Tough Love

Posted: January 16th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The Carson Wentz saga isn’t over. In some ways, it may just be beginning. When you’re a 28-year old quarterback with big time talent, one bad season isn’t the end. It just changes the narrative and starts the clock on when your career will end.

Wentz could play another 10 years. He’s smart, experienced, mobile and has a big arm. He can still make crazy plays and incredible throws. He still has the potential to be an outstanding QB.

But…read this story from Jeff McLane and you can see some fatal flaws as well.

Wentz’s Type-A personality could be credited just as much for his past success. Many top quarterbacks share the same trait. But the 28-year-old had increasingly rebuffed advice, defied criticism, and clashed with former coach Doug Pederson last season, Eagles sources said.

“Every great quarterback wants to be coached and they want to be coached hard and by the best, and it doesn’t seem like [Wentz] wants that,” one source said. “It’s kind of like whoever’s coaching him is working for him. But it can’t be that way.”

And…

In the quarterback room, when his errors were pointed out, Wentz would sometimes make irrelevant excuses and Taylor wouldn’t correct him. For instance, there would be a play when he didn’t throw to an open receiver. The read was drawn up as designed, the coverage played out as expected, and he would be asked why he didn’t pull the trigger.

And Wentz would say the look wasn’t there, or he would overemphasize the pass rush, and when it was suggested the play be run again in practice as to get it right, he would object.

Things were different in 2016 and 2017. Frank Reich and John DeFilippo were harder on Wentz. He handled that better and the results speak for themselves.

Both the Eagles and Wentz share blame for things going in the wrong direction. The Eagles made Press Taylor the QBs coach after the Super Bowl and that hasn’t worked so well. He is a young coach and has a friendly relationship with Wentz. That created an awkward dynamic. Taylor wasn’t able to be tough on Wentz and Wentz didn’t seem to accept what criticism Taylor tried to give him.

Friends or not, Wentz should have taken the criticism and learned from it. Part of his job is to accept coaching and work on his deficiencies. That didn’t happen.

Players have to embrace criticism and tough coaching to meet their full potential. If you want someone to focus on what you’re doing right, you aren’t going to improve. You need someone to point out what is wrong and then how to fix it.

That wasn’t happening with Wentz the past couple of years. So what is tough coaching?

There is a famous Bill Walsh story I’ve told before. Sometime in the mid 1980’s he was watching practice. Joe Montana, winner of two Super Bowls, threw a slant pass to Jerry Rice. The ball was on Rice’s back hip, but he adjusted and caught it and ran up the field. Mike Holmgren was the offensive coordinator and saw the play, but didn’t say anything. Walsh went to Holmgren and angrily told them to run that again. The ball needed to be out in front so that Rice could catch it in stride and really burst up the field.

Don’t just run the play. Don’t just complete the pass. Do it exactly right or do it again. As the saying goes, excellence is not an act, but a habit. Walsh, Montana and Rice are all amongst the best in NFL history and that’s not an accident. Walsh had a gifted offensive mind, but he also was demanding and pushed his players to be excellent.

Bill Parcells has a saying that I love. “Don’t let ‘good enough’ be good enough.”

Simple, but brilliant. Push for excellence. Always try to be better. Don’t settle. That litte phrase says so much. He stressed this with his QBs.

Bill Parcells and Phil Simms had a complicated professional relationship, one that included a great mutual respect and a fierce desire to win. It could also be contentious, because Parcells constantly pressured Simms.

“Every practice was the end of the world,” Simms said. “Today has got to be a great day. If it’s not the greatest day, oh my gosh.”

QB is the most important position in football. Coaches have to be demanding in order to push them and get the best out of them.

When Jon Gruden came to Philly in 1995, he studied the 1994 game tape to get a feel for Randall Cunningham and the other holdover players. Gruden became really concerned about Cunningham taking sacks. He made a tape of all the 1994 sacks and showed it to Cunningham, focusing on the need to throw checkdowns or just to throw the ball away. Gruden wanted to stress avoiding sacks.

Cunningham was shocked at this discussion. He wanted to talk about the playbook or anything else. A lecture on avoiding sacks? That was a waste of time to him.

The Eagles started the 1995 season 1-3. Sacks were a major issue and Cunningham lost his job. The team went 9-3 after he was benched. Rodney Peete was no great talent, but he listened to the coaches and did the little things it took to win.

Look what Troy Aikman said in regard to Jimmy Johnson.

“We had a rough start, went through some difficult times, had stretches when we didn’t speak. What I’ve learned though in life is we remember those who make us better. Jimmy made me better, but more importantly, he made the Dallas Cowboys better.”

