Selecting an all-time coaching staff isn’t an easy task. For one there aren’t readily accessible databases of all the coordinators and position coaches in NFL history. Secondly, for the Eagles, their history has been mostly bad with very few good patches in between.
The Eagles have had their most consistently successful run over the past 13 years with mostly good seasons dating back to the late 1980s.
I decided to make up the coaching staff with mostly coaches during my time watching the team and took into account their success with the Eagles as well as any accomplishments after they moved on.
Some of these coaches may surprise you and some are pretty obvious. I don’t consider this the absolute definitive coaching staff so I encourage anyone reading to leave their own choices as well.
Here is my all-time Philadelphia Eagles coaching staff.
Head Coach: Andy Reid
Andy Reid isn’t the most popular coach in Eagles history. In fact, he is less popular than coaches like Dick Vermeil and Buddy Ryan are still vastly more beloved despite accomplishing significantly less.
His relationship with the media has been strained pretty much from the beginning which is a shame because that relationship is his conduit to the fans.
What seems to be overlooked sometimes is the fact that he has 126 wins in the regular season, 10 more in the postseason and he has won seven NFC East titles. He’s also been to five NFC Championship games and reached a Super Bowl.
Any fan can tell you that Reid has his shortcomings and I’ve done my share of pointing them out. That isn’t what this is about though. Without question Reid is the most successful coach the franchise has ever had.
If this offseason is any indication, Reid will steward this team into the distant future. If fan perception is any indication Reid may be on the verge of winning Philadelphia over once and for all.
Offensive Coordinator: Jon Gruden
It’s sort of weird to realize that your lifetime is basically as good as it’s gotten for your team. It’s also kind of sad.
Brad Childress and Marty Mornhinweg have had a lot of success since the turn of the 21st century but if I could select any Eagles offensive coordinator to take the reins it would be Jon Gruden.
For one, as much as many, many fans hate his enthusiasm on Monday Night Football broadcasts they would love it in the press room and on Sundays. Gruden always had great passion and toughness and Philadelphia eats that up.
His coaching ability is viewed mostly through the lens of his failures over his last few seasons in Tampa Bay, which is unfair. As offensive coordinator he wouldn’t be tasked with personnel decisions or having to find quarterbacks to groom.
Gruden would have a field day with a talent like Michael Vick and he has always believed in “pounding the rock.” People may scoff at this notion but Gruden would do a great job with this offense.
In three years with the Eagles he finished in the top 10 in passing yards twice with quarterbacks like Rodney Peete, Ty Detmer and Bobby Hoying.
He also finished in the top 10 in rushing offense all three years and top 5 in total offense twice. Oh, and he was a Super Bowl-winning head coach as well.
Defensive Coordinator: Jim Johnson
For a split second I considered putting Buddy Ryan here as a joke but I couldn’t disrespect the memory of the great Jim Johnson. As far as defensive coordinators get in the history of the NFL, it doesn’t get much better than Johnson.
While coordinators like Bud Carson and Marion Campbell presided over some great defensive units, Johnson helped bring a sea change to the organization.
In his 10 seasons the Eagles finished in the top 10 in points allowed seven times, including four times at fourth or better.
More than just the numbers and rankings, Johnson brought a culture of toughness, hard hitting and pride that fans fully bought into.
The Andy Reid era is widely accepted as the golden age of Eagles football and Jim Johnson played as big a role in that as anyone else.
Thus far Johnson has proven irreplaceable and in my opinion he is the greatest defensive coordinator in team history.
Quarterbacks Coach: Sean Payton
Sean Payton isn’t exactly a decorated Eagles assistant coach. In his two seasons as quarterbacks coach the quarterbacks didn’t exactly produce well.
They threw a combined total of 29 touchdown passes against 34 interceptions and completed just 54.6 percent of their passes.
While that looks bad on his resume, take into consideration that the quarterbacks he was working with were Bobby Hoying, Rodney Peete and the brothers Detmer.
Payton proved his worth as an offensive coordinator and head coach. He’s won a Super Bowl, helped make Drew Brees a legend and his offenses have given the Eagles defense fits.
Sean Payton is the best coach the Eagles have ever employed as a quarterbacks coach.
In his 16 seasons as running backs coach eight Eagles rushers have topped 1,000 yards. A 50 percent rate may seem pedestrian, but consider that 13 of those seasons have been under Andy Reid.
Williams helped develop lightly regarded prospects in Duce Staley and Brian Westbrook into serious playmakers and team leaders. He also deployed those two with Correll Buckhalter in the three-headed monster backfield.
Most recently he has taken LeSean McCoy and not only made him an excellent replacement for Westbrook but one of the truly great backs in the league.
There has been a ton of turnover in the Eagles organization but luckily Williams has stayed around. There is no way anyone could possibly dethrone him in this place on the coaching staff.
Receivers Coach: Tom Coughlin
This may be a bit of a stretch as Tom Coughlin was only a receivers coach with the Eagles for two seasons and nobody really associates him with offense.
