Davis Hire Reflects Flawed Approach By The Eagles’ Front OfficeBREAKING NEWS, Eagles, News Thursday, February 7th, 2013
On Wednesday, we learned that the Eagles have hired Cleveland Browns linebackers coach Billy Davis to be their latest defensive coordinator.
Forgive me if I’m a little underwhelmed.
Davis has previously been the defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals. During his two years with the 49ers, San Francisco’s defense was abysmal, finishing 30th and 32nd in points allowed. They also were near the bottom of the barrel in yards allowed, ranking 32nd and 24th.
Davis got his second coordinator opportunity in Arizona, and to his credit fared much better in 2009 when he managed to field a somewhat competent defense that finished 14th in points allowed and and 20th in yards allowed. However, the floor completely fell out beneath him in the following season when the Cardinals plummeted to 30th in points allowed. After losing his job in Arizona, Davis spent the last two seasons coaching linebackers in Cleveland as mentioned previously.
The Davis hire does absolutely nothing to make me believe that this defense is going to return to its glory days any time soon. Here you have a coach that got two chances to show that he could successfully build up and run an NFL defense and he’s failed miserably both times. Now he’s coming into a situation in which he’ll be asked to clean up a defense that is short on talent, short on leadership, and are collectively soft. Oh yes, the man who three times in his career has been responsible for a defense ranked 30th or worse in a 32-team league, that’s the ideal candidate to turn this defense over to.
What makes the Davis hire even more egregious in my eyes is the way in which the whole situation played out.
Let’s flash back to the last time the Eagles hired a new defensive coordinator. Shortly after firing Sean McDermott, one of the first moves that the Eagles made was to hire Jim Washburn to coach the defensive line. Before securing a competent coordinator to run the defense, the Eagles decided to hire a polarizing figure, and essentially commit their defense to the Wide-Nine scheme. No sane defensive coordinator had any interest in the job, and almost three weeks after hiring Washburn the Eagles were forced to settle on Juan Castillo as their guy.
The Eagles failed to realize that in order to make their defensive coordinator job attractive, they need to give their coordinator full control of the unit. The defensive coordinator must decide what scheme to run. The defensive coordinator fills out of the defensive coaching staff with assistant coaches that he is familiar with or confident in. The Eagles doomed themselves to failure over the last two seasons because they broke this basic philosophy, and married themselves to Jim Washburn and his Wide-Nine scheme.
Now in the present day, what have Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman learned from the crippling mistakes they made in the winter of 2011? Well to their credit, at least the man that they gave the job to this time has previous NFL experience as a defensive coordinator. But that’s about where the upside of the Billy Davis hire stops.
As Garry mentioned in his article, Billy Davis was far from the Eagles’ first choice. If they had really been that impressed with him, they could have hired him several weeks ago. There were better options available, but the team’s top choices weren’t interested in the job. The Eagles settled for Davis, just like they settled for Castillo two years ago.
Several of the key mistakes made in 2011 have been repeated during this search for a defensive coordinator. Once again, before hiring a defensive coordinator, the Eagles had already filled out their defensive staff and have also committed themselves to a scheme. They again made the job unattractive by tying the coordinator’s hands to a 3-4 attack, and taking away the coordinator’s ability to fill out his defensive staff with his own guys.
While there’s nothing wrong with a switch to a 3-4, that decision should have been made by the defensive coordinator alone after he had been hired. Shortly after Kelly was hired, there were strong indications that the Eagles would be switching to a 3-4, even though no new members of the defensive staff were in place. Wasn’t Chip Kelly supposed to keep his hands off of the defense and focus squarely on adjusting his offense to work in the NFL?
Even though none of the coaches the Eagles hired as defensive assistants carry the divisive reputation that Jim Washburn had, it’s a bad decision to hire these coaches before the defensive coordinator is in place. If you’re an up-and-coming defensive coach about to get your first shot at running an NFL team’s defense, you’d want to go into a situation where the team grants you as much control as possible to shape the staff and the scheme in a way that you know you can be successful.
The way the Eagles have conducted their last two defensive coordinator searches have forced them to settle for an unqualified and overwhelmed offensive line coach, and now a retread that has already failed in opportunities with two other teams. The direction that this franchise is going in is disturbing to me.
I’m not expecting any quality defense to be played in Philadelphia this season.
Denny Basens is the editor of GCobb.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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