Bill McGovern is not the first name you will think of when anyone asks who is integral to the success of the Philadelphia Eagles. Still, when you think about the recent history of the Philadelphia Eagles, you cannot help but notice that the struggles over the linebacker corps seemed to be an unsolvable dilemma. This was the same team that struggled at linebacker converted cold-turkey to a 3-4 defense that emphasized the linebacker position. Now are you wondering how did the Birds pull it off?
Let’s face it: the ingredients for success at the NFL level do not consist of one free agent, two defensive ends converting to outside linebacker, two linebackers, and a host of under-performing or unknown linebacker/special team prospects. Yet somehow, that is exactly what the Eagles used to bake the defensive cake that was the NFC East division winner. When you scratch the surface, you find that Bill McGovern is the man who was the keystone. He was the lynchpin of converting that ugly duckling of a defense from 2012 into the swan-like grace of a 2013 division winner. So who is Bill McGovern?
Well, for twenty-seven years, McGovern has been a defensive force at the collegiate level. With roles that have included defensive backs coach, linebackers coach, and eventually defensive coordinator, he has been consistent in his approach to develop individuals, but focusing on good fundamentals. In describing his coaching philosophy in a 2012 interview, McGovern revealed:
“Well learning from other coaches is important, but we primarily try to stop the running game and control the passing game. The key is to build the player, but to also build on the players surrounding him. Our team has always been led by the (veterans). They understand how we practice, how we prepare for the game. We ask more from them, and those guys show the younger guys how we get things done. We’ll ask each player to do a little bit more, and try to assess what each does well. We’ll try to place each player into a position of performing well, to their strengths.” – Bill McGovern
Under McGovern’s tutelage, Mark Herzlich (currently a linebacker for the New York Giants) and Luke Kuechly (linebacker for the Carolina Panthers) grew from a collegiate player into an NFL starter. It was perhaps his success in developing standout Kuechly that placed McGovern in the cross-hairs of the Philadelphia Eagles. That, and the fact that he faced head coach Chip Kelly both as a player and as a coach. In keeping with the theme mentioned in previous articles, if you impress Chip when you play against him, you will likely eventually be working for him.