Does it really matter that Pat Shurmur is now the Eagles' offensive coordinator? After all, isn't Chip Kelly going to be be calling the offensive plays?
The truth is— Chip Kelly is going to delegate his offensive philosophy to Shurmur, who will end up doing the heavy lifting.
Kelly has studied and learned well from the history of Dick Vermeil, the hardest working coach in show biz, who never won the big one until he learned how to delegate.
Chip Kelly’s decision to hire Shurmur, the former head coach of the Browns, as OC, and Billy Davis, a linebacker coach in Cleveland the past two years, as DC, will be his most important decisions, outside of whom he chooses to play quarterback.
Go back a ways in Eagles history and look at just how crucial the coordinators can be to a head coach.
Start with Buddy Ryan, who had Wade Phillips and then Jeff Fisher run his defense that became one of the best and fiercest in the league. Yes, it was Ryan’s defense, but he needed Phillips and Fisher to make it work.
Take it from Mark Eckel of NJ.com, who was there—-Offensively, Ryan never got the coordinator he wanted, or needed. He started with Ted Plumb, a man who saved his life when Ryan choked on a pork chop, but whose offense Ryan once said “made him sick.’’ When Plumb was let go, he was replaced with Rich Kotite, who made everyone sick.
Kotite, if he did anything right, was the hiring of Bud Carson to take over his defense. Carson took Ryan’s players and actually made them better. In 1991, the Eagles defense ranked among the best of all-time. It led the league in least rushing yards allowed, least passing yards allowed, most sacks and turnovers. The offense, however, thanks to Randall Cunningham’s knee injury and the play-calling of Kotite and coordinator Dick Wood, was so bad the team failed to make the playoffs.
Ray Rhodes made the playoffs his first two years as Eagles head coach and was Coach of the Year in 1995, thanks to his two lieutenants — Jon Gruden on offense and Emmitt Thomas on defense.
When Gruden left to become head coach in Oakland and was replaced by the overmatched Dana Bible, it all started to fall apart for Rhodes.
Andy Reid, as a young inexperienced assistant from Green Bay in 1999, knew what he needed and found two veteran coordinators to help him get going in Jim Johnson (defense) and Rod Dowhower (offense). Those two hires, along with the selection of Donovan McNabb with the No. 2 pick in the draft, helped Reid become the winningest head coach in Eagles history.
So Kelly, with zero NFL experience and a lot of innovative ideas, will rely on Shurmur and Davis, who both have long NFL lineages.
Shurmur, who was part of Reid’s original staff, is the nephew of long-time defensive whiz Fritz Shurmur. Pat used to hang around the Green Bay Packers training camp with his uncle, which is how Reid came to know him and admire him.
Davis’ father, Bill Sr., was also a long-time assistant coach and personnel man. He worked for the Eagles twice, as a coach under Dick Vermeil and in the front office with Ryan.
It’s going to be interesting to see how both men fit with Kelly and how it all works.
Shurmur is a disciple of the West Coast offense, having watched it under Mike Holmgren in Green Bay and then coached it under Reid with the Eagles. He took it with him to St. Louis where he was offensive coordinator for Steve Spagnuolo and then to Cleveland when he became a head coach.
How he blends his knowledge with that of Kelly, who plans to run some version of his spread attack, read-and-react offense, will be intriguing, if nothing else.
Davis is the more critical hire, however. Kelly, at the University of Oregon, let his defensive coordinator run his defense and basically gave him carte blanche in doing so.
In Davis' previous two stints as a coordinator in San Francisco (2005-06) and Arizona (2009-10), neither of those worked out very well. Then again, he didn’t have very good players. But his theories seemed sound.
The team’s defense is in need of a makeover. It’s all but certain with the hiring of Davis, along with an outside linebacker coach (Bill McGovern) and an inside linebackers coach (Rick Minter), the team will go to a 3-4 scheme.
That is going to be difficult in its own right and will probably take at least two years of drafts and signings to get all the players it needs to be successful.
Fine…we've got time. Well, most of us do…Me, I'm getting a little long in the tooth. I need some Super Bowl tonic sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, some of those future Eagles I've been scouting just got dumped on by the NFL Scouting Combine invitation committee.
This kills me. Here are a few of the guys I was counting on seeing at the Combine who have been snubbed:
Tulane QB Ryan Griffin—Griffin raised some eyebrows after his performance during the week of practice at the “Texas vs The Nation” All-Star game last week, which wasn't all that surprising after watching him in action for Tulane. Griffin is a tough pocket passer with a quick, compact release who throws a good (albeit not great) ball. Just under 6-4, 216, Griffin is a decent athlete who moves well inside the pocket and has some moxie to his game. While he is far from a lock, Griffin is likely to hear his name called on the final day of April’s Draft.
