Doug Pederson said Tuesday that giving up his offensive play-calling duties was “on the table,” but the Eagles coach has already doled out some to assistants, NFL sources told The Inquirer.
Pederson has handed the reins over to pass game coordinator Press Taylor several times in recent games, and could give him more responsibility starting Sunday in Green Bay, according to the sources. Senior offensive assistant Rich Scangarello has also been calling plays, specifically in two-minute situations, since the beginning of the season.
Pederson, through a team spokesperson, had no comment Thursday.
The fifth-year coach has publicly resisted the idea of ceding play-calling. On Sept. 29, when first asked about the possibility, he said that he hadn’t “thought about that at all.” On Nov. 16, he said that he felt “good about the plays that have been called,” and that he felt “in rhythm” in the Eagles’ loss to the New York Giants the day before.
But the 3-7-1 Eagles have lost three in a row, and the offense scored only 17 points in each game. Pederson, for the first time, hedged on retaining play-calling after the Eagles fell to the Seahawks, 23-17, Monday, when the offense managed only nine points until a late Hail Mary.
“I take pride in play-calling, and I look at everything. I got to take everything into consideration,” Pederson said. “If I feel like I get stuck or in a rut, I definitely would consider giving that up. So, it’s definitely on the table.
“I wouldn’t say that’s off the table. But that’s also part of sparking the offense and maybe seeing the offense through somebody else’s eyes.”
Overall, the unit is 29th in yards and 25th in points. Pederson has called plays for the Eagles since becoming coach in 2016. He didn’t call plays, at least on a part-time basis, until the second half of his third and last season as offensive coordinator with the Chiefs.
The 32-year-old Taylor, who is also quarterbacks coach, has never previously called plays at any level, let alone the NFL. Pederson handed him the reins for a bit against Seattle as the offense went three-and-out on its first five possessions, a source said.
If Pederson is to hand over more play-calling to Taylor, he would be doing so over Scangarello, who called plays last season as Broncos offensive coordinator, and senior consultant Marty Mornhinweg, who has called plays in the NFL for over two decades.
Carson Wentz’s play has regressed significantly this season. The quarterback and his coaches have cited the truncated offseason, personnel changes, and injuries as reasons for his struggles. Coaching changes and the variance of voices in the quarterback room could have also negatively affected Wentz.
“I think the most important thing you can do is have your play-caller and quarterback be on the same page all the time, and they are doing a good job of keeping that as a priority,” Taylor said last month. “Then the rest of us kind of filling in the roles and try to fill in the gaps of communication with Carson as we see fit.”
Most of the Eagles’ offensive coaches have specific game-day responsibilities and aid Pederson when necessary. But the calls have almost always come from the head coach. Only Pederson can have audio communication with Wentz via his helmet headset.
Scangarello assumed the two-minute portion that former offensive coordinators Frank Reich and Mike Groh previously handled. They would give key information or offer up suggestions based on circumstance. Scangarello, though, has called the plays with Pederson relaying them to Wentz, sources said.
The Eagles and Wentz have done better in two-minute, when hurry-up and no huddle are utilized, than in other situations this season. In 29 drives that can be qualified as two-minute – at the end of the first half, fourth quarter, or overtime – they scored 10 touchdowns with two missed field goals.
In the Eagles’ other 101 possessions, they scored 19 touchdowns and 11 field goals with two missed kicks.
The 47-year-old Scangarello was hired during the offseason after Groh was fired. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman spurred the coaching changes, with the latter often bringing in candidates for Pederson to interview.
Scangarello came from the Kyle Shanahan school of offense. Pederson, who runs the West Coast scheme, was initially resistant to the idea of bringing in someone from the system, sources said.
Shanahan’s scheme is run-based with intricate zone-blocking schemes – particularly the outside zone – that gets speedy players into open space. Play-action passes are often built off run success with routes run out of similar formations.
The offense has other facets and is adaptable, but Scangarello was primarily brought in to decode the nuances of Shanahan’s run-pass dynamic. Pederson has often neglected the run, though, even though there has been relative consistency. And the play-action game has been among the worst in the NFL.
In October, the last time Scangarello spoke with reporters, he was asked how much he was able to contribute to an already established scheme with the truncated offseason and pandemic restrictions.
“When you have strong coaches or people with good thoughts, it’s a matter of working through it,” Scangarello said. “But the reality of it is this will always be the Philadelphia Eagles offense. It will be the vision of the play-caller, and I think that it’s our job to always put forth the best plan for the way that Doug sees how he wants to call the game and that reaches Carson to do the things he does best, to be effective.”
Scangarello’s role was originally defined as “marrying the run and pass” games. But he was more nebulous about his responsibilities a month into the season.
“My role in all of this varies week to week, quite honestly, with the type of defense that you’re seeing and kind of the approach to the plan,” Scangarello said. “It’s my job to adapt to all those things and help Doug and Carson and everyone in any way that I can.”