Not So Safe

Posted: January 10th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 4 Comments »

Doug Pederson talked to the media after the season and everyone took that as a sign he would be coming back in 2021. That was last Monday. On Tuesday, Pederson met with owner Jeff Lurie. Apparently that meeting did not go well.

Wow.

So what’s the problem? What happened? Chris Mortensen and Tim McManus offer some details.

But Lurie to this point has not been sold on how Pederson plans to fix the offense and get the Eagles back to contender status, according to sources.

That is a major concern.

While Pederson’s fragile status does not necessarily focus around Wentz’s issues, according to sources, his description when pressed about the team’s offensive identity during one internal meeting with management was “troubling.” His plan to address his coaching staff also lacked urgency, the sources added.

Another year of coaching staff issues. That’s not shocking.

Let’s talk about this.

I’ve wondered all year if Pederson really appreciated what an awful season his team had. You can lose a bunch of games and then talk yourself into it not being that bad due to injuries, close losses, bad luck, etc. The way Pederson talked to the media made you think that’s the way he looked at 2020.

Last Monday Pederson talked about the need to get healthy, to have a full offseason and to focus on fundamentals. That would be fine if the Eagles had gone 7-9. In case you forgot, they didn’t.

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?

The Eagles have been in decline since winning the Super Bowl. Yes, they did make the playoffs in 2018 and 2019, but the team is headed in the wrong direction. Add in the disastrous 2020 season and you can see where Lurie might be asking some tough questions. Pederson obviously didn’t have the answers that Lurie was hoping for.

As to the coaching staff, that has been a tricky subject since the Super Bowl. Pederson lost Frank Reich and John DeFilippo in February of 2018 and the offensive staff has been unsettled since then. Last year Pederson told the media there wouldn’t be coaching changes. A day later, Pederson made changes, almost certainly at the behest of Lurie and Howie Roseman.

The changes did not work.

It sounds like Lurie wants the offensive staff overhauled, while Pederson doesn’t completely agree. The central figure may be QBs coach/passing game coordinator Press Taylor. Pederson apparently thinks very highly of him. Carson Wentz loves Taylor. Unfortunately the data doesn’t paint a pretty picture. Wentz hasn’t played as well since Taylor replaced DeFilippo. And the passing game this year was a mess. The Eagles were 28th in passing yards and QBs had a cumulative passer rating of 72.9. Yikes.

Taylor might be an NFL assistant for years to come. He might be better than I’m giving him credit for. But he sure wasn’t the right coach for the 2020 Eagles. What makes us think he’s the right guy for 2021? Pederson would need to make a compelling case in order to bring him back. This isn’t a case of surrounding yourself with coaches you like or that you’re comfortable with. Pederson needs to find the right guys to fix this mess. Wentz had a historic regression in 2020. I don’t see how you  bring back the QB coach who oversaw that.

Jeff McLane wrote a good piece on the situation and offered up another nugget.

While Pederson said that his relationship with Roseman has been on solid ground, there have been indications that the two have decreasingly seen eye-to-eye on personnel, team sources said.

I don’t know what moves they would have disagreed on. Both guys seem to love veteran players so it is hard to know what they were butting heads about. McLane did report that the coaches were the ones pushing for the Eagles to draft Jalen Reagor in the first round. Maybe that is one of the big issues.

I also think the season finale against Washington could be a factor in all of this. In Pederson’s mind, he simply gave some snaps to his number three QB. The rest of the football world saw that very differently. It led to a lot of outrage and criticism. I’m sure Lurie saw that as an embarrassing end to a horrible season. How does your coach not understand that pulling Hurts and playing Sudfeld is going to create a firestorm? That coach is naive or dumb. Neither is a good option.

There is also the question of the players reaction to the QB switch. Some people think this could have lingering effects in the locker room. I disagree, but it is tough to know what will resonate with players. One of Pederson’s big selling points is his emotional intelligence and handling of the locker room. If he’s lost some of that, it hurts his value.

The X-factor in all of this is the future of Carson Wentz. We don’t know what Lurie wants. Pederson has publicly stated that he still thinks highly of Wentz and that the two can get things turned around together. It doesn’t seem like Wentz feels the same way. He did not have an exit interview with Pederson last Monday. You can bet that wasn’t an accident. It could be a situation where Wentz is pushing Lurie to choose between him and Pederson.

