The NFC East could soon look a little like the AFC East.
With cross-pollination becoming the norm among the Patriots, Dolphins, Bills, and Jets, the notion that former Giants Tom Coughlin could become the next coach of the Eagles is even more fascinating than the nonexistent prospect of the Gruden brothers going at it twice per year in Philly and Washington.
When the Eagles fired Chip Kelly five days before the season finale and conducted their Rooney Rule interview of running back coach Duce Staley last Saturday, some sensed that the Eagles entered the process knowing who they wanted — and planning to move quickly. The sudden emergence of Coughlin as a candidate, five days after he was pushed out by the Giants, suggests that, even if the Eagles had an idea where they may be leaning, they’ve opted to change it up on the fly and consider a guy who has won a pair of Super Bowls.
As Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports notes, owner Jeffrey Lurie’s quest for a guy who will open his heart to players (i.e., the opposite of Chip Kelly) may have landed on Coughlin once images emerged of an emotional quarterback Eli Manning, lips quivering in the hopes of preventing a full-fledged meltdown, at Coughlin’s final Giants press conference on Tuesday.
Several factors could get in the way of what would be a great combination. First, Coughlin may not be comfortable with the perception that he’s sticking it to the Giants, his apparent diss of co-owner John Mara notwithstanding. Second, Coughlin (who had half a season with Kurt Warner and then the rest with Eli Manning in New York, and Mark Brunell in Jacksonville) may not be thrilled with the Eagles’ options at quarterback. Third, executive V.P. of football operations Howie Roseman will have to feel comfortable with Coughlin as a guy that Roseman can work with. Fourth, the Eagles will have to be willing to buck the longstanding culture of age discrimination in the NFL.
Last year, Mike Holmgren said the 49ers told him that they were hoping to hire a younger guy, after Holmgren expressed interest in the job that eventually was filled by a coach whose only attribute in common with Holmgren was choice of facial hair. In most other American workplaces, that kind of admission would constitute prima facie evidence of age-based bias. In the NFL, it’s no big deal because no one has been willing to file a lawsuit over the league’s habit of choosing younger candidates for high-profile jobs.
But for the intense saber-rattling of Cyrus Mehri and the late Johnnie Cochran regarding minority hiring practices for key jobs that was nearly as abysmal as the NCAA’s still are, the Rooney Rule never would have been crafted. The requirement that all coaching (and now G.M.) searches include at least one minority candidate came not from a desire to get it right, but from a strong interest in not getting sued.
Absent the threat of litigation for what otherwise are clear violations of state and federal employment law, things won’t change. Unless and until an owner like Jeffrey Lurie realizes that Tom Coughlin is the best candidate for the job — despite the fact that he’s 69.
Meanwhile, let’s see if the other teams with vacancies now realize that Coughlin at least merits an interview.