Chip Kelly has yet to name a defensive coordinator. Even though he’s only been the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles for less than a week, the “slowness” at which the DC search is going is starting to make me wonder if Kelly is eying someone on either the Ravens’ or 49ers’ defensive coaching staff.
As noted yesterday, Kelly and the Eagles appear to be hiring defensive position coaches before naming a coordinator. And by the way, the people mentioned in those reports were seen wearing Eagles shirts at the Senior Bowl yesterday, as confirmed by several members of the Philly media.
It’s odd that they would be hiring position coaches before a coordinator, which led me to think that maybe Kelly already knows who his DC will be. Though that still could be true, it seems that perhaps it isn’t after Kelly had this to say about his DC search (quotes courtesy of Jeff McLane and Les Bowen of Philly.com):
“You need really, really, smart people. People who are dedicated,” Kelly said Monday afternoon after the North practice at the Senior Bowl. “You need people who are just a little bit ‘off’ too.”
“I’m not worried about who we don’t get, I’m worried about who we do get,” Kelly said. “I wanna make sure that that person is the right fit, because I don’t wanna be like, ‘God, I wish I’d spent a little more time and investigated this.’ I’ve been pretty thorough, unless it’s somebody that I’ve either coached with or had a real good working knowledge of.
“Shutoutability,” he said. “That would be the one overriding quality. And I have no idea how we can define that.”
“Obviously, you’re looking for a guy that can stop people and [can tell you] philosophically what their theory is and how they go about it,” Kelly said. “But when you interview [someone], I think if you’re a football guy you learn a lot, too.”
Kelly told WIP-AM last week that he was looking for a coordinator with vast NFL experience to lead his defense. Having never coached in the pros, Kelly is likely sitting down with a number of candidates he knows little about.
“That’s why the process takes a little time,” he said.
First off, I like the way Kelly is thinking. When he was asked whether or not he needed a DC that thinks like he thinks, his response was “God, no.” Therefore, it appears Kelly is really trying to find a well-balanced staff who can bring different ideas and opinions to the table.
However, the key thing to take from all those quotes are that he’s looking for someone with “vast NFL experience.”
Though he’s been interviewing people, he could be just biding his time until his true target becomes available, which could be someone from Baltimore or San Fran.
If that’s the case, here are the candidates (position coaches from both teams):
From the 49ers…
- Secondary coach Ed Donatell
- Linebackers coach Jim Leavitt
- DL coach Jim Tomsula
From the Ravens…
- Secondary coach Teryl Austin
- DL coach Clarence Brooks
- Linebackers coach Ted Monachino
- Inside LB coach Don Martindale
Out of that group, the name that best fits “vast NFL experience” would be Ed Donatell. That’s mainly due to his two stints as a defensive coordinator (Green Bay from ’00 – ’03 and Atlanta from ’04 – ’06).
He also has “vast NFL experience” in coaching secondaries. He has spent 14 seasons as a secondary coach with Jets, Broncos and 49ers. All in all, he has 21 years of NFL coaching experience.
Geoff Mosher of CSN tweeted the other day that he was “hearing” that Donatell is surfacing as a DC candidate while at the Senior Bowl practices.
Donatell, you may or may not remember, was the Packers’ defensive coordinator in the 2003 playoff game against the Eagles at the Linc. It was this game where “4th and 26” was born and immediately became legendary in Philadelphia.
While it was a play that will live in Eagles lore forever, it was also the play that cost Donatell his job as he was fired five days later.
We can say Donatell was made a “scapegoat” for that defensive breakdown, but teams don’t usually fire a good coach over one play. Therefore, that play was most likely more of a “straw that broke the camel’s back” kind of play.
Though he has spent most of his career coaching defensive backs, here is how Donatell’s defenses have ranked during the seven years he spent as a DC with both Green Bay and Atlanta (2000 – 2006):
- 2000 – 15 in total yards, 14th in points against
- 2001 – 12th in yards 5th in points
- 2002 – 12th in yards, 12th in points
- 2003 – 17th in yards, 11th in points
- 2004 – 14th in yards, 4th in points
- 2005 – 22nd in yards, 18th in points
- 2006 – 22nd in yards, 15th in points
Based on those stats, his units look mostly average…aka, nothing special but not that bad.
However, with the exception of his last two years in in Atlanta, Donatell’s defenses had consistently ranked in the top 10 in sacks and interceptions.
The only year in Green Bay that his defense was not in the top 10 in one of those categories was in 2003, when his defense dropped to 20th in sacks (but still ranked eighth in interceptions).
Out of the other candidates from the Super Bowl squads, the guy with the most NFL experience is Ravens’ DL coach Clarence Brooks. However, his entire 20-year NFL career has been as a DL coach so I don’t foresee him making the jump to DC at this point.
49ers’ DL coach Jim Tomsula has an interesting background. He has nine years experience in NFL Europe, including two as a DC and one as a HC. However, his NFL experience only consists of five years as a DL coach with San Fran, though he did serve as the interim head coach for exactly one game at the end of 2010.
Teryl Austin has nine years of NFL experience, but like Brooks, it’s all at one position (secondary).
Don Martindale has nine season’s worth of NFL experience, but mostly as a linebackers coach. He did serve one year as Denver’s DC and was almost hired by Oakland at one point to be their head coach.
If the Eagles are looking at one of these guys, odds are it’s Ed Donatell based on his meeting Kelly’s “vast NFL experience” requirement (if that holds true). He’s not quite the sexy name people were hoping for, but he might be at least a competent hire.
With that said, keep an eye on Don Martindale and possibly Jim Tomsula. Martindale has a good reputation around the league and Tomsula has helped fashion San Fran’s defense.
Though neither has the vast NFL experience, they both have versatile backgrounds and are guys that could be looking for a promotion.