Andy Reid has developed quite the coaching tree since taking over as the head man in Philadelphia back in 1999. Some of his former assistants that have gone on to be successful NFL head coaches include Ron Rivera, Steve Spagnuolo, Leslie Frazier, Brad Childress and Pat Shurmur.
Finding good assistant coaches is a huge responsibility for a head coach in the NFL. There is way too much going on during practice or a game for a head coach to handle everything. He needs his assistants to help develop young players, improve the fundamentals of his position and notice things going on in the game that the head coach isn't aware of.
Football is the ultimate team sport, and the coaching staff is no different. One player doesn't make the team great and neither does one coach. Great teams always have a great coaching staff. That doesn't mean several of those assistant coaches go on to be great head coaches, but they are solid assistants who make their positions better and more fundamentally solid.
Today I am ranking the top five assistant coaches on the Eagles coaching staff and analyzing what their impact will be on the 2012 team.I left out the offense and defensive coordinators because, for one, it's too obvious and I also wanted to deal more with the positional coaches rather than the play-callers.
David Culley has served as Andy Reid's wide receivers coach with the Eagles since 1999. Last season he was promoted to serve as the senior offensive assistant as well. His main role is to continue to develop and coach up the wide receivers while helping construct the offensive game plans with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
Culley has been a solid wide receivers coach under Reid. He had very little to work with until the Eagles acquired Terrell Owens in 2004, and then had little to work with again until the Eagles drafted DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
I'm old enough to remember how bad the wide receivers were in the early stages of the Andy Reid era. The Eagles had the worst group of wide receivers in the league when he first was hired as the wide receivers coach...and now he might have the deepest.
Culley has helped develop DeSean Jackson into more than just a deep threat. He also has helped Jason Avant become one of the top slot receivers in the game and is slowly helping Riley Cooper become a more physical wide out. His greatest achievement in my mind has been Jeremy Maclin.
Maclin came out of Missouri as a similar type of receiver as DeSean Jackson. He was a great return man and your typical speed receiver in college. He has become a complete receiver in the NFL, though more of a speedy possession receiver than he has anything else.
It will be interesting to see what Culley can do with Riley Cooper this season. He has been working with him the past two seasons and trying to help him become a better red zone target. He had just one reception and one touchdown inside the 20 last season. If Culley can turn him into a reliable red zone target this season, then Culley should get a substantial raise.
Culley might have the deepest receiving core in the NFL right now. They aren't as top heavy as Detroit or Arizona, but they have five or six really good wide receivers who will get some stiff competition from some of the younger guys as well.
Most Eagles fans couldn't pick Barry Rubin out of a lineup, but he is definitely one of the most valuable coaches on the staff. He was promoted as the head strength and conditioning coach of the Eagles in 2010, after spending the previous two seasons as the assistant strength and conditioning coach.
Rubin's impact isn't utilized in the game plans and he won't be a part of any halftime adjustments. His impact is seen when you see linebackers go from 235 pounds to 250 pounds over the summer. He has helped Casey Matthews, Brandon Graham, Jeremy Maclin and Nate Allen add more bulk this summer.
Rubin is vital to the developmental of the young players. Whenever you read a scouting report on a draft prospect or rookie that needs to get bigger or add more muscle, that is where Rubin makes his mark. He is great at motivating the young players to put in the work in the weight room.
Todd Bowles was one of the Eagles best offseason moves. In Bowles, the Eagles get an assistant coach who served as the Miami Dolphins secondary coach from 2008-2011 before then serving as interim head coach for the final three games of 2011.
His team played hard for him during those final three games. That experience will be huge for a inexperienced defensive coordinator like Juan Castillo. He can lean on him as a key defensive assistant. When Jim Johnson was the Eagles defensive coordinator, he liked to get feedback on the upcoming defensive game plan from several different assistant coaches. Castillo should do the same thing with Bowles.
The Eagles have a lot of young talent in the secondary that could blossom with Bowles coaching them up. Nate Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Kurt Coleman, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Hughes and Brandon Boykin all have two years or less worth of experience in the NFL. He will be key to their development this season, especially since at least three of those players will be either starting or playing every down in nickel packages.
Jim Washburn isn't your typical defensive line coach. For one thing, his line utilizes a very unique wide-9 scheme. Oh, and he spells $acks with a dollar sign: Washburn preaches to his defensive linemen that sacks equal big paydays.
The Eagles hired Washburn following the 2010 season, where the Eagles pass rush struggled down the stretch. They had just 39 sacks that season and most of that came earlier in the year. Washburn and his wide-9 scheme made a huge difference in 2011, as the Eagles racked up 50 sacks.
There are two basic principles of the wide-9 scheme that make it so successful at getting pressure on the quarterback: rotation and attacking the backfield. The defensive line is constantly rotating players. It's rare to see the same defensive line on the field for more than a couple plays in a row. The scheme also calls for the defensive line to attack the backfield from the snap rather than covering up gaps like in any other defensive line scheme.
The great thing about having Washburn as your defensive line coach is that you know you will have a great pass rush. Last season the defense racked up 50 sacks in their first season under Washburn and the wide-9, despite having just a few short weeks in training camp after the lockout was lifted.
It will be exciting to see what this unit can do with a full summer to work with Washburn. 60 team sacks is not out of the question in 2012.
When the Eagles were able to convince Howard Mudd to come out of retirement to coach their offensive line, they didn't get one of the best line coaches in the game now. They got one of the best line coaches of all time.
Like Washburn, Mudd has a unique line scheme as well. His blocking scheme is night and day from what Eagles fans were used to when Juan Castillo was the offensive line coach. We were used to seeing 330 pound mammoths in the trenches. Under Mudd, you see leaner, more athletic blockers.
The main principles that make Mudd's blocking scheme work is initiating contact, athleticism and effort. In most blocking schemes you will see that the offensive line steps back and waits for the pass rush to come. In Mudd's blocking scheme, you see the line initiate more contact. Not every linemen can thrive in this system, but the right kind of players can come in right away and be completely different players.
Jason Kelce and Evan Mathis are great examples of this. Kelce was a 280 pound rookie center that very few teams had any interest in drafting last season. He came in right away during a very short offseason and won the starting center job. He went from being a sixth round draft pick to becoming one of best centers in the league in a very short period of time.
Evan Mathis also had an outstanding first season under Mudd. Mathis had bounced around the league and never really wowed anybody since being drafted in 2005. In 2011, he became one of the best interior linemen in the league.
The Eagles offensive line gave up 49 sacks in 2010. That number dropped to just 32 in 2011. That is an impressive stat when you consider that four of the five starters were either playing a different position or on a different team last season, and all were playing in an unfamiliar blocking scheme. Now they are more familiar with the blocking scheme, and we can expect even better production from the line in 2012.