Reaction To Chip Kelly’s Coaching Staff

There has been plenty of buzz since Chip Kelly officially announced his staff on Friday. We rounded up some of that reaction for your reading pleasure.

First off, if you haven’t already make sure you dive into Sheil’s breakdown (with help from the All-22) of the “4-3 under” that new defensive coordinator Billy Davis has used in the past. In this hybrid scheme there is a position called the Predator, which is essentially an outside linebacker/defensive end that almost exclusively rushes the passer.

Dan Graziano talks about that position and more.

In this arrangement, the Eagles’ “predator” could be either Trent Cole or Brandon Graham. Either one fits the mold as a pure pass-rusher with a great first step and, especially in Graham’s case, a high motor. I’m not sure either of those guys translates to the strong-side linebacker role in this scheme, and Mychal Kendricks seems suited to the weak-side linebacker role. They may need to find a more traditional stand-up linebacker and either rotate or decide between Cole and Graham, since you have to think Cullen Jenkins and Fletcher Cox are the ends and the nose tackle is someone not yet on the roster.

Another interesting aspect has to do with veteran middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who would remain an extremely important player in a scheme such as this. It’s true that one of the reasons the Texans traded Ryans to the Eagles was that he’d become an imperfect fit once they switched to a 3-4, but that had more to do with Ryans’ salary and the emergence of fellow linebacker Brian Cushing as a superior three-down option than it did Ryans’ ability to play the scheme. And if Davis runs a system similar to the one he ran in Arizona, Ryans takes on a vital dirty-work role.

Tommy Lawlor gives a thoughtful take on the new staff, while zoning in on the O-line coach:

Hiring OL coach Jeff Stoutland came as a real surprise.  He did a phenomenal job at Alabama, developing the nation’s best OL this year.  The most interesting tie-in with Stoutland is that he was the OC at Cornell in the early 90′s when their QB was a kid named Bill Lazor.  Getting a coach like Stoutland is a real coup.  He was given Grade-A talent at Alabama and delivered a great O-line.  Some may question how he’ll do with Chip Kelly’s system.  Chris Brown, who runs SmartFootball.com, said on Twitter a while back that “Chip Kelly’s top run plays — inside zone, outside zone & power (guard pull) — are same Trent Richardson ran at Alabama.”  I would say that Stoutland and Kelly will be an excellent match in terms of style and system.

Reuben Frank cautions against jumping to conclusions about Kelly’s assistants simply because they lack star power.

The Eagles’ success from 2000 through 2008 was due in great part to Andy Reid’s original staff. When those guys gradually began leaving for promotions — Ron Rivera, Leslie Frazier, John Harbaugh, Brad Childress, Steve Spagnuolo, Shurmur — on top of the tragic death of Jim Johnson, that’s when the Eagles stopped enjoying the same level of success and gradually turned into a last-place team.

When Reid announced those guys, the names certainly didn’t blow anybody away, and the reaction was much the same as it’s been the last couple weeks, as Kelly’s hires have been revealed one by one.

Shurmur had been an offensive line coach at Stanford. Frazier was head coach at obscure Trinity College, where he started up the program. Spags was coaching in the World League, of all places. Rivera had just returned to the NFL after five years in private business. Harbs was an unknown special teams coach, still 13 years from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.  Offensive coordinator Rod Dowhower was the ultimate journeyman coach, in his 14th job in 28 years. Even the legendary Johnson hadn’t had a unit ranked higher than 18th during his two years as an NFL defensive coordinator, 1996 and 1997 with the Colts.

But put it all together, and it worked.

Much of the talk has been about Navy Seal trainer turned Eagles Sports Science Coordinator Shaun Huls. Lindsay Jones of USA Today looks for the meaning behind the move:

Since the Eagles lured Kelly away from Oregon last month, the NFL world has been wondering how Kelly would implement his innovative college system, with his high-paced practices and up-tempo offense, in the NFL.

Hiring Huls appears to be part of that plan. While other teams have dabbled with alternative training programs — the Denver Broncos, for example, gutted their training room after hiring a new strength coach last year — the Eagles are thought to be the first to add a Sports Science Coordinator in an official capacity.

Kelly has previous experience with Navy SEAL training. In 2011, he put his Oregon team through a program called “Judgment Day” led by a former SEALs trainer, and in 2010 told The New York Times how much he admired military-style training.

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Coaching Buzz: On Grantham And Donatell

Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham spoke to a group of fans gathered for national signing day Wednesday, and was vague about whether he would be returning to the program.

