Some Bill Davis Talk

Posted: May 18th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 45 Comments »

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?

* * * * *

Bob Grotz of the DelcoTimes reported that Clay Harbor will get some snaps at LB.

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.


  • shah8

    Fundamentally, the kind of issues the Eagles have had with sloppy play since maybe after the Cardinals playoff loss has everything to do with Reid not really having good management capabilities and losing staff members he really needed. Brad Childress was a probably a moderating influence, and Marty Mornigwheg was probably an aggravating influence on offense, for example.

    • Mostel26

      Totally true on the Arizona loss. How does a team get 5 TDs worse from one meeting with a team to the next meeting with that same team? Home field is worth 3 points, not 35.

  • Mostel26

    I think you’re being a big tough on Spags. His calling of that D won a Superbowl because that overrated bum Eli certainly did not.

    • TommyLawlor

      Spags did a great job when he had the right players. I don’t dispute that at all. Think about that DL, though. Strahan, Osi, Tuck…that’s 3 dominant pass rushers.

      Without them, his defenses have been very different.

      • Mostel26

        Tommy, I agree with you about the quality of the defenders on the Giants 100%. I just want to point out that for the sake of a helmet catch and a HORRIBLE read by Patrick Chung, Eli lucked his way into two titles forcing the rest of us to hear endless crowing by Giants fans.

    • xlGmanlx

      Spag’s hasn’t done jack really since before or after the 07 SB run, so I don’t think it is exactly being tough. Sheil over @phillymag has done statistical analysis to back such sentiment as well.

  • James

    Great read. I was actually scanning the interwebs yesterday and watched a Billy Davis talk to the Illinois team, looking for some juicy tidbits. He comes off as a great motivator. That is awesome to hear that there is so much veteran experience on the defensive side and the key point is that they aren’t looking to jump in a HC position the next year. It sounds like they want to build a cohesive winner and will look for the betterment of the team and not themselves.

    Im curious, how much say do you think Chip will have on that side of the ball? Will he be hands on in practice but then let Davis do his thing on gameday?

    At Oregon they really emphasized pursuit during the play and had 7-9 defenders all aggressively attacking and crashing to wherever the ball is. I hope that is instilled in the players brains along with solid tackling.

    Here is the Bill Davis talk if you have a few minutes:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-J1A2d4XoA4

    • Tumtum

      Not a bad vid to help get to know B Davis. Thanks.

    • Arby1

      Now I’m ready to strap on a helmet and go hit somebody. Good video!

  • austinfan

    The right parallel to Harbor isn’t Jordan, who’s simply a different type of athlete, but Barwin, who was converted from TE (and a pretty good one) to DE his senior year in college. A year later Barwin was playing DE, and two years later 3-4 OLB, in the NFL. So it’s not totally implausible.

    Davis’ performance in Arizona was not as bad as advertised.

    2008 before he took over – 28th in points allowed, 19th in yards allowed
    A Smith – Robinson – Dockett – LaBoy/Berry, C Campbell, A Branch, G Watson
    Okeafor – Hayes – Dansby, C Haggans
    Hood – Rolle – Wilson – DRC, Francisco, Green, D Ware

    2009: 14th points, 20th yards
    Cody Brown LB #63, R Johnson S #95, G Toler #131, W Davis DE #204

    Campbell – Robinson – Dockett – G Watson, A Branch
    Okeafor – Dansby – Hayes – C Haggans, Berry, Davis
    McFadden (FA) – Rolle – Wilson – DRC, Adams, D Ware

    Turned the defense around with a lousy draft and McFadden replacing Hood.

    2010: 30th points, 29th yards

    D Williams NT #26, Washington LB #47, Schofield #130, Calvin CB #201
    Schofield coming off an ACL, Williams couldn’t stay healthy

    Campbell – Robinson – Dockett – D Williams, G Watson, A Branch
    Porter (FA) – Lenon – Hayes/Washington – C Haggans, Davis, Schofield
    DRC – Rhodes (FA) – Wilson – Toler, Adams, R Johnson

    With Dansby, Okeafor, Rolle gone, Hayes injured, the defense fell apart.

