Luck Matters

Posted: May 21st, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Robert Kraft knew Bill Belichick was the coach he wanted back in 2000. That hiring laid the foundation for an amazing dynasty.

The other key move was less by design. Tom Brady was the 199th pick in the 2000 draft. People love to talk about what a great pick that was, but Scott Pioli, who was the top personnel guy at the time, always points out they wouldn’t have waited that long if they really believed in him. Forget about the Super Bowls and the Hall of Fame, if they thought Brady could be a solid starter he would have been picked in the 2nd or 3rd round.

Give the Patriots credit for making the pick, but there was some luck involved. I don’t mean this as an insult. Luck plays a part in a lot of dynasties.

Think about the Eagles for a second. The whole organization was in on Carson Wentz. That was the QB they wanted and the team paid a premium price to get him. He has turned out to be the player they expected.

The flip side of that is Doug Pederson. He was not the Eagles first choice. They were interested in Ben McAdoo, who was an assistant with the Giants at the time. Luckily, the Giants hired McAdoo and the Eagles had to go back over their options. That led to the hiring of Pederson.

No one involved in the hiring process had any inkling that Pederson was going to become a great coach. Obviously we don’t know how his whole career will play out, but he sure appears to be a great coach. His team was dominant all season long and his offense looks special. Pederson’s offense put up 41 points in the Super Bowl with a backup LT, backup QB and a rookie RB playing a key role. That is pretty amazing.

It is crazy to think about Pederson as compared to the other coaches hired by the Eagles in the last 30 or so years. Go back to 1986. Buddy Ryan had just won the Super Bowl with his 46 Defense and one of the greatest defensive units in NFL history. Ryan was a hot coaching candidate.

Rich Kotite succeeded him and we can laugh at Kotite now, but the Eagles offense did some great things under him in 1990. They finished 3rd in the league in points and yards. Most of the credit for that should go to Randall Cunningham, who had one of the greatest years a QB has ever had. Still, Kotite was part of the success.

Ray Rhodes came on board in 1995. He had just run the Niners defense as they won the Super Bowl. Rhodes had worked for Bill Walsh and Mike Holmgren and had a terrific reputation.

Rhodes was fired after the 1998 season and the Eagles wanted Mike Holmgren. They missed out on him, but then interviewed his protege, Andy Reid. He had been the QBs coach for the Packers and did good things with Brett Favre. Reid had a phenomenal interview and blew away Jeffrey Lurie and Joe Banner. They hired Reid and he had a great run with the Eagles. While Reid wasn’t the team’s first choice, there was some buzz because of what he did with the Packers and the stories that got out about his interview.

There was no buzz on Pederson. None.

He hadn’t won a Super Bowl as a coach. He was the offensive coordinator in KC for three years, but wasn’t the primary play-caller. He had coached QBs for the Eagles prior to that, but hardly had any great success in 2011 or 2012. Just a few years before that, Pederson was coaching high school football.

Pederson did have a long playing career and I think that turned out to be more important than anyone realized. That isn’t to say that all former players make good coaches. Pederson was a career backup so he spent more than a decade on the sideline watching the action and taking it in just like a coach would.

The Eagles took a big chance in hiring Pederson. They needed the right guy after Chip Kelly and Pederson made a lot of sense because he was a bridge to the Andy Reid era and because he had good people skills. The Eagles had no idea Pederson would be such a gifted offensive mind and develop into such a good gameday coach.

Taking a chance on Pederson paid off in the biggest way, winning that elusive first Super Bowl. What seemed like a blah move at the time turned out to be a stroke of genius.

With a little luck mixed in.

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Results Over Credit

Posted: May 19th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The 2017 Eagles were an incredibly selfless team. No runner had 1,000 yards. No receiver had 1,000 yards. No pass rusher got 10 sacks. The ball was spread around on offense and snaps were spread around on defense. The Eagles really were a team, not just a group of individuals.

I thought about this when I saw a quote on Twitter recently.

Doug Pederson really sets the tone in this regard. He openly acknowledges taking ideas from all over. In the clip below, Pederson talks about the Eagles using a RB technique that Duce Staley got from Chip Kelly.

