The Eagles announced on Monday that they had interviewed Bears secondary coach Jon Hoke for the open defensive coordinator position. I'm glad that there is finally some progress. It seems like the team interviewed Dennis Allen a few months ago. It wasn't that long of course, but it feels like this process has gone on forever.
We've spent the last couple of weeks speculating about whether the Eagles would go after Mike Trgovac, Darren Perry, Ray Horton, or Bob Babich. We even had a nano-second to entertain the notion that Dick LeBeau could be a target. And who could forget the three or so hours that Jeff Fisher "had the job"? That was a glorious afternoon/evening. Thanks John Clayton. Now we turn to Hoke. Let's look at his background.
For the last two years Hoke has coached the Bears secondary. From 2002-2008 he coached the Texans secondary. Prior to that he was the defensive coordinator at Florida. That job lasted from 1999-2001. Before running the Gators defense, Hoke was the defensive backs coach at Missouri. That gig ran from 1994-1998. Hoke had jobs at a few small schools before Missouri, but that is where things become relevant to us.
One of the other assistant coaches at Missouri was a guy named Dave Toub, a name you might recognize. Toub is a friend and coaching associate of Andy Reid's. They worked together for five years in college and three with the Eagles. Toub then coached with Hoke at Missouri and also with the Bears. You can bet that Reid has picked Toub's brain about what kind of a coach and person Hoke is.
While at Florida Hoke coached up one superstar defensive back, Lito Sheppard. The Eagles selected him in the first round of the 2002 draft. You would think that Reid watched plenty of tape of the Gators defense prior to making that pick. He also may have met with Hoke to discuss Sheppard.
Hoke has had some good influences. He played one year in the NFL, for Buddy Ryan and the Bears. Hoke got to learn from Dom Capers during his time in Houston. He learned from Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli in his time with the Bears. That is an eclectic set of defensive minds. Ryan is the master of the 46 Defense and blitzing from the 4-3. Capers is one of the 3-4 blitzing gurus of the last 25 years and is a master of the zone blitz. Smith and Marinelli run a simple system, but one that is successful because of how well they run it.
Hoke's background isn't with the Tampa 2, though. Look at this snippet from a 1999 article discussing his hiring by the Florida Gators:
While Stoops was a big believer in having cornerbacks in press coverage, Hoke is sold on the Dom Capers' style of doing things. He estimates UF has 30 zone blitzes out of different fronts. Missouri moved up from 76th to 21st nationally in total defense last season. Tigers head coach Larry Smith credits Hoke, who sold defensive coordinator Moe Ankney on switching from man to zone coverage, for the dramatic improvement.
''We used a lot of Jon's ideas,'' Smith said. ''He studied the zone blitzes quite a bit and that was a main factor in us getting better. He would have been my next coordinator if we had an opening.''
Hoke was Spurrier's second choice. He went to Plan B only after Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster waited too long to make a decision.
It's probably just as well. Now the Gators defense has a leader who may be perfect for the job because he doesn't care about who he's following or who might be looking over his shoulder. All Hoke knows is he has the opportunity of his coaching life. And it sure beats trying to win with mirrors.
''Bobby [Stoops] is a good friend of mine,'' Hoke said. ''He had a close relationship with Coach Spurrier, but I got to be me. I can't worry about those things. Coach has told me, 'This is your defense. You handle it. You coach your personality.' He's never said, 'Well, Bobby did it this way or that way.' ''
You can see that Hoke is already talking about Dom Capers, even though he had yet to work for him. Sounds like Hoke is a big believer in the zone blitz. I'm sure many fans will cringe when they read that, but the reason that Reid hired Jim Johnson back in 1999 was that he liked his zone blitz concepts so much.
The good news with Hoke is that he has run a defense before. He has worked with a couple of NFL teams. He's got a varied enough background to be able to come in and deal with different types of players. Hoke is the kind of veteran coach that Reid could trust to run the defense. I also don't see Hoke as a guy who will get a head coaching gig in the NFL. That means he could provide stability, something Reid would love to re-establish on his coaching staff.
I don't know that there is a definitive knock on Hoke. He didn't have the best secondaries when he was with the Texans, but they weren't exactly loaded with elite talent. I don't see Hoke as an ideal choice, but frankly I'm not sure that there is an ideal option available. I do think Hoke would be a choice I could be comfortable with.
Reid still seems intent on talking to at least one candidate from a Super Bowl team. We'll have to wait another week to find out who that is for sure and see how that interview goes. It is good that Reid is at least making progress. He needed to start seriously looking around.
There is one noticeable trend with the candidates. Allen and Hoke are secondary coaches. Darren Perry and Ray Horton, reported targets, are both secondary coaches. I think that is smart. With defensive line coach Jim Washburn already in place, the Eagles need a coordinator with a background in defensive backs.