Trial and Error

Posted: January 31st, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 133 Comments »

The Eagles have a new head personnel guy in Ed Marynowitz. They have a new DBs coach in Cory Undlin. They have a new TEs coach, Justin Peelle. They have a new QB coach for the third year in a row. This time it is Ryan Day. Should changes like this be a concern for a team trying to go from 10 wins to title contender?

No.

How many people remember that David Shula was Jimmy Johnson’s original offensive coordinator in Dallas? That was a disaster. Unfortunately Johnson got it right when he hired Norv Turner a couple of years later and the rest is history.

Bill Belichick took over as the Patriots coach in 2000. He didn’t have a defensive coordinator for that season. Belichick then hired Romeo Crennel for the 2001 season and New England won 3 Super Bowls in 4 years. Crennel wasn’t a great DC, but he was the right guy to help Belichick run the defense and get the results they wanted.

The 2012 Ravens had a couple of changes. DC Chuck Pagano left following the 2011 season to become the head coach of the Colts. Dean Pees replaced him as DC. The crazy move was the firing of OC Cam Cameron, which happened late in the season. Jim Caldwell took over as OC and helped the team win the Super Bowl. We tend to think of the Ravens as being all about defense, but in 4 playoff games that year they scored 24, 38, 28 and 34 points on the way to winning it all.

Sean Payton had Gary Gibbs run his defense from 2006-08. Then Payton hired Gregg Williams prior to the 2009 season and the Saints finally went from contender to champions.

Bill Cowher is the ultimate coach to look at for changes. He had all kinds of coaches come and go. Following the 1999 season, there was a power struggle between Cowher and GM Tom Donahoe. Cowher won that and hired Kevin Colbert to be the GM. They worked well together and won the Super Bowl in 2005. Colbert hired Mike Tomlin after Cowher stepped down and they won the SB in 2008 and just lost it in 2010.

You would love to see a coach win with his original staff and have things go smoothly. That’s just not reality. Either there are problems that emerge and need to be dealt with or the staff has big success early and the coaches get plucked away by other teams. Change is inevitable.

The key to this situation is hoping that Kelly made the right hires.

If he did, the Eagles can be a better team in 2015 and moving forward.

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We’re Happy For You, But…

Posted: January 30th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 224 Comments »

So Ed, congrats on the promotion. You must be stoked to be the Vice President of Player Personnel at age 30. I know, you’re almost 31, but still…that’s young. You should be really proud. So let’s go see your new office. You’ve also got more money and some real power with an NFL team. What an amazing time for you.

Oh and by the way…will we be winning the Super Bowl this year or next year?

Ok. Bye. Thanks.

The task at hand for Ed Marynowitz and Chip Kelly is to take the Eagles from being a good team to being a great team. All they have to do is solve the QB situation, fix the secondary and find another playmaker or two. Sounds easy, right? Heck, Jeff Lurie could have hired me for something that simple.

Or not.

There are a lot of different theories on how to build a championship roster. Study history and you’ll see a lot of different ideas that worked. To me, this is less about strategy and more about proper execution. You have to find the right guys.

There is a report about how Seattle figured out that 1st round picks are over-valued.

The Seattle Seahawks are one win away from their second straight Super Bowl championship and being crowned as a mini-dynasty.

The Seahawks have made this leap with just two first-round draft picks in the last four years. During the same stretch, the Seahawks were tied with the Baltimore Ravens for the most draft picks in rounds 2-5 (22).

What the Seahawks appear to have learned is that first-round picks are overrated and the most valuable picks actually come in the middle rounds.

This is what happens when you study results in a simplistic manner. You look at some numbers and come up with a theory that is seemingly logical. But it is also highly flawed.

Seattle has had some serious luck in building their roster. Think about the top 8 players on their roster.

Richard Sherman
Marshawn Lynch
Russell Wilson
Earl Thomas
Kam Chancellor
Bobby Wagner
Michael Bennett
Cliff Avril

There is one 1st round pick in that bunch. That’s a combination of great scouting and some luck. They needed players to fall in the draft so that they could take them late. They also hit on several guys that went from late rounders to game-changers. That is highly rare.

