In the lengthy Chip Kelly post I mentioned that I was skeptical of the Bill Davis hire. I hope he turns out to be a terrific Defensive Coordinator, but his track record is mixed, to put it mildly. His 2 years as DC for the Niners and 2 years as DC for the Cardinals yielded results that were less than ideal. Chip Kelly is a smart coach so what would make him hire Bill Davis? Clearly this is a case where Kelly went beyond the numbers.
One thing I think will help Davis is the defensive staff. Let’s look back at his first 2 stops. The SF staff had good coaches, but wasn’t a good fit for a first time DC like Davis. The head coach was Mike Nolan, who really ran the defense. The assistant head coach was Mike Singletary. Davis has stated since then that it was frustrating trying to do what Nolan wanted and not having total control. This isn’t an insult to Nolan, who I think very highly of. This is similar to Brad Childress trying to be the Eagles OC with Andy Reid as the HC. Childress clearly preferred a more conservative running attack, but he ran the offense that Andy wanted…lots of passing. The results were good enough that Childress wasn’t negatively affected. Davis was and Nolan let him go after the 2006 season.
In Arizona Davis had total freedom, but just not a staff that was very good. Recognize these names?
DL – Ron Aiken
OLB – Ryan Slowik
LB – Matt Raich
DB – Teryl Austin
I’ve heard of Austin, but that’s it. He’s now a coach on the rise, but back then wasn’t a coach with a big reputation.
One of the big problems with that staff is a lack of experience. None of the 4 key assistants had ever been a DC or HC. Davis went from tons of experience around him in SF to none in Arizona. Compare that to the Eagles staff.
DL – Jerry Azzinaro
OLB – Bill McGovern
ILB – Rick Minter
DB – John Lovett
All 4 of those coaches have been a DC. Minter and Azzinaro even had HC experience. Coach Azz only ran a small, small program for one season, but even that gives you a certain perspective that other coaches don’t have and can’t understand.
Davis is now an experienced DC and he’s got a veteran staff around him.
Just as important, I think the personalities fit well. As we learned, the 2012 staff did not have the cohesive bond that you want. There was Jim Washburn and his DL…and there was the rest of the defense. Todd Bowles was new to the team and hoping to turn a good showing into a DC or HC gig for 2013. Mike Caldwell was the LBs coach and just trying to get his feet under him as a young coach. Juan Castillo was in charge and trying to run the show, despite great credentials or communication skills.
The 2013 staff is a group of veteran football coaches. No one is pushing for another job. No one is a star on the rise. Chip Kelly brought Azz here from Oregon. Azz worked with McGovern at UMass. Azz worked with Minter at Marshall. Lovett is the lone outsider. He did run the Maine defense in 1994. Azz was on the UMass staff that year and the two schools played each other. Lovett was the Clemson DC when Minter was an assistant at South Carolina in 2004. This doesn’t make them buddies, but coaches do tend to know about coaches that are local to them. Sometimes they’re recruiting against each other. One other key selling point for Lovett is that Tommy Tuberville hired him at 3 different stops. When a coach is willing to hire you that much, it generally means you’re a good guy and a good coach.
The bottom line here is that I think this group will be cohesive. There shouldn’t be a problem with egos and agendas.
Davis will have good teachers around him. I think that is going to be a tremendous help. Coaches are like players. There are good ones and there are special ones. John Elway could put an entire team on his back and take them to the Super Bowl. Trent Dilfer needed one of the greatest defenses in NFL history to win the big game. Guys like Wade Phillips, Dick LeBeau, Bill Belichick, and Rex Ryan are defensive gurus that don’t need great pieces around them. Compare that to a guy like Steve Spagnuolo. When he had the right circumstances in NY, he put out top defenses. In St. Louis they were mediocre. With the Saints…historically bad in 2012.
I think Bill Davis is in a good situation…off the field. On the field? We can debate that from now to September, but nobody really knows. There are just too many unknowns. I do think the defense has more potential than some people give it credit for. If the unit does struggle in 2013, which certainly is possible, you can bet that side of the ball will get a ton of help next offseason. One of the keys for 2013 is finding out who can play and who can’t.
It is easy to pick on Bill Davis and question the hire, but I do trust Chip. He’s betting some of his job security on Davis doing a good job of running the defense. If Chip is willing to do that, who am I to doubt.
BILL DAVIS > buddy ryan
Is that going too far?
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This is a good and bad sign for Harbor. It is bad because he’s entering the 4th year of his career and when you start getting looks at a completely different spot at that stage, it isn’t a good sign.
The positive angle is that moving Harbor around shows the Eagles have interest in him. If the coaches simply wanted him gone, they’d cut him. Harbor has size, toughness, and athletic ability. This is a guy you want to keep around if you can. The TE depth chart is now crowded.
Y – Brent Celek … Zach Ertz
F – James Casey … Emil Igwenagu … Derek Carrier
Harbor’s best chance to make the team is probably if he can make the transition to LB. Or if someone else gets hurt. Harbor does have the potential to be a good LB. He’s big enough to set the edge. He can play in space. Whether he can hit, tackle, and rush the passer is the big mystery. No idea on that stuff.
As many have pointed out, Dion Jordan was a WR/TE at Oregon before becoming the 3rd overall pick in this year’s draft. It is unlikely that Harbor can make the transition at a functional level, let alone anything close to that, but the point is that this isn’t impossible. We’re not moving Brent Celek to FS or Nate Allen to LT.
I’m interested to see how Clay does, whether at LB or TE. The pressure is on for him. Either he plays well this summer or he’s out of the NFL.