Saturday, August 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

In new Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis, did Chip Kelly get his first choice?

Story Highlights
  • The Eagles have hired Browns linebackers coach Billy Davis to be their next defensive coordinator.
  • Davis, 47, coached linebackers in Cleveland for two seasons, but was defensive coordinator with the 49ers from 2005-06 and with the Cardinals from 2009-10.
  • The Eagles interviewed him last week.

In the end, the Eagles did not lure an assistant away from a Super Bowl team or poach a coach from the college ranks in selecting their next defensive coordinator.

Instead, according to sources, new coach Chip Kelly hired former Browns linebackers coach Billy Davis on Thursday, the timing of which will be questioned.

The Eagles did not confirm Davis' hiring, as they have not for any of the additions Kelly has made to his staff over the last three weeks.

But when they finally hold a news conference to introduce the new faces, Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman will surely be asked: If Davis was their top choice, why wasn't he hired immediately?

More coverage
  • POLL: What should the NFL do about the preseason?
  • Who makes the Eagles: Cornerback
  • VOTE: Who is the best Duck on the Eagles?
  • DOWNLOAD: Philly Pro Football app
  • POLL: Will the defense hurt the Eagles' playoff chances?
  • FORUMS: Debate the Eagles' draft
  • Grading the Eagles' draft picks
  • Did the Eagles make the right move in selecting Billy Davis as defensive coordinator?
    Yes.
    No.
    Who knows? We’ll find out starting with the opener.

    Davis was available as soon as Browns coach Pat Shurmur - who will be the Eagles' new offensive coordinator - was fired on Dec. 31. The Eagles were granted permission to interview Davis not long after Kelly was hired Jan. 16 but did not meet with him until Jan. 27.

    The team waited 11 days before deciding on Davis, presumably because they were waiting for one of the Ravens or 49ers assistants. Baltimore linebackers coach Ted Monachino and San Francisco defensive backs coach Ed Donatell were the two most prominently linked to the Eagles.

    Donatell reportedly was blocked by the 49ers from interviewing with the Saints. Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome said Thursday that no team formally asked to speak with Monachino or any other Ravens assistant.

    There was also speculation that the Eagles were waiting until after national signing day to announce that a college coach would lead their defense. Georgia's Todd Grantham had been mentioned as a possibility.

    But Davis, 47, ultimately proved to be the choice. The Eagles brass will cite Davis' four years of experience as an NFL coordinator, along with his familiarity with both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, and claim that he was their top target.

    The delay suggests otherwise, but that doesn't mean Davis can't be a success.

    When Andy Reid became Eagles coach in 1999, his first choice for defensive coordinator was Marvin Lewis, who opted to stay in Baltimore. Reid's second choice was a coach with little NFL experience as a coordinator named Jim Johnson.

    Johnson, of course, brought nastiness along with an intellect to the Eagles defense for the next decade. Davis' task is to turn around a unit that has lost its way since Johnson died from cancer after the 2008 season.

    Last month, Kelly said he was looking for "shutoutability" from his defensive coordinator.

    Davis helmed defenses with the 49ers in 2005 and '06 and with the Cardinals in 2009 and '10 that displayed little "shutoutability." They weren't exactly teeming with all-pros, either.

    His defenses in San Francisco finished 32d and 26th in yards and 30th and 24th in points. In Arizona, they were ranked 14th and 31st in yards and 11th and tied for 26th in points.

    Davis' challenge appears greater than Johnson's, however. In retrospect, Johnson had a strong core on defense with safety Brian Dawkins, cornerbacks Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor, defensive end Hugh Douglas, and linebacker Jeremiah Trotter.

    Davis will inherit defensive ends Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham and linebacker DeMeco Ryans, but he will have question marks in cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, safety Nate Allen, and defensive end Trent Cole.

    Rodgers-Cromartie, who will become a free agent in March, reached the Pro Bowl in 2009 under Davis.

    Davis is expected to employ a hybrid 4-3 and 3-4 defense, much like the one he used in Arizona.

    Davis has an NFL pedigree and ties to the Eagles. His father, Bill, was an assistant with the Eagles under Dick Vermeil. The younger Davis was an Eagles ball boy during that time. Bill Davis later ran the Eagles' personnel department in the late 1980s.

    Billy Davis played quarterback and wide receiver at the University of Cincinnati. He began his coaching career in 1991 as a graduate assistant at Michigan State. He worked as a defensive assistant with the Steelers from 1992 to '94.

    He was Carolina's outside-linebackers coach from 1995 to '98. Davis then bounced around with the Browns, Falcons, Packers, and New York Giants before landing in San Francisco in 2005.

    The 49ers went 4-12 and 7-9 in his two seasons as coordinator. He then became the linebackers coach with the Cardinals for two seasons before being promoted by Ken Whisenhunt.

    The Cardinals finished 10-6 and 5-11 in Davis' two seasons as coordinator before Whisenhunt fired him.

    New line coach. The Eagles rounded out their coaching staff by hiring Alabama's Jeff Stoutland, 50, to coach their offensive line, a league source said.


    Davis at a Glance

    A look at Billy Davis:

    Age: 47

    Born: Nov. 5, 1965, Youngstown, Ohio

    Coaching career:

    1991: Michigan State graduate assistant

    1992-94: Pittsburgh Steelers defensive assistant

    1995-98: Carolina Panthers outside linebackers

    1999: Cleveland Browns defensive assistant/linebackers

    2000: Green Bay Packers defensive assistant/defensive line

    2001-03: Atlanta Falcons linebackers

    2004: New York Giants linebackers

    2005-06: San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator

    2007-08: Arizona Cardinals linebackers

    2009-10: Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator

    2011-12: Cleveland Browns linebackers

    Davis was a quarterback and wide receiver at the University of Cincinnati from 1985 to '88.


    Eagles Coaches

    Here is how Chip Kelly's new Eagles coaching staff, unofficial so far, appears to be shaping up:

    Head coach: Chip Kelly

    Offensive coordinator: Pat Shurmur

    Defensive coordinator: Billy Davis

    Quarterbacks: Bill Lazor

    Wide receivers: Bob Bicknell

    Running backs: Duce Staley

    Tight ends: Ted Williams

    Offensive line: Jeff Stoutland

    Defensive line: Jerry Azzinaro

    Linebackers: Rick Minter

    Secondary: Bill McGovern

    Special teams: Dave Fipp

    Jeff McLane INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
    Also on Philly.com
    Stay Connected