Bleeding Green Nation is profiling all the potential candidates for the Eagles head coaching position in 2016.
The Eagles fired Chip Kelly earlier this week, which means the team will have a new head coach in 2016. Brandon listed 10 possibilities for the Eagles, today we'll look at one that is outside of that box but very much a coach on many teams radar.
A long-time defensive backs coach in the NFL and in college, Teryl Austin went from Baltimore to Detroit (luckily he doesn’t mind missing Thanksgiving every year) with Jim Caldwell and engineered a terrific turnaround in 2014 by the Lions defense, propelling them to a playoff appearance after two straight losing seasons. The Lions defense finishied third in points against, second in yards and a balanced 3rd in DVOA, 1st against the run and 8th against the pass. However in 2015 the defense struggled mightily, though in fairness to Austin the Lions lost DTs Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and CJ Mosley to free agency and LB DeAndre Levy was lost for the season to injury in the season opener.
1991-1992 Penn State (graduate assistant)
1993-1995 Wake Forest (defensive backs)
1996-1998 Syracuse (defensive backs)
1999-2002 Michigan (defensive backs)
2003-2006 Seattle Seahawks (defensive backs)
2007-2009 Arizona Cardinals (defensive backs)
2010 Florida (defensive coordinator)
2011-2013 Baltimore Ravens (defensive backs)
2014-present Detroit Lions (defensive coordinator)
Why he could work
Pretty much everywhere Teryl Austin goes, his teams and his units are really successful. In Seattle he coached in the Super Bowl, in Arizona he coached in the Super Bowl, and in Baltimore he won a Super Bowl. He’s developed young talent and gotten good seasons out of veteran talent, coaching Pro Bowl seasons of Adrian Wilson, Antrelle Rolle, Dominique Rodgers-Cromarite and Ed Reed and an All Pro season for Wilson. In Detroit, Ziggy Ansah had a breakout season this year. He's gotten the most out of his players at every stop in his career, he is clearly a pretty good coach. His stint as defensive coordinator of Florida ended after one year when Urban Meyer resigned and Will Muschamp brought in his own staff, the brevity of his time there should not be held against him.
He interviewed for the Falcons head coaching position after last season, and was apparently the second choice behind Dan Quinn. He had an interview scheduled with the Broncos, but withdrew when it was clear that Gary Kubiak was going to get it, and also interviewed with the Bears, Bills and 49ers. A lot of people were intrigued by him last year, an he will likely get multiple interviews again. Had he gotten a head coaching job, he reportedly would have hired Ravens LB coach Ted Monachino.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie made it clear that leadership and communication with players is a priority for a new coach, and Austin would appear to check those boxes. Players such as James Ighedigbo played for Austin in both Baltimore and Detroit, and had high praise for him in the wake of his interviews last year. And Ighedigbo spoke at length about how Austin, to quote Lurie, "opens his heart to his players."
Why it wouldn’t work
A coach having a single great year should give one pause. Was it his coaching, or was it just right time right place? The 2014 Lions turned over much of their defensive starting lineup from 2013, so there is little common ground to compare and say it was most likely the coaching of Austin. Any defense would suffer with the loss of a player of the caliber of Suh, but the 2015 Lions defense didn’t just decline, it cratered. The praise by his players for 2014 should be taken with salt, players are always going to say really nice things when they’re having a really good season. The Lions are the fourth time Jim Caldwell and Austin have coached together, they are clearly friends and as such Caldwell is biased. Austin had two interviews with the Falcons, one of which lasted an entire day, and they decided to pass on him. At the very least an owner who is interviewing him needs to talk to Arthur Blank about why they did not hire him. And Austin overseeing the Lions defensive dominance of the Eagles on Thanksgiving might give the Eagles another recency bias.
And while it is unfair to pin one play on a coach and say he's not good, the end of game hail mary defense the Lions had against Green Bay this year was so egregiously bad that it has to be one of the first things asked about in an interview. No answer will be good, but some are worse than others.
Finally, his previously mentioned apathy about the holidays may not go over well with Jeffrey Lurie.
Teryl Austin is very clearly a top defensive backs coach, and may be a very good defensive coordinator as well. But it’s also possible that he simply had a good, fluke season as a defensive coordinator in 2014. By all appearances he’s a respected leader of men, and has been successful everywhere he goes. It would seem that a position coach who coaches in three Super Bowls for three different teams in eight years is doing something right. Jeffrey Lurie has shown and knows that paper resume doesn’t matter as much as other factors can, Andy Reid was a fairly nondescript coach when he was hired. Austin is believed to be in demand again this offseason, and the Eagles wouldn’t be wrong to interview him.
Should Austin get the Eagles head coaching job, there is a strong possibility that he would retain Bill Davis. The two worked together in Arizona and Davis, who is close friends with Urban Meyer, recommended him to Meyer in 2010.