    2011: 17th points, 18th yards (Horton)

    Peterson #5, S Acho #103, D Carter DE #184

    Campbell – Williams/Eason (FA) – Dockett – Holliday, Carter
    Acho/Porter – Lenon – Washington – C Haggans, Schofield, Bradley
    Marshall (FA) – Rhodes/R Johnson – Wilson – Peterson, Jefferson, Adams

    Horton did a good job coaching through injuries, but the young players drafted the last two years started to step up.

    2012: 17th points, 12th yards (Horton)
    Fleming #80, Bethel #177

    Campbell – Williams – Dockett – Carter, Holliday, Eason
    Groves (FA) – Lenon – Washington – Acho, Schofield, Bradley
    Gay (FA) – Rhodes – Wilson – Peterson, Johnson, Toler, Fleming

    Staying healthy and having some continuity may have as much to do with improvement as coaching.

    Davis really never had much of a chance in Arizona, turned around an old group his first year, lost a bunch of veterans his second year and things fell apart, had he stayed, he might have had as much success as Horton.

    He’s got a more talented group this season than he had in 2009, while Zona had a better secondary, they had some marginal players in the front seven (Bryan Robinson at age 35 shouldn’t be starting at NT, for example, Haggans 32, Okeafor 33, Berry 34).

    • Mostel26

      Agreed! And I’m looking forward to some realism on Horton in Cleveland this year as his D flounders due to an ill-advised scheme change.

    • ClydeSide

      Chip Kelly wants takeaways. That’s what his Oregon defense did–give the ball to his offense. That’s how he went 47-7 the last four yars.
      In all of college football, Oregon was number one in takeaways in the last four years combined.

  • http://twitter.com/alex_karklins Alex Karklins

    I just ordered my tickets for the 9/29 game against the Broncos in Denver, so I’m counting on Billy Davis’ unit to force 4 Peyton Manning interceptions (along with 12 sacks). That isn’t too much to ask, right?

    • TommyLawlor

      Quit being so conservative!!!

      • http://twitter.com/alex_karklins Alex Karklins

        Silly me, that was actually my projection for Fletcher Cox’s stat line for the game. I hate when that happens.

    • Mostel26

      Not at all!

  • awful waffle

    Is Harbor not a good fit for the flex TE/Hback role?

    • TommyLawlor

      He could be, but Casey has that job as the starter. Maybe Kelly likes Igwenqagu or Carrier.

      Maybe Kelly watched Harbor in the OTAs and didn’t like what he saw as a TE, but did like his athleticism. We can only guess.

  • deg0ey

    Per eaglesblog:

    “The Ducks always had a 3-4 package in their defense, for passing situations and such. By making that fourth lineman into a hybrid player, Oregon can now switch easily from a 4-3 to a 3-4, or even less traditional fronts, depending on what the offense figures to do.”

    Azz has gotta be loving Cole/Graham for this – if they’re gonna be primarily stand-up rushers, there’s no doubt they’ll be more than happy to put a hand on the ground on occasion if he asks them to.

    I wonder whether there might be some 4-man lines on running downs, too; Curry and Cox at end, Logan and Sopoaga at tackle. Should be pretty difficult to run up the middle of.

    • http://www.insidetheiggles.com/ CalSFro

      I don’t know if they’re going to end up loving Cole/Graham for it, but at the very least that passage highlights just how much emphasis they place on that “hybrid player” position.

      Going forward, it’s going to be really important to find a chess piece to fill that spot. If it is Cole and/or Graham, all the better. In that case we don’t have to worry about allocating resources to try and find a defensive linchpin. But if not. . .that is the position I’d guess is going to be looked at early and often the next couple of off-seasons. And it kind of makes you think, they probably would have loved to have gotten their hands on Dion Jordan.

      • Dominik

        I wrote basically the same as a comment on EaglesBlog, where Tommy linked the article about the Oregon D and Azz. Don’t know why the comment wasn’t released (it says the comment is ‘under moderation’, then it was deleted).

        Anyway: if you read the article you have to believe that Kelly would have picked Jordan if he would have been available (which he basically admitted during the draft) because of that reason.

        Kelly loves flexibility. If nothing else, that’s very clear from the get go of his tenure here. Jordan would have been the one defender the opponent D couldn’t track down in terms of what he will do the next play. Kelly has to love this. And he knows Jordan better than anybody, of course.

