Some odds and ends from my weekend interview with former Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis that were left on the cutting room floor:
Davis said Chip Kelly told him he wanted to bring him to San Francisco with him after he was hired as the 49ers' head coach, but general manager Trent Baalke and owner Jed York nixed the idea. He said his previous stint as the Niners' defensive coordinator in 2005 and 2006 worked against him, even though he said head coach Mike Nolan was the de facto coordinator those two years. "I think they wanted Chip to bring someone in [as defensive coordinator] who hadn't been there before,'' Davis said.
Davis interviewed with the Colts after he was let go by the Eagles, mainly because their veteran linebacker, D'Qwell Jackson, who played for Davis in Cleveland, campaigned for him with Chuck Pagano. But Pagano didn't offer him a job. Davis worked as a consultant for the Dolphins leading up to the free agency signing period, doing write-ups on potential free agents. He said he also spent a lot of time up in Columbus, Ohio, hanging with Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer, who is a longtime friend. Davis said he looked into a few college jobs, even though he's been an NFL assistant his entire coaching career. He said the idea of coaching of college next year might appeal to him. "At the end of this season, I'll make a decision whether I take a shot at college, which I've never experienced, or jump back into the NFL if the opportunity arises,'' he said.
Davis said he has a lot of respect for his replacement in Philadelphia, Jim Schwartz, and thinks he will do a good job. "We went from [the wide-9 4-3] before I got there to a two-gap, which is the exact opposite,'' he said. "Now they're back to that [wide-9]. Jim has had a lot of success and knows that scheme inside and out. I have no doubt that he'll be successful. He has a lot of solid players on that defense. It'll take a while, I'm guessing. There will be some mistakes and misfits and those kinds of things, which happen when you change schemes. But I think they'll be fine. Schwartz has a time-tested method. He's had different personnel wherever he's been, and always has been in the top 10, top 15 defenses. He'll make it work.''
Davis has no doubt that defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who earned All-Pro recognition as a two-gap end in his scheme, will flourish as a three-technique tackle in Schwartz's scheme. Cox was drafted by the Eagles to play the three-technique before Andy Reid was fired. "Fletch is going to excel in any defense you put him in,'' he said. "We played him in every one of those techniques. He played a lot of three-technique for us. When I realized what a talent I had, I tried to see how many different mismatches I could get him on and how many different places I could put him. Because once he learned the two-gap techniques and mastered them, he still had those other skills. He's so well-rounded that he could go back to being asked to two-gap for a down or two. I bet he does on some run downs. The thing about Fletch is he has the brainpower to do that. Sometimes you have those raw talents, but you can't get them to move and align. It's just too much for them. Fletch has a very high football IQ. Even when you throw him into a little mini-coverage, Fletch could handle that.''
Davis has been criticized for not using defensive lineman Vinny Curry more. Curry established a niche as an inside nickel pass rusher for Davis. But some thought he also should have been used as a two-gap end. Davis said Curry really wasn't big enough to do that on a regular basis. And if they had used him in that role, it would have diminished his ability to rush the passer on third down. "It would have been tough for him to hold up playing every down,'' Davis said. "He might have a good game or two good games in a row. But the body breaks down. We thought we were playing him a good number. Maybe an extra five to 10 [snaps] would've been a little better number. But if we had played him on every down, he would've had to two-gap on first and second down. And that would've diminished his effectiveness as a penetrator on third down.''
Davis said the jury still is out on 2014 first-round pick Marcus Smith. But he thinks he'll have a better chance for success in Schwartz's defense than he did in his. "I don't know [if he's an NFL player],'' he said. "This is probably a good opportunity [for him] to do less and try to get back and just set, hike, go, instead of having to think about dropping [into coverage] and everything else. The 4-3 is a lot simpler. There's less moving parts. You can focus on your stance and your get-off. This will be a great opportunity for him to show if he does have that pass-rush ability.''