The Eagles have fired special teams coordinator Ted Daisher after one season in his second tour with the Eagles and replaced him with Bobby April, who spent the last 6 years with the Buffalo Bills.
April opted out of the final year of his contract with the Bills, effectively deciding he would rather take his chances on the market, as the team searches for a head coach. He has the kind of reputation that makes a move like that less than suicidal. April joined the Bills in 2004 under Mike Mularkey as the special teams coordinator and then was promoted to assistant head coach/special teams when Dick Jauron was hired in 2006.
The Eagles did not release terms of his contract but ESPN reported that the deal is for 3 years. Several other teams were interested in April, including the Steelers.
April told reporters in a conference call that good special teams have to have "a tremendous selflessness," since their work is so anonymous. He said it's important to set up an internal rewards system for special teamers. "It takes a special guy," he said.
"My main attributes -- and hopefully I have more than just these two -- I have the ability to be optimistic, and I have a lot of energy," April said.
He said he had known Eagles coach Andy Reid since the early '80s, when Reid coached with April at San Francisco State.
“Bobby April has proven himself as one of the top special teams coaches in this league,” Reid said in a statement. “I have spoken with many coaches and players who have worked with and played under Bobby directly and they have had nothing but the highest regard for him in terms as a coach and as a person. We look forward to adding him to our coaching staff and building upon the excellent job our special teams did last year.”
During April's tenure, Bills punter Brian Moorman earned two Pro Bowl berths and punt returner Roscoe Parrish led the NFL with a 15.3-yard punt return average in 2008. That year, rookie kickoff returner Leodis McKelvin finished third in the NFL with a 28.2-yard average. In addition, Terrence McGee earned a Pro Bowl berth as a kick returner in 2004 under April as he set a franchise record with three kickoff returns for a touchdown. In 2005, Bills long snapper Mike Schneck joined Moorman on the AFC Pro Bowl squad.
April, 56, was twice named special teams coach of the year by his peers, in 2004 and 2008. He has 18 years experience in the NFL with Atlanta, Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Buffalo.
As for Daisher, the Eagles' units struggled at times, including the Birds having to use a timeout against Dallas on a punt when Reid said the correct players were not on the field. However, the Eagles did have a Pro Bowl kicker in David Akers and a Pro Bowl punt returner in DeSean Jackson, and they seemed to make progress in coverage from 2008, when now-defensive line coach Rory Segrest ran the special teams.
In a statement, Reid also confirmed what we reported earlier (see below) about the dismissals of strength coach Mike Wolf and assistant Jay Merlino.
“We appreciate the efforts and contributions of those three men," Reid said. "I have the highest regard for Ted as a special teams coach and as a person. He’s an excellent football coach and the numbers and production on the field this past year proved that. We just decided to go in another direction. I have no doubt Ted will land on his feet with another NFL team and do a great job. As far as Mike Wolf, he has been nothing but a professional and diligent strength coach for this franchise over the past 15 seasons. He has been a big part in the success the Eagles have had in recent years. We appreciate all the work he and Jay Merlino put in with our players to help them maximize their efforts on the field.”
Updated: A source close to the situation confirms the team has dismissed strength coaches Mike Wolf and Jay Merlino.
An Eagles spokesman could not confirm or deny the report, he said. There is a fan discussion thread of the move on the team Web site's "talk about the Eagles" section, started last night, that has not been locked or taken down, as one would expect if a baseless rumor about a staff dismissal was being discussed.
This is an interesting development, coming after the back-to-back blowout losses to the Cowboys, who seemed bigger and better conditioned than the Eagles.
A Jan.8 Daily News story detailed how several Eagles players felt they'd improved their strength and conditioning working with a Cherry Hill trainer, Steve Saunders.
Wolf just completed his 15th season with the team. He was the NFL's strength and conditioning coach of the year in 2001, voted by his peers. Merlino, an assistant, worked for the team 8 years.
The other assistant to Wolf, Barry Rubin, is being retained. Rubin was the Packers' head strength and conditioning coach from 1999-2005, and an assistant before that, from 1995-98, when he would have known Andy Reid. It's unclear whether Rubin will replace Wolf.
An attempt to contact Wolf was unsuccessful.
Also, Eagles fullback Leonard Weaver was a first-team All-Pro selection by the AP. Second-teamers were kicker David Akers, defensive end Trent Cole, returner DeSean Jackson and corner Asante Samuel.
To read our previous post on Tim McDermott, Sean's brother, being hired to head up the Eagles' marketing efforts, click here.