These are not the moves that make thunderous headlines, nor do they generate edge-of-the-seat fan reaction. For the rabid Eagles fan, the hirings of special teams coordinator Bobby April and senior assistant/defensive backs coach Dick Jauron rings a significant bell, for you understand the upgrades the Eagles have made on their coaching staff.
For those who are not quite as in tune with the success of both April and Jauron in their decades-long career, well, pay attention. The Eagles aren't at the point in the off-season where they can dramatically alter their player roster, but they sure have taken advantage of the time since the season ended to improve the coaching staff.
This is not a slap at the previous coaches -- Ted Daisher on special teams and Brian Stewart at defensive backs -- but instead a voice of congratulations to Andy Reid for making the moves, reaching out to the top, top coaches out there and doing what it takes to bring both April and Jauron into the fold.
Jauron signed his contract on Wednesday and then met the media -- first a conference call, then a question-and-answer session with the TV guys, then a one-on-one with a city columnist and then on the PhiladelphiaEagles.com set with me. And when he put down his head set after we finished, Jauron was done with interviews for now, for the near future, for the season and for as long as he remains the team's defensive backs coach.
Per team policy, only Reid and his coordinators -- April, Marty Mornhinweg and Sean McDermott -- talk to the media. For Jauron, it means he can have interrupted bliss doing what he enjoys doing the most, and that is coaching young men in the art of playing in the secondary in a scheme that Jauron loves, with a head coach for whom Jauron has nothing but respect and admiration.
What the Eagles are getting in Jauron is an accomplished defensive mind, a great teacher, a man who worked his way up in his 25 years of coaching in the NFL and has not viewed one job as more desirable than another. He is a football coach and it doesn't matter to Jauron whether he is coaching defensive backs, serving as the coordinator of an expansion team (as he did in Jacksonville) or spending 10 seasons as a head coach (which he did with Chicago, Detroit and Buffalo).
A coach, is a coach, is a coach ...
Jauron didn't get into specifics on Wednesday about what he wants to accomplish with the various components in the Eagles' secondary. He knows that Asante Samuel, Sheldon Brown and Quintin Mikell are very talented players. He knows that the scheme McDermott runs is a proven success, that the genius is in the way the Eagles dial up the pressure and change the approach from one week to the next.
Jauron is here to help the Eagles. He is not here to undermine McDermott, or to provide any great Yoda-like perspective to a young defensive coaching staff. The Eagles hired Jauron because he is an excellent football coach who adds to a staff that has really challenged itself in the off-season. For the next several weeks, Jauron has to learn the defensive language and all of the nuances of the scheme. He has to "live inside the defense," a concept that he spoke about with great excitement in his media go-around on Wednesday.
What he is going to do specifically to improve each member of the secondary remains to be seen. How Jauron's presence will impact the free safety position is, obviously, a really important piece of the puzzle. Jauron's staff coached up rookie Jarius Byrd in Buffalo in 2009 and Byrd responded with 9 interceptions in 14 games before suffering a season-ending injury.
Jauron's X's and O's may be different than what McDermott believes, but the general concepts are similar: Be aggressive, be smart and put pressure on the quarterback.
His introduction to the staff was another feather in Reid's cap, who earlier replaced Daisher with the affable April. The track record with April speaks volumes and he brings to Philadelphia instant credibility and respect for the special teams. When the Eagles went out and signed punter Durant Brooks the other day, the reaction here wasn't just another yawn. I felt, "Well, if Bobby April worked Brooks out and liked what he saw, maybe Brooks really has a shot at unseating Sav Rocca."
We shall see first in the post-draft mini-camp and then in training camp and then in the preseason how Brooks performs. But I certainly get the impression that April wouldn't have made the recommendation to sign Brooks this early in the off-season if he hadn't believed in what he saw while studying Brooks' past and then judging his 30-punt workout.
Hey, it's fair to say the Eagles should have one of the very best special teams in the league. They have the explosive DeSean Jackson in the punt return game, the steady David Akers as the placekicker, the error-free Jon Dorenbos as the long-snapper. All three made the Pro Bowl and did so deservedly. Rocca did a fine job following Daisher's directives on directional kicking and controlled distance, and had a strong season from a net-yard average.
I wonder, when it comes time to cut down to 53 players, how much influence April will have if he believes he has some real special-teams standouts who need to make the team.
As for Jauron, I mean, how can you not love this move? He knows the job and he has a lot here in place. The Eagles need to be better in the secondary and, quite frankly, there have been challenges back there in the last few years with Trent Walters and then Stewart moving out of the organization after brief stays.
Jauron is somebody the players will listen to and respect and play for. He will make the most of his personnel within McDermott's scheme, and Jauron will work with the vim and vigor of a man glad to be an Eagle, thrilled to be with Reid -- with whom he coached in Green Bay from 1992-94 - and hopeful that he can help take a good Eagles team to the top.
Make sure you take notice, no matter how much you already know, what kind of upgrade the Eagles have made to their coaching staff in the three-plus weeks since the season ended. The Eagles have made the most of their days and have taken very important steps to making this a better football team in 2010 and beyond.