Ranking the top 10 coordinators in Eagles history

Ranking the top 10 coordinators in Eagles history originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

With the Eagles settling on Kellen Moore and Vic Fangio as their new coordinators, we thought it would be fun to go back and select the top 10 coordinators in Eagles history.

The notion of NFL offensive and defensive coordinators goes back to the 1960s, although the Eagles’ first assistant coach to hold the DC title was Jim Carr in 1970 and 1971 and the first with the OC title was Tom Fears – the former Saints head coach — in 1971 and 1972, both under head coaches Jerry Williams and Ed Khayat.

Who’s missing? Who doesn’t belong? Will Moore or Fangio wind up on this list if we revisit it in a few years? Let's take a look:

1. Jim Johnson: In Johnson’s 10 years as defensive coordinator under Andy Reid, the Eagles had the No. 5 defense in the NFL, reached five NFC Championship Games, got to the playoffs seven times, had the 4th-best pass defense, forced the 6th-most turnovers and from 2000 through 2004 ranked 2nd  in the league three times, 4th once and 7th once. The Eagles ranked in the top 10 in points allowed seven times under Johnson. Under every other defensive coordinator since 1982, they’ve ranked in the top 10 in points allowed six times.

2. John Harbaugh: Harbs is a special teams legend around here, one of a very few special teams coaches who became head coaches. Harbaugh was an unheralded assistant at Indiana when Ray Rhodes brought him to Philly before the 1998 season. Andy Reid kept him on the staff a year later – and his Chiefs beat Harbaugh’s Ravens on Sunday. Harbs brought Eagles special teams to an elite level. They were always smart, disciplined and physical, the same qualities the Ravens have played with the last 16 years. They perennially ranked at or near the top in Rick Gosselin's annual special teams rankings and really set the standard for special teams play for years to come.

3. Shane Steichen: Shane Steichen and Frank Reich were both offensive coordinators here for just two years, each coached the No. 3 offense in the NFL their second year, each got to a Super Bowl in Year 2 and each became head coach of the Colts the next year. Two terrific offensive minds. What nudges Steichen ahead of Reich is that he called plays and Reich didn’t. Steichen showed an unparalleled flair for play calling during his time hear. When did the Eagles start winning in 2021? When Nick Sirianni turned over play calling to Steichen. With Steichen calling plays, the Eagles went 21-6 and then averaged 36 points in the 2022 postseason. The offense’s 27.2 points in 2022 was the Eagles’ highest since the 1953 team averaged 29.3 points per game.

4. Marion Campbell: It’s easy to just remember Marion Campbell as the Eagles’ head coach between Dick Vermeil and Buddy Ryan. Campbell is the only Eagles coach in the last 50 years who didn’t lead a team to the playoffs, and his 17-29-1 record from 1983 through 1985 was pretty bad. But as a defensive coordinator, Swampy was outstanding. Campbell was Vermeil’s defensive coordinator from 1977 through 1982, and the Eagles had the best defense in the NFL during that six-year period, allowing just 15.8 points per game (the league average was 19.5). The Eagles were never ranked below seventh in the five full seasons Swampy coached, and they were No. 1 in both 1980 and 1981 — the only time since 1950 the Eagles have had the NFL’s best defense in consecutive years.

5. Frank Reich: Although Reich didn’t call plays for Doug Pederson, he was largely responsible for the changes the Eagles made late in 2017, when Carson Wentz’s season ended and Nick Foles took over. Where Wentz’s strength was the vertical passing attack, Reich installed a high-percentage short passing game and RPO game that made the best use of Foles’ skill set and carried the Eagles all the way to the Super Bowl championship. The Eagles ranked 3rd in the NFL in points, 7th in yards, 3rd in rushing in 2017 and then averaged 31 points and 443 yards per game in the postseason.

6. Bud Carson: Carson was already a legend when he arrived in Philly in 1991, Rich Kotite’s first year as head coach. The defense was loaded with talent, but in five years under Buddy Ryan it was only top-10 in either yards or points once, in 1989. Carson, who had built the Steel Curtain defense and won two Super Bowls in Pittsburgh, coached the Eagles to No. 1 rankings in both run and pass defense in 1991, a feat that hasn’t been repeated in the NFL since. The Eagles ranked 1st and 6thin total defense in Carson’s first two seasons and although free agency defections doomed the Eagles after 1992, they still ranked 1st in yards allowed during Carson’s four seasons with the Eagles and 6th in points allowed.

7. Jim Schwartz: Doug Pederson’s only defensive coordinator, Schwartz got the most out of the talent he had, and down the stretch in 2017, when the offense was figuring things out with the quarterback change, the defense carried the team, holding seven of 11 opponents leading up to the Super Bowl to 10 or fewer points. The Eagles were 4th in defense in the 2017 Super Bowl season, and from 2016 through 2019 allowed the 7th-fewest points in the league. In the postseason, they held the Falcons and Vikings to 17 total points and while the Patriots scored a few points in the Super Bowl, Schwartz's unit got the game-changing play the Eagles desperately needed courtesy of Brandon Graham.

8. Rich Kotite: OK, before you post mean things about me on social media, just remember this has nothing to do with Kotite’s four years as a head coach. In 1990, Kotite’s one year as Buddy Ryan’s offensive coordinator, the Eagles ranked 3rd in the NFL in both yards and points and Randall Cunningham – without a WR over 750 yards - had a record-setting season with 30 TD passes and 942 rushing yards and was MVP runner-up to Joe Montana. The Eagles' No. 3 scoring ranking was the franchise's highest since 1961 and matched their highest since 1949.

9. Marty Mornhinweg: Marty joined Andy Reid’s coaching staff in 2003 but didn’t become offensive coordinator until 2006, and he remained in that role until Reid was fired after the 2012 season. During that seven-year span – longest by any Eagles offensive coordinator - the Eagles ranked 7th in yards, 8th in points, 6th in passing yards and 2nd in rushing yards per attempt. From 2008 through 2011, the Eagles ranked 6th, 5th, 3rd and 8th in scoring, the first time since 1964 through 1967 (when there were only 16 teams) they ranked in the top 10 four straight years. Mornhinweg wasn’t always the play caller, but whenever Reid handed him the responsibility he was very good.

10. Sid Gillman: Vermeil brought the legendary Hall of Famer out of retirement in 1979, and Gillman was already 68 years old and had been coaching since the 1930s when he got to Philly. Gillman, considered the architect of the modern NFL passing game, took over an offense that had ranked 27th, 19th and 18th in Vermeil’s first three seasons and made an immediate impact. The Eagles ranked 12th in 1979 and then 6th and 5th in Gillman’s last two years, the first time since the 1960s they were top-6 in consecutive years. In Gillman’s three years with Vermeil, the Eagles scored the 3rd-most points in the NFL, won the 2nd-most games, reached the playoffs all three seasons and got to their first Super Bowl in 1980.

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