Richard Sherman – 5th round pick
Marshawn Lynch – 1st round pick by BUF…traded for 4th & 5th round picks
Russell Wilson – 3rd round pick
Earl Thomas – 1st round pick
Kam Chancellor – 5th round pick
Bobby Wagner – 2nd round pick
Michael Bennett – free agent…signed in 2013 for 1 year, $5M
Cliff Avril – free agent…signed in 2013 for 2 years, $13M

There is not much in the way of investment with those 8 players. The team only used one 1st round pick and they didn’t shell out mega-bucks in free agency. All 32 teams would love to do this, but it is an anomaly.

Seattle does have to get a lot of credit for being able to take these players and build them into a champion.

When you get around football people they love to start ripping players. This guy can’t do this. That guy can’t do that. Seattle seemed to look at the glass as half-full. “Tell me what the guy can do and let’s build around that.”

The Eagles have not done a good job the last 2 years of finding late round and UDFA talent. This is an area where Kelly and Marynowitz need to take a big step forward. Kelly and Roseman hit on Darren Sproles, Trey Burton and Cody Parkey and that fixed STs without having to make major investments. Now the Eagles need to find that kind of help for the offense and defense, even if we’re just talking about depth.

If you are going to build a great unit, you must find key contributors in odd places. Think back to Gang Green. Clyde Simmons was a 9th round pick. Seth Joyner was an 8th round pick. Byron Evans was a 4th round pick. Andre Waters was a UDFA. William Thomas was a 4th round pick.

The Eagles have only found one high quality starter in rounds 5-7 since 2008. That was Jason Kelce in 2011. This isn’t about just areas scouts or GMs or assistant coaches. It is a combination. The scouts need to be on the same page as the drafters, who need to be on the same page as the coaches. There is a symmetry. Seattle does a great job of this. The Eagles must improve and putting Chip Kelly in charge of things may be a big help. He knows what he wants.

The more I read about Marynowitz, the better I feel about the hire. I’ll have more on him over the weekend.

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New podcast from me and Jimmy Bama. Marynowitz, Foles, Mariota and Senior Bowl talk.

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Chip Kelly Mans Up

Posted: January 29th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 204 Comments »

Chip Kelly finally found his man. Instead of hiring an outsider like Chris Grier or Chris Polian, Kelly went with a member of his current staff, Ed Marynowitz.

There is a lot of wisdom in this move. I said all along that Kelly would be looking for his version of Tom Heckert. Andy Reid hired Heckert when he was 33 going on 34 and had just enough experience. Kelly hires Marynowitz  (pronounced Man-o-witz) when he is about to turn 31 (Feb 27). Marynowitz has worked as a scouting assistant with the Dolphins and as a recruiting coordinator at UCF and Alabama. He came to the Eagles in 2012 and has worked with pro and college scouting.

Kelly and Marynowitz already have a relationship. Marynowitz already knows what Kelly is looking for in terms of players and intangibles. That eliminates some of the learning curve between the two men.

The downside is that Marynowitz lacks ideal experience. He has played or worked in football since he graduated high school, but that isn’t the same as working in NFL personnel for a decade. One of the ways you succeed in the NFL is by learning from failure. It takes time to learn those lessons. Marynowitz will be lacking in this area.

He and Kelly can lean on a veteran personnel executive like Rick Mueller (already on the Eagles staff). They can pick his brain when a strange situation comes up and they see flaws to both sides of whatever decision they’re trying to make.

I do think Marynowitz is a smart guy who has worked for some wise people. He worked around Bill Parcells in Miami back in 2007. He worked for George O’Leary for a couple of years. He then spent 3 years working for Nick Saban. Since coming to the Eagles, Marynowitz has worked with Andy Reid, Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly. In less than a decade, he’s been around some impressive football minds.

The Eagles will need to add a person or two to the personnel staff, but that will likely happen after the draft when contracts expire. Kelly and Marynowitz will have some names targeted and go get those people.