Let’s be fair to Pederson in all of this. He met with Lurie less than 48 hours after the season was over. I’m sure there was a lot going through his head. Trying to put together a complex offseason plan that quickly would be incredibly challenging. Lurie gave him a mulligan, so to speak. Pederson is scheduled to meet with Lurie down in Florida on Monday.

Pederson has now had time to come up with a strong plan and some detailed answers.

He will either save his job or secure his departure.

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More Changes

Posted: January 8th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 5 Comments »

Another day, another update on the Eagles coaching staff. We won’t be getting these every day, but they will come on a regular basis as Doug Pederson and the team try to find the right men to fix the 2020 mess.

Let’s start on offense.

I’m glad Marty is gone. Nothing against him personally, but it sure felt like there were too many cooks in the kitchen this year. I don’t know if the Eagles wanted his ideas on the Ravens offense (QB runs, creative run game) or if they wanted his West Coast offense passing game ideas. Either way, it didn’t seem like his ideas did much for the offense.

I had hopes for Scangarello, but his ideas were hard to spot in the 2020 offense.

Jeff McLane mentions that Press Taylor could be let go. It will not surprise me to see all the passing game coaches let go. Carson Wentz regressed in a major way in 2020. The passing game was ugly for much of the season. Some of that was on mediocre WR play and a constantly revolving O-line, but there were schematic issues as well. The offense was too predictable and didn’t scheme receivers open often enough.

You don’t fix the passing game by bringing back the same teachers and the same ideas. There has to be some change, maybe a lot of change.

These are not necessarily bad coaches, but they weren’t the right coaches for the past season and that means they may not be the right coaches for the future. You need the right mix of personalities and ideas. This group just didn’t have that mix.

We don’t have any good rumors about potential hires.

Over on defense, we knew Jim Schwartz was leaving, but this makes it official. Schwartz had his share of critics. I think he’ll be more appreciated over time. Schwartz did a good job during his tenure and that is backed up by the numbers, as well as postseason success.

We don’t have any good rumors on the defensive side of things either. I am still trying to figure out who I want the Eagles to hire.

There are lots of interesting candidates. We’ll sort them out in the next week or two.

*****

There was one player move.

Jackson has a TE build at 6-7, 249. He is a solid athlete. Obviously moving from QB to TE isn’t easy, but it has been done. Logan Thomas played QB at Virginia Tech and just had a terrific season at TE for Washington.

This is the kind of developmental prospect  you want to take a chance on. The Eagles need young talent. Take some chances and see if you can develop a player. Greg Ward went from project to productive slot receiver. You need to hit on some of those guys to help with the cap situation.

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Much Ado About Something

Posted: January 7th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Much Ado About Something

For a couple of days, Doug Pederson got to be the worst man in all of football. He didn’t want to win. He sold out his players, who then lost respect for him. He had no respect for the integrity of the game. He also invented cancer, polio and malaria. He hated children, puppies and people who smiled. For two days, Doug Pederson was the worst person in the world.

The hyperbole was a million times worse than anything you could imagine. Or more.

Fans, coaches, players and the media went after Pederson. They ripped him up one side and down the other. How could he throw Nate Sudfeld into a close game with a playoff spot on the line for the Giants and WFT?

I mean, WTF?

This shocking move shouldn’t have been shocking at all. Pederson told plenty of people, including the NBC broadcast crew, that he was going to play Sudfeld. This wasn’t Pederson trying to lose. Pederson was simply trying to give his backup QB a chance to play.

Pederson isn’t guilty of demeaning the game of football. He didn’t sabotage the 6-10 Giants. And he didn’t lose his team or make them hate him.

Jason Kelce explained exactly what happened. He did say he was surprised based on the circumstances. I know I was shocked the Eagles were just down 17-14 in the second half. I thought Washington would have a double-digit lead. Had that been the case, playing Sudfeld wouldn’t have generated any buzz.

This is where I do think Pederson is at fault. I get wanting to reward Sudfeld with some snaps. He’s been part of the team for four years and hasn’t been able to get on the field since 2018. Pederson didn’t want to evaluate Sudfeld. He just wanted to give his backup QB a chance to play.