From the Atlanta-Journal Constitution:

Invariably came the question about Grantham’s future with Georgia. “Will you still be with us two or three years from now,” a fan asked Grantham.

“You know what? I can tell you this, that my family loves it here; I like it here a lot; and this is a very special place and I think today needs to be focused on the players we’ve got here right now and trying to get back to Atlanta,” Grantham said.

Grantham has been linked to the Eagles’ defensive coordinator job. He is also reportedly in the mix for the same post in New Orleans,  and is expected to interview with the Saints Thursday.

It is possible that Chip Kelly is waiting for national signing day to pass before naming his staff. He wants to announce all his coaches at once, so the Eagles have not been confirming any coaching hires individually.

The defensive coordinator post has been particularly difficult to pin down. The Eagles interviewed Browns linebackers coach Billy Davis and have been linked to Ravens linebackers coach Ted Monachino and Niners secondary coach Ed Donatell.  Kelly may want to interview assistants on the two Super Bowl teams before making a decision.

Meanwhile, Grantham’s name continues to pop up.

Steve Spagnuolo is also on the market, though a source recently told Birds 24/7 that nothing is cooking there.

There is some news on the Donatell front.


Donatell’s name surfaced as a potential target for the Eagles, then cooled. Perhaps the Niners denied the Eagles’ advances as well.

Billy Davis In the Mix For Eagles’ DC Job

We are closer to the Eagles naming a defensive coordinator, though it doesn’t feel that way.

A common thought as the rest of Chip Kelly’s staff got filled out was that there was a defensive coordinator all but locked in, and it was just a matter of said coach getting through with his Super Bowl run before it became official.

The presumed candidate was San Francisco defensive backs coach Ed Donatell, whom Brian Dawkins strongly endorsed on Sunday. There was little to suggest otherwise. Early hot names like Georgia’s Todd Grantham had cooled, Giants linebackers coach Jim Herrmann pulled out of the running, and Donatell’s name was the only one that had any stick to it.

Maybe he still is the guy. But as the days trudge on and the news cycle flips over, a couple new names have made their way into the conversation.

One name we told you to keep an eye on was Browns linebackers coach Billy Davis, who has served as defensive coordinator for both the Niners and Cardinals over his career. As it turns out, Davis interviewed for the job on Sunday.

Ravens linebackers coach Ted Monachino is now in the Eagles’ sights as well, according to the Inquirer. Monachino has been an assistant for both the Jaguars and Ravens, but never a defensive coordinator.

Steve Spagnuolo came onto the market and, given his relationship with the Eagles and his background, it makes sense that Kelly would at least have a conversation with him. Spagnuolo’s defenses of late have failed to come close to mirroring the ones he had in New York, and there are no signs at this point that he is in serious consideration for the job.

The idea that a wink-wink agreement with Donatell  was in place is now out the window, and that raises some questions. Is it troublesome, for instance, that most of Kelly’s staff was assembled without the input of the eventual DC?

The Browns’ season has been over for some time; why interview Davis now? Did the Eagles not want Herrmann, or did Herrmann not want the Eagles?

The idea of Donatell being the coach in waiting brought a feeling of structure to the process, even if you didn’t think much of him as a candidate. Now it all feels up in the air. The important thing is to get the right man for the job, and it is still entirely possible that happens. We just feel a little farther away from a conclusion than we did a week ago.

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Dawkins on Donatell: ‘I Love That Move’

If Chip Kelly does in fact tab Ed Donatell to be his defensive coordinator, he has the backing of one of the all-time Eagle greats.

“If he’s the guy, I love that move,” said Brian Dawkins in a phone conversation with Birds 24/7.

Donatell was the defensive backs coach in Denver during Dawkins’ first two years with the Broncos. The unit finished third against the pass in their first season together before slipping to 25th in 2010. In two seasons with Denver, the team ranked seventh in opponent completion percentage (59 percent) and ninth in passing yards per game (224).

“When I first started coaching high school [after retirement] he was one of the very first people I called because I remembered some of the good techniques and drills that he would teach,” said Dawkins. “That’s how much I respect him. I think he would be a great hire because he is able to get the best out of his guys. He puts them in a good position, gives them the  tools and then lets them go play football.”

Donatell moved on to become the secondary coach in San Francisco. During the 2012 regular season, the Niners were fourth against the pass, second in points per game and third overall as a defense.

Some believe that the Eagles will name Donatell defensive coordinator once the Niners wrap up their Super Bowl run.

