After the sudden firing of Chip Kelly, the Eagles are on the search for a new head coach. As fans we would like to believe that the teams we root for are prime destinations for coaches and players. But that is rarely the case, and there are multiple reasons why the Eagles are not an attractive job opening. There are also multiple reasons why they are, which we'll get to tomorrow.
Perception is often reality, and for the Eagles there are a number of situations where the perception, if not the actual reality, create a job opening that is not particularly attractive in both absolute terms and relative to other teams that have or will have job openings.
QB situation is a mess
When Mike Tomlin took the Steelers job in 2007, he said that the team already having Ben Roethlisberger was a huge reason why he wanted the job. Having a top-flight quarterback is the biggest piece of the puzzle in the NFL, and the Steelers had one. Unfortunately the Eagles not only don't have one, but they barely have a quarterback of any kind on the roster for next year. Sam Bradford is a free agent to be, as is third stringer Thad Lewis. Mark Sanchez is the only quarterback under contract for 2016. There's no clear upgrade available in free agency, and there doesn't appear to be one who will be available for trade either. In the draft the Eagles may not be picking early enough to take a QB in the first round, and even if they are they likely aren't getting first or even second choice of them. Not having a QB is most common reason why coaches get fired and there is no clear solution in sight. The high amount of uncertainty at the position could scare off a few coaches, and the certainty at QB on other teams will make them more attractive.
When Jeffrey Lurie gave Chip Kelly the keys to the Eagles as a result of Kelly winning his power struggle, he made a potentially fatal mistake in not firing the loser, Howie Roseman. It immediately created toxicity that lurked around the team. As the 2015 season continued to spiral downwards, that toxicity started to show with curiously timed and phrased reports praising Roseman, and reports of player frustrations with Kelly after a big win. With Roseman back in the fold of football operations, it's more clear than ever that he is a favorite son of Lurie. Andy Reid, Joe Banner and now Chip Kelly lost their jobs in part because of a struggle with Roseman. A coaching candidate may balk at entering a situation where a non-owner superior is viewed, rightly or wrongly, as infallible.
Limited offensive roster and flexibility
When a coach takes over a team that team is usually a bad one, such as the Eagles, and the coach and GM make many changes to the roster to improve and reshape it in their image. That isn't the case for the Eagles relative to other teams. The next coach is stuck with DeMarco Murray unless the Eagles take a huge cap hit or are able to trade him, and will also have Ryan Mathews on the roster, so the next coach will have to use this year's running backs. The offensive line is in major need of repair, the wide receivers are some of the worst in the league, and as previously noted there's no clear path at quarterback. Individually none of those are prohibitive, and barring a surprise firing of a coach on a good team similar to John Fox last year, every job opening has its roster warts. But put together they form an unattractive situation where nearly the entire offense needs to be rebuilt and some of the starters simply can't be moved. A new coach isn't going to be able to reshape the offense in the ways that he could on another team, and with the short life expectancy that coaches have, some may not be willing to punt on their first season.
Perception of unrealistic expectations
Chip Kelly was fired for reasons beyond simply going 6-9 in 2015, but a coaching candidate may look at Lurie and ask himself if going to team that fired a coach before the end of one bad season is worth the risk. That may seem like a weak reason, and maybe it is, but consider that some of the top candidates have been fired or been on staffs that were fired for less. Hue Jackson was fired after just one season in Oakland where he went 8-8 and had his team in the playoff hunt before his starting QB got hurt. Adam Gase was on the Broncos staff that went 12-4 last year. Current Eagles DB coach Cory Undlin was also on that staff and was so upset about it that he refused to call the Broncos by name when asked about it in the summer. Whether or not the next coach is held to a different standard, all it takes is the perception by a coach that there are unrealistic expectations in Philly for him to pass on the job.
Other teams are more attractive
We know that the Eagles are the third opening this season after Miami and Tennessee, and there will be other openings as well next week. Some of them will be worse destinations, but some won't. The Titans have Marcus Mariota, which makes them a relatively attractive destination because they appear to have already found their QB. If Chuck Pagano is fired the Colts immediately become a highly attractive destination because of Andrew Luck. The Chargers have both an established QB on hand in Phillip Rivers and a top draft pick to potentially draft and groom his replacement, just like when Rivers was drafted while Drew Brees was on the Chargers.
The Eagles won't be the least attractive destination for a head coach, for reasons we'll outline later. But it only takes one reason for a coach to steer clear of a job when he has other suitors, and the Eagles have a few reasons that may give candidates pause.