Chip Kelly gives some clues on what he's looking for in a defensive coordinator
MOBILE, Ala. - Chip Kelly said Monday that he couldn't describe his ideal defensive coordinator with just one word.
But given the opportunity to describe the one dominant characteristic he is seeking in the leader of his defense, Kelly invented a word.
"Shutoutability," he said. "That would be the one overriding quality. And I have no idea how we can define that."
Webster's might define it as "the ability to shut out one's opponent." But Kelly, who was in Alabama for his first week of Senior Bowl practices as the Eagles' new head coach, likely had something else in mind.
An Eagles defense, after all, hasn't pitched a shutout since Dec. 1, 1996, when it blanked the New York Giants, 24-0. And that includes 10 seasons with defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, who emphasized keeping opposing offenses under 17 points.
In today's NFL, where rules are slanted to aid offense and light up scoreboards, the shutout is becoming as extinct as the rotary phone. There wasn't a shutout in the first 13 weeks of this season. In all, there were only five, including the playoffs.
So Kelly is probably looking for a coordinator who can devise a scheme and call plays for a defense that can shut down offenses at key spots - on third down, in the red zone, and during the fourth quarter.
"Obviously, you're looking for a guy that can stop people and [can tell you] philosophically what their theory is and how they go about it," Kelly said. "But when you interview [someone], I think if you're a football guy you learn a lot, too."
Kelly said the interview process is one reason he has yet to hire a defensive coordinator. Of course, he has been on the job only since Thursday, and it has been just a few days since defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was released from his contract to join the Arizona Cardinals.
It's not a decision to be taken lightly. Kelly will run the offense. It will be his baby, as it was at Oregon. But just as Andy Reid did with Johnson in his first season, Kelly needs to appoint a coordinator who can handle the entire defense, if need be.
The only candidate the Eagles reportedly have interviewed was Giants linebackers coach and former Michigan defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann. He decided Monday to withdraw his name from consideration.
The Eagles have likely met with other coaches based on Kelly's comments, but they have done a fine job of keeping it secret. The team has decided not to comment on assistant coaching hires until Kelly has hired his entire staff.
The Eagles have been linked to Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, but Grantham has yet to interview, according to his school, while Quinn took the Seattle Seahawks job.
Kelly told WIP-AM last week that he was looking for a coordinator with vast NFL experience to lead his defense. Having never coached in the pros, Kelly is likely sitting down with a number of candidates he knows little about.
"That's why the process takes a little time," he said.
Grantham coached in the NFL for 11 seasons - three as defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns from 2005 to '07. The Eagles reached out to former Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton, but he signed with the Browns on Friday.
"We're all in a society where you want one word to describe everything," Kelly said. "I don't think I can describe a defensive coordinator in one word. There's so many things that you're looking at."
Since Johnson's last season in 2008, the Eagles defense has had little shutoutability. First it was Sean McDermott in charge. His units were terrible in the red zone. And then it was Juan Castillo and Bowles, who were either hamstrung by the wide-nine scheme on the defensive line or couldn't effectively work behind it.
Kelly is said to prefer a 3-4, but his choice at coordinator and a closer look at the personnel may not merit a change from the 4-3 the Eagles have had in place for years.
General manager Howie Roseman said that the Eagles have stressed in the last year or two acquiring players who were versatile enough to play in either scheme. He mentioned defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and linebacker Mychal Kendricks, both drafted last year.
But there are others, like defensive ends Trent Cole, Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry, who don't appear tailor-made for the 3-4. Kelly hasn't gotten that far yet. He's still looking for shutoutability.
"I haven't studied enough film to say, 'Can you or can't you?' " Kelly said.
Contact Jeff McLane at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.