Imagine you’re Doug Pederson at this moment. Imagine how humiliated you must feel.
Your boss, your owner, just cut your legs from under you. In an emasculating power move, he forced you to fire your offensive coordinator, Mike Groh, 24 hours after you publicly guaranteed Groh his job. Receivers coach Carson Walch, too.
You’ve spent weeks both in public and, much more important, in private, endorsing both. Then, this.
If you’re Pederson, you’ve got to be thinking: How much more of this am I willing to take? How much more before I walk away?
People who know Pederson best know this: He’s fearless. He’s proud. He’s thin-skinned, and he’s supremely confident after winning Super Bowl LII with Nick Foles (Nick Foles!) and the Philly Special, and he wouldn’t think twice about leaving a good thing in Philadelphia.
With that in mind, imagine how angry Pederson must be right now.
You’ve spent weeks endorsing Groh and Walch. They’d prepared for you a bunch of Wawa walk-ons to win four games in a stretch run that stole the NFC East title from hated Dallas, and you believed that their best days were ahead of them.
You found a cohesion with a coaching staff that, released from the bondage of Super Bowl entitlement — looking at you, Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor — and, after two years, you were finally comfortable after losing coordinator Frank Reich, perhaps the best man you ever worked with, and John DeFilippo, a brilliant quarterbacks coach.
Then Jeffrey Lurie goes all Jerry Jones on you. From the acquisition of Foles in 2017, which cost Pederson his handpicked backup/spy, Chase Daniel; to re-signing oft-injured, 37-year-old left tackle Jason Peters; to now, making Pederson jettison his least popular coaches, Lurie is becoming more like the oligarch of Texas every day. All he needs is an obnoxious bus and some garish dental work.
As an Eagles fan, you might like Lurie’s moves. Me? I’m indifferent.
Frankly, Groh was overmatched from the start. He couldn’t handle heavy-handed quarterback Carson Wentz, the veteran receivers operated on their own schedule, and he was never welcome on Jeff Stoutland’s Offensive Line Island. He never should have been promoted from receivers coach after 2017. It was Duce Staley’s job then, and should be now.
Walch’s bizarre midseason endorsement of unproductive veteran Mack Hollins cast him as clueless (Hollins was released soon after). More significant, the lack of improvement from second-round rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside — spotlighted in Sunday’s loss to Seattle, when DK Metcalf, taken seven picks later, shone — clearly overshadowed any equity Walch earned by delivering Greg Ward, Deontay Burnett, Rob Davis, and part-time tight end Josh Perkins as competent for the home stretch.
The only definitive answer Pederson gave in his season-ending news conference Wednesday regarded Groh and Walsh:
“Both those guys will be back.”
Pederson, who loves making guarantees, flatly declined to offer the same guarantee to defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. That was before Pederson met with Lurie on Thursday.
After that meeting, Groh and Walch were gone, Schwartz was assured a job in Philadelphia if he didn’t get the head-coaching job he interviewed for in Cleveland, and Pederson had to release a statement that made him look like a blithering idiot.
Loved that part about “Much discussion.” Yeah. No kidding.
Guess who hired Jim Schwartz when Pederson took over in 2016? Jeffrey Robert Lurie. He even gave Schwartz his own news conference — in the same room and on the same day as Pederson’s. Jim Schwartz has not been Doug Pederson’s subordinate for one second.
Hence, the blithering idiot press release. Except Doug Pederson is not a blithering idiot.
He’s also not a true head coach.
True head coaches pick their staffs. At least, if they skew toward one side of the ball, they get to pick their assistants. Schwartz might decide the fate of defensive backs coach Corey Undlin, but Pederson should be able to choose his game-planner and receivers coach.
Don’t be fooled. He won’t get to choose them this time, either. Oh, he’ll endorse whomever Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman (and Wentz) hire, be it Redskins failure Jay Gruden, or former coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, or maybe Chiefs quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka, whose ties to the Eagles and the Legend of Andy Reid run deep.
Again, to be honest, any of them would probably be an upgrade over Groh. But that’s not the point at this moment.
The point is: The head coach has to be upset. It will be fascinating to see how he acts this offseason. He’s under contract through 2022, but that means little in a league that trades head coaches.
If you’ve paid attention to the coaching market the last three offseasons, you’ll understand that teams that had to interview Mike McCarthy and Pat Shurmur and Freddie Kitchens would gladly mortgage their futures to land Doug Pederson.
Then again, maybe that’s part of Lurie’s strategy, too. Maybe he’s had enough of Doug.