        But that’s no reason to mope. We got Johnson and he’s a great fit for our O-Line, which needed help, with a ton of upside. Still, I’m pretty sure they would have picked Jordan, if the Dolphins didn’t forestalled us.

  • D3FB

    Per Wikipedia Azz was the DC at Duke from 04-06. This means he would have faced Lovett’s Clemson teams there as well as having additional BCS conference DC experience. He was DC in your backyard Tommy, for shame!

    • TommyLawlor

      Azz and I were crime-fighting buddies back then. Good times.

      I wish I could share some of our stories, but Azz made me promise not to tell.

      • D3Center

        Let me guess, your crime fighting days had to end because of Azz’s insistence on more violence?

        • Arby1

          Apparently, the Hamburglar will never walk again..

          • D3Center

            Azz wasn’t a fan of his choice in relish apparently

      • A_T_G

        Azz Kicker and The Law.

        • TommyLawlor

          Hey look…it’s our fan!!!

  • D-von

    Tommy, I don’t know if you ever addressed this but do you believe Donovan McNabb should be inducted into the Hall of Fame? I like McNabb and what he brought to the Eagles, and I believe he is worthy of that honor. However, I hear plenty of naysayers saying that he was just a “good” QB and does not deserve it.

    • TommyLawlor

      I’ve been waiting to write something about Donnie. Will do it soon.

  • EaglesJRL

    Am I wrong to think that Freeney is an odd fit for SD’s 3-4 scheme? Even if he only plays on passing downs, seems like an awful lot of money for a situational player who’s past his prime. They strike me as a 4 win team this season.

    • TommyLawlor

      They were desperate.

  • TommyLawlor

    Jason Avant getting snaps at DB? Yep…

    http://eaglesblog.net/2013/05/avant-as-a-db/

    • http://twitter.com/alex_karklins Alex Karklins

      He’s our slowest receiver with the best hands on the team, which makes him perfect for defending woefully underthrown passes. Chip Kelly thinks of EVERY scenario.

    • A_T_G

      I think, if nothing else, it should help with the locker room that Chip tried everything he could before cutting a couple of long-time Eagles.

      • Arby1

        I think that’s very true.

  • troy412

    Bill davis will do great job few things went wrong last two years the players didnt believe in the dc or the scheme matter fact each other then there was the passive playcalling u have to have the balls to dial up a blitz even if they burned you earlier in the game the last few dc with exception for McDermott none of the dcs blitzed nor had the stones to dial em up in pressure situations davis has the stones and a scheme that is all about pressure the players will love the system and the way he calls a game defense will be much Better than expected the blitz is back

  • ACViking

    Re: TEs to LBs and Marlin McKeever

    Clay Harbor’s being tried out at LB. It’s a long-shot if Chipper decides that LB is Harbor’s only road to the roster.

    A former Eagles MLB went through the same transition — twice — and played 13 years in the NFL. His name was Marlin McKeever.

    (McKeever was also twice traded by the same coach at two different positions from two different teams . . . which has to be some sort of record.)
    ___________________

    In 1961, the Rams drafted USC All American TE Marlin McKeever in the first round. McKeever struggled to get on the field his first three years in LA, playing behind future Green Bay Packer WR, but then Ram TE, Carroll Dale.

    So — on a Rams team that won only10 games from ’61-’63 — McKeever occasionally played OLB.

    In 1964, Dale was gone and McKeever was back at TE.

    By 1966, McKeever had become a Pro Bowl TE under new HC coach George Allen (best remembered as the Redskins HC who lost to the ’72 undefeated Dolphins in the SB).

    But Allen suffered from a compulsion to make trades. So after the ’66 season, he promptly traded Pro Bowl TE McKeever to the Vikings — and their new head coach Bud Grant — for the Vikings first-ever 1st-Rd pick, HB Tommy Mason. (The Rams replaced McKeever with third-year TE Billy Truax, who was big, a very good in-line blocker, and ultimately a better TE than McKeever.)

    McKeever became the Vikings’ starting TE though didn’t do much on the 3-8-3 ”67 Vikings (who were just on the cusp of a decade-ling run great teams).

    And after one year in Minnesota, McKeever was traded to the Redskins . . . for 5th year safety, 2x All Pro, and future HOFer Paul Krause. (Krause then spent the next 12 years roaming centerfield for the Vikings, tallying an NFL record 81 INTs, and burnishing his HOF credentials).