There is another video where Pederson explains that he adjusted a play based on the fact Sam Bradford preferred the way that Chip Kelly ran that play. When Bradford told Pederson about the different version, Pederson embraced it and the Eagles still do that now.

So many coaches would have been “My way or the highway” with situations like that. Not Doug. He puts his ego aside and genuinely wants whatever is best for the team. I can’t tell you how rare that is.

Look how similar this play from the Super Bowl is to one from Arizona’s 2011 college season.

That isn’t to say Doug got that directly from Arizona, but the idea almost certainly came from some college offense.

Andy Reid ran the West Coast Offense in Philly. He opened some things up with Michael Vick, but it was still very much the WCO. That changed when Reid got to Kansas City, where Doug Pederson was the offensive coordinator. I’d love to know if Reid opened up because of the change in scenery or if Pederson was able to convince him to do that.

I do know that Reid and Pederson embraced ideas from QB Alex Smith’s college days. Smith played for some guy you may have heard of…Urban Meyer. Now KC has one of the most creative offenses in the league. So do the Eagles.

I don’t know if Pederson influenced Reid or vice-versa, but what ever happened, it was a good thing. Reid has had an excellent second act in KC and Pederson is off to an amazing start in Philly. He’s already won a Super Bowl and established himself as one of the most important offensive coaches in the league.

Keeping an open mind has helped Pederson build a great offense. Defenses will adjust, but the beauty of this is that Pederson can import new ideas that will keep his offense fresh and defenses off-balance. They’ll be trying to stop the 2017 Eagles, but facing the 2018 team.

Advantage Eagles.

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One of the reasons Pederson has such a creative offense is that he’s got all kinds of influences.

His first NFL coach was Don Shula. Miami had somewhat of an old school offense and threw the ball downfield. Pederson played for Mike Holmgren, who ran the purest version of the WCO this side of Bill Walsh. Then Pederson played for Reid, who ran a slightly different version of the WCO. Pederson then played for Mike Sherman on his return to Green Bay. Sherman ran the WCO, but his focus was the run game.

Pederson also had some non-NFL influences. He played for the architect of the Run ‘n Shoot.

Buddy Ryan hated that offense and called it the “chuck and duck”. Funny comment, but the offense has been highly influential over the years. Teams now embrace three and four-receiver sets. Teams use some of the passing concepts and option routes that made the Run ‘n Shoot so tough to stop.

You can bet Pederson’s time coaching high school football has also influenced him. Some of the most innovative offenses in football are at the high school level.

Pederson loves good ideas. He doesn’t care where they come from or who gets credit. He just wants the best plays he can find.

That mindset helped the Eagles win it all last year. It will be interesting to see how things play out this year and into the future.

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Insight from Howie

Posted: May 18th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

The Eagles won the Super Bowl for a lot of reasons. One of them is that Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman embraced a new way of doing things. From Sports Science to analytics to an aggressive and creative cap strategy, the Eagles looked for every possible advantage they could, on and off the field.

Howie spoke at the Wharton People Analytics Conference recently. They have posted the 30 minute discussion between he and host Cade Massey.

This is really great. Howie tells some good stories and offers some interesting insight on how the Eagles think.

Don’t watch expecting any amazing moments where Howie gives away the football version of the secret recipe for grandma’s spaghetti sauce. He’s too smart for that. Howie just offered interesting thoughts on how scouting and analytics have come to co-exist and how/why the Eagles do things.

Not every team has such an open mind. The Eagles winning the Super Bowl may have forced some teams to have more of an open mind, but clearly teams like the Giants are still embracing being an old school team. That’s a good thing for the Eagles and not so good for the Giants.

If the Eagles have another big year, watch for even more teams to embrace a new way of doing things.

*****

Interesting stuff here from Louis Riddick on his QB rankings for the NFC East.

1 – Carson Wentz
2 – Alex Smith
3 – Nick Foles
4 – Dak Prescott
5 – Eli Manning

Interesting.

