"To have to follow a guy - I'm following him a couple people removed - but a man like Jim Johnson who had all that success. I would love to have someone say, 'Hey, we're almost there,' " Davis said recently.
It could take a while. Johnson walked into a much better situation and had potent pieces to work with when he was brought aboard in 1999. The cupboard is nearly empty as Davis takes over.
So much attention has been paid to Kelly and the Eagles quarterback competition heading into training camp. But the Eagles' immediate and long-term prospects will hinge as much on the defense and the man who will pilot it as anything.
Like Johnson, most Eagles fans knew little of Davis before he was hired. There was the anecdote about having been an Eagles ball boy in the 1970s when Dick Vermeil was coach and his father, Bill, was an assistant. And there were the two failed but brief tenures as a coordinator with the 49ers and Cardinals.
But the 47-year-old Davis has slipped into Philadelphia a relative unknown and has managed, in five months, to stay under the radar. On the two occasions he has spoken publicly, reporters have been preoccupied with the schematic changes Davis will make.
As important as those plans are, there's more to running a defense than just X's and O's. There is a certain mentality a coordinator can bring to his unit, so much that a defense can often reflect his personality.
Johnson was a tough, no-nonsense coach. He and his assistants could grind on their players. But Johnson had their loyalty and they bought into his attacking-style defense that was, if anything, tough as leather.
Davis comes from the Bill Cowher-Dom Capers-Dick LeBeau School of Defense. He got his NFL coaching start working under that threesome in Pittsburgh. Capers took him to Carolina to coach outside linebackers.
He then bounced around the league before 49ers coach Mike Nolan hired him as defensive coordinator in 2005. Nolan called the plays for a defense that was among the league's worst, but Davis was out after two seasons.
He got another opportunity three years later in Arizona, but his 4-3 "under" - a hybrid scheme up front - went from decent in his first year to disastrous in his second and last season as coordinator. The Eagles are hoping the third time is a charm.
Davis didn't make any excuses for his first two stints as a coordinator. In person, he has an engaging temperament. During a one-on-one interview he wasn't afraid to use foul language - especially when asked to describe the mentality he brings to a defense.
"I'm not a complainer and I don't dwell on [stuff] that's hard," Davis said. "A guy gets hurt, you've got to solve it. There's no time to [complain] about your star got hurt or you don't have a good player at this position because nobody gives a [bleep]. At the end of the day you've got to get the guys to perform and you've got to solve the problem."
But Davis believes that many problems can be avoided by simply being organized. It's essential, of course, when overseeing a large group. But it matters most, he said, when he wants to relay to his assistants how he wants a position taught or when he's practicing the week before a game.
"What I ask the guys to practice is what I'm going to call in the game, and I've been in places that don't do that," Davis said. "I've been in places where they've practiced a bunch of stuff and then on game day they change their mind and we're running stuff that we weren't practicing.
"As a linebacker coach, I said coach, 'I just [messed] three of those up, but we hadn't done it all week. How about the stuff we ran?' "
Davis said he got his organizational skills from Capers, now the Packers' defensive coordinator, whom he called "as organized as anyone in the history of organization."
Bill McGovern, who coaches the Eagles' outside linebackers and had never met Davis until February, said he was instantly struck by his coordinator's preparedness.
"The way he delivers the installation to the players, even the way he brings it up to us in the meetings - 'Hey, this is what I want to go over. Bah-bah-boom. This is why we're doing it. We want to have this,' " McGovern said. "It's mapped out. There's a schedule."
But what happens when the schedule is blown up and there's a problem that needs to be solved, most pressingly during a game? Reid was as organized as they came, but he didn't have Johnson's ability to adjust in-game.
"When you're organized and you understand what you're doing, you can be confident. And you've got to call defenses with confidence," said McGovern, who was previously the defensive coordinator at Boston College. "Bill's been very confident and I think the players see that."
Still, it's difficult not to have some doubts about Davis. He struck out twice as a coordinator and it wasn't as if there were other teams this offseason knocking down his door. Johnson had one strike as an NFL coordinator, but that may just be an anecdotal similarity.
Again, Davis doesn't have the manpower Johnson had. He has done his best to temper expectations and has stressed the learning curve required in turning over the defense. But he knows the defensive bar has always been high in Philly, and no one has come close to clearing it since Johnson.
"I know this - when the season hits, nobody wants to hear any excuses but good defensive play," Davis said. "And at the end of the day, that's all that counts."
Contact Jeff McLane at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.