Philadelphia Eagles eyeing former New York Jets safety for DC vacancy
After losing Jonathan Gannon to the Arizona Cardinals (who was hired as their head coach), the Philadelphia Eagles have started looking for their next defensive coordinator. A former New York Jets player could be at the top of their list.
Former Jets safety Jim Leonhard has interviewed for the Eagles’ defensive coordinator position, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
The #Eagles have interviewed former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard as they look to fill their DC job, per league source. Leonhard was a 10-year NFL safety who is respected in league circles.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) February 20, 2023
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Leonhard played 10 seasons in the NFL, including three with the Jets. After playing under Rex Ryan with the Baltimore Ravens, Leonhard followed Ryan to the Jets in 2009 and served as an important part of the team’s defense. Leonhard started in all 40 of his regular-season appearances for the Jets from 2009 to 2011, accruing 148 tackles, three forced fumbles, and three interceptions.
Following his time with the Jets, Leonhard played for the Broncos, Bills, and Browns until he retired after the 2014 season.
After taking some time for himself post-retirement, Leonhard returned to his alma mater to coach. He became Wisconsin’s defensive backs coach in 2016. One year later, he was promoted to defensive coordinator. Since then, he’s headed one of the best defensive units in college football.
Under Leonhard, the Wisconsin Badgers have finished first in total defense twice (2021, 2017) and top 10 four times. As an assistant, Leonhard has won the Broyles Award (given to the top assistant in college football). He’s also interviewed for numerous NFL gigs over the past few years.
In the middle of the 2022 season, Wisconsin’s then-head coach Paul Chryst was fired, and Leonhard was chosen as the interim head coach. Leonhard led the Badgers to a 5-3 record under his reign and won a bowl game with the team, beating Oklahoma State in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.
Former Jets head coach Rex Ryan had nothing but praise for Jim Leonhard, from his time as a player to his aspirations and success as a coach in college.
“There was no question in my mind, in Pettine’s mind, that this guy would be a phenomenal coach,” Ryan said. “If he wants to be a head coach in college, I’m sure that’s down the road. Or, if he would ever like to get in the NFL as a coordinator, I’m sure he can do that as well.”