The Eagles fired offensive assistants Mike Groh and Carson Walch on Thursday, head coach Doug Pederson said in a statement.
“After much consideration and discussion, I have decided to make a change at the offensive coordinator and wide receiver coach positions,” Pederson said. "It was not an easy decision for me to make, and I appreciate everything that Mike Groh and Carson Walch contributed to the organization and to my staff.
“As I said yesterday, they were a big part of our success down the stretch this past season. This is one of the most difficult parts of the job and something that weighs on me, but ultimately I have to make decisions that I believe are in the best interest of the football team moving forward.”
Groh was the Eagles’ offensive coordinator the last two seasons and before that spent one year as the wide receivers coach. Walch, who had worked with Groh for the Bears, was brought in as an assistant wide receivers coach in 2018 and was promoted to the top spot last year, replacing Gunter Brewer.
The Eagles will be looking for their fifth receivers coach since Pederson became head coach in 2016.
Groh was promoted after Frank Reich left to take the Colts’ head-coach job after the Super Bowl victory. The Eagles interviewed no outside candidates for the post, just Groh and running backs coach Duce Staley. They will likely cast a significantly larger net as they search for replacements in both jobs.
Pederson, on Wednesday, had initially given Groh and Walch a vote of confidence.
“Both of those guys will be back,” Pederson said during his season-ending media availability with general manager Howie Roseman.
But he seemed to walk back those comments later when he didn’t give defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz the same assessment when asked about his future.
“I’m still evaluating the whole process,” Pederson said. “They are still currently here and I’m going to continue to evaluate and assemble the best staff moving forward. But currently, they’re still here.”
Pederson offered a mea culpa for his muddled message in his Thursday statement.
“I apologize for any confusion that I created during yesterday’s press conference, including my comments on Coach Schwartz, who has done a great job as our defensive coordinator,” Pederson said. “It was my intent not to comment on any of my staff during the ongoing evaluations because I wanted to be able to go through the process and communicate any decision with the individuals.
“I did a poor job of explaining that the first time I was asked.”
While Pederson might have already decided upon Groh’s and Walch’s fates, he had yet to meet with owner Jeffrey Lurie for his year-end evaluation. He did so Thursday.
Lurie might have influenced Pederson’s decisions. The owner had pretty much come to the conclusion in December, an NFL source said, that Groh and Walch should not return in 2020.
Pederson had also been telling colleagues, as of Tuesday, that Groh would return because of the Eagles’ last-season turnaround.
The Eagles, after a disappointing first three months, did rally in the last month. Quarterback Carson Wentz and a stripped-down offense actually performed better without some starters. But Wentz suffered a concussion in the first round of the playoffs and the offense couldn’t reach the end zone in a 17-9 loss to the Seahawks on Sunday.
The offense that had scored a team-record 457 points in 2017, had survived Wentz’s season-ending injury, and put up 41 points on the Patriots in Super Bowl LII with backup quarterback Nick Foles regressed in 2018 and 2019.
After finishing eighth in Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) rankings in 2017, the unit finished 16th and 14th the next two seasons, respectively. Wentz had also been less dynamic, particularly down the field, although injuries and personnel deficiencies were factors, as well.
Groh didn’t call plays or have final game-plan say, however. Pederson ran the offense. But Groh’s inexperience might have hindered him in the job. He had never been an NFL coordinator and only once oversaw an entire offense, when he worked under his father, Al, at Virginia.
Al Groh eventually fired his son, though. Mike Groh went on to work in the NFL and become the passing coordinator with the Rams in 2016, but he lasted only one season there. His job in Philly was essentially to help script the passing game. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland was the run-game coordinator.
Walch had little NFL experience in his job. He had spent most of his coaching career in the Canadian Football League. While it is unclear what kind of role Walch played in the development of the Eagles’ receivers group, the unit had an overall dreadful season.
Starters Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor had among their worst seasons statistically before injuries ended their seasons. Second-round rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside finished with only 10 catches despite playing 42% of the offensive snaps. And it took nearly three months before Greg Ward, who was clearly a better option than at least Mack Hollins, was promoted off the practice squad.
The Eagles will now need to find replacements. They might look for experienced candidates. It might be difficult for Pederson to find an offensive coordinator with play-calling experience. He is likely to retain that role.
Pederson was asked Wednesday, before Groh’s firing, if he would consider bringing in a senior adviser to bring a fresh set of eyes to the offense.
“Everything is obviously on the table,” Pederson said. “I’m not opposed to doing something like that. I’ve actually thought, even in my first year as a rookie head coach, to maybe bring in someone that has obviously just a different perspective, different eyes, I guess, not coaching a position or whatever.