The search for a new DC is over. Billy Davis is our man.
This is a mystery hire and here’s what I mean by that.
Billy Davis has a great coaching background. He’s from Youngstown, OH, one of the great football towns in America. Davis coached for a year in college (Michigan State) before jumping to the NFL. He’s been in the NFL for the last 20 years. Davis worked his way up from defensive assistant to OLBs coach to LBs coach to Defensive Coordinator.
I love coaches that have to grind and work their way up the ladder. Davis didn’t have one great player or great unit that got him a big time reputation. He bounced around the league, dealing with success and failure. He’s coached the 3-4 and 4-3. He’s worked with great players and mediocre talent. Davis has worked for Dom Capers, Wade Phillips, and Mike Nolan. Those guys are defensive gurus. Davis worked for solid coaches like Vic Fangio, Bob Slowik, Dick Jauron, and Ed Donatell.
This all sounds pretty good. What’s the catch?
Davis was the DC for the Niners in 2005 and 2006. He was the DC for the Cardinals in 2009 and 2010. Those 4 years were not all that impressive.
2005 – 30th in Pts , 32nd in Yds, 21st in takeaways, had 27 sacks, team went 4-12
2006 – 32nd in Pts, 26th in Yds, 18th in takeaways, had 34 sacks, team went 7-9
2009 – 14th in Pts, 20th in Yds, 10th in takeaways, had 42 sacks, team went 10-6
2010 – 30th in Pts, 29th in Yds, 8th in takeaways, had 33 sacks, team went 5-11
Did Davis produce mediocre defenses because of his coaching, poor talent, or other circumstances?
He was a new DC in 2005 and didn’t have much talent to work with. I’m sure that was a combination of the two. His defense did improve the next year, but not enough to save his job.
The 2009 Cardinals obviously did some good things. 42 sacks is a good total. They had a good amount of takeaways. They also were tough to score on. The Cards won the NFC West title that year and even a Wild Card game.
The next year the team didn’t have Kurt Warner at QB and the Cardinals fell apart. I’ll need to do more research to know what exactly happened to the defense, but the Cards did play several young guys and they obviously didn’t hold up well to the pressure of playing beside an awful offense (31st in the league in yards).
Billy Davis is a good coach. Can he be a good DC? That’s the mystery.
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There are some reasons to like the move. Davis has 4 years of DC experience. This isn’t McDermott, Castillo, or Bowles learning on the job. Davis has a system. He knows how to teach it. That’s huge for me.
Davis isn’t a big name guy that will come in here and be territorial. He’s not going to clash with Chip Kelly over this and that. Some coordinators with big reputations have done that, especially when dealing with a young/unproven/new head coach.
Davis offers stability. He’s not a young hotshot. The Eagles aren’t likely to be SB contenders this year. You need a coach who can commit to being here for 3 years. Davis fits that description.
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Why the delay in hiring him? It must be that Chip Kelly wanted to talk to someone off the Super Bowl staffs. You really do wonder if Ed Donatell was the guy he wanted and that fell apart when Jim Harbaugh blocked Donatell from talking to the Saints yesterday.
Or it could be that Chip wanted to make a serious run at a college DC and knew he had to wait until after signing day to see if the guy would leave. Signing day was yesterday.
I seriously doubt Billy Davis was Chip’s first choice.
That’s okay. Jim Johnson wasn’t Andy Reid’s first choice. That was Marvin Lewis. The Baltimore Ravens wanted to hire Jason Garrett in 2008, but had to “settle” for John Harbaugh. As I always say, the key is to get the right guy. That doesn’t always mean the big name or the first choice.
Can Billy Davis be that guy? I sure hope so.
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I’ll write a more in-depth post on Davis in the next few days.