In an ideal world, I would have loved to see Brian Gaine (HOU) or Scott Fitterer (SEA) get the job, but Marynowitz could end up being the right guy. He knows how to identify talent. He knows Kelly and what he likes. Marynowitz will already have a feel for how to deal with Kelly and Roseman since he’s been around them for a couple of years. This is a bit of a tricky front office situation so hiring someone from the inside is a benefit in that regard.

Marynowitz now has to learn how to handle a position of authority at a young age. He did some of that at Bama so this won’t be totally new to him. He also saw what it was like to be the right hand man of a powerful coach in his time working for Saban. That should serve him well as he helps Kelly run the personnel side of things for the Eagles.

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Here is the PE.com story with quotes from Kelly, Lurie, Saban and of course…Marynowitz.

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Mystery Beside Mychal

Posted: January 29th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 283 Comments »

Mychal Kendricks is a terrific ILB. He showed signs of greatness in 2014 and is the kind of player you want in the middle of your defense. For 2 1/2 years his partner in crime was DeMeco Ryans. Unfortunately Ryans tore his Achilles late in the 2014 season, leaving his future in doubt.

So what are the Eagles going to do at ILB in 2015?

This is a big mystery, in a few ways. The first question is whether Ryans returns. Chip Kelly and the coaches gushed about Ryans after the injury and made it sound like he was certain to return. But that was in-season talk. The offseason brings harsh reality to the front. Ryans will turn 31 in July. He has a high cap figure. And coming back from a serious injury isn’t a sure thing. Tim McManus has an update on the rehab.

Ryans was off the crutches and the scooter by the time the season wrapped. He says that the rehab process is following a similar trajectory as the first time around, and expects to make a full recovery once again.

“Oh yeah. I’ll be fine.”

Ryans tore his left Achilles tendon in mid-October, 2010 while with the Texans. He was cleared to return to action in mid-July, 2011, or nine months later.

Ryans participated in training camp and appeared in all 16 games in 2011. You can argue that he didn’t return to full form until the following season with the Eagles, however.

This injury happened in November. If you use the same time frame, Ryans might be on the field next spring/summer, but might not be at his best until the end of the season.

Everyone loves Ryans the person and the leader, but do the coaches really want him back? He’s aging, descending, expensive and coming off injury. Other than that…

If the coaches do want him, the first order of business would be getting him to take a pay cut. If his price comes down enough, bringing Ryans back might make a lot of sense. You could make him compete for his job. If he doesn’t win it, he would still have value as a leader and role player. That would be fine at the right price.

If the Eagles decide to move on from Ryans, they have the question of whether to go for a free agent or focus on the draft.

I haven’t studied the free agents super closely, but there are a few the team could consider. Brandon Spikes is probably the biggest name, but he’s painfully slow and at his best as a 2-down LB. I’m not sure Kelly would have interest in that. David Harris just turned 31 so age is a concern with him, but he’s played in the 3-4 and is a durable, productive player. The Bucs are reportedly set to let Mason Foster go. He’s young and talented, but isn’t an ideal fit for Lovie Smith’s defense. Foster might be a good fit in the 3-4. Kelly certainly knows him from their time in the Pac-12 (Foster played at Washington).

Rolando McClain might be the most interesting name. Some people laughed when Jerry Jones traded for him last spring, but McClain turned out to be a key player for the Dallas defense. Talent has never been a question with him. McClain is big, fast and skilled. He was just a major knucklehead in the past and wasn’t properly committed to football (or rational behavior). McClain did himself a lot of good this year. Are teams willing to give him a decent contract? There is another concern…concussions. Teams need to decide if McClain has any health risk or if he’s good to go. There is one interesting connection here. Ed Marynowitz knows McClain from their time at Bama together. McClain was already in school when Marynowitz got there so Ed didn’t recruit him, but they do know each other. It would seem Marynowitz saw McClain at his best, but you never know what went on behind the scenes.

Jimmy Bama has another possible ILB target.

Nate Irving, ILB, Broncos (6’1, 245)

After being a third round pick in 2011 (he’s 26), Irving got his first chance to start last year for Denver, but tore his MCL in the Broncos’ eighth game. He is a good run stuffer, but not an ideal three-down player. If DeMeco Ryans is not recovered well enough from his Achilles tear to produce on the Eagles’ D, Irving makes some sense as a temporary replacement. The Eagles would of course have to check him out medically, and be comfortable with his mental ability to make checks at the line of scrimmage.

