The hiring of a new Eagles offensive coordinator, replacing Mike Groh, might be a big deal for the future of the team.
One thing we know is that as long as Doug Pederson is head coach, the team will run his offense, and presumably he will continue calling plays. That means the coordinator Pederson settles upon figures to be something of a sous chef. Maybe he advises a tweak here or there, brings in a concept from somewhere else he’s coached. But it’s Doug’s kitchen, and it isn’t changing themes from steakhouse to trattoria.
If Pederson were a defensive coach, getting rid of Groh on Thursday, along with wide receivers coach Carson Walch, would undoubtedly be a game-changer. New system for Carson Wentz to learn. Does the new OC want different personnel, different position coaches, a key to Pederson’s private ice cream locker in the cafeteria?
But as was the case with Frank Reich’s departure two years ago, we don’t really know what this means. After Reich went to Indianapolis and proved he was a pretty smart coach, while the Eagles offense lost pizzazz without him, we all brilliantly concluded Reich was more important to the Super Bowl than we’d realized.
Through much of 2019, it sure seemed the Eagles attack needed some new ideas, along with new players. We don’t know who was to blame for that, who kept tossing Mack Hollins out there to run pick routes or whatever, who wouldn’t give Greg Ward or Boston Scott a chance to shake things up, who kept trying to lean on Darren Sproles, Jordan Matthews, Jay Ajayi, Nelson Agholor.
There are a couple things we do know, however. One is that when Pederson tapped Groh, then the Super Bowl wide receivers coach, to take over for Reich, the only other candidate he interviewed was running backs coach Duce Staley.
Staley came out of that process with a new title, assistant head coach and running backs coach. It would be hard for Pederson to pass over Staley again and keep Staley happy here.
Duce has been coaching Eagles running backs since 2013, under Chip Kelly. He was a low-level offensive assistant here in 2011-12, when Pederson was Andy Reid’s quarterbacks coach. Staley has seen Pederson’s career move along very quickly since then. His own, not so much.
Staley gets heartfelt rave reviews from his running backs. He connects with them on a very personal level. But the No. 1 requirement for being the Eagles OC is having a good relationship with $128 million quarterback Carson Wentz, and knowing how to maximize Wentz’s talents. Is Staley that guy? We have no idea.
And what if the other guy with two titles, offensive line coach and running game coordinator Jeff Stoutland, decides he would like to run the offense? No Eagles assistant commands more respect around the league and throughout college football than Stoutland. Every undrafted offensive lineman who signs here does so for one reason: to be coached by Stout.
The widespread notion that the Eagles attack has gotten stale and predictable might work against promoting from within. New ideas might be a much higher priority than the last time the position was filled, right after Super Bowl LII.
Pat Shurmur is not an exciting name, but he is a guy who has good history with quarterbacks, a relationship with Pederson, and a strong grounding in West Coast offense concepts. Ex-Washington coach Jay Gruden certainly is familiar with Wentz and the Eagles attack. It’s hard to envision either of those guys quickly going from fired head coach to coordinator who doesn’t call plays or run the scheme.
There are some young, innovative college coordinators who might bring fresh ideas to the job. There is 32-year-old Press Taylor, the Eagles quarterbacks coach, who apparently has a very strong connection with Wentz.
Meanwhile, though it won’t generate big headlines, the team also has to hire a successor to Walch. Pederson’s first wideouts coach was Greg Lewis, dismissed after one season. Then came Groh, who did an excellent job there, rebuilding Agholor’s confidence and getting the most out of players such as Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery.
The last two wide-receivers coaches, Gunter Brewer and Walch, were Groh hires, and the wideouts regressed.
The Eagles have an important project waiting for the next person who enters that revolving door: 2019 second-round draft pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who was among the least impressive NFL rookies at the position. And they are expected to substantially boost the wide-receiver corps in this spring’s draft, making development an even bigger priority.
Maybe, in February 2021, we’ll be writing about the offensive coaching shakeup that led to Super Bowl LV.