The Eagles’ offensive coaching staff will look different in 2020. Only time will tell whether different means better.
There were subtractions. Offensive coordinator Mike Groh and wide receivers coach Carson Walch were shown the door.
There were additions. Aaron Moorehead, a former wideout with the Indianapolis Colts, replaced Walch. Rich Scangarello, Kyle Shanahan’s former quarterbacks coach in San Francisco and the offensive coordinator in Denver last year, was brought aboard as a senior offensive assistant. Andrew Breiner, who spent the last two years as the passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Mississippi State, will be passing game analyst.
And there were job tweaks. Quarterbacks coach Press Taylor added the title of passing game coordinator to his job description.
So, the Eagles become the third team in the league to have separate pass and run game coordinators (offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has been the run game coordinator for the last two years) but no offensive coordinator, joining the last two Super Bowl runners-ups, the 49ers and Rams.
The Browns and Seahawks have run and pass game coordinators, but also have offensive coordinators. Three other teams — Arizona, Baltimore and Chicago — have pass game coordinators, but no run game coordinators.
“I understand the methodology of this," said NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger, who spent 11 years as an NFL offensive lineman. “Let’s work on the run game like [49ers run game coordinator] Mike McDaniel does. Let’s get that perfected and get all the runs in we want this week. Let’s make sure we install them. Let’s make sure they’re taught properly.
“Then you have the pass game coordinator getting that part of it together. Then the head coach brings it all together on game day. Doug [Pederson] is a pretty good collaborator. He is able to take a lot of information in. It could be a good thing."
Andy Reid has had a passing game “analyst" for most of his seven seasons as the Chiefs’ head coach.
“Sometimes you can get that linear thinking and not get out of the box," said former Vikings head coach and Eagles assistant Brad Childress, who served as Reid’s “spread" game analyst his first three years in Kansas City.
Childress said having separate pass and run game coordinators “promotes a new type of thinking" and allows the head coach/play caller to open his mind to more things.
“The way it was hatched with us, the run game was done pretty early in the week," Childress said. “The pass game, making the sausage for the pass game, that’s done Tuesday afternoon or evening because the players are coming back Wednesday" to start preparing for the next game.
“A lot of times, you might say, ‘Well, geez. We just went this way in the pass game and we’re featuring this formation, which doesn’t really have anything to do with the power run.' "
With a run-game coordinator, “it’s really easy to go to him and say, ‘Hey, find me something out of a right bunch formation that we could run out of.’ It’s not hard to find one or two or three runs that go with three of your formations in the pass game."
Possibly the most important move the Eagles made in this five-week-long game of musical coaching chairs was the hiring of Scangarello, 47.
While his title — senior offensive assistant — is fairly ambiguous, he is expected to spend a lot of time with quarterback Carson Wentz.
Scangarello is well thought of around the NFL. His one-year gig as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator this season was an arranged marriage with new coach Vic Fangio that didn’t work out. But before that, he spent three years with Shanahan in Atlanta and San Francisco, the last two as his quarterbacks coach.
“Rich is really bright," Baldinger said. “I think if you have Press and Rich together with Doug and Stout and [assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley], I think that’s a pretty good group to put game plans together, and ultimately find the best ways to move the ball."
Wentz had an up-and-down season in 2019. While he had a plus-20 touchdowns-to-interceptions differential, he finished 13th in passing (93.1), 17th in completion percentage (63.9) and 26th in yards per attempt (26th).
The 63.9 completion percentage, which was nearly six points lower than the previous year, is particularly concerning given how many screens and short passes the Eagles threw this season. Of his 568 "aimed” passes — total attempts minus throwaways and batted passes — 69.2% were throws of 10 or fewer yards. That’s his highest percentage of passes of 10 or fewer yards since his rookie season.
His throwing mechanics were as bad this season as they’ve been since he entered the league. If Scangarello can help him there, he’ll be worth every penny they’re paying him.
“He needs mechanical work," Baldinger said of Wentz. “When he’s mechanically sound, Carson is a very good quarterback. But if you watched him throw this year, too often it was all upper body. He wasn’t throwing with his lower body. That’s why the ball was sailing on him a lot.
“He needs somebody — I don’t know if it’s Press or Doug or Scangarello — but somebody better work on his mechanics with him. Otherwise, you’re going to see what we saw this year. Up and down like he was."
Breiner’s role figures to be primarily research and development, much like Taylor’s was in 2017 when he was the team’s offensive quality control/assistant quarterbacks coach. While he’s never worked for an NFL team before, his college background under creative Joe Moorhead at both Fordham and Mississippi State will give Pederson a fresh spread-offense perspective.
“Colleges are running the spread, and they’re doing a lot of good stuff," Childress said. “What Chip Kelly was doing way back when was good stuff. Did it stand the test of time? Not in the NFL. But there were good concepts that came from that."
The bottom line is Pederson and his staff need to find as many ways as possible to make Wentz as good as he can be next season. Because that will ultimately determine whether the Eagles ever make it back to the Super Bowl.
“They just weren’t very creative offensively this year," Baldinger said. “The whole purpose of this shake-up, I think, whether it was orchestrated by the owner and general manager, or Doug, was to find a more creative mind. Especially when they watched what Kansas City and San Francisco did.