The Eagles have finally found their defensive coordinator: Cleveland Browns linebackers coach Billy Davis.
Davis has four years of coordinator experience in the NFL and 20 years of pro coaching experience. Prior to joining Cleveland’s staff in 2011, Davis served as the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator in 2009 and 2010. He was Arizona’s linebackers coach the previous two seasons and was the 49ers’ defensive coordinator in 2005 and 2006.
Here’s Davis’ full resume
Cleveland Browns (Linebackers coach, 2011)
Arizona Cardinals (Defensive coordinator, 2009-2010)
Arizona Cardinals (Linebackers coach, 2007-2008)
San Francisco 49ers (Defensive coordinator, 2005-2006)
New York Giants (Linebackers coach, 2004)
Atlanta Falcons (Linebackers coach, 2001-2003)
Green Bay Packers (Defensive assistant/defensive line coach, 2000)
Cleveland Browns (Defensive quality control coach, 1999)
Carolina Panthers (Outside linebackers coach, 1995-1998)
Pittsburgh Steelers (Defensive quality control coach, 1992-1994)
The obvious question here is: 3-4 or 4-3? The Browns ran a 4-3 with Davis as the linebackers coach last year. But when he was last defensive coordinator (in Arizona), the Cardinals ran a hybrid. In a useful article unearthed by Derek from IgglesBlog.com, Davis went into detail, explaining his scheme:
But in the 4-3 ‘under’ front, like the Cardinals use as their base defense which looks similar to the 3-4 to the naked eye, the biggest difference is in the outside linebackers. The strong-side linebacker is still outside the tight end. But the other outside guy – the Cardinals call this player their “Predator” – is almost always rushing the passer, although the Cards will occasionally drop him into covers to mix things up. Other differences: The nose tackle shades to the A-gap (in between the center and the guard) on the tight end side, and the end on that side moves between the tackle and tight end.
Davis explained that the 3-4 defense creates the most confusion for the offense in terms of which outside linebacker is doing what, and the standard 4-3 offers the least unpredictability. The Cardinals 4-3 ‘under’ scheme is somewhere between the two in terms of causing the offense to guess who is rushing and who is dropping.
And here’s another helpful article where Davis talks about his scheme.
It’s evident his experience in multiple schemes helped Davis land his first defensive coordinator job.
“It was very important to find somebody that had experience in the 4-3 and the 3-4,” 49ers coach Mike Nolan told the AP back in 2005 when he hired Davis. “I didn’t want to get someone just to come in with their own set of goods, whether it fit our players or not. … Billy is a great teacher. I’ve watched Billy for a long time as a position coach. He’s got great energy.”
Here’s how Davis’ defenses fared during his four years as a coordinator:
Scoring Defense DVOA (Football Outsiders) Yards Per Game
2010 Cardinals 20th 25th 29th
2009 Cardinals T-14th 11th 20th
2006 49ers 32nd 29th 26th
2005 49ers 30th 31st 32nd
If you’re looking for something encouraging there, well, chances are you’re not going to find it. Davis’ defenses were flat-out terrible in three of his four seasons as defensive coordinator.
Then again, it’s important to remember that there are other factors like talent and injuries to consider. As others have pointed out, Jim Johnson was a defensive coordinator with the Colts for two seasons (1996-97) prior to joining the Eagles, and those units ranked 18th and 26th, respectively, in scoring defense. Johnson came here and of course became a legend.
Either way, it’s certainly fair to question what took the Eagles this long to hire Davis. In other words, was he a backup plan? I’m sure Chip Kelly will field a few of those questions when he introduces Davis.
As for coaching influences, Davis worked under Wade Phillips (defensive coordinator) in Atlanta. He was on a staff with Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers and 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio in Carolina. And he was a defensive quality control coach for Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh.
Update: Some have asked for a more-detailed post on Davis’ scheme. Click here for an All-22 look at the 4-3 under, along with guesses on which Eagles fit.