quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka, a quarterback himself at Northwestern who was a fourth-round pick of the Eagles in 2010. That means Pederson is familiar with him.

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid could block the move since Kafka wouldn’t be able to call plays. That’s Pederson’s job.

If Pederson wants Kafka bad enough, perhaps the Eagles coach could turn over some of the in-game play calling to Kafka, much like Reid did with Pederson when Pederson was the KC offensive coordinator and the way Reid does now with Eric Bieniemy as his current OC. 

Pederson has been resistant to do that with his first OC, Frank Reich and with Mike Groh, who was let go after two seasons in the job, because Pederson has said several times in the past that play calling is the most fun part of his job.

If the Chiefs win, the Eagles will have to wait for two weeks to talk with Kafka, until after the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.

Would they be willing to wait that long?

The Eagles interviewed USC offensive coordinator and QB coach Graham Harrell on Friday. He has experience in the Air Raid offense of Mike Leach, who moved over from Washington State to Mississippi State earlier this month.

Harrell is known for keeping an offense simple, not overloading a quarterback so that the QB can play fast without thinking much.

In-house candidate Duce Staley could still be an option at OC and maybe because Harrell doesn’t have any NFL experience, he would be willing to accept the receiver coach opening.

Maybe this week a hiring or two will be announced. Or maybe Pederson isn’t done firing, yet.