It is pretty clear that most Eagles fans are not very fired up about the hiring of Billy Davis. I’m not going to lie and tell you I’m in love with the move. That said, my reaction isn’t overly negative either. Why? There weren’t great candidates available. You always need perspective.
So let’s compare Billy to some DC candidates.
Ed Donatell – BLOCKED! Stinkin’ Jim Harbaugh didn’t even give us a chance to talk to Ed.
Todd Grantham – A lot of fans were fired up about Todd. Not me. He was given elite talent at Georgia and produced good defenses. See the problem there? Some might point to UGA being 5th in yards allowed in 2011, but that was a mighty soft schedule. When Georgia did face good offenses, they gave up 35 points to Boise, 45 to South Carolina, 42 to LSU, and 33 to Michigan State. Grantham is a good college DC with some NFL experience. He’s not the guy that the hype would lead you to belive.
Is he better than Davis? The NFL stats would say yes, but not by much. And the red flag there is that Grantham’s defense got worse each year.
Kirby Smart – Apparently he was not a legit candidate, despite all kinds of rumors. Him going to the NFL made no sense to me. Stay at Bama another year and then take over as HC of some other college.
Steve Spagnuolo – How the mighty have fallen. Spags looked like a genius after his work with the Giants in 2007 and 2008. He struggled in St. Louis and then was the DC of a trainwreck unit in New Orleans this past year. They were on pace to be the worst defense of all time, yardage wise. Not sure if they set that record. Spags is hard to evaluate at this point. You can’t erase his success with the Giants, but that was a long time ago.
Rob Ryan – The numbers aren’t good. He’s also never been the DC on a winning NFL team. Rob has a big mouth and can be a distraction. His units were sloppy and undisciplined for much of 2012. Funny enough, there used to be a lot of hype around Rob Ryan. Dallas turned out not to be the best spot for him.
Ray Horton – Many fans wanted Horton. Ray is a good coach, but let’s get the facts straight. He isn’t the guru that his hype would lead you to believe. The Cardinals were 18th in yards allowed in 2011 and 12th this year. They were 17th in scoring defense both years. The Cards did finish 4th in takeaways this season (special shout out to Mike Vick). Horton might turn out to be a great coach. Right now he’s a good coach coming off a so-so year and a pretty good year.
Crazy stat of the day…Ray Horton as DC has worse numbers than Juan Castillo. Ray had 346 yds and 22 pts per game. Juan is at 327 yds and 21 pts per game.
Here’s the tricky part with Ray. Let’s say he does put a great defense on the field in 2013. Chances are he’ll be a HC in 2014. Ray desperately wants to be a HC. Do you hire a guy that is going crazy to move on? Some might argue yes, take the better coach and the risk. This is where you have to understand how Chip Kelly is thinking. He might prefer guys that he can keep together for at least 3 years, that way he’s got a more realistic chance to compete for a Super Bowl.
If I had to pick Horton or Davis to coach a game to save Megan Fox’s life, I’m taking Horton. Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple an argument as that. As we saw in recent years. Staff stability and cohesiveness are huge factors. For those reasons, passing on Horton may have been wise.
Todd Bowles – It won’t surprise me if Todd turns out to be a really good coach down the road, but we couldn’t bring him back after the dysfunctional 2012 season. I don’t blame him for the bizarre situation, but we had to clean house. He’s now running the show in Arizona. Will be interesting to see what he does with the unit that Horton left him.
Bob Sutton – The least known of the DCs this offseason. He’ll run the defense for Andy Reid in KC. Sutton was the Jets DC for 3 years prior to Rex Ryan’s arrival. Sutton stayed on as LBs coach after Rex took over. Sutton posted pedestrian results as DC. He is a veteran coach with experience in college and the NFL. Sutton is older (62), but has tons of experience. There isn’t much bad to say about Sutton, but he’s also not a compelling DC.
Mike Pettine – Good assistant coach. Was the DC for the Jets, but that was really Rex Ryan running the show. Pettine left in part to show what he could do on his own. He’s unknown as a DC. Might turn out to be a great hire for the Bills, but could also crash and burn. Rex was the key to the Jets defensive success in recent years. I’m really curious to see how Mike does.
Ted Monachino – Staying put in Baltimore. Good coach, but doesn’t have DC experience. That was a huge deal for me. I didn’t want a young coach who was going to be learning on the job. We needed someone with experience.
Bob Babich – Another good positional coach. Ran the Bears defense from 2007-09. The Bears were a mediocre to bad defense in those years. The team thrived under Ron Rivera before him and under Rod Marinelli after him. That doesn’t paint a pretty picture for Babich. He’s now working with Gus Bradley in JAX. I’ll definitely take Davis over Babich.
Dan Quinn – Bradley’s replacement in Seattle. Veteran DL coach with limited DC experience. Ran the Florida defense the last 2 years. Might thrive with help from Pete Carroll, but I’d be nervous about a guy like him working for an offensive HC.
Dick Jauron – Ran the Browns defense the last 2 years. In 2011 they were very good, but could not come up with takeaways. This year they struggled to stop people but had a lot of takeaways (special shout out to Michael Vick). Go figure. Veteran coach, but his teams have been the definition of mediocrity. I’ll pass. Might get the DC job with the Rams.
Monte Kiffin – Seeing Monte at the Senior Bowl was awkward. The man is 72 and it shows. Did great, great things in Tampa, but was basically fired by his son last month. The Trojans finished 60th in yards allowed. Watch him walk around and it is hard to figure out how he’s supposed to lead a bunch of guys age 20-35 on the football field. I don’t know what to think of Monte anymore. He’s now in Dallas and I have no idea what to expect. Won’t shock me to see this end up as a disaster.
Mel Tucker – Similar to Billy Davis. Tucker has been a DC for 5 years. 4 are bad. Didn’t exactly have great players to work with. Has a good reputation around the league. Were the issues on him or the talent? He’s now taking over as the Bears DC. Another coach I’m real curious about. Going to Chicago might do him a world of good. Jacksonville hasn’t exactly been a factory of greatness in recent years.
Eric Mangini – His reputation is that of a guru. The numbers don’t back that up at all. He thrived as an assistant for Bill Belichick, but the perception that he’s a terrific defensive coach doesn’t mesh with reality.
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When you look at the overall group of candidates, you can see there weren’t a bunch of guys that made you say “Oh, go hire him right now!”. It just wasn’t that kind of year.
I’m sure some of you will have favorite candidates in that group. I didn’t and that’s why I stayed so quiet in the DC search. The one guy I wanted was Rex Ryan, but the Jets never fired him. There were others who interested me, but all of these guys have flaws.
I do trust Chip Kelly. Davis likely wasn’t his first choice, but Chip knows that he needs the right coach on defense if the Eagles are going to win and he’s going to succeed. If Chip is willing to take a chance on Davis, I’ll buy in.
I’ll write more on Davis later. There is lots of research to be done.