Breaking Down Philadelphia Eagles' Defensive Coordinator Candidates

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJanuary 28, 2013

Oct. 29, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; San Francisco 49ers cornerback Perrish Cox (right) talks with secondary coach Ed Donatell against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The 49ers defeated the Cardinals 24-3. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles haven't officially announced any coach-related hiring since Chip Kelly came on board, but there are strong indications that a number of key assistants are already in place on both sides of the ball. While reports indicate Kelly has already brought some of his defensive coaches over from Oregon, the one thing the Eagles definitely are still missing is a defensive coordinator. 

That alone is a little concerning. Let's take a look at the four key candidates being talked about, while hoping that whoever they decide on is able to live with the possibility that the Eagles might have again placed the cart before the horse.

Ed Donatell
Current role: 49ers defensive backs coach
Background: 3-4 with San Francisco (4-3 with Green Bay, Atlanta)

Those who assume the Eagles would go 3-4 under Donatell because San Francisco runs a 3-4 have to consider that Donatell has experience with both.

When he was last a defensive coordinator he ran a 4-3 defense. The 54-year-old's name has been connected to the Eagles since before the Senior Bowl, and former Eagle Brian Dawkins approves. They weren't interviewing anyone and were reportedly hiring defensive coaches, which had many believing an agreement had already secretly been reached and the two sides were waiting for Donatell to finish up coaching the Niners in the Super Bowl.

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Now, everything's up in the air.

Billy Davis
Latest role: Browns linebackers coach
Background 4-3 with Cleveland (3-4 with San Francisco, Arizona

But then, seemingly out of nowhere, the Eagles interviewed Davis, who helped run a 4-3 defense in Cleveland the last two years. That said, he helped Atlanta convert to a 3-4 early in the decade and also coordinated the 49ers' 3-4 defense in 2005 and 2006 under then-head coach Mike Nolan.

The 47-year-old was up for this very job two years ago when Andy Reid went with Juan Castillo instead. It's possible they interviewed him just to cover their asses in case the 49ers and Baltimore Ravens block assistants Donatell and Ted Monachino from leaving. 

Ted Monachino
Current role: Baltimore Ravens linebackers coach
Background: 3-4 with Baltimore (4-3 with Jacksonville)

The last time Monachino was a defensive coordinator he was at a Missouri high school nearly two decades ago. That makes him a much less heralded candidate, but when you consider what he's done with guys like Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, Albert McClellan and Terrell Suggs the last three years in Baltimore, the 46-year-old might deserve a shot. Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that he might in fact get that shot. 

Steve Spagnuolo
Latest role: New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator 
Background: 4-3 with New Orleans, St. Louis and the Giants

There's really no evidence right now that Spagnuolo is a true candidate in Philly, but he's naturally being talked about by fans and the media after being fired by the Saints late last week. As I pointed out above, though, he'd be the only potential coordinator with a strict 4-3 background, which is something Kelly might want to avoid.

Let's also consider that Spagnuolo's defense in New Orleans was the worst in the NFL last season. The biggest name isn't always the best candidate. Or even a candidate at all.


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