Besides Dawkins, the 54-year-old Donatell has worked with standout defensive backs like Ronnie Lott, Steve Atwater, Darren Sharper and Champ Bailey over his 20-plus years in the NFL. He has been the defensive coordinator for both the Packers and Falcons. Guys like cornerback Carlos Rogers seem to be benefiting from working under Donatell and 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. The former Redskin posted a career-high six interceptions last season and made his first Pro Bowl.

“He is very knowledgeable, high energy and he knows his stuff,” said Dawkins. “When I say high energy, bro, I mean high energy. He’ll talk a mile a minute sometimes. But he is not hard to talk to.”

Not everything about Donatell’s resume is glowing. Most notable to Philadelphians is the fact that he was the Packers’ defensive coordinator in 2003 when Freddie Mitchell was allowed to shake loose to make the famous 4th-and-26 catch in the Eagles’ divisional-round win over Green Bay.

But it is part of a long ride in the coaching ranks that Dawkins believes will be valuable.

“He’s been around long enough, has been in a lot of different places and has learned from the different places he has been how to handle the media, the stress of the job,” said Dawkins. “I think all those lessons learned will have prepared him to do a good job here.”

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The Steve Spagnuolo Question

A new name entered the public discussion about the Eagles’ defensive coordinator opening Thursday when the Saints fired Steve Spagnuolo.

Sean Payton explained that the Saints are moving to a 3-4. Of course, it didn’t help that New Orleans’ defense was terrible last year.

Andy Reid and the Eagles tried to hire Spagnuolo (in some capacity) last offseason, but he decided to go to the Saints. He spent eight seasons as an assistant in Philadelphia from 1999 to 2006 (quality control, defensive backs, linebackers). Spagnuolo was the Giants’ defensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008 before going to St. Louis. The Rams went 10-38 in three seasons under Spagnuolo’s direction.

So, the question is: Should the Eagles give him a serious look as defensive coordinator?

Chip Kelly has not made any official announcements on his staff. The thought this week in Mobile, Ala. was that they were giving consideration to a defensive assistant from the Super Bowl – specifically, 49ers defensive backs coach Ed Donatell. But again, nothing appeared to be set in stone.

Rick Minter and Bill McGovern are expected to be named to the defensive coaching staff. Both were at the Senior Bowl with Eagles credentials. But their roles are undefined.

Here is a look at how Spagnuolo’s defenses have performed in the last six seasons:

 
Team
Title
Scoring Defense Rank
Football Outsiders Rank
2007GiantsDefensive Coordinator1713
2008GiantsDefensive Coordinator58
2009RamsHead Coach3131
2010RamsHead Coach1219
2011RamsHead Coach2621
2012SaintsDefensive Coordinator3132

Spagnuolo did a great job with the Giants, but his defenses have struggled since. Of course, there’s more to it than just these rankings – personnel, injuries, etc.

One anonymous Saints player ripped Spagnuolo in an interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

“He does have that good-guy persona, but he is a control freak and treats people like crap,” the player said. “(Spagnuolo has) no patience and zero personality. (He) has a way of pissing players and our defensive coaches off with how he says and does things. (I) think it’s even harder after having (former defensive coordinator) Gregg (Williams), who guys enjoyed.”

“Players have no say in anything,” the player said. “It was (a) complete opposite from before where it was a simple D that players had lot of control and say. We couldn’t suggest (expletive)…Nothing ever changed. It was his way only.

“Don’t even get me started on lack (of) ability to adjust during games. Bad, bad, bad.”

Of course, players have axes to grind with coaches all the time. As recently as last offseason, Spagnuolo was thought of highly within the Eagles’ organization.

But if Kelly wants to go to a 3-4, Spagnuolo wouldn’t fit. And even if he wants to stick with a 4-3, Kelly has to determine whether Spagnuolo would be the best option.

The other possibility is considering Spagnuolo for an advisory role or some other non-coordinator position.

Payton couldn’t make moves until he was re-instated, but given that many teams have already filled out their staffs, Spagnuolo’s options may be somewhat limited.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Dave Fipp To Coach Special Teams

The Eagles won’t officially announce their coaching staff until every position is filled; that’s how Chip Kelly wants it.

Safe to say, though, that Dave Fipp will be named special teams coordinator when that time comes.

The 38-year-old Fipp, who served as an assistant special teams coach in Miami for the past two seasons, was spotted at Senior Bowl practice Wednesday wearing an Eagles sweatshirt. He was congratulated by San Diego head coach Mike McCoy on his new assignment.

“”I have heard great things,” McCoy said.

Fipp has five years of NFL coaching experience. He worked as an assistant special teams coach in San Francisco from 2008-10 before moving onto Miami. His collegiate resume includes stints as defensive coordinator both at Cal Poly and San Jose State.

