Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was asked Tuesday about potentially being a candidate for head-coaching jobs this upcoming offseason. It was only a matter of time before the question came up. It’s been a topic of conversation for as long as he’s been with the team.
Schwartz was a head coach for five seasons in Detroit, and there’s little doubt he’d like another opportunity. Now that the Eagles have one of the best defenses in the NFL, he very well may draw some interest again.
And he’s not alone. Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo are on the radar, having played significant roles in the development of Carson Wentz. In fact, Reich and DeFilippo might be stronger candidates than Schwartz because of the league’s preference for offensive-minded coaches. Running backs coach Duce Staley could be in line for interviews as well, and some have even mentioned special teams coordinator Dave Fipp as possibly on the move.
It’s only natural. The Eagles are 10-2 and almost certainly heading to the playoffs, and Sunday’s loss in Seattle aside, they look like one of the best teams in football. Assistants from successful programs tend to be rewarded with head-coaching jobs and coordinator promotions.
Of course, if the Eagles want to avoid having their coaching staff ransacked come January, there is a relatively simple solution: Just make sure the team is still playing in February.
The longer the Eagles’ season lasts, the less likely it is another franchise will steal their assistants, and the reasoning is simple. NFL teams generally try to settle on a head coach as quickly as possible, so that coach can fill out his staff as quickly as possible to allow the organization to move on to preparing for free agency and the draft as quickly as possible.
If the Eagles make it all the way to the Super Bowl, or even just the conference title game, there are front offices that won’t want to wait and will inevitably wind up going in a different direction. There are enough quality head-coaching candidates available, but a lot of competition involved in trying to assemble a staff.
What could further complicate matters is if the Eagles fail to earn a first-round bye in the playoffs yet still manage to mount a lengthy run. At least a bye week affords candidates a comfortable window to go interview. Without the bye, assistants can interview only the following week, with the Eagles’ permission, while preparing for a divisional-round playoff game. Then, if the Eagles are able to advance, the window closes until after the conference championship.
Obviously, it’s a tad presumptuous to suggest the Eagles will be playing deep into January in a tight conference. That being said, if the concern over assistants leaving is tied to the Eagles’ success, the truth is more success in the playoffs actually reduces the odds of a vast number of defections.
There are exceptions, of course. Most recently, the 49ers decided to hire Kyle Shanahan this past offseason, despite the fact that he was still working for the Falcons in February. It can happen.
Shanahan was also one of the hottest coaching candidates in recent memory. Would Schwartz generate that kind of buzz? Would Reich or DeFilippo?
The reality is it’s impossible to predict which franchises will fall in love with which candidates, and how desperate they are to fill those vacancies. Just as it’s impossible to predict how deep into the postseason the Eagles will be playing, and how that might influence front offices across the league.
By the same token, it would be premature to write off any particular Eagles assistant on his way out. Because while there are numerous qualified candidates for head-coaching and coordinator jobs on Doug Pederson’s staff, whether or not they land any of the upcoming openings could depend on one key factor.
Their availability in January.