The problem is that Pederson had to know that he just couldn’t do that in a tight game. Pederson can say what he wants about trusting Sudfeld, but there is no question that Hurts is the better player. Because of the score, Pederson should have left Hurts in. That would have been the right thing to do, for his players and for the teams in the playoff hunt.

I don’t know if Pederson doesn’t care or if he’s clueless. I got the feeling he was shocked by the criticism, which would make you think he didn’t anticipate it. Maybe he is just awful at knowing the room, so to speak.

The ironic thing is that Pederson’s goal was to help Sudfeld and I think he hurt him. Sudfeld came into a game when it was raining, he had a makeshift OL and was facing a Top 5 defense. The results were just what you’d expect. Sudfeld looked bad. He did not help himself with potential free agent suitors.

I don’t think there will be any long term effects from Pederson’s decision. People will grumble, but it is just an excuse to be overly angry about something. That will fade with time.

I would love to hear Pederson’s talk with Jeff Lurie. I would ask him a few questions about Sunday night and whether it was worth it to put himself and the Eagles in a bad light just so he could get some snaps to his #3 QB. It would bother me to think Pederson didn’t get the problems that decision might cause. Is he really that naive? Not a good look for a coach trying to keep his job.

That was the wrong move for that situation.

*****

And so it begins. Rich Scangarello will not be the last assistant coach to be let go. There will be multiple changes in the coming weeks. That’s what happens when you go 4-11-1 despite playing in the worst division in recent NFL history.

Heads gotta roll. Scangarello just happened to be first.

He was supposed to bring some of the Kyle Shanahan offense to Philly. I sure didn’t see much of it. I supported the hire, but it just didn’t work the way anyone hoped it would.

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Facing the Music

Posted: January 4th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 5 Comments »

Now that the 2020 season is in the books, we can move onto the offseason. The first order of business was Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson meeting the media. Since Doug has talked multiple times a week for several months, most of the questions went to Howie.

This is probably going to shock you, but we didn’t get any crazy news or compelling quotes. Howie opened by calling the season “disappointing, frustrating, embarrassing”. That was a good start. In order to give any hope to the fans, the Eagles have to let people know they understand just how bad 2020 was. This was more than injuries, bad luck or some close losses. This was a bad team.

Howie admitted that instead of sticking to the plan to get younger, the team changed up when the pandemic hit. They thought that having the only returning coaching staff gave the Eagles an advantage so they added some veterans instead of sticking with younger players.

Barf.

I don’t get that plan at all. If the older guys put you at Super Bowl level, do it. If they help you secure a weak division, you are wasting your time. What is the point in chasing division titles? You want to build a Super Bowl team. That can mean purging vets and going young every now and then. Howie has less willpower with veterans than I do at a breakfast buffet. If he gets Jason Peters, I should get another trip to the omelet station.

I think…think…he understands that this year must be different. The cap issues are legit and you can’t ignore them. The Eagles are going to have to embrace young guys. Had they done a better job of that this year, the team would be better prepared heading into 2021. Was playing Vinny Curry worth four wins? Would you rather have Casey Toohill with a season of experience? There is no question that Curry is the better player. There is also no question that he’s not part of the future.

This organization needs better structure and discipline. They will be treading water until everyone gets on the same page and they all have the mental and emotional toughness to take chances on young players with upside. There will be failures, of course. But you aren’t going to find players unless  you take some of those chances.

Howie said he regrets the QB factory comment from the draft. I understood the point he was making then, but flippant comments can bite you in the ass. That one sure did. It had a little too much hubris and Howie has paid the price for that.

It was hard to get a feel for Howie’s mindset. Reporters got after him for missing on recent draft picks. Howie admitted fault, but also pushed back some.

“I think there’s two parts of that. The fact that we are where we are now, and we’re 4-11-1, to not sit there and review everything we’ve done and see if there’s a better way to do it, you know that, would probably be ignorant. So, we have to do that. But by the same time, we have also been incredibly successful. Just because you have one bad moment doesn’t mean you’re not good at your jobs or you don’t have a good process. It happens in this business. Extremely humbling business. And we have to rebound from it, and we have to do better, and it starts with me.

