Chip Kellys reputation as a savant-like offensive mastermind who can outsmart the best of them at the college level also raises questions about the new Eagles head coachs ability to field an elite NFL defense.
Kelly on Wednesday said assembling a defensive staff is one of his most pressing objectives and that the process to find the right assistants starts immediately.
Right in the middle of it, said the former Oregon head coach, who replaced Andy Reid. Started making some phone calls Wednesday night. There is obviously a lot of protocol that goes on in terms of asking for permission from other organizations for people that are under contract. Were right in the middle of that. Thats really been my first order of business since I arrived here.
The Eagles were one of the NFLs worst defenses last year. They fielded the NFLs third-worst scoring defense (28.4 points per game) and fell from a first-place tie in sacks in 2011 to 22nd.
Kelly said his staff members would share the same vision he does and that hes likely to explore both college and professional ranks to find those pieces to his puzzle.
He neglected to mention names, but two college coaches -- Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart -- have already been linked to joining Kellys staff as a defensive coordinator.
Kelly also didnt discount taking some members from his Oregon staff and retaining some coaches from Reids staff. Four of Kelly's assistants from Oregon are reportedly on their way to Philly to discuss positions on the Eagles' staff (see story).
Kelly won't be retaining defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, according to a source. Bowles is expected to replace Ray Horton as defensive coordinator of the Cardinals under new head coach Bruce Arians.
There are some current Eagles guys that have been staff that Im scheduled to interview, Kelly said. I want to really sit down and visit with them.
While much of Reids offensive staff accompanied the Eagles former head coach to Kansas City, defensive line coach Tommy Brasher was the only defensive coach to head west with Reid.
Safeties coach Mike Zordich, linebackers coach Mike Caldwell and defensive quality control coach Bob April III are still under contract with the Eagles.
Opposing quarterbacks completed 66.8 percent of their passes and compiled a collective passer rating of 127.2 in the 10 games Bowles served as coordinator, seemingly making him a questionable choice at best to retain the position, but Kelly might be willing to disregard all the troubles of last years dysfunctional defensive staff and take a clean-slate approach with Bowles.
Yeah, Im in the process of evaluating all that, so I think there are a couple of guys here that Im talking to, he said. My big thing with our staff is its the same approach Ive taken with recruiting: Its not who we dont get, its who we do get. And I want to make sure that person is the right fit.
So this isnt a race of Who do we have to have? and I need to make an announcement tomorrow that weve got this. Its making sure that were right in what weve got.
Though his Oregon defenses were built around a 3-4 front -- three down linemen, four linebackers -- the Eagles spent 14 seasons under Reid employing a 4-3 front and having their rosters built with the type of players who fit 4-3 schemes.
Kelly made only one promise about how his defense will look when the season opens in September.
In terms of what we want to be, were going to be an attacking style defense, he said. Its going to be a group of people who dictates the tempo of the game. What that spacing is in terms of is it a 4-3 spacing or 3-4 spacing? I think its, again, looking at our roster and understanding who I have the opportunity to bring here.
I cant tell you that were going to be this or going to be that, but I know the style of football that were going to play and I know the style of players that I want to have out there. Were going to play fast, were going to play hard, and were going to finish plays.
Kelly, who has never coached at the NFL level, hasnt coached defense in almost 20 years and has spent only three seasons on the defensive side. He started his coaching career in 1990 as a defensive backs coach and special teams coach for Columbias freshman team before moving onto outside linebackers and safeties for the varsity team the following season.
He became the defensive coordinator for Johns Hopkins in 1993 but returned to his alma mater, New Hampshire, in 1994 to coach running backs. He hasnt since coached on the defensive side.
I started out in college on the defensive side of the ball, he said. I think it helps you to get a great feel for what goes on on that side of the ball and on the offensive side of the ball. I was fortunate enough early on in my career to coach a lot of different positions. It wasnt totally by design, but I just didnt want to get pigeonholed as Im this in terms of being a football coach.
I have a passion for the game and I have a thirst for the game. It helped me. The better that I understand the offense as a defensive coach, it made me a better offensive coach because I understand better whats being taught over there. I have a well-rounded background from the standpoint of offense, defense and special teams.
E-mail Geoff Mosher at firstname.lastname@example.org.