The San Diego native interviewed at the University of New Hampshire when Kelly was coaching there. While they never ended up working together, they maintained a connection.

The Dolphins were fourth overall on special teams last season, according  to the rankings of Dallas Morning News’ Rick Gosselin, while the Eagles were 28th.

Coaching Buzz: Herrmann Withdraws Name From DC Search

Some news to pass along regarding the Eagles’ assistant coaching search, which we now know will no longer include Jim Herrmann.

Herrmann has spent the last four season as the Giants linebackers coach and has seven years of NFL experience. Whether it was the Eagles or Hermann that made the decision, he obviously was not a fit.

There appeared to be some early interest in Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Albert Breer of NFL Network says the Eagles are now focusing on the pro ranks to find their defensive coordinator.

Azzinaro served as Oregon’s defensive line coach under Kelly, and McGovern is the linebackers coach for Boston College.

According to Football Scoop, Bills wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell and former Kentucky defensive coordinator Rick Minter will also be part of Kelly’s staff.  Bicknell was an offensive line coach for Temple in 2006.

The Eagles have not been commenting about their assistant search. We plan on speaking with Kelly Monday afternoon at Senior Bowl practice and will update you afterwards.

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Report: Kelly Names Pat Shurmur Offensive Coordinator

Chip Kelly‘s staff will have a little Andy Reid flavor to it.

The Eagles will name Pat Shurmur offensive coordinator, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

“For me, [my goal is] to put the best staff possible together with the same vision that I have. I believe that the value of that is huge, and we all have to understand what our vision is, and how we want this football team to look like, and then coach like that every single day,” said Kelly on Friday. “You have to rely on people that have been there before, and we understand that.”

Kelly is also expected to tab longtime Eagles assistant Ted Williams as tight ends coach while Duce Staley will take over as running backs coach.

Shurmur spent the last two seasons as head coach of the Browns, compiling a 9-23 record over that time. He was the offensive coordinator for the Rams from 2009-10. Prior to that, he served 10 seasons under Reid as the Eagles’ tight ends (’99-01) and quarterbacks coach (’02-08).

The Browns ranked 30th and 24th, respectively, in scoring offense with Shurmur at the helm. The Rams ranked 32nd and 26th with Shurmur as the offensive coordinator.

The 47-year-old spent eight years as the tight ends coach at Michigan State and one year as Stanford’s offensive line coach before joining the NFL ranks.

The organization parted with Reid on amicable terms. Now head man in Kansas City, Reid helped the Eagles’s recruiting process and  was in communication with Kelly.

“One person that I really want to thank, in terms of advice in this whole thing, was Andy Reid and the fact that Andy reached out to me and told me about his experience here just told me what this organization’s all about,” said Kelly. “There’s not a classier guy. When Andy texted me yesterday when I accepted the job, I told him that I had really, really, really big shoes to fill and in typical Andy fashion, he said, ‘Just be yourself and you’ll be fine.’ I want to publicly thank Andy because that really right there spoke to me about what this organization is all about.”

Now, a member of the Reid coaching tree is directly under Kelly.

Sheil Kapadia contributed to this post.

The Latest On the Eagles And Todd Grantham

Word on Todd Grantham may come down soon.

The belief from the University of Georgia side is that Chip Kelly has already spoken with the  Bulldog’s defensive coordinator, and will make a decision as early as Friday on whether he is the right fit. If the job is offered, Grantham is expected to take it.

Grantham has spent the past four seasons as Georgia’s defensive coordinator. He also has experience on the pro level. He coached the Cowboys’ defensive line from 2008 -09; was the Browns’ defensive coordinator from ’05-07; the Texans’ defensive line coach from ’02-04; and the Colts’ defensive line coach from ’99-01.

The 46-year-old served under Nick Saban at Michigan State. Saban has high praise for Grantham. From the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

“Todd is an outstanding coach, coached on our staff way back at Michigan State. That seems like a long time ago.  But had a lot of good experience in the NFL. I’ve always been really close to Todd professionally and personally.  I think he’s done a phenomenal job there (at Georgia). There are some similarities in the system and scheme they use relative to what we use.  But I just think he has done a really good job. (He) has his own ideas and methods about how he does it.  I think their players play extremely well.  I think that always has something to do with the coach, the system, (and) how it’s taught. They do a really good job.

“If you’re going to rank assistants, he’s one of the two or three best I’ve ever had on our staff.  Did a phenomenal job for us.  I certainly have a lot of respect for what he’s done at Georgia.”

