Sources: Eagles interviewed Notre Dame's Brian Kelly

INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

The Eagles are still scouring the college football ranks to find their next head coach.

The latest big name on the team's radar is Brian Kelly. The Eagles are interested in the 51-year-old Notre Dame coach, two NFL sources said. They interviewed him after the BCS championship game and plan to meet with Kelly again when he returns from a trip.

Kelly recently said that coaching the Fighting Irish was his dream job, and that "leaving is not an option."

But he didn't close the door on making the jump to the NFL when he was asked again about the possibility last week.

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  • "For me to say I'll never coach in the NFL - I have no idea," Kelly said on Friday. "I'm not trying to be evasive. It's the truth of the matter. It's all about timing."

    Last week, the timing made no sense. Kelly still had Monday's national championship game against Alabama to prepare for, one in which Notre Dame was routed, 42-14, by the Crimson Tide.

    But now may be the time - for both sides. The Eagles rolled out the red carpet last week in their attempts to lure two other highly regarded college coaches - Oregon's Chip Kelly and Penn State's Bill O'Brien. But both elected to stay at their schools.

    The Eagles also had an interview scheduled with Doug Marrone, but the Syracuse coach agreed to become the Bills' head coach only hours earlier.

    They also have had several interviews with NFL coaches and will have several more starting with Thursday's meeting with former Bears head coach Lovie Smith. Most of the Eagles' confirmed interviews at the NFL level have been with coordinators.

    Owner Jeffrey Lurie has had his sights on the college game, though, much as he did in 1995 when he courted Miami's Dennis Erickson and Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez. Brian Kelly has been mentioned as someone who could draw attention from the pros, but he had yet to be linked to a team.

    The Eagles, though, have him in their sights. They declined to comment. They have confirmed interviews with Chip Kelly and O'Brien only after the fact because most college coaches don't want it known that they're talking to NFL teams.

    Like Chip Kelly, Brian Kelly has never coached in the NFL. In three seasons at Notre Dame he has taken the storied program and brought it back to national prominence, although Monday's loss was a cold dose of reality. Still, the Irish have gone 8-5, 8-5 and 12-1 under Kelly, who has been a head coach since 1991.

    He first gained recognition at Grand Valley State, where he won back-to-back NCAA Division II national titles in 2002-03. He then moved up to major college football, first at Central Michigan for three seasons and then at Cincinnati for four before settling in South Bend.

    Kelly received a two-year contract extension in January 2012 and is signed through 2016. The extension was more or less a rollover option that Notre Dame picked up and did not include a raise, according to the Chicago Tribune.

    As alluring as the NFL may be, the Eagles may have a difficult time persuading Kelly to join them.

    "I think from my perspective I've got the best job in the country - NFL, college, high school, whatever," Kelly said last week.

    The Eagles' three-man search party - Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman, and team president Don Smolenski - has already met with Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, and Falcons special-teams coordinator Keith Armstrong.

    They have requested and been granted permission to interview Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, and Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. Those dates have yet to be set, although the Eagles are expected to meet with Bradley this week before Seattle faces Atlanta in a divisional playoff game on Sunday.

    The Eagles are the only team with plans to interview Bradley thus far. Gruden will interview with the Cardinals. Arians, who was discharged from the hospital Wednesday after being treated for an inner-ear infection, is slated to meet with the Chargers, the Browns, and the Bears.

    The Eagles are only 10 days into their search, and only two of seven NFL vacancies have been filled. Roseman preached caution to those who may have grown impatient with the search.

    "The key is getting the right guy," Roseman said on the team's website. "The key isn't getting the right guy as quickly as possible."

    Lurie said last Monday after he fired Andy Reid that he believed the Eagles' job was the most attractive in the NFL. Roseman was asked what made them attractive to coaches.

    "They know that we just supported a coach for 14 years," Roseman said. "So we're built that way. This whole organization is built to support a head coach. They know that not only in action but in words. All they have to do is call Andy Reid."

    Burkholder to K.C.?

    Eagles trainer Rick Burkholder will visit with the Chiefs to see if he wants to follow Reid to Kansas City.

    Burkholder was Reid's wing man for 14 seasons. He joined the Eagles after spending six seasons as an assistant athletic trainer with the Steelers.


    Contact Jeff McLane at jmclane@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

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