11 DC candidates if Nick Sirianni remains Eagles' head coach originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
As the Eagles figure out whether or not head coach Nick Sirianni will be returning for the 2024 season, one thing is certain: They’re going to need a new defensive coordinator.
Last season after losing Jonathan Gannon, the Eagles eventually landed on Sean Desai but demoted him during the 2023 season and handed over the defense to Matt Patricia with disastrous results.
If Sirianni does return (or even if he doesn’t) the Eagles are going to need a new defensive coordinator moving forward. Here are some logical candidates, in no particular order:
Jim Leonhard: The Eagles showed interest in Leonhard during their DC search last year but the two sides reportedly decided to end his candidacy. Apparently, Leonhard planned to take a year off from coaching to undergo hip surgery but then he spent last football season with Illinois as a senior football analyst. Leonhard was a very successful defensive coordinator at Wisconsin before that.
Jesse Minter: Another candidate from the 2023 search for a defensive coordinator search, Minter’s stock is even higher this offseason. Minter has spent the last two seasons with the Michigan Wolverines as their DC and is coming off a National Championship win. Michigan had the top defense in the country in 2023. He has also coached under both Harbaugh brothers. Jim Harbaugh is an NFL head coaching candidate this offseason.
Glenn Schumann: The Eagles showed interest in Schumann last season before going with Desai. The 41-year-old has been with Georgia since 2016 and was previously at Alabama. As the DC at Georgia, Schumann coached a few key defensive Eagles in Jordan Davis, Jalen Carter, Nakobe Dean and Nolan Smith. If the Eagles really want to unlock those players, Schumann might be a smart hire.
Chris Shula: Another guy the Eagles showed interest in last year who might still be available. Shula has held a few different jobs since joining the Rams in 2017 but in 2023 was pass rush coordinator/linebackers coach. Shula is the son of Dave Shula and the grandson of Don Shula. Sirianni and Shula coached together with the Chargers in 2017.
Dave Borgonzi: If this is Sirianni’s decision, then Borgonzi makes sense because of their connection from being with the Colts’ staff together for a few years. Borgonzi was the Colts’ linebackers coach from 2018-21 and took over that same position in Chicago in 2022. Borgonzi was reportedly a candidate to be Jonathan Gannon’s DC in Arizona last season but Gannon instead brought Nick Rallis with him from Philly. This past season, Borgonzi got to coach Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards with the Bears. Borgonzi, 41, will be the DC at the upcoming East-West Shrine game.
Al Harris: You probably remember Harris as the longtime NFL defensive back who began his career with the Eagles from 1998-2002, playing under the late Jim Johnson and Andy Reid. Harris then went on to be a Pro Bowler with the Packers. Harris has been coaching since retiring as a player and spent several seasons under Reid in Kansas City before becoming the Cowboys’ DBs coach in 2020. Since getting that job in Dallas, Harris has coached up players like Trevon Diggs, DaRon Bland, Jayron Kearse and more. The 49-year-old seems destined to be a DC.
Leslie Frazier: If the Eagles want to go with a lot of experience, they’ll have some options too. Frazier, 64, has been a DC and a head coach in the NFL for a long time. He was with the Eagles in 1999-2002 under Big Red and Johnson before going on to be a DC in Cincinnati, Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Buffalo. He was also a head coach in Minnesota from 2011-13. Most recently, Frazier was the Bills’ DC from 2020-22. He has expressed a desire to get back into coaching.
Lovie Smith: The 65-year-old Smith was out of coaching in 2022 after getting fired as the Texans head coach after just one season in that role. But he has a ton of coaching experience. He was also the head coach at Illinois, with the Bucs and with the Bears. He’s a longtime defensive coach and would be able to pretty much control that side of the ball.
Patrick Graham: The Raiders’ defensive coordinator is getting some head coaching buzz so there’s a chance he won’t even be available. And the Raiders reportedly turned down a DC interview request for Graham this month as they go through their process to hire a new head coach. The only way Graham would be available is if the Raiders’ new coach doesn’t want him. But Graham is getting attention because the Raiders turned things around under interim coach Antonio Pierce and the defense was really the catalyst.
Ejiro Evero: The Panthers were awful in 2023 but that wasn’t Evero’s fault. In fact, the defense in Carolina was really good. They ranked fourth in yards allowed despite the team’s dismal 2-15 record. Evero also did a good job as the Broncos’ DC in 2022. And even though things didn’t end well when Frank Reich coached with Evero in Carolina this season maybe that connection could lead Evero to Sirianni.
Dennard Wilson: The Eagles screwed up by not promoting Wilson to be their defensive coordinator last season. No question about it anymore. The Eagles brought in Desai and then demoted him during the season while Wilson went to Baltimore and coached a secondary in one of the best defenses in the NFL. Wilson will eventually be a DC and is garnering interest around the league. Could the Eagles, tail between their legs, bring Wilson back? Not sure, but it’s worth a phone call.