Graham Harrell

Another candidate for Eagles' offensive coordinator job says nope

Another candidate for Eagles' offensive coordinator job says nope

USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, who the Eagles had targeted as a candidate for their offensive coordinator vacancy, is staying at USC, according to Bruce Feldman, who covers college football for The Athletic.

The 34-year-old Harrell emerged last week as a candidate, and with his connections to Mike Leach and his Air Raid Offense it made a lot of sense. Leach isn’t technically part of the Andy Reid coaching tree, but he is a student of Reid’s offense, and when he was between the Texas Tech and Washington State jobs he was a guest of Reid, Pederson and Marty Mornhinweg at training camp at Lehigh.

Harrell played for Leach at Texas Tech and coached under him at Washington State. This past year, in his first year as offensive coordinator at USC, the Trojans averaged 32.5 points per game, 35th-best in the FBS, and 454 yards per game, 20th- best.

The Eagles are in the market for an offensive coordinator after firing Mike Groh, who held the position the last two years. It’s been 11 days since the Eagles fired Groh.

Previously, the Eagles had reported interest in Ravens quarterbacks coach James Urban, who coached under Reid with the Eagles, but Ravens coach John Harbaugh told reporters on Saturday that Urban would be staying with the Ravens.

The Eagles reportedly are interested in Chiefs quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka, who Reid drafted in 2011. But there’s a chance Reid could block the Eagles from interviewing Kafka if they do formally request permission to interview him.

Does anybody want this job? Why are candidates turning down the Eagles’ advances? 

Head coach Doug Pederson calls the plays here, and working as an offensive coordinator under an offensive coach who calls the plays isn’t always the most desirable job.

Several other candidates who might have made sense have taken other jobs, like Pat Shurmur in Denver, Joe Brady in Carolina and Bill Lazor and John DiFilippo with the Bears

Jim Caldwell, the former Lions head coach who's now quarterbacks coach with the Dolphins, would make a lot of sense. Mike Shula, who was Shurmur's offensive coordinator the last two years with the Giants, is still available, as is former Redskins coach Jay Gruden. 

Internal candidates such as Duce Staley and Press Taylor are already in the building. 

Of the 10 teams in the market for offensive coordinators this offseason, only the Vikings, Jaguars and Eagles have yet to name one. The Jaguars were reportedly interviewing Gruden on Monday.

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Eagles reportedly interviewing Graham Harrell for offensive coordinator job

Eagles reportedly interviewing Graham Harrell for offensive coordinator job

We have a new and interesting name in contention to be the Eagles’ next offensive coordinator.

The Eagles on Friday interviewed Southern California offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Graham Harrell, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeff McLane.

This is an interesting approach from the Eagles and Harrell would certainly qualify as an outside-the-box hire. 

Harrell, 34, spent last season at USC but notably has an extensive history with Mike Leach and his Air Raid Offense. Harrell played for Leach at Texas Tech from 2004-08 before going to the CFL and NFL and then coached under Leach at Washington State from 2014-15. 

So Harrell would likely be able to bring some new and potentially exciting concepts to Doug Pederson’s offense. Remember, Jeff Stoutland is the Eagles’ run game coordinator, which meant that Mike Groh was pretty much the pass game coordinator for the last two seasons before he was fired. Since he wouldn’t call plays, that would basically be Harrell’s role if he got the job in Philly. 

At USC, Harrell was hired by head coach Clay Helton when Kliff Kingsbury left after a month to take the head coaching job with the Arizona Cardinals. USC wanted to have an Air Raid style, so they turned to Harrell. 

In his one year as the offensive coordinator at USC, the Trojans improved drastically in major statistical categories on offense from 2018: 

Points per game: 26.1 to 32.5
Yards per game: 382.6 to 454.0 
Passing yards per game: 248.2 to 335.8  

Check out this interesting excerpt from an Aug. 1 story in Sports Illustrated about Harrell’s hire at USC and his thoughts on the offensive system he comes with:

“People hear Air Raid and they think five wide receivers, no tight ends, 60 pass attempts and 50 points a game. To Harrell, the Air Raid is something else. It is working to death a small number of plays, with shorter playcalls, perfecting those plays and out-executing — not out-scheming — the opponent. Option-based coaches, like former Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, operate under similar mentalities, but with a different focus: rushing the football. Leach does it through the air. “You can’t do everything. I think a lot of people try to take a little bit of everything offensively,” Harrell says. “If you do that, you don’t have much of an identity. You’re just O.K. at everything and not really good at something.”

At times over the last few seasons, the Eagles have found success after simplifying. They’ve also found success using an up-tempo pace to get Carson Wentz into a rhythm. These seem like concepts that would mesh with Harrell’s philosophy. 

And we also know that Pederson values coaches who, like himself, were once players. After he left Texas Tech, Harrell played one season (but was injured) for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and then was a backup quarterback in Green Bay for a few seasons and with the New York Jets for a season in 2013. Harrell’s only NFL game action came in 2012 as a member of the Packers. He played in four games and threw just four career passes. 

Since then, though, he’s been a quick riser in the coaching world. And he has some fresh ideas that might help an Eagles offense that has been far too stagnant at times over the last couple seasons. 

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