“But when I look at it objectively, too, we’ve had a lot of hits in free agency. We’ve had a lot of draft picks here who have done a really good job and we have to get back to that and make sure we attack this offseason. This is, really, besides 2012, we haven’t picked because of earning it in the top 10, we obviously traded up for Carson, but we didn’t start that year, either that way. That’s something we have to hit on, the sixth pick in the draft, in a huge, huge way, and I think that we have the right people to do that. I know that we’re going to be incredibly focused on not only that pick, but the other picks we’ll have in this draft and hopefully we’ll have a bunch of picks and we’ll go from there.”

Howie is human. He’s going to defend himself. I get that. But boy I wish he didn’t say “incredibly successful”. The Super Bowl team of 2017 was outstanding, but we have to be honest that there were some lucky moves. No one expected Patrick Robinson or Chris Long to play like they did. Corey Clement looked like a star in the Super Bowl itself, but hasn’t come close to that level since. Nick Foles was lightning in a bottle. That was an amazing group, but let’s not act like that team panned out exactly as expected.

Chasing past glory can be a dangerous thing. The Eagles need to be careful about studying that team too much. They need to look at teams who won with young rosters. Study the Rams from this year. They had one of the youngest rosters in the league and still won. Buffalo added all their key skill players (aside from QB) in the last two years, with most of them being young. That offense was great this year.

“One bad moment” was a very poor phrase. Howie and the Eagles have had a bunch of bad moments in recent years. That’s how you build a 4-11-1 roster. You have to acknowledge that in order to make changes.

Howie’s PC didn’t change my opinion of things. I still don’t think he is the right guy to fix this mess. I didn’t come away thinking “He really gets it and might be different going forward”. I certainly hope he is. I’d love for Howie to prove me wrong. Go have a phenomenal draft and add some solid veteran talent. I just don’t think that’s very likely.

The first order of business is figuring out QB. That won’t be easy. Howie said all the right things in regard to Carson Wentz, but didn’t say much in regard to the report that Wentz will request a trade. That’s a complex situation and will take time. I get that Howie can’t show his cards on that one.

Here is the PC if you want to check it out.

*****

The Eagles do have some tough decisions to make in regard to veteran players.

Zach Ertz talked to the media. He broke down as he talked about Philly and the Eagles.

You can see where it is tough for Howie and Doug to move on from these players that they’ve known so long. It is easy for us to say “Cut Peters and play the kid”. That is different when you’ve known that man for more than a decade.

Still, that’s the job of a GM and coach. You have to do what is right for the team, not just the individual. You must be able to walk away from Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, Vinny Curry, etc. And now the Eagles need to walk away from Ertz. He’s an all-time great Eagle and will always be loved, but it’s time to move on.

*****

Wentz did not meet the media. He wanted no part of answering questions about his future.

*****

The Eagles must get under the cap. They started that process on Monday.

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Over

Posted: January 4th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

Mercifully, the 2020 season is over.

The Eagles lost 20-14 to WFT on Sunday night, playing better than any of us expected. That loss gave Washington the NFC East title.

This game will be discussed for a while for a QB controversy. Oddly, this one didn’t involve Carson Wentz. Doug Pederson pulled Jalen Hurts after three quarters and put in Nate Sudfeld. The Eagles only trailed 17-14 at that point.

Sudfeld was awful. He had two turnovers and just looked overwhelmed. Giants players and fans were on Twitter going nuts. The national media accused Pederson of tanking. It was clear that the Eagles had no chance to win with Sudfeld on the field.

Pederson had told the NBC crew the day before the game that he wanted to play Sudfeld. I’m guessing Pederson expected WFT to have a bigger lead and didn’t think this would be a big deal. Instead, the Eagles were right there and pulling Hurts for a guy who hadn’t played in two years was a huge deal.

Pederson said after the game that Sudfeld deserved a chance to get some snaps. Respectfully, I disagree. You do that in a blowout or in the preseason. In a tight game with something significant on the line, you need to keep your best players on the field.

As if answering questions about Hurts and Wentz wasn’t enough, Pederson opened a new can of worms and will now have to answer questions about playing Sudfeld. I hope it was worth it.

The loss secured the Eagles the #6 pick in the draft. That’s the reward for a miserable 4-11-1 season.

I’m just glad the season was over. Football is supposed to be fun, not punishment. Let’s go find some talent and see if we can get this thing turned around.

*****

In case you missed it, ESPN had a report that Carson Wentz will request a trade. I wrote about that here.

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