Doug Pederson was the Eagles’ head coach for five years. During that time, he seldom disagreed with any suggestions or orders given to him by his two bosses, owner Jeffrey Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman.
Their wish essentially was his command.
Retain a group of assistant coaches from Chip Kelly’s staff? Sure, no problem.
Fire offensive coordinator Mike Groh after the 2019 season and replace him with a cast of thousands? Uh, OK.
Do whatever you have to do to lose the last game of the season to Washington so that we can secure the highest possible draft pick? Okey doke.
But when Lurie and Roseman gave him a firm no to his plan to make his 32-year-old protégé, Press Taylor, the team’s new offensive coordinator, Pederson finally decided enough was enough. And yada, yada, yada, the Eagles are looking for a new head coach.
Before getting on a 40-minute video conference with reporters Monday, Lurie released a statement saying that before making the decision to fire Pederson, the two had met and discussed what the “collective vision” of the franchise would be like going forward. That included the structure and makeup of his coaching staff. Lurie’s collective vision and Pederson’s weren’t the same, prompting the quickest hook of a Super-Bowl-winning coach in at least 30 years.
“I would really rather not talk about any specific coaches except to say we probably saw things a little differently,” Lurie said.
“The difference in vision is much more about where we’re at as a franchise. We’re at a transition point. We’ve got to get younger. We’ve got to have a lot more volume of draft picks. We’ve got to accumulate as much talent as we possibly can with a focus on the mid-term and the long-term and not on how to maximize 2021.
“I know where we’re at. Doug also knows where we’re at. It’s almost not fair to Doug because his vision has to be what can I do to fix this right away and what coaches can I have to help me get to a smoother 2021.
“My vision is much more about how can we get back to the success we’ve had and what we’re used to in the next 2-3-4-5 years.”
The bottom line is that Pederson just got tired of being told what to do, particularly by Roseman, who often used Pederson to deflect criticism of his own mistakes.
One of the most embarrassing moments of Pederson’s coaching career came last January when, a day after assuring a roomful of reporters that he had no plans to fire offensive coordinator Mike Groh, he did just that after receiving a phone call from Lurie.
Pederson talked to an NFL coaching colleague and friend right after being told to fire Groh.
“He asked me what I thought he should do,” the coach said. “I said, ‘You won the Super Bowl two years ago. You should’ve said, if you’re going to break up my coaching staff, then just let me go.’ I told him he needed to fight for Groh and shouldn’t take it.
“But that’s not Doug. He never wants to make waves. For better or worse, that’s who he is. One of the reasons Howie was so happy to hire him was because he knew he could do whatever he wanted to do and Doug would go along with it.”
While Pederson seemed ready to tell Roseman and Lurie to take their job and shove it anyway, Press Taylor was the wrong fight to pick. Lurie was right to refuse to allow Pederson to make Taylor the team’s offensive coordinator.
Hired by Chip Kelly in 2013 as an offensive quality-control coach, Pederson promoted Taylor, whose brother Zac is the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, to assistant quarterbacks coach under John DeFilippo when he became the Eagles head coach. Taylor replaced DeFilippo in 2018 when he left to become the offensive coordinator in Minnesota.
Last year, after being forced to fire Groh, Pederson ended up bringing in several offensive consultants and assistants, but never filled the offensive coordinator’s job. Taylor was promoted to passing game coordinator, while still moonlighting as the quarterbacks coach.
Taylor was just a bad fit for quarterback Carson Wentz. He was more bible buddy than drill sergeant.
Wentz is strong-willed and often stubborn. He needs someone who’s going to ride him and put their foot up his butt when he’s not doing what he’s told. That wasn’t/isn’t Taylor.
“The two most influential coaches Carson has had since he got to Philadelphia have been DeFillippo and [former offensive coordinator] Frank Reich,” said another NFL coach. “Doug ended up essentially replacing them with a sibling.
“Why in God’s name would you put somebody like Press Taylor in charge of a $100 million asset? That makes no sense to me. I mean, what were they thinking?”
Wentz was terribly inconsistent last season. Threw three touchdowns in a season-opening win over Washington and finished strong in December, throwing 10 TD passes and just one interception in the Eagles’ last 5 games.
But in the 10 games in between, he had had just 14 TD passes and six interceptions and a poor 61.7 completion percentage. He had a 90.0 passer rating in just five of those 10 games.
This year, with Taylor splitting his time between his passing-game coordinator and quarterback-coach duties, and the Eagles’ offensive line ravaged by injuries, Wentz had the worst season of his career and eventually was benched. He regressed in every way.
Lurie wanted Pederson to bring in an offensive coordinator from the outside. But Pederson wanted Taylor. Why? Because Pederson was afraid if he brought somebody else in that he didn’t know, he would lose his grip on the offense.
Asked before the Washington game how things had worked this season with the myriad of offensive assistants he had and no coordinator, Pederson said: “There’s a lot of positives that come out of those communications and those talks, those ideas,” he said. “Really, everybody has great ideas. That’s part of putting plans together.
“But at the end of the day, I want to make sure there’s one voice, and that’s my voice, that’s heard offensively, and nobody else’s. That’s the part that I’ve got to get across to the staff, and I’ve done that.”
And now, just three years after winning a Super Bowl with the Eagles, he’ll be doing it someplace else.