With the Eagles’ bye week coming to a close, so is defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s availability to other teams to interview for their head coaching vacancies. NFL assistant coaches are allowed to interview for head coaching and other coaching vacancies, if it is a promotion from their current position, after their respective team’s season has finished or during the team’s bye week in the playoffs. The bye week interviews can happen during a first-round bye and/or during the bye week before the Super Bowl. Since the Eagles have a first-round bye, Schwartz is scheduled to interview for the Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants head coaching vacancies. If Schwartz is hired for his second go-around as a head coach, where he had 29 wins and 52 losses in his Detroit Lions stint, who would replace him as defensive coordinator? I look at some potential hires below and give my personal opinion on who I’d like to see as defensive coordinator.
The Eagles can opt to stay within their own coaching staff to replace Schwartz and promote defensive backs coach Cory Undlin. Undlin has served as the Eagles’ defensive backs coach since 2015, previously coaching the Broncos’ defensive backs from 2012-2014. Undlin’s effect on the defensive backs was quickly recognized when former Eagle Walter Thurmond was able to transition from cornerback to safety in Undlin’s first year and set career highs in multiple categories. Malcolm Jenkins has also thrived under Undlin, being selected to the 2015 and 2017 Pro Bowl. Undlin would definitely bring consistency to the Eagles, but the lack of success in 2017 against the pass, allowing 227 yards per game, could make the Eagles’ front office weary of promoting him to be in charge of the entire defense.
Current Giants defensive coordinator/interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo would be an option for the Eagles if the Giants decide to part ways under a new head coach. Spagnuolo was the Giants’ defensive coordinator of the Giants’ 2007 Super Bowl team, which featured an all-time great defense. Spagnuolo also served under the late Jim Johnson on the Eagles defensive staff. Although the Giants finished at or near the bottom of most defensive categories in 2017, injuries and lack of effort can be attributed to those numbers and Spagnuolo would definitely bring the Jim Johnson mentality back to the Eagles’ defense.
Current Chargers’ defensive coordinator Gus Bradley would also be of consideration, as he is a free agent this offseason. Bradley was the defensive coordinator of the famous “Legion of Boom” in Seattle from 2009-2012. Bradley left Seattle in 2012 to become the Jacksonville head coach, after flirting with the Eagles on their head coaching vacancy. The Chargers have enjoyed success under Bradley, ending the year 15th in total defense and third in passing defense. They were also tied for sixth in total interceptions and tied for fifth in total sacks.
My vote goes firmly to Bradley. Bradley was able to develop Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram to two of the most feared edge rushers. Having a defense with Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Tim Jernigan, Vinny Curry, and Derek Barnett, among others, should make Bradley rush to the Eagles if they come calling. The young defensive backs Sidney Jones, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Ronald Darby, Rodney McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins would thrive under Bradley’s tutelage. If and when Schwartz moves on to be a head coach, I sincerely hope I see Gus Bradley’s name as the new defensive coordinator.