NEW ORLEANS - For the second time in three years, the Eagles are without a defensive coordinator as Super Bowl week opens.
The delay in naming one has many speculating that new coach Chip Kelly has his eye on one of the assistant coaches preparing for Sunday's championship game. The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers have two of the more renowned defenses in the NFL over the last decade, so it would make sense for the Eagles to focus on their staffs.
Of course, the same was thought two years ago when the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers were in the Super Bowl and Andy Reid was looking for a defensive coordinator. Rather than hire one of their defensive assistants, Reid shockingly promoted offensive line coach Juan Castillo four days before the game.
It is unlikely that Kelly will think that far outside the box. A number of former coordinators remain unemployed, including former Eagles assistant Steve Spagnuolo. The Ravens and 49ers also boast defensive coaches who have ample experience or are viewed as possible coordinators.
The person most often mentioned in the last week has been San Francisco defensive backs coach Ed Donatell. The buzz has worn off some, however.
The Eagles' interest apparently has been directed to Ravens linebackers coach Ted Monachino, according to two NFL sources. While Donatell has vast experience as a defensive coordinator, Monachino has never helmed a defense in either college or the NFL.
Still, he is considered an up-and-comer around the league, having worked under coordinators Greg Mattison, Chuck Pagano, and Dean Pees in Baltimore. Monachino, 46, was hired to coach the Ravens' outside linebackers in 2010. He was promoted to linebackers coach last year.
Ravens all-pro linebacker Terrell Suggs has credited Monachino with helping him reach the next level. Suggs was a Pro Bowl linebacker before Monachino came aboard, but he became one of the league's best defensive players in 2010 and '11.
Monachino was Suggs' position coach at Arizona State, where he played defensive end from 2000-02. In 2006, Monachino started a five-year stint as the defensive line coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
If Monachino is the Eagles' target, they face one significant obstacle: The Ravens could block them from hiring the position coach. Several years ago, the NFL allowed teams to block assistants from taking promotions with other clubs unless the job offered was as head coach.
The 49ers could prevent Donatell from leaving as well, although it would seem unlikely considering his seniority. He has not been a coordinator in the NFL since 2006. His first coordinator gig was with the Packers in 2000-03.
His last game with the Packers came in a loss to the Eagles in the divisional round of the playoffs. The fourth-and-26 hookup between Donovan McNabb and Freddie Mitchell late in the game may have been Donatell's undoing.
Donatell, 54, then served as coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons in 2004-06. He has been the defensive backs coach with the New York Jets (1990-94), Denver Broncos (1995-99, 2009-10), and the 49ers (2011-12). He was the defensive coordinator at the University of Washington in 2008.
Donatell isn't the only member of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's staff to have experience as a coordinator. Niners defensive line coach Jim Tomsula ran the defense for the Berlin Thunder of NFL Europe in 2004-05. He was head coach of the Rhein Fire, also of NFL Europe, in 2006.
Tomsula has been in San Francisco since 2007. Defensive tackle Justin Smith has become one of the best at his position under his tutelage.
San Francisco linebackers coach Jim Leavitt has more than 30 years of coaching on his resumé, including a 13-year run as the head coach at the University of South Florida. He has been in San Francisco for two seasons and this year has three linebackers (Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis, and NaVorro Bowman) who were voted into the Pro Bowl.
Aside from Monachino, the Ravens have a coordinator candidate in Teryl Austin. He has been an NFL defensive backs coach at three stops - in Seattle (2003-6), Arizona (2007-09), and Baltimore (2011-12). Austin, 47, was also the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida in 2010.
The Eagles have done a fine job of keeping their assistant coaching hires a secret. They haven't confirmed any additions, although several coaches reportedly are on board, including former Browns coach Pat Shurmur as offensive coordinator.
Though there has been some guesswork involved in the Eagles' search for a defensive coordinator, there are reasons to believe that their target is here. Both the Ravens and 49ers run a variant of a 3-4 defense, and Kelly is believed to prefer switching the Eagles from a 4-3.