Tough coaching isn’t fun. It isn’t easy. It can strain relationships and lead to some really challenging times. But it also can be hugely important in developing players and teams.

Carson Wentz can still have a good career, but he must embrace tough coaching. Wentz is driven and hard working, but effort doesn’t lead to greatness. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect, as a more accurate version of the saying goes. Wentz needs someone to push him and he has to realize that is the best thing for him.

Tough coaching can save Wentz, but only if he lets it. If Wentz resists criticism and focuses on excuses, he will be gone sooner than he should have and his career will be disappointing.

Wentz has the talent, but not the answers. If the Eagles find the right coach and if Wentz truly buys in, there could be a bright future for everyone involved.

If…

_


Coaching Carousel Update

Posted: January 15th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

The Eagles are still looking for a coach, but two teams found their man. The Jags made a splash hire, bringing in Urban Meyer. His track record is phenomenal, but he does have the challenge of going from college to the pros. The Jets hired Robert Saleh, the DC from the Niners. Saleh will be a first time head coach. Two bad teams made two very different hires. It should be fun to see how that plays out.

Back to the Eagles. Saleh was an Eagles target so they now have one less guy to choose from. On the flip side, we learned of a new candidate on Thursday.

Moore has done really good things with the Dallas offense in the past couple of years. He had plenty of talent to work with, but then delivered good results. I think it is smart for the Eagles to talk to him. Moore has never had to fix a broken QB, but he knows how to design and call plays. That’s crucial in the modern NFL.

Is Moore enough of a leader to run an NFL team? That’s a big question and I’m not sure of the answer. The reason you meet with Moore is to get a better feel for him as a person and potential leader.

Moore was a great QB at Boise State. He was good enough to be an NFL backup for a couple of years. That was more on brains than talent so moving to coaching was a natural transition. He’s on pace to be a head coach some day. That could be in the next few weeks or the next few years.

***

There is a lot of buzz with Smith and the Falcons. If he went there, he could coach Matt Ryan this year and draft a franchise QB to develop. That has to be very tempting.

The Eagles have their share of issues, but Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts could be intriguing for a gifted offensive coach.

Smith will meet with the Lions on Friday. A lot of people are interested in him.

***

Here is an interesting video with Jerrod Mayo.

He seems like a bright, thoughtful guy. I was surprised at how natural he seemed in that conversation. At the end I had to think…what if you pulled him out and put Doug Pederson in there?

The conversation would have been less interesting and a lot more confusing.

Doug did a lot of good things, but his ability to communicate was an issue. Maybe one of the key points Jeff Lurie is looking for this time is someone who has superior communication skills.

I don’t think Mayo is ready to be a head coach, but he’s an interesting guy to talk to and could be an excellent DC candidate.

***

Your scary news of the day.

Say what? Stout is a terrific assistant.

Why would the Eagles let him go without trying to see if the new coach might want to keep him?

That’s better.

Stoutland should be in high demand. I would think several NFL teams would want him, as well as Bama, where he coached in the past.

One thing that could keep him in Philly (or the league in general) is that he might not have any interest in recruiting. Bama gets the best players, but coaches still have to go chase after them. In the NFL, you draft, trade or sign guys and then coach them up.

Most coaches hate recruiting. They come to the NFL and get a taste of the good life. Very few want to go back.

I hope the Eagles are able to keep Stout in Philly. He was a great hire by Chip Kelly and then Doug wisely kept him around.

_


Search Update

Posted: January 14th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 4 Comments »

The Eagles jumped right into the coaching search. Doug Pederson has only been gone a couple of days, but the team is already hot and heavy into the interview process.

That’s a lot of nuggets.

JOE BRADY

Just two years ago he was a young assistant on the rise. Now he is one of the hottest names in all of football. He helped LSU win the national title in 2019 behind one of the greatest offenses in college football history. Brady was the OC for the Panthers in 2020. He didn’t have a lot of talent to work with, but still got that offense to post better numbers than the Eagles.

I would have definite interest in Brady. He learned under Sean Payton and has an excellent mind for X’s and O’s. He will be a head coach sooner rather than later.

ROBERT SALEH

He is meeting with Lurie in Florida on Wednesday night. Gus Bradley had a similar meeting back in 2013 and was about to be hired when Chip Kelly called to say he had changed his mind and wanted the job. That must have been a wild night.

I mention Bradley because Saleh reminds me of him, a defensive coach that is loved by his players and is very good at his side of the ball. The stories I’ve heard of Bradley from people behind the scenes make you realize that he is an amazing guy. But he stunk as a head coach. Saleh would need to sell Lurie that he had the right guy in mind to run the offense. Lurie has openly talked about how much he believes in the need for an elite offense. He’s not going with a defensive coach unless the guy can convince Lurie that the offense can thrive under his watch.