The Eagles are expected to let Todd Bowles walk. Bowles is in line to become the next defensive coordinator of the Cardinals. The former DC in Arizona, Ray Horton, has taken the same job in Cleveland.

An Early Read On the QB Situation

Now that we have had a chance to speak with Chip Kelly for the first time, let’s dive a little deeper into the quarterback situation.

Kelly was asked specifically following his press conference whether he can move forward and run what he wants to run with Nick Foles as his quarterback.

“I haven’t watched enough tape to make any decision on anybody from how they fit into what we’re going to be when we open up in September,” said Kelly. “I’ve always been this way — I don’t want to have a preconceived notion when I turn the tape on. I want the tape to tell me what the tape says, not,  ’I know this about him’ because sometimes it can cloud your judgement. I think you have to make a legitimate judgement of watching the film.”

Kelly says that some of the preconceived notions about his system and the quarterbacks that have run it are off base. Asked if he has ever coached a straight dropback passer, Kelly offered this example:

“The kid I had at New Hamphsire, Ricky Santos, threw for 123 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in four years, so we threw the heck out  of the ball,” said Kelly. “My quarterback last year who is up in the  CFL, Darron Thomas, played in 14 games and he ran for 200 yards. Everybody’s like, ‘You run a running offense,’ well look at the statistics. We don’t run designed quarterback runs where we are snapping the ball to him and then running quarterback power.

“With Tim Tebow, they’re snapping the ball and he’s running counter, he’s running power, it’s direct snap stuff. I have never been that way. We’ve run zone read concepts, man read concepts where it’s a mathematical game where, if there is an extra defender in the box, your quarterback can read him and by controlling him by reading him, he’s basically blocking him.”

The ability to control that extra defender is obviously something Kelly finds value in, so in a perfect world I am sure he would prefer a QB that can use his legs a little bit.

What about Michael Vick?

In his coaching manual, Kelly writes about what he looks for in a signal-caller, and it doesn’t quite sound like Vick is it.

In our attitude, every sack is the quarterback’s fault. lt is not a sack if the quarterback throws the ball away. Nobody ever lost a game 0n an incomplete pass. Throw the ball away, and give us another opportunity to make a first down. lf you throw it away, it is second-and-10 for the first down. lf you take the sack, it is second-and-16 for the down. lf you can stay away from negative yardage plays, you will be successful. We base the success formula for offense on the total number of plays. Take those plays minus the dropped balls, offensive penalties, and negative yardage plays, and divide by the total number of plays. lf the answer is 80 percent or better, you win the game. The total number of good plays is what you want to consider.

The job of a quarterback is simple. He has to let  it happen, and not make it happen. We want to move forward. That is a concept you have to make your team understand. The cardinal sin at our place is the quarterback sack. We want the ball out of the quarterback’s hands in 1.5 seconds. That does not mean holding the ball until 2.5, waiting for someone t0 get open.”

The Eagles need to cut Vick by February 6 if they want to avoid a $3 million hit.

“It’s pretty obvious that there is a first decision to make,” said Howie Roseman regarding Vick. “We do have time to make that, and no decisions have been made on any person on the roster, and certainly we did not tell any coach that they could or could not do anything about any player on the roster.”

Solving the quarterback issue clearly is the team’s top priority now that there is a coach in place. Kelly is smart enough to know that he can’t succeed on this level without a quality quarterback. It stands to reason that, before making the leap from college to the pros, that he felt confident he either has the quarterback or can get the quarterback that will work for him.

Is it safe to say that he likes something he sees on the current roster?

“What we told Coach Kelly and what we told all the coaches was that we would make sure that we had every resource at our disposal to get them the pieces in place they felt they needed to win a championship,” Roseman responded. “And if they felt they needed something, and it was important to their success, we have their back. Let’s go get it. Let’s figure out how to get the best one and let’s go get it.”

That is a much different response than, “Yes.”

If Vick and Foles aren’t it, the Eagles could try and acquire a quarterback through the draft, free agency or trade.

Darron Thomas’ name was brought up in this respect. The former Duck led Oregon to a BCS title game appearance in 2010 and the Rose Bowl in 2011, then decided to forgo his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. He was not picked, and now plays for the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL.

Would Kelly consider bringing him on board?

“I think Darron’s a good quarterback, but I don’t know what we can do or we can’t do so I can’t make any comments on personnel,” he said.

Do you think he can play in this league?

“Yeah, I think he can play in this league.”

It’s at least worth keeping an eye on.

There is a good chance that Vick is off the roster soon. Then what?

Maybe Kelly tries to make it work with Foles. But you can’t help but think he’ll craft a backup plan.

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