Jeffrey Lurie is a human being, which means we can reasonably assume that he interprets the Super Bowl ring on his finger not only as a permanent reminder of the ecstasy of victory, but as a compelling piece of evidence for the sensibility of the process that won him the right to display such a thing.
When the Eagles parted ways with Chip Kelly after the 2015 season, the word of the day was collaboration, and the fact that the Lombardi Trophy was floating up Broad Street barely two years after he laid bare his galaxy brain philosophy seemed a powerful justification of such an approach.
For those of us who had our doubts about the viability of an organizational structure that lacked a definitive loudest voice in the room, 2017 was the sort of year that forced us to reconsider all that we thought we knew about the dynamics of power. And, two years later, it still does not feel as if the legs we stood on have grown back. But at the very least, two straight 9-7 seasons allow us some intellectual room to wonder.
The unavoidable question laid bare by the muddled public messaging of the last couple of days has been well explored in these pages and in others. If Doug Pederson really was of the opinion that the best path forward for his coaching staff was with Mike Groh returning as offensive coordinator, and if that judgment changed after his end-of-season debrief with Lurie, then what does that say about Lurie’s faith in Pederson’s abilities as a decision-maker? And has the clock begun to tick on Pederson the way it did on Gabe Kapler when John Middleton chimed in with his opinion on who should be the Phillies’ hitting coach?
It’s always dangerous to assume that the people in charge of public-facing institutions care what the general public thinks. So it’s important to keep in mind that maybe Pederson’s seeming endorsement of Groh in his year-end news conference was a simple matter of us being on a need-to-know basis and his deciding that we did not need to know.
It is possible that Pederson would have arrived at the decision to part ways with his offensive coordinator independent of the input of his boss. Or that he’d always intended to seek and consider such input before arriving at his decision.
Whatever the reality of the situation, the more pertinent question with regard to the short and long-term future of the Eagles concerns the viability of an organization where it’s not blatantly clear to all who is deciding what. This goes not just for composition of the coaching staff, but in the relationship between it and the people in charge of providing them players.
In both regards, there is something to be said for a diversity of opinion, and it seems possible if not probable that the emphasis on such an ideal was the reason for Groh’s departure.
As Jeff McLane has reported, the Eagles owner had decided in December that a change should be made at offensive coordinator. If we assume that Lurie did not consider himself to be better positioned than Pederson to judge Groh’s merits from a standpoint of day-to-day logistics, it’s reasonable to conclude the owner’s concerns were more holistic in nature.
There would seem to be a decent chance that Lurie saw what the general public thought it saw in the working relationship among Pederson, Frank Reich, John DeFilippo, and Carson Wentz during the Eagles’ Super Bowl run.
Not only did Reich bring with him the experience of 118 games as an NFL quarterback, he’d spent significant time as a branch on an entirely different coaching tree, serving under both Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt as an assistant, including three years as a coordinator under McCoy in San Diego. Likewise, DeFilippo brought with him nine seasons as an assistant on coaching staffs outside of the Andy Reid umbrella.
Contrast that with the galaxy brain that has surrounded Wentz the last couple of seasons. Groh may not have been an active detriment to the Eagles’ offensive process, but he simply did not bring the sort of cachet to the table that Reich and, to a lesser extent, DeFilippo did.
Before arriving in Philadelphia, he had four years of experience as an NFL assistant, and none as an NFL player. If Lurie felt that Pederson and Wentz could benefit from the addition of a more experienced voice, it made sense to part ways with Groh, because the offensive coordinator title is the sort of thing that can help attract a person with that sort of voice.
At the same time, as successful as the Eagles were in 2017, the last four years have failed to yield the sort of collective identity that defines the most successful NFL organizations. The concern is particularly acute when you consider the working partnership that needs to exist between the people who are acquiring the players and the people who are responsible for coaching them.
The farther we get from the Super Bowl run, the more reason there is to wonder whether the interplay between Pederson and his de facto general manager includes the necessary symbiosis. There was reason to wonder about the dynamic when the Eagles traded for Golden Tate without an apparent plan to play him. Same goes for the maneuvering we saw this season at the wide-receiver position.
The Eagles have created a chain of command that can often incubate the sort of fiefdoms that are antithetical to a coherent vision. Pederson is in charge of the offense and wins and losses. Jim Schwartz is in charge of the defense, Roseman the players. All are dependent upon one another, but when dealing with the laws of scarcity that dictate roster construction, who is the one who ultimately decides what is best for the group as a whole?
“We have a lot of voices who are not afraid to air their opinion,” Roseman said Thursday, "and I think that we always want that and obviously we have the coaching staff, too, who gives us their opinions, as well.”