With Chip Kelly now on board as the Eagles next head coach, his first order of business will be to assemble a coaching staff. While Kelly is renowned for his creative and high-powered offenses, those who’ve observed the rapid decline of the Eagles over the past two seasons know the importancce of resurrecting the team’s porous defense.
So who will the newly minted head coach target to do the job? According to multiple reports, current Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is Kelly’s top target.
Grantham, who cites Alabama coach Nick Saban as one his coaching influences, led a defensive that finished 18th in the country, giving up only 19.6 points per game.
Grantham coached under Saban at Michigan State from 1996-1998. It’s there where he first began to learn the craft of the 3-4 defense–the front that he will almost certainly bring to Philadelphia if he’s hired.
Grantham, who has also worked alongside Wade Phillips, Romeo Crennel, and Dom Capers while serving as a defensive line coach for Houston, Indianapolis and Dallas, as well as defensive coordinator in Cleveland, singles out Saban’s influence.
Here’s what he told David Ching of ESPN prior to the 2012 SEC Championship Game:
“He’s a guy that’s really allowed me to launch my career. I learned a lot from him,” Grantham said. “Systematically, defensively we’re very similar in what we do. So he’s been one of the reasons that I’ve been able to have the success that I’ve had. He does a great job and there’s a reason … they’re playing for a chance to go to the national championship game, too.”
Apparently, the respect is mutual. Here’s Saban in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“Todd is an outstanding coach, coached on our staff way back at Michigan State. That seems like a long time ago. But had a lot of good experience in the NFL. I’ve always been really close to Todd professionally and personally. I think he’s done a phenomenal job there (at Georgia). There are some similarities in the system and scheme they use relative to what we use. But I just think he has done a really good job. (He) has his own ideas and methods about how he does it. I think their players play extremely well. I think that always has something to do with the coach, the system, (and) how it’s taught. They do a really good job. If you’re going to rank assistants, he’s one of the two or three best I’ve ever had on our staff.”
Of course, Saban’s Alabama team got the best of Georgia in that game, but Georgia would have likely never reached the title tilt had it not been for his defense that allowed only 8.6 points per game during a five game win streak.
Given his 3-4 background and Kelly’s rumored preference for the defensive front, it appears that big changes are coming in 2013 for the Eagles defensive unit. Whether or not Grantham is the man coordinating those changes remains to be seen.