ARTHUR SMITH

It sounds like the Falcons are making a hard push for Smith, who would be a good fit for them. I’m sure the Eagles have serious interest in him. I know I have serious interest in Smith.

The big question is whether he’s ready to be a head coach. A lot of young guys have gotten HC jobs and thrived in recent years. Smith fits that bill.

BRIAN DABOLL

Nothing definitive here yet, but Daboll makes a ton of sense as an Eagles target. I’d love to hear his thoughts on Carson Wentz. That could be something that draws him to Philly or makes him want to run the other direction.

JERROD MAYO

A name out of the blue. Mayo coached ILBs for the Pats the past two years after playing ILB from 2008-2015. I’m sure he learned a ton from Bill Belichick, but Mayo seems like a guy who needs more coaching experience. You wonder if the Eagles are more interested in him as a defensive coordinator candidate and used the interview to pick his mind and get a feel for him. Or maybe Mayo is highly thought of around the league despite his lack of experience.

RYAN DAY

A college reporter says there is nothing to this report. But that’s to be expected. If Day lets on that he’s interested, that hurts Ohio State’s recruiting and gets their fans all riled up. Day might not be interested. He coached in Philly under Chip Kelly and that didn’t end well. Maybe Day has interest in coming back to the NFL and would be open to the Eagles. He has done a great job since replacing Urban Meyer.

I have mixed feelings on Day, but he is definitely worth talking to.

LINCOLN RILEY

Domo reports that Riley is happy at OU. That very well might be true, but like Day, he can’t be open about interest in the NFL. He would have to lie right up until he took the job. I tend to think he’ll stay in college for now, but never say never. Still my top target.

MIKE KAFKA

There is speculation that the Eagles might be interested in him. The problem is that the Eagles would need to wait for KC to lose or after the Super Bowl to interview him. Lurie said he’s in no rush to hire a coach so Kafka could still be in play. That goes out the window if another candidate has a great interview and becomes the clear-cut top candidate.

*****

I have such mixed feelings on Duce. Part of me would love to see him get the job. He played for the Eagles under Ray Rhodes and Andy Reid. He’s coached here for more than a decade. He’s learned from Reid, Kelly and Doug Pederson. He’s seen a lot schematically.

But what is the big selling point with Duce? He’s a good leader. He is a beloved member of the Eagles family. Is that enough?

Can he run a football team? Does he have enough connections to build a top coaching staff and deliver a top offense and defense? I just don’t know what he’s like behind the scenes. I’ve spent a little time around him in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, but not enough to get a good feel for him.

If the Eagles miss out on their top candidate, Duce could make a good fall back plan.

_


The Dating Game

Posted: January 12th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

Let’s make a match. In one corner we have the Philadelphia Eagles, one of the greatest organizations in all of professional sports. They have a great owner, great GM, great roster and most importantly, great fans. In the other corner we have coaching candidates. They are all great leaders, communicators and very detail-oriented. They all work from 4am until 3am. They want to have fast, physical teams that play smart and don’t beat themselves.

This will be a match made in heaven.

For a while, anyway.

The Eagles are already being linked to multiple coaching candidates.

We already know the Eagles have reached out to Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley.

We’re early in the process, but I’ll share my thoughts on the candidates I like and why.

1 – Lincoln Riley
2 – Arthur Smith
3 – Robert Saleh
4 – Brian Daboll
5 – Todd Bowles

I put Daboll in the list because I expect the Eagles to have some interest in him. The others we already know about.

***

Riley is a gifted offensive mind. He is young and has no NFL experience, but he feels like a special coach. I’ve followed him since he was an assistant at East Carolina. He is a brilliant schemer and play-caller, but also seems to understand the big picture.

Riley’s defense at OU wasn’t good enough so he went and found a really good coach for that side of the ball. He didn’t write a blank check to the biggest name out there. He went and found a young assistant who had worked at Washington State and Ohio State. The defense has been terrific the past two years.

Riley has produced great QB play, working with very talented players, but also guys with different sizes and skill sets. Riley can shape his offense to the talent he has.

Strong OL play has been crucial to his offense. Riley also likes to run the ball and has had a more physical running game than many might expect.

Hiring Riley would be a swing for the fences. I hope the Eagles go after him hard. He may not be interested in the NFL. He may not be interested in the Eagles. I still think this is a guy you go after.