Two other names to consider would be Sean Weatherspoon and Bruce Carter. Weatherspoon missed the whole year due to injury and missed half the previous season. Major talent, but major risk. Carter is more of a 4-3 WLB, but he is a dynamic athlete.

If the Eagles decided to go for a free agent, they will have options.

The draft also has some options. Should Kelly think that’s the way to go, there are some more questions. Just how much does Kelly value ILB? What is he looking for?

There were reports the Eagles really wanted CJ Mosley last year. He ended up going 17th and was a star for the Ravens. Ryan Shazier went to the Steelers at 15. It was rumored that the Eagles had interest in him, but that was less certain than the interest in Mosley. It does sound like the Eagles would have been willing to spend a 1st round pick on an ILB.

The Eagles have some interesting players to choose from this year. Erick Kendricks is a terrific all-around ILB who could go in the Top 20. Paul Dawson is smaller, but is a terrific athlete and has excellent cover skills. Denzel Perryman is the heaviest and least athletic of the trio, but he’s also the hardest hitter. Does Chip prefer someone who can run sideline to sideline or who is a thumper?

I prefer Kendricks or Dawson in that trio. I see the value in having speed in the middle of the field. These are not the only 3 guys in the draft, but they are my top ILB targets and they divide up nicely as you talk about size and skill sets.

In a fantasy world you would have Ryans take a big pay cut and then you would draft an ILB early. If the rookie wins the job, so be it. If not, Ryans can get you through the 2015 season.

The Eagles will have Najee Goode coming off injury. I don’t know that he’ll challenge for a starting spot, but he’s good depth. Casey Matthews is a free agent. He did play okay late in the season, but didn’t show me enough that I’m all that interested in bringing him back. Emmanuel Acho has shown flashes, but looks like a backup and STer.

I have gotten a few questions about moving players. Could Trent Cole shift to ILB? Connor Barwin? I think both players are made to stay on the edge. Cole has the toughness to play inside, but isn’t good enough in space. Barwin is a better athlete, but is still better coming off the edge. The OLB with the best ILB potential is Marcus Smith. He is a terrific athlete and could handle playing inside from a talent/skill standpoint.

Finally, there is Travis Long. He played OLB and ILB last summer. I don’t think the Eagles will count on him for anything since he’s coming off a major injury (and the 2nd in 3 years), but Long could end up as good depth and a swing LB for ILB and OLB.

If the Eagles don’t keep Ryans, ILB becomes a priority position. Even if they do keep him, it is important to add a young, talented player with starting potential.

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Jimmy Bama has his own take on the ILB position.


Wednesday Night Update

Posted: January 28th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 41 Comments »

There is a bit of Eagles news from today.

Bicknell has done a good job with the WRs in 2 years so I’m glad he decided to stick around. DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper all had their best seasons under him. Jordan Matthews had a terrific rookie season playing for Bicknell. To be sure, playing in the Chip Kelly offense is the key to the stats, but coaching has been part of the success.

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We learned today that 2 more candidates for the personnel job won’t be talking to the Eagles. Tim McManus provides a full update on the situation.

Some teams have blocked candidates from talking to the Eagles.

Some candidates have said no, seeing this as a lateral move or possibly having concerns about the politics of the front office.

Is it possible the Eagles are waiting on someone from the Super Bowl teams? I don’t get the feeling that is the case, but you can’t rule it out at this point. Bob Quinn of the Pats, Trent Kirchner and Dan Morgan of the Seahawks could all make some sense.

Kelly is being choosy. That’s smart. He is trying to find someone to be his right-hand man. You don’t want to rush into that decision. It is frustrating that Kelly hasn’t been able to find someone yet, especially the guys we wanted. That said, the key is to hire the right guy. Who was Scott Pioli when Bill Belichick hired him? John Schneider wasn’t a household name when Pete Carroll chose him.

We should get a better feel for this situation by the middle of next week. There won’t be any more waiting on teams at that point. Kelly will need to poop or get off the pot.

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