It’s not surprising that a list of the 10 greatest assistant coaches in Eagles history is led by three legendary former defensive coordinators.
This franchise has always prided itself first on tremendous defense.
But this list includes a little bit of everything.
Offensive coordinators from a couple Super Bowl teams, two brilliant offensive line coaches, a special teams coach that went on to win a Super Bowl as a head coach and two more extraordinary position coaches.
If you missed our 10 worst assistant coaches in Eagles history, that list is here.
Here, in alphabetical order, are their polar opposites: The 10 greatest assistant coaches in Eagles history.
If all you remember about Swamp Fox is that he was a mediocre head coach between the Dick Vermeil and Buddy Ryan eras, consider this: 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 NFL 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.
During the legendary Carson’s four years as defensive coordinator, from 1991 through 1994, the Eagles allowed the fewest yards in the NFL and sixth-fewest points, ranked No. 1 against the pass, No. 7 against the run, No. 1 in takeaways, No. 1 in first downs allowed, No. 1 in third-down conversions. Those may not have been great teams, but they were sure great defenses. Bud’s 1991 team allowed 221 yards per game, lowest by any NFL team since the 1974 Steelers, also coached by Carson.
Before Castillo became offensive line coach in 1997, the Eagles hadn’t had a Pro Bowl offensive lineman since 1981. During Castillo’s 14 years as O-line coach, five different Eagles O-linemen made a total of nine Pro Bowls. A terrific teacher, a tremendous motivator and a tireless worker, Castillo spent a total of 18 years as an Eagles assistant under Ray Rhodes and Andy Reid, the last two as defensive coordinator. He’s currently coaching O-line with the Bears under Matt Nagy, who coached with Castillo in Philly under Reid.
The hugely influential Gillman was one of the original architects of the NFL’s down-field passing game during his years with the Rams and Chargers in the 1950s and 1960s. He’s the only coach in both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame. Gillman was 68 and had already retired once when Vermeil hired him as offensive coordinator in 1979. The Eagles ranked 12th, sixth and fifth in Gillman’s three years here, reached the playoffs all three years and the Super Bowl in 1980.
You could tell his first day on the job in 1998 Harbaugh had all the tools for greatness. He was smart, he was tough, he was driven. Harbs took over a special teams unit in shambles and turned it into one of the best in the league. Reid kept him when he replaced Rhodes and moved him to the secondary in 2007 to help his chances to land a head coaching job. Harbs has now been with the Ravens 12 years, reached the playoffs seven years and won a Super Bowl.
Ryan brought Haupt over with him from the Bears as defensive line coach, and he stayed here under Rich Kotite and for a year under Rhodes. Reggie White raved about Haupt’s ability to teach, and when you think about the talent he worked with – Reggie, Jerome, Clyde, William Fuller – it’s remarkable. During Haupt’s 10 years here, the Eagles had 43 more sacks than any other NFL team and the No. 4 run defense in the league.
In Johnson’s remarkable decade, the Eagles ranked No. 2 in the NFL in defense three times, No. 4 once, seventh once and ninth once. But the innovative Johnson saved his best work for the postseason, where the Eagles allowed an average of 15.8 points in 17 postseason games. That’s amazing. Only four of those 17 opponents scored more than 20 points. Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins credits Johnson for taking his career to the next level, and he’s one of many. The Pro Football Hall of Fame hasn’t admitted any assistant coaches yet, but if they do, Johnson should be at the top of the list.
The 2017 season was magical in a lot of ways, and offensive coordinator Reich was in the middle of much of it. Reich spent only two years here, but he had a huge role in an offense that ranked No. 4 in the league in scoring over his two years and was unstoppable in the 2017 NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl under backup QB Nick Foles. Reich is entering his third year as head coach of the Colts.
Anybody who can work under Reid, Chip Kelly and Doug Pederson must be doing something right. After spending seven years here as a player, Duce has been coaching here for 10 years in several different roles. But in his seven years as running backs coach – despite rotating 15 different running backs during that span – the Eagles have the seventh-most rushing yards in the NFL. All his backs swear by Duce, and Staley definitely deserves consideration for any head coaching jobs that open up.
Like Duce, Stoutland is a holdover from Kelly’s staff, and the former Alabama offensive line coach has had tremendous success here, with Brandon Brooks, Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson all making at least three Pro Bowls under Stout. Only three other offensive linemen in Eagles history have made three Pro Bowls (Bob Brown, Jim Ringo and Tra Thomas). Four of the Eagles’ nine first-team All-Pro O-linemen in franchise history played under Stoutland.
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