Changes for the Eagles as they head into the ’09 season were not limited to the roster. Success, age, and health have taken their toll on the team’s coaching staff and forced some changes in personnel.
Head coach Andy Reid and assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Marty Morhninweg, in their 11th and seventh years with the Eagles respectively, are not going anywhere, but defensive coordinator Jim Johnson’s off-season battle with cancer has forced him to take an indefinite leave of absence which could have a ripple effect on the defense’s success.
To fill the spots, the Eagles reshuffled some current staff and added a few “new” faces to the team. Here’s a rundown of the moves and how they impact this year’s Eagles.
Sean McDermott Takes Over as Interim Defensive Coordinator
Secondary coach Sean McDermott will temporarily assume Johnson’s duties as defensive coordinator while Johnson receives a second round of chemotherapy.
Entering his 11th year with the team, McDermott is not your average secondary coach. The most tenured assistant coach under Johnson has done almost everything with the club. Here’s the resume:
- 1998: Scouting Administrative Coordinator
- 1999-2000: Assistant to the Head Coach
- 2001-2002: Defensive Assistant/Quality Control
- 2003: Assistant Secondary Coach
- 2004-2006: Secondary/Safeties Coach
- 2007: Linebackers Coach
- 2008: Secondary Coach
This gives the versatile McDermott a unique perspective to tackle the role of defensive coordinator. There’s no time line for Johnson’s return—nor is there a guarantee the 67-year-old defensive mastermind will come back—so McDermott’s ability as defensive coordinator could have a major impact.
The 35-year-old McDermott has worked under Johnson for most of his tenure, so he’s familiar with Johnson’s style. Many teams around the league wanted to interview him for a coordinator position but concern over Johnson’s health kept the Eagles from granting teams permission, according to a Philadelphia Daily News report.
McDermott is replacing one of the best in the league at what he does and this Eagles defense is already searching for an identity post-Brian Dawkins, the team’s safety and leader for over a decade.
It’s McDermott, not Johnson, who will start that identity search process.
Rory Segrest, Ted Daisher Fill Roles on Defensive Line and Special Teams
Rory Segrest moves from special teams coordinator to defensive line coach to replace Pete Jenkins who retired. “New” hire Ted Daisher replaces Segrest as special teams coordinator.
The biggest impact of Jenkins’ retirement was the hiring of Daisher since Segrest’s passion is the defensive line, and while coaching special teams, he was also Jenkins’ assistant.
Expect few changes from Segrest, but Daisher’s special teams unit will more closely resemble the Eagles special teams from five years ago. Daisher is new in the sense that he wasn’t an Eagles coach last year. However, he did get his start with the Eagles as the assistant special teams coordinator in 2004-05.
Now, Daisher returns and the expectations are high because of his success since leaving the nest. His direct and aggressive approach should improve a respectable special teams unit with room for growth.
The core of the unit is strong and Daisher has shared his excitement over return men DeSean Jackson and Quintin Demps. How he will utilize first-round draft choice Jeremy Maclin is unclear, but his presence could also have an impact.
James Urban, Doug Pederson: New QB Coach and Offensive Assistant
Pat Schurmur’s departure out of the quarterbacks coach position was addressed by moving James Urban from offensive assistant/quality control coach to replace Schurmur as quarterbacks coach and former Eagles quarterback Doug Pederson was hired to take over Urban’s former role.
The return of Pederson to Philadelphia comes after a successful four-year stint as head coach of Calvary Baptist Academy in Shreveport. You could even argue that Pederson cut his teeth in coaching when he helped a rookie Donovan McNabb learn Andy Reid’s offense.
Pederson’s presence should be helpful, especially as Urban learns his new role as quarterbacks coach, but it’s not the biggest impact that came out of this group of moves.
With Schurmur gone, Philadelphia calls on wide receivers coach David Culley to be more involved in the game planning. Such a move suggests the offense will continue to be pass-heavy as it has been for most of Reid’s time in Philadelphia.
How will the Eagles coaching staff changes impact the team overall? On offense, not much has changed and most of the changes should keep the team entrenched in their pass-first mentality.
On defense, even if Johnson misses considerable time, McDermott should be well-versed enough in the Johnson system that the impact should be subtle…unless McDermott is ready for the role. That possibility is unlikely based on his resume.
The offense should be even less affected. That might not be a great thing if you were unhappy with the Eagles penchant for passing. The additions to the offensive coaching staff were all passing-related. The move to involve Culley more in the game planning should keep the receivers as active as ever in the offense.
The coaching change at special teams should be where the biggest impact is felt. Daisher has proved he can improve a special teams unit with his leadership and coaching —he did it in Oakland and Cleveland already. There’s no reason to think he won’t in Philadelphia.