When asked what the Eagles’ defense needs to focus on going forward, new coordinator Todd Bowles did not hesitate.
“We’ve got to finish at the end of the games,” he said. “We’ve got to finish and win games. The bottom line is, when you’re out there on defense, it doesn’t matter what happens when you’re out there at the end of the game, you’ve got to finish.”
Bowles’ comments especially ring true two days after the Eagles’ defense surrendered 20 points to the Lions in the fourth quarter and overtime. Of the Birds’ last 11 losses, six have come after they led going into the final 15 minutes. And in those losses, the defense has allowed 77 fourth-quarter points.
Standing in front of the media at the Novacare Complex for the first time, sporting a black Temple hoodie, Bowles said he had been informed of the coaching change 10 hours earlier. He was asked about his playing days – both with the Owls (1982-1985) and in the NFL, where he started 82 games during an eight-year span.
“Being a player, you can put yourself in the same situations because you’ve been in them,” Bowles said. “So when the guys come to you with problems, then you can refer back to your playing days. You don’t have to agree with them. You say, ‘This is why we’re doing this so this is why they’re doing this to you’ and it just helps the relationship go a lot better.”
Before joining the Eagles as the secondary coach in the offseason, the 48-year-old spent time as the interim coach of the Dolphins, earning that title after Miami fired Tony Sparano last December. In other words, Bowles is no stranger to in-season change.
“Last year probably was the biggest shock, so coming into this year, similar situation as far as it happening in-season, it kind of prepares you not to get too high or too low,” he said. “Just to be professional and do your job, and if something happens, you’re ready to do everything else also.”
Bowles has never served as a defensive coordinator in the NFL, although he did have that title at Morehouse College and Grambling State. He seemed unfazed at having to call plays on gameday.
“You just watch enough film and trust your instincts enough to make calls and make sure everybody’s on the same page,” Bowles said. “Try to take away what they’re doing, and yet not expose what you’re doing.”
As for whether he’ll coach on the field or in the box, Bowles said he’ll figure that out in the next few days.
“I’ve been on the field, and I’ve been in the box,” he said. “The box is probably a little calmer because you can’t yell at anybody, and nobody’s going to hear you. On the field, you have hands on the players, but the reaction steps are a lot quicker so you’ve got to kind of get a feel for what the rest of your coaches can do, and have a feel for what your players need, whether I’m up or down.”
Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.