Doug Pederson’s future with the Eagles remains uncertain after an initial meeting with owner Jeffrey Lurie failed to settle issues about the direction of the team, NFL sources told The Inquirer Sunday.
ESPN was first to report that the Eagles coach’s status was “not firm” and that he could be fired if Lurie isn’t “confident about Pederson’s vision going forward after the two meet again soon.”
Lurie and Pederson met Tuesday, two days after the Eagles ended the season with a 4-11-1 record. They are expected to meet a second time early this week in Florida, sources said. Discussions between the two are ongoing as Lurie continues to evaluate his coach of the last five seasons.
The owner’s concerns are manyfold as the Eagles face a crossroads following their worst season, at least in terms of their record, in eight years. Lurie likely wanted to hear concrete plans from Pederson on whether he wants quarterback Carson Wentz to return, who he plans to hire to replace defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, and possible changes he would make to help improve one of the NFL’s worst offenses.
Pederson was initially believed to be returning and has remained in place long after most NFL coaches are typically fired following their teams’ last game. He had expressed confidence in his return because of his overall accomplishments, namely winning the Eagles’ lone Super Bowl title just three years ago. Overall, his record is 42-37-1 with three playoff appearances.
The Eagles have regressed in each of the seasons since 2017, however, and Wentz struggled significantly in 2020. The season also ended in controversy when Pederson seemingly threw the last game against Washington when he pulled quarterback Jalen Hurts for Nate Sudfeld.
He denied it and said that he simply wanted to give Sudfeld, who had yet to play all season, some playing time. Multiple players and coaches were shocked and outraged by the timing of the quarterback change — the Eagles trailed Washington by just three points early in the fourth quarter — team sources told The Inquirer last week.
It was unclear if Pederson could have made the move without owner approval, or if his handling of the switch -- which drew league-wide condemnation -- drew Lurie’s disapproval. Hurts hadn’t heard directly from Pederson of his plans for the season finale. Communication, or a lack thereof, has consistently been a problem during his tenure, team sources said.
Schwartz, who announced his decision to take some time off from coaching, isn’t the only assistant the Eagles have to replace. Senior offensive coaches Rich Scangarello and Marty Mornhinweg have left after their one-year contracts expired. Linebackers coach Ken Flajole is also departing and is expected to retire.
Some of the departures were mutually agreed upon, and more exits could follow, with some coaches leaving on their own accord, per league sources.
General manager Howie Roseman, meanwhile, is expected to remain after his postseason meetings with Lurie. 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.
Wentz, meanwhile, reportedly wants to be traded because his relationship with Pederson is beyond repair. The coach has said that he still believes in the 28-year-old quarterback and that he thinks he can return to form. Still, if the relationship is damaged, and Lurie/Roseman want Wentz back, it could be another reason Pederson’s job isn’t safe.
Wentz hasn’t spoken publicly since he was benched in the 30-16 loss at Green Bay on Dec. 6.
If Pederson was uncomfortable with some of the changes Lurie suggested in their first meeting, it could be another reason why there hasn’t been a resolution. He was forced to fire offensive coordinator Mike Groh last year, per NFL sources, and subsequently hired Scangarello and Mornhinweg as replacements.
Pederson wasn’t keen on the idea of having to make major changes again as of last week, sources close to the coach said. He has mentored pass game coordinator/quarterbacks coach Press Taylor and was considering promoting him as offensive coordinator, one source said.
“The head coach picks his staff,” a source close to Pederson said.
The Eagles finished last in the NFL in yards per pass play and their 5-yard average was their lowest in 20 years. Wentz’s 72.9 passer rating was 25.5 points lower than his 98.3 average the previous three seasons and was the most dramatic decrease for any starting quarterback under the age of 30 in NFL history.
There are currently six NFL teams with head-coach openings — the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Jets, Detroit Lions, and Atlanta Falcons. Interviews have been underway for some time, and the Eagles would be getting in late, but there has yet to be a hire.
Pederson has two years remaining on the contract extension he signed in August 2018.
Staff writers Les Bowen and Paul Domowitch contributed reporting.