***

Smith is the offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans. He’s worked for that team since 2011. Smith only had three other football jobs. He coached at UNC and Ole Miss each for a year. He spent two years with the Washington Football Team as a low level assistant.

Smith took over for Matt LaFleur when became the Packers head coach. Smith has done great work with the offense. He turned Ryan Tannehill from a flawed QB into an outstanding player. RB Derrick Henry and WR A.J. Brown have both been amazingly productive under Smith. Many saw the Titans offense as a fluke in 2019, but then it got even better in 2020. They finished second in yards and fourth in points.

If Smith can get a high level of play from Tannehill, you would think he could do the same with Carson Wentz and that would be one of the key reasons for hiring him. If you can fix Wentz, the Eagles are are a playoff contender. Look at the 2019 team. They had issues, but Wentz played well enough to get them to the postseason.

***

Saleh is the defensive coordinator of the Niners. I love watching him during games. He is a fiery, emotional coach. That can work on defense and SF had a terrific defense each of the past two years.

Saleh has developed playmakers at each level of his defense. SF invested heavily in the DL and built around that (like the Eagles), but also got outstanding play from the back seven (unlike the Eagles).

Offense would be the question. SF has a couple of good young assistants that Saleh could choose from when looking for an OC. I love the Shanahan offensive system and having that as part of the package is one of the reasons I’m so interested in Saleh.

The Niners had more injuries than any other NFL team this year. They battled all year and finished 6-10. I was impressed with how they fought through setback after setback. The defense finished fifth in yards allowed despite missing some key players. That says a lot about the coaching staff and culture.

***

Daboll has a lot of ties to Bill Belichick. He coached for the Pats from 2000-2006 and then again from 2013-2016. He also coached under Belichick proteges like Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel and even Nick Saban. It wasn’t until took over the Buffalo offense under Sean McDermott that he really made a name for himself.

The Bills drafted Josh Allen, a raw, raw QB with huge potential. Allen was highly erratic for two years and then became one of the best players in the league in 2020. Allen is a legitimate MVP candidate. That didn’t happen by accident. Daboll played a huge part in his development.

If Daboll can get Allen to play at this level, you would hope he could have a similar effect on Wentz. Beyond just QB development, Daboll had a terrific year as a play-caller. He didn’t have a great OL or run game, but he schemed up a creative passing game that helped Buffalo finish second in the league in scoring.

I think one of Daboll’s strengths is that he can win with a variety of players. Buffalo got excellent production from all kinds of sizes and skill sets. There isn’t just one single trait (Smith excelled with big, physical players in TEN). I think Daboll would be a good match for the Eagles offensive personnel.

***

Bowles is the DC for Tampa Bay. He is a veteran coach, having been a DC for three teams and was head coach of the Jets for four years (24-40). Bowles worked in Philly in 2012 and ran the defense after Juan Castillo was let go at midseason. He knows Philly and the Eagles, for better or worse.

Bowles is a 4-3 coach who likes to blitz. He is creative with his fronts and coverages. Bowles would like the Eagles DL, but like all other coaching candidates, he would need some better back seven personnel.

There are two big concerns with Bowles. First, he didn’t do a good job with the Jets. In his defense, they didn’t have much talent. After a 10-6 showing in 2015, Bowles won 5, 5 and 4 games in his final three seasons. One of the reasons they struggled was a poor offense. Bowles had three different OCs. You would need him to talk about what he learned from that and what his current vision for an offense is.

***

I didn’t list anyone from KC. I think the Eagles need to get away from Andy Reid. Shake things up and go in a different direction.

I left off Duce Staley. I think he can be a good coach, but promoting the RBs coach from a 4-11-1 team would make me nervous. He would have to present a compelling plan for his staff and the team. Several former Eagles are pushing for him to get the job. Duce is a terrific leader and there is real value in that

Duce has only coached in Philly. I would be curious to know how connected he is around the league and if he could put together a high quality coaching staff. That is crucial for all coaches, but especially someone who hasn’t been a coordinator.

_


Doug Is Done

Posted: January 12th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 3 Comments »

Doug Pederson is the only coach to bring the Lombardi Trophy to Philadelphia. Just three years later, he is gone, fired by the team he worked for as a player, assistant and head coach.

Not for long, indeed.

Owner Jeff Lurie met with the media and shared his thoughts on the situation.

“Coach Pederson and I had the opportunity to sit down and discuss what the collective vision would look like moving forward,” Lurie said. “After taking some time to reflect on these conversations and look ahead, I believe it is in both of our best interests to part ways.”

Lurie talked about the Eagles going through a transition period and the need for long term and medium term thinking. As he explained, Pederson was more focused on the short term.