Princeton DL Mike Catapano—Catapano had a decent week of practice down in St. Petersburg at the East-West Shrine Game after a productive career at Princeton. Catapano can play a number of positions along a 4-3 or 3-4 front and versatility could be his biggest asset as the draft creeps closer. He wasn't the only Ivy leaguer without an invite, as Senior Bowl attendee Kyle Juszczyk missed out as well. The Harvard grad projects as a fullback or 'H-Back' at the next level, but a lack of size and dynamic athleticism could keep him from reaching that goal.
Maryland DL Joe Vellano—Vellano may be a bit unassuming when you first look at him, but he's a tough, high-motor player who gets the most out of every snap and may remind some of Derek Landri. The big question mark will come in his medical evaluation, as Vellano has undergone several surgeries to his shoulders over the past few years. He wasn't the only Terrapin left off the list, as fellow Shrine Game standout A.J. Francis (a defensive tackle), linebacker Kenny Tate (another injury risk) and wideout Kevin Dorsey will not be in attendance for the Combine.
Ohio State CB Travis Howard—While Howard may struggle with his deep speed, he's a scrappy press corner with good ball-skills, two qualities he put on display in St. Petersburg at the Shrine Game. The former Buckeye profiles as more of a zone cornerback at the next level. His experience as an impact special teams player should go a long way come Training Camp this summer.
Florida State LB Vince Williams—A late invite to the Senior Bowl, Williams is an undersized middle linebacker who plays with a lot of energy and thrives as a downhill player. After a solid week of practice in Mobile, Williams was one of the more shocking names to be left off the list for Indianapolis.
San Jose State DE/LB Travis Johnson—It's not often that a player who attends both the Senior Bowl and the Shrine Game does not get an invite to the Combine, but that appears to be the case with Johnson. An undersized but deceptively athletic pass rusher from San Jose State, Johnson was a late addition to the roster in Mobile but made the most out of his reps in the week at practice and registered two tackles in the game.
Central Michigan S Jahleel Addae—A personal favorite, Addae was a four-year starter in one of the best programs in the Mid-American Conference, and for good reason. While he's undersized, the former Chippewa has great movement skills for the safety position and plays from sideline to sideline. A physical tackler, Addae isn't afraid to mix it up in the run game. He also spent a lot of time covering slot receivers during his senior season. While this is one of the deeper safety groups the NFL Draft has seen in years, it was still a surprise to find out that Addae will watch the Combine from home.
Michigan DL William Campbell—A talented prospect who flashes greatness at times, Campbell was one of the most talented players throughout the week of practice at the Shrine Game. Playing in a rotation along the Wolverines defensive line, Campbell showed a good first step, a high motor and a nose for the football. Consistency and sustainability are question marks, but it would be a surprise for Campbell to go undrafted.
Nevada TE Zach Sudfeld—Lining up as an offset tight end in Nevada's Pistol offense, Sudfeld had a very productive college career. While he's a bit older than the normal prospect (26 years old), Sudfeld has great size at 6-6, 261, and the athleticism to get down the seam. Sudfeld was also a willing and capable blocker and was often used in the run game on counter and misdirection plays. Much like the safety class, the tight end group in 2013 is as good as we've seen in a few years, but a player like Sudfeld could have really benefited from the exposure in Indianapolis. He's not the only talented tight end to miss out, though.
Western Kentucky TE Jack Doyle—A versatile, talented four-year starter for the Hilltoppers, Doyle is the type of “Jack of all trades,” who can play a number of roles in any offense. An aggressive blocker who works to finish his man in the run game, Doyle plays with good technique and toughness. Not only is he a good blocker, but Doyle also is a long strider who can get down the seam and has the strong hands to make contested catches. Any other year, Doyle would be considered one of the more attractive options at the position. But this spring, it looks like he may just get lost in the numbers in a deep class of tight ends.
Others Snubs Of Note: QB Nick Florence (Baylor), RB Dennis Johnson (Arkansas), WR Jasper Collins (Mt. Union), WR Russell Shepard (LSU), TE Michael Williams (Alabama), OT Alex Hurst LSU, OT R.J. Mattes (NC State), G Matt Summers-Gavin (California), G Blaize Foltz (TCU), DL Darrington Sentimore (Tennessee), LB Cameron Lawrence (Mississippi State), LB Will Compton (Nebraska), CB Melvin White (Louisiana-Lafayette), CB Trey Wilson (Vanderbilt), S Ray-Ray Armstrong (Faulkner)
Thanks to Fran Duffy of PE.com for the scouting notes on the Combine snubs….