The void Jim Johnson left when he passed away back in July of 2009 has not yet been filled. The Eagles went through three defensive coordinators in the last four seasons, and they all fell short. It is one of the biggest reasons why Andy Reid is now coaching the Chiefs.
The importance of assistant coaches can be lost to a degree when so much focus is on the head man. Chip Kelly is the story, he is the draw. He is also nothing if his staff can’t pull its weight.
We have seen the sharp contrast between the early Reid years in Philly compared to crashing end, and how vital his support system was to his success. There was Brad Childress, Steve Spagnuolo, Leslie Frazier, Ron Rivera and Pat Shurmur (who is now Kelly’s offensive coordinator). But most of all there was Johnson.
Reid seemed perfectly comfortable leaving that side of the ball almost totally in Johnson’s hands. No need to meddle — that may only mess things up. That appears to be the way Kelly would like to have things as well.
“Specifically on game day, I don’t believe you can have someone micromanage it. When I was an offensive coordinator, I was fortunate that the two head coaches that I coached for allowed me to work,” said Kelly. “We’ll have discussions during the week about where we’re going with things, but on game day, those guys have to be able to not worry about who is second guessing them and who is over their shoulder. If I do have to second guess them and I do have to look over their shoulder, then I hired the wrong person.”
There is an image from last season that I often think of that might speak to this. Prior to a special teams unit taking the field, I noticed Reid regularly going up to the huddle towards the end of the season to count and make sure there were 11 men present. Maybe I just never noticed it before, but it struck me as symbolic of a coach’s fading trust in the men he chose to surround himself with.
With Johnson he had the field split in half. Sean McDermott, Juan Castillo and Todd Bowles could not offer such luxuries. He was forced to peer into the huddle.
Can Billy Davis provide a similar sense of confidence for Kelly that Reid enjoyed in his early years? Impossible to say for sure. But as Kelly mania gives way to the reality of life in the NFL, we’ll be reminded that the answer needs to be “yes” if Kelly plans on achieving true success.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Get to know Davis and his preferred approach.
Sheil puts the entire coaching staff into focus.
In the latest Twitter Mailbag, we look at why Kelly and Nick Foles have yet to have a sit-down.
One national reporter says Kelly likes Foles, but “he’s not as high on Foles as some believe.”
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
ESPN the Magazine takes a further look at DeSean Jackson and his involvement in the music industry.
One week into the new year, Jackson is in a positive mood at a Burbank studio. After a six-week stretching regimen, he declares his ribs healed. He’s open and loose, draped on a couch, but tenses when asked if his career is out of balance. “Everyone has their opinion,” he says. “I’m acting. I do commercials. I do charity work almost every week. There’s so many things where you could be, Why is he doing this? Why is he doing that? I’m just living my life.”
With that he heads to the control room where the engineer is tweaking a mix, a work in progress in which he touches on a recurring theme: hater management. Jackson’s voice booms through the speakers: “And I ain’t the jealous type / I’m just livin’ my life.”
Donovan McNabb believes that Vick is a fit for Kelly.
“He fits in it very well, if you look at it from afar,” McNabb said on NFL Network’s “NFL Total Access” on Wednesday. “If you look at just the 2010 season, when they were playing very well, the offensive line was healthy, and they were making explosive plays. Explosive plays from 30, 40, 50 yards, and that’s what Chip Kelly has been doing at Oregon.”
The staff will likely be announced soon. We should have a chance to talk to the assistants in the coming days.