Who Will Run Chip Kelly’s Defense?

The process is already under way.

Now that Chip Kelly has been named head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, it’s time to figure out who’s going to help him. Perhaps the most important decision he’ll make (other than figuring out the quarterback situation) will be finding a defensive coordinator.

“Chip has not said one word to me on the headset in four years as a head coach,” Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti told Les Bowen of the Daily News. “He’s never been in a meeting, he’s never questioned a call. He’s never said anything when we’ve played badly. He doesn’t say a whole lot when we’ve played well. He’s left me completely alone. It’s been unbelievable autonomy. It’s been a fantastic relationship. I really appreciate it.”

Casey Matthews, who played for Kelly, was asked earlier this month if Kelly was hands-on with the defense.

“Tried to be,” Matthews said. “At first he was strictly with the offense, then he started to come over and talking to the defense. He knew what we were doing – obviously as a head coach he should know – but he would come over and at first it was kind of weird, he would come over and start talking about what you need to do, but he did a good job of knowing the game plan.”

We’ll find out soon enough how much input Kelly plans to have on defense now that he’s in the NFL. But Derrick Gunn of CSN Philly is reporting that Kelly is trying to get Georgia’s Todd Grantham to join his staff.

Grantham has spent the past four seasons as the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator. He was on four different NFL staffs the previous 11 seasons. He coached the Cowboys’ defensive line in 2008 and 2009; was the Browns’ defensive coordinator from 2005 to 2007; the Texans’ defensive line coach from 2002 to 2004; and the Colts’ defensive line coach from 1999 to 2001.

He has a variety of coaching influences, having served under Romeo Crennel in Cleveland, Dom Capers in Houston, Wade Phillips in Dallas and Nick Saban at Michigan State. Grantham also coached under Frank Beamer and Bud Foster at Virginia Tech.

Under Grantham’s direction, Cleveland’s defense ranked 24th, 19th and 23rd, according to Football Outsiders’ rankings.

We should get a better idea Thursday of what kind of defensive scheme Kelly plans on running. But there are some – like Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com – who believe the Eagles plan on switching to a 3-4.

There are some notable veteran candidates on the market. Crennel’s name has not been mentioned in connection with any coordinator jobs, but he’s available after being let go by the Chiefs. Lovie Smith (not a 3-4 guy) has not landed a head-coaching job yet, but he’s not expected to take a coordinator gig, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

One name to keep an eye on could be Ray Horton. The Cardinals’ defensive coordinator has been interviewing for head-coaching gigs, but has not been hired. As of this writing, only two jobs remain: Arizona and Jacksonville. If Bruce Arians gets the Cardinals’ job, he could hire Todd Bowles to run the defense, according to Mike Garafolo of USA Today. That would potentially make Horton a free agent.

There are still some chips that could fall. The Bears want to retain Rod Marinelli, according to Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times, but that’s not a definite. He could join Monte Kiffin’s staff in Dallas, according to reports.

Other coordinators who are currently on the market: Rob Ryan, Dick Jauron and Mel Tucker. Tucker has interviewed for the Jaguars’ head-coaching job.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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