    In 1968, McKeever’s first season as a Redskins, the head coach was former Browns QB and HOFer Otto Graham. Graham had QB’d the Browns to 10 straight championship games, winning 7 of them, in his 10-year career.

    As a coach though, Graham had one big problem. He was quoted once season as saying he’d rather lose 31-28 than win 10-7, because winning 10-7 is just too unexciting. (Graham was fired at the end of that season.)

    The 1968 Redskins were loaded on offense, with future HOFers such as QB Sonny Jurgensen and WR Charlie Taylor, All Pros and Pro Bowlers in FL/TE Jerry Smith and TE/WR Pat Richter. So McKeever road the bench.

    In 1969, the Redskins hired the great Vince Lombardi as their new HC.

    Lombardi — whose Packers played the Rams when McKeever was being used as a LB — moved McKeever back to the defensive side of the ball. Lombardi put McKeever at MLB.

    McKeever last two seasons with the Redskins at MLB, ’69-’70, playing for Lombardi and — after his death in late July 1970 from cancer — Bill Austin.

    In 1971, the Redskins hired former Rams HC George Allen.

    And Allen again traded McKeever . . . this time as a LB — and back to the Rams as part of a huge 14-player/draft pick deal. (Great times.)

    The ‘Skins acquired starting DT Diron Talbert, starting G John Wilbur, RB/special teamer Jeff Jordan, a 5th Rd pick . . . and all 3 of the Rams’ starting LBs: Jack Pardee, Myron Pottios, and former Eagle Maxie Baughn.

    In exchange, the Rams received the ‘Skins 1st and 3rd Rd picks in the ’71 draft (used on future All Pros OLB Isiah Robertson and S Dave Elmondorf), plus four mid-round choices in the ’72 draft . . . and MLB Marlin McKeever.

    McKeever lasted the ’71 and ’72 seasons in LA. But after the ’72 season, the Rams fired HC Tommy Prothro and brought in Chuck Knox — who wanted clear the way for the younger Ram players, including former 1st Rd’r MLB Jack “Hacksaw” Reynolds.

    So the Rams cut McKeever loose. And on the eve of the ’73 season, the Eagles — under new coach Mike McCormack, who’d played for Paul Brown and coached for George Allen — signed McKeever to play MLB. He lasted one year as an Eagles, cut in ’74 when the Eagles signed another Rams’ castoff named Dean Halverson.

    If anyone thinks they’ve seen bad MLB play in the past 35 years as an Eagles fan, then they never saw 1973. The only reason the Eagles finished 25th in run-defense in ’73 is because they finished 25th in pass-defense that year, too.

    ___________________

    So McKeever’s journey from TE to LB to TE to LB may give Clay Harbor a shred of hope that it’s happened before in the NFL.

    • Anders

      Is McKeever one of the coolest NFL names ever?

      • ACViking

        Perfect name for a pub . . .

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509888566 Addison Abdo

    You don’t think Harbor gets picked up by another team should he not make the team?

    • grn_mtn_phan

      I could totally see big red taking him in if nothing else….

  • xlGmanlx

    So you’re high on Kelly, “all in”, but state your concerns about Davis. Then outline how Kelly probably saw through the numbers that made up the very metric you voiced concern over. I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you’re high on Kelly, we should trust his vision on Davis too is all. What I would be interested to know if anybody could dig out who were the folks on Kelly’s list that were his #1′s and if he got all his 1′s across the board and if not, who turned him down.

    I think Kelly is smart enough and his leadership is strong enough to keep this ship on the course he set, his course and his alone. I don’t think there is a metric that can show that or not, but luckily it will all unfold out in front of us in due time.

  • Jacob Shubert

    hey tommy, I know that this would be considered one of those gadget type plays that is shunned by the NFL, but do you think there is any chance that Chip Kelly incorporates the swinging gate on special teams from time to time?
    Even if it doesn’t work, the very thought of Alex Henery trying to do anything athletic makes me happy and I really want to see it at least once.

  • Eric Weaver

    To touch on a few people saying before how chip may want a defense similar to belichicks, moving someone like harbor would be a step in that direction; ala brown, Edelman, etc.