Riddick makes the point that Foles gets that ranking only because he’s with the Eagles. The combination of the scheme, the coaches and the surrounding talent brings out the best in Foles. I think that is a reasonable argument.

It really will be interesting to see how things play out this year. Dak Prescott could bounce back in a major way or struggle even more with pedestrian receivers. Eli has better blocking and more talent to work with, but he’s been mediocre the last five years. Smith is coming off a great season, but there are no guarantees that he will play at the same level on a new team and in a new system.

This could be a wild season for the QBs of the NFC East.

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Disciplined

Posted: May 16th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

Scouts, personnel executives and general managers live for the draft. That is a very special event for them. Free agency and trades are crucial as well, but the draft is different. Players are scouted over the course of months and it becomes somewhat like a relationship. “That’s my guy” is the kind of thing a scout might say about a 6th or 7th rounder, someone the average fan dismisses as a long shot.

The 2018 draft was pure torture for Howie Roseman, Joe Douglas and the Eagles scouts.

We all wanted the Eagles to move back and add extra picks. Howie did move back, but rather than settling for a 4th rounder this year, he was able to get a 2nd rounder for next year. He also had to give up a 5th rounder this year. It would have been easy for Roseman to keep the 5th and add a 4th.

Instead, he took the long view. He made the disciplined move and took the better value, adding a key future pick.

That couldn’t have been easy to do.

I’m sure there were players the Eagles liked in the middle rounds. Howie had to have been tempted to focus on picks this year, to get an immediate reward for all the work the scouts put into draft preparation.

Howie passed on the simple temptation and focused on doing the smart thing.

The Eagles have a loaded roster. It isn’t likely that a mid-round pick would make the difference in this team contending for another Super Bowl. That 2nd round pick next year could be a replacement for Jason Peters or Jordan Hicks or some other veteran. Who knows…maybe the Eagles will finally draft that RB they’ve been talking about for the past two draft cycles.

There should be more roster turnover next year so having more picks (especially a 2nd rounder) is the way to go.

*****

Veteran RBs just don’t have much value on the market. Good for teams, bad for them.

*****

Josh Norris did a terrific draft review for the NFC East.

He listens to post-draft press conferences and puts together info on what the teams said and the overall moves they made.

Great stuff.

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BG on the Mend

Posted: May 15th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

One of the interesting things that happens every offseason is that we find out about players getting treatment for injuries we didn’t know about or didn’t think were all that serious. Jimmy Bama recently broke a story about Derek Barnett having groin surgery.

Tonight we got news on Brandon Graham.

Interesting. I don’t recall hearing about Graham having a banged up ankle.

Graham will miss time this spring, but it sounds like he will be fine in time for Training Camp. That’s important. Graham is a veteran and doesn’t need a ton of work, but TC is good for veterans. It gives them the chance to get in football shape so they’re ready for the grind of the season. OTAs aren’t as important, especially for D-linemen.

Let’s go back to Barnett for a second. From Jimmy’s piece (Pulitzer material for sure).

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett had sports hernia surgery shortly after the Birds’ season concluded, according to a source. Barnett joins a long list of Eagles players recovering from varying surgical procedures, including Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Alshon Jeffery, Jordan Hicks, Timmy Jernigan, Darren Sproles, and Chris Maragos.

Or at least Barnett did join the list of the wounded. According to the source, the recovery period is only six weeks, and the procedure should make that area of his body stronger. Do the math, and Barnett should already be recovered.

Barnett should be ready for the OTAs. Since he is just a second-year player, even non-contact practices have value for him. Young players benefit from as many reps as possible. That’s especially true for Barnett, who is more football player than gifted athlete. He needs to master the subtleties of rushing the passer to be at his best.

*****

Sanders must not have impressed over the weekend.

As for Reynolds…

Bryan Braman is gone. Najee Goode is gone. Reynolds gives the team a veteran LB and STer to push for a roster spot and to fill their type of role.

*****

Back to the DE theme for a minute…

While Barnett is more player than athlete, Sweat is the opposite. He is a gifted athlete. An explosive athlete. We’ll see if he can develop into a good NFL player.

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