The Eagles, knee-deep in their search for a new defensive coordinator for 2023, could reasonably go after a former Wisconsin coach.
The Philadelphia Eagles suffered two tough blows to their coaching staff after Stane Steichen’s and Jonathan Gannon’s respective departures, but the team already has two ideal targets for each vacancy.
On the offensive side, quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson, who has plenty of experience working with Jalen Hurts, faces a straightforward path to becoming the team’s next OC. As for the defense, Philly reportedly interviewed former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard to take over Gannon’s role on Monday, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
Leonhard started coaching at his alma mater, Wisconsin, in 2016 and moved up the ranks to become the Badgers’ defensive coordinator a year later; he took over as interim head coach in 2022 after Paul Chryst was fired last season and went 5-3 overall.
After Wisconsin chose to hire Luke Fickell as the program’s head coach, Leonhard decided to leave college football entirely.
Eagles DC candidate Jim Leonhard is a hot name in NFL coaching circles
Now, Leonhard could make the jump across the rift into the NFL and serve as one of Nick Sirianni’s trusted play-callers for a Super Bowl-caliber defense.
Philadelphia may also have an ulterior motive to this potential hire — other than bringing on Leonard’s savvy defensive mind, the Eagles can throw shade at their NFC rivals, the Green Bay Packers, who tried and failed to hire Leonhard for their then-open DC job in 2021.
Leonhard probably turned down the Packers’ offer at the time thinking he had a good shot to succeed Chryst as Wisconsin’s head coach in the near future. Having recently severed ties with his alma mater, he has every reason to sign with one of the deepest squads in the NFL.
As far as his area of expertise, Leonhard’s safety experience and start as a defensive backs coach could further boost the Eagles’ already elite secondary, composed of young stars and grizzled vets like C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Darius Slay, and James Bradberry.
Hiring Leonhard would be a good look for the defensive future of the Eagles and would also slap the Packers right in the face — it’s an easy win-win.