Draft well, teach great and develop players. It's the constant for the successful teams in the NFL, and it's something the Eagles must improve to get back into the upper echelon of the league. An outstanding coaching staff is a key to that blueprint.
The Eagles have hired 16 assistants to join head coach Doug Pederson here, including seven coaches retained from the Chip Kelly regime. It's a broad mix to support Pederson. Jim Schwartz runs the defense and he's a former head coach who has been coaching in the NFL for more than 20 seasons with a terrific track record for success. John DeFilippo coaches the quarterbacks after serving as Cleveland's offensive coordinator last season. Ken Flajole, the linebackers coach, was the defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams from 2009-11. Frank Reich, the offensive coordinator here, was the coordinator of San Diego's explosive passing offenses in 2014 and 2015 and has also coached quarterbacks and wide receivers after his 13-year playing career ended.
A bunch of the coaches surrounding Pederson played in the NFL, including running backs coach Duce Staley, wide receivers coach Greg Lewis, safeties coach Tim Hauck, assistant offensive line/tight ends/run game coach Eugene Chung and defensive quality control/assistant defensive line coach Phillip Daniels.
We know all about Dave Fipp, retained as the special teams coordinator. He's one of the best in the league. Tight ends coach Justin Peelle played for 10 seasons in the league and enters his fourth year here having helped Zach Ertz become a complete tight end, aided Brent Celek in his role as a blocker and receiver and nurtured a much-improved Trey Burton, who was not drafted after having played multiple positions at Florida and who has now become a rising player at the position.
Jeff Stoutland, we know, develops offensive linemen. He's a critical coach for a team that could look very hard at improving a unit that has to get more manpower for 2016. Cory Undlin returns for a second season working with the defensive backs having helped Malcolm Jenkins and Walter Thurmond team up at safety in 2015 and rapidly maturing rookie Eric Rowe into a promising cornerback.
Up and down the coaching staff, the Eagles have teachers. They have tacticians. They have communicators. All of those traits -- teaching, stressing precision and communicating are going to be vital to make this roster better.
"That's what we do," Stoutland said during the 2015 season. "We're teachers. Our jobs are to make players better, more productive. It's a game of repetition and being disciplined in what we do."
How many players on the roster really, really, really improved the last year or two or even three? Rowe, for sure. Lane Johnson had his ups and downs. Jason Kelce made the Pro Bowl in 2014 and then admitted that he struggled in 2015. Jordan Matthews worked so hard and improved in 2015 from 2014. Jenkins became a more complete safety. Jordan Hicks made a remarkable impact at linebacker as a rookie before suffering an injury midway through this season. Fletcher Cox, of course. He's a dominating player, making that jump from the "good player" category in 2012 and 2013.
Who else? Anyone else jump out you? Sam Bradford at quarterback? Yes, he absolutely made positive strides in the second half of 2015. Who am I missing? Anybody else stand out? Ertz, for sure. He is ready to be an upper-level tight end in this league.
The point is, as fans and media kick around the idea of what the Eagles need to do to improve and what they must add, a huge component is making the current roster better. And that's where the coaching staff comes into play.
Let's take Lewis, for example. He made it in the NFL as a non-drafted rookie and stuck because he took all the things taught to him by Eagles receivers coach David Culley (now in Kansas City) and used them with his quick feet and good hands to carve out an eight-year career. Lewis made it because he worked hard and wanted success, and because he took coaching well. He'll use what Culley taught him, enhanced with the experience he's gained as a wide receivers coach in college and his experience in the NFL, and improve this group of wide receivers right away. He played the position. He relates to these guys. That's going to help.
DeFilippo, who called plays in Cleveland last season, is intriguing. Look him up and you read quotes about his bright future and the impressive way he's worked with young quarterbacks like Terrelle Pryor, Derek Carr and Johnny Manziel.
"The quarterbacks really like John,'' said Greg Knapp, the quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator in Denver who worked with DeFilippo in Oakland. "He's very personable, and it's important to him that he has a relationship with the players, not just as a coach but a person-to-person relationship.
"Don't let his age fool you. He's like Adam Gase (now the head coach of the Miami Dolphins). He's got great knowledge and a great future ahead of him."
Draft well, teach great and develop players. That's the formula for building a deep and talented roster. The teaching and developing part is on the coaching staff. There is something for everyone with this staff, the one Doug Pederson and the Eagles have put together. Pederson wanted coaches who have familiarity with playing and coaching in the NFL, and he's got that.
It's been a busy couple of weeks for the Eagles in their search for a new head coach. They have their man, Doug Pederson. Just as important are the people who will support Pederson directly, and that's his coaching staff. It's a mix of names we know and names we've got a lot to learn about, and with that, let the teaching begin.