Thursday, February 22, 2024

Sean Desai fired: Defensive coordinator candidates for Eagles to consider for 2024, including Wink Martindale

The Philadelphia Eagles are making sweeping changes on the defensive side of the ball this offseason, which started with the firing of Sean Desai and not retaining Matt Patricia as the defensive play-caller. The Eagles made the controversial decision to take the play-calling duties from Desai after 13 games and give them to Patricia, ruining Desai’s reputation and putting the defense in a no-win situation. 

Philadelphia will be searching for a new defensive coordinator — and perhaps a new defensive philosophy — over the next several weeks. What candidates will the Eagles target? These are five names to keep an eye on. 

Wink Martindale, former Giants defensive coordinator

The popular choice amongst the fan base, Martindale would be a strong fit with the current group of pass rushers the Eagles have. A blitz-heavy coach, Martindale would certainly help a pass rush that finished 24th in sack rate (6.2%) and 14th in pressure rate (36.1%). 

The New York Giants were 26th in points allowed and 27th in yards allowed this past season under Martindale, who clashed with his head coach at his two previous stops with the Giants and Baltimore Ravens. Also hard to ignore the 31 takeaways the Giants had this season, which tied for first in the NFL. Martindale has a background with linebackers, which would certainly result in a change of philosophy for the Eagles.

The Eagles have reportedly reached out to Martindale for their vacant defensive coordinator job, according to The Athletic. 

Ron Rivera, former Commanders head coach

Philadelphia may be the “right” spot for Rivera, given his history with the organization. Hired as Andy Reid’s first linebackers’ coach in 1999, Rivera spent five seasons with the Eagles and is responsible for developing Jeremiah Trotter into a Pro Bowler. The Eagles had a fierce combination of Trotter and Carlos Emmons at linebacker, as Jim Johnson’s defense was regarded as a top-three unit in the NFL during that time. 

The Chicago Bears hired Rivera as defensive coordinator in 2004, as he had a top-five defense in yards allowed and points allowed in two of his three seasons. Rivera went to the Chargers in 2007 as linebackers coach and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2008 — finishing with the No. 1 defense in yards allowed in 2010 (the year before he was hired as head coach). 

Rivera fits the veteran defensive coordinator profile the Eagles seek, someone who can be the head coach of a defense that likely isn’t running to get another head-coaching job. The familiarity with the organization is also highly beneficial. 

Glenn Schumann, Georgia defensive coordinator

The Eagles already have five Georgia players on their defense: Jalen Carter, Jordan Davis, Nakobe Dean, Kelee Ringo and Nolan Smith. Why not hire the man who coached these players to prominence and use his system?

Philadelphia did interview Schumann for the vacant defensive coordinator position last year, but he ultimately decided to return to Georgia. Schumann has a background as a linebackers coach (also coaches inside linebackers for Georgia) and was brought over with head coach Kirby Smart when he was hired from Alabama. 

In Schumann’s first year as the defensive play-caller (2022), the Bulldogs finished the season first in rushing defense (77.1 yards per game), fifth in scoring defense (14.3 points per game), second in red zone defense (67.6%) and ninth in total defense (296.8 yards per game).That was with Carter, Ringo, and Smith.

Some familiarity with these Georgia players could significantly benefit both parties. 

Jesse Minter, Michigan defensive coordinator

Michigan has had the best scoring defense in all of the FBS over the last two years and the No. 1 defense in yards per game allowed last season, a component of what Minter has been able to accomplish in his two seasons on the job as defensive coordinator. Minter has four years of NFL experience, as he was the defensive backs coach with the Baltimore Ravens as a defensive assistant and defensive backs coach (2017-2020). 

With Jim Harbaugh seemingly going back to the NFL, he may take Minter with him. Minter is still available and the Eagles did interview him last year. 

Al Harris, Cowboys defensive backs coach

The defensive backs coach of the Dallas Cowboys is a familiar name for Eagles fans, having been signed by the team in 1998 and spending five seasons with the team before being traded to the Packers after the 2002 season. The two-time Pro Bowler was a nickel cornerback in Philadelphia, but went on to be one of the better players at his position in his 30s. 

First a secondary coach under former Eagles head coach Andy Reid from 2013 to 2018 with the Chiefs, Harris arrived in Dallas in 2020 and is responsible for the development of Trevon Diggs, Donovan Wilson and DaRon Bland. Stephon Gilmore also had a strong year under Harris’ tutelage. 

The Cowboys had one of the more aggressive defenses in the league, similar to how Harris played in his NFL career. The Cowboys led the NFL in takeaways in consecutive seasons (2021-2022) with Harris leading the defensive backs. His style could be immensely beneficial to Philadelphia, and familiarity with the organization is a plus. 

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