The coaching staff was a great example of this. Pederson reportedly wanted to promote Matt Burke to defensive coordinator or go hire Corey Undlin, who had been on the staff from 2015-2019. Pederson wanted to make Press Taylor his offensive coordinator. Were these really the best candidates? It sure feels like Pederson was more focused on hiring coaches he knew and was comfortable with. That’s just not how you fix 4-11-1.

Lurie is looking big picture. Let’s take a chance on finding the best assistants. There will be some misses, but if you hit on enough of them, you get back to having a strong staff, the foundation of a good team.

After Lurie and Pederson talked it out, it must have been pretty clear they were thinking differently and that was going to be an issue in a critical offseason for the future of this franchise.

Based on Lurie’s explanation, I absolutely think he made the right decision. As I wrote yesterday, I think part of the problem is that Pederson didn’t truly understand how bad things had gotten.

The Eagles went 4-11-1, despite playing in arguably the worst division in modern NFL history. Of those four wins, three came against backup QBs. The other win came against Daniel Jones. The Eagles trailed by 10 or more points in 12 games. This wasn’t a bunch of back and forth games where the Eagles came up just short. They were down big in several games.

There is a lot that needs fixing.

Pederson is delusional if he thinks getting back the right side of his O-line and having a full offseason will fix this team. That would help in a major way, but the issues go well beyond that. And you can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. Again…does Pederson truly understand how bad his team was this season?

It sure sounds like Pederson had on rose-colored glasses in regard to what needed to be done. If there is any good news to come out of Monday, it is that Lurie is thinking long term. Hire a good coach. Build a strong staff. Load up on young talent. Try to build something you can sustain.

As Lurie explained, this isn’t about Pederson deserving to get fired. Pederson has a Super Bowl title, two division titles, a winning record and he’s a good leader. He just wasn’t the right guy for the Eagles going forward. You don’t keep someone because they deserve it. You must have the right coach for your organization based on the future, not the past.

The bad news to come out of Monday is that Lurie is delusional in regard to Howie Roseman. There is just no other way to put it.

Multiple reporters asked Lurie about the shortcomings of recent drafts and personnel decisions. Lurie gave some convoluted answers about needing to study the big picture and understand all the moves and all the options. I’m not sure Lurie understands just how obsessive fans are these days. Die hards study the roster and personnel moves the way convicts study their cases looking for technicalities that can get their case overturned.

Lurie kept stressing that Roseman surrounded himself with outstanding people and the Eagles had a good process. Les Bowen pushed back, asking if they had so many good people, why were the drafts so weak. Lurie went back to his convoluted answer. Ugh.

There wasn’t a lot of talk about hiring a new coach. Lurie made it clear he wasn’t in a rush. He was going to find the right guy, not the first guy. He did say Duce Staley would be a candidate.

Lincoln Riley is the first guy I would call. He is arguably the top offensive coach in college football. He’s developed multiple QBs (including some guy named Jalen Hurts). You look at the success of young offensive coaches like Sean McVay, Kyle Shanahan and Matt LaFleur. It is hard not to want someone like that to run your team in this day and age.

We’ll talk more about the coaching search and the attractiveness of the Eagles job in a separate post.

There is a part of me that is sad to see Doug go. He won the Super Bowl we all coveted for so long. At his best, he seemed like a good guy and someone that was fun to pull for. There is a part of me that wonders if he wanted out of Philly.

Lurie and Roseman forced Doug to make some coaching changes last year. This year Doug decided to stick to his guns. I respect him not caving in to save his job, but I’m not sure the guys he fought for were worth it.

I think this move was right for both parties. Give Doug more of a veteran roster and he should be good. The Eagles need a coach who will embrace young players and really focus on player development.

The Eagles are going to be “retooling” as Lurie put it. They will try to win right away, but the roster will be focused more on the future than the present. You must play young guys and see who can help you moving forward. This should mean no more Vinny Curry over Casey Toohill decisions.

I’m happy Lurie has this mindset. I wish he had it in 2020 as well, but that didn’t happen.

It sounds like Carson Wentz is more open to staying with Pederson’s departure. We’ll have to wait and see who the new coach is before there is any real talk of what to do with Wentz.

It is frustrating that Howie Roseman will get to help choose another coach (his third) and used the #6 pick in the draft. He should be out the door or in a very different role. Instead, he’ll be making key decisions that shape the future of the franchise.

Yay.

I hope he proves us all wrong and does an amazing job. The last five years just don’t give us a lot of reason for excitement and optimism about finding young talent.

A crazy offseason just got crazier.

_