In 1984 and 85 he coached Mike Quick and John Spagnola, two all-time great Eagles. Quick averaged 67 catches for 1150 yards and 10 touchdowns while Spagnola averaged 65 catches for 737 yards and three touchdowns.
Quick made two Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro in 1985 while Spagnola was overshadowed by Mark Bavaro in New York.
Coughlin isn’t the biggest name in receivers coaching but it’s always nice to have a coach with two Super Bowls on your staff. Even if he did win them with the Giants.
I expect some heat from this choice but it was hard to put anyone else above him if I was being objective.
Offensive Line Coach: Juan Castillo
Juan Castillo was under fire for pretty much the entirety of 2011 and for the most part it wasn’t even his fault. He was such a good offensive line coach that his boss promoted him to defensive coordinator. How many offensive line coaches can say that? You’re right, none, and for good reason.
As much of a disaster as the defense was last season it doesn’t take away from the job Castillo did with the offensive line for 13 seasons.
Castillo was so versed in protections and so respected as a coach that defensive coaches Jim Johnson, Ron Rivera and Leslie Frazier often sought him out for advice in game planning.
In his tenure Castillo coached each of the three offensive linemen the Eagles drafted in the first round to Pro Bowls. He coached four Pro Bowlers in total.
Castillo was mostly given late-round and undrafted players to work with and consistently put together a solid group up front.
He is probably the hardest working coach in team history and with all due respect to the great Howard Mudd, I think I’d have to give a slight nod to Castillo.
Defensive Line Coach: Jim Washburn
Jim Washburn may be another surprise and I’m sure some of you will disagree. He’s only been here for one year so why does he deserve this spot?
Mostly because, much like Jim Johnson, Washburn has brought about change to the Eagles defensive philosophy.
For years the Eagles relied on complicated blitzes by linebackers and the secondary for quarterback pressure. Washburn came in to fix the defensive line and in his first year the Eagles sacked the quarterback 50 times, 46 by the defensive line.
He also helped shape the Eagles draft, heavily influencing the team to secure fan-favorite defensive lineman Fletcher Cox.
Washburn took some heat for his wide-nine and its gaping running holes but with improved play from the back end of the defense that should improve.
Maybe it’s too soon to anoint him to this position but he’s already produced the results that were promised with even better days ahead.
Linebackers Coach: Steve Spagnuolo
So Steve Spagnuolo didn’t have the greatest first run as an NFL head coach. It happens. Don’t forget, though, that he was the chosen one being groomed by Jim Johnson to ultimately take his place when the time came.
Unfortunately his time came in New York, with the Giants and his defense led that most despised rival to a Super Bowl in 2007.
Spags spent 2004-06 as the Eagles linebackers coach and he really wasn’t given much to work with. In 2004 he helped the Eagles reach the Super Bowl with a rejuvenated Jeremiah Trotter along with a ragtag bunch in Dhani Jones, Nate Wayne, Mark Simoneau and the beloved Ike Reese.
Spagnuolo was never a coordinator here but I would take him back in a second to coach the linebackers.
It’s almost impossible to know what some of these position coaches are or aren’t responsible for but I believe Spagnuolo is a great assistant coach and one of the best the Eagles have ever had.
Secondary Coach: Jeff Fisher
Jeff Fisher had his first NFL coaching job in Philadelphia from 1986-90. The first three seasons he spent as the secondary coach and he did an impressive job from ages 28-30 in that capacity.
Despite never coaching a Pro Bowl player in those three seasons, his defensive backs intercepted 61 passes in that span while adding 22 fumble recoveries and 10.5 sacks.
He spent his last two seasons as the defensive coordinator under Buddy Ryan.
As a head coach he had a similar problem to Andy Reid. He won a ton of games and division titles but he never won the whole thing.
As a secondary coach that wouldn’t matter too much and with all of his accomplishments he made great strides from his start in Philadelphia.
Fisher has some competition in Jon Harbaugh and Leslie Frazier, but it’s tough to dispute him as the best option here.
Special Teams Coordinator: Dick LeBeau
I had Jon Harbaugh penciled into this position before I started researching. Somehow I forgot that the great Dick LeBeau got his NFL coaching start as the special team coordinator with the Eagles.
Now I didn’t watch those Eagles teams as I was not born in 1973-75. I have no idea how good or bad they were on special teams then. Statistically they were mediocre but those were some pretty bad Eagles teams.
Now Jon Harbaugh was a great special teams coordinator and his units were always among the best in the league but LeBeau is one of the best assistant coaches in the history of the game.
He’s been to six Super Bowls as an assistant coach with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. He’s won two Super Bowl rings as a defensive coordinator and three of his four losses came against the 49ers and Cowboys dynasties.
Since 2004 LeBeau’s defenses have finished in the top three in points allowed six times, including the No. 1 spot four times.
There may have been more accomplished special teams coordinators in Eagles history but there has been no better coach to hold the position in Philadelphia than Dick LeBeau.