What’s in store for the Eagles next season? ESPN analyst and former NY Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum joined Shemar Woods last week on Inquirer Live at Lunch to discuss the state of the organization, Doug Pederson’s firing and Carson Wentz’s future.
Shemar Woods: Now I know you’ve heard there’s quite a bit going on with the Eagles and I want to go back to last year’s draft and where it all started, the Eagles selected Jalen Reagor over LSU’s Justin Jefferson who was selected one pick later by the Vikings, the Eagles also selected Jalen Hurts for the second-round pick who doesn’t look that bad if you ask me from this past season. Looking back, how much blame do you place on Eagles General Manager, Howie Roseman and this roster for the Eagles and what the situation they find themselves in right now?
Mike Tannenbaum: “Jefferson certainly looks like the better player than Reagor. If we were talking about literally the first pick in the draft, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, I would say all those guys, it’s grade of incomplete and knowing Howie, he will take full accountability for the roster, just in terms of all of their decisions, but as it relates to the 2020 draft in particular, we’ll see how it plays out. I know there’s things about Reagor that they like, but obviously Jefferson is off to a historic start and Hurts to me is a really interesting player ... a lot of my career I’m very fortunate to work with defensive head coaches, Coach Belichick, Coach Parcells, Coach Bieniemy, Coach Ryan, and a lot of the times they talk about when the quarterback can make plays with his feet, the amount of pressure that puts on a defense, and what I’ve seen recently is that when quarterbacks make plays with their feet it raises the floor of an offense, and that’s why I think Hurts is a really interesting prospect long term.”
Woods: So it doesn’t sound like you’re blaming Howie Roseman too much for the predicament the Eagles find themselves in currently.
Tannenbaum: “Oh absolutely ... Howie definitely bears his share of responsibility ... the team went 4-11-1 and he’d be the first would tell you it wasn’t good enough and now they’re pivoting obviously with the new head coach so when you sit in that seat, it’s always times ten, when they win the Super Bowl you get the praise and adulation and when it doesn’t go well. So at the end of the day he was in charge of the roster, so he’s the GM of a 4-11-1 team.”
Woods: Right, do you think Doug Pederson deserved to be fired after this season?
Tannenbaum: “Here’s one of those things where it seems like they had a great process in terms of they met more than once and I give Jeff Lurie, the owner, a lot of credit. I’ve been in the room multiple times does the coach there go? The fact that they had more than one conversation leaves me to believe that it was a decision that everybody was comfortable with because if everything, if there was a definitive aspect to that decision after the first meeting there wouldn’t have been a second meeting, so maybe Jeff Lurie, maybe Howie Roseman said, ‘hey, we want you to think about XY&Z and if you can come back with meaningful solutions well continue,’ but it may just have been a situation where everyone felt comfortable with a fresh start, but something’s clearly, it wasn’t an easy decision the fact that they had to have multiple meetings.”
Woods: It almost seemed that way when Doug Pederson came back with his coaches for next season, it almost seemed like he was okay with being fired, did you get that general sense?
Tannenbaum: “Being in and around the league as long as I have, this year was really hard on a lot of people because of COVID and I think we minimize, well this player’s not eligible this week or this coach is out, it put a lot of stress on families and the northeast is not a market for everybody. I’m from the northeast, I love it, I understood what I was getting myself into, but it’s not for everybody and I’m sure that Doug felt that, hey look, I’ve won a Super Bowl and you know maybe leaving there isn’t the worst thing in the world. I don’t know that, but I agree, maybe there was a sense of relief and again, I think COVID this year put a lot... I’ve heard for a lot of people, COVID, and look people are dying here, so this comment is taken within context, but the fun of the job just wasn’t there because you didn’t have the comradery that usually you can create.”
Woods: Going back to the Eagles draft, how much do you think Carson Wentz looked over his shoulder after Jalen Hurts was selected in that second round, as much as he doesn’t want to admit to it.
Tannenbaum: “I certainly hope he didn’t because one of the main traits great quarterbacks have is confidence. I traded for Brett Favre. I don’t think Brett would have cared if we brought in 42 quarterbacks. I know what he would’ve said, ‘Hey Mike you’re wasting your time, what are you doing? I’m the guy but bring them all in if you want,’ and what’s really interesting to me about Carson Wentz is he came from an FCS school, but he had incredible success and when I watch him play...he lacks confidence. His eye level was poor, he couldn’t pull the trigger, and if you told me that he would have struggled the first couple of years and then would have been successful, that would have been more of the trajectory of what you would say is coming from a smaller school, this really doesn’t make a lot of sense that he was so good and now is playing as poorly as he has, so I think the new coach, job number one is, can we resurrect Carson Wentz? And I think it all begins with confidence.”
Woods: How much do you think the Super Bowl runs Nick Foles went on, do you think that has something to do with Wentz’s confidence? I mean to see another quarterback take your team to the Super Bowl and win it, I mean that has to do something for your psyche.
Tannenbaum: “I’m sure walking by those statues and those signs every day. The best quarterbacks I’ve ever been around, the greatest competitors, they don’t care, bring them on you know, bring everybody on because I am the best. I remember Darrelle Revis in his prime, he didn’t care who he was going up against, no problem, and you know to be great as a quarterback you need to be mentally tough, you need to be resilient, now what’s interesting with that said, you know there’s some people that feel that the selection of Jordan Love really pushed Aaron Rodgers to another level this year and we’re sitting here, Aaron Rodgers is an all-time great, he should have zero external motivation, but it’s clear that Love may have impacted Rodger’s performance.”
Woods: Back to Wentz, do you think there’s a way to fix him for next season?
Tannenbaum: “Absolutely because to me it’s not hope ... we’ve seen him play great in the NFL, that to me is like that’s just saying it is so frustrating. The guy has played great...we don’t have to spend all this time in drafting meetings and project, weight gain or weight loss, this and that, he’s played great, let’s get him back to doing what he did. And I think one of the things they’ve done a good job of is addressing the offensive line, trading up for [Andre] Dillard, all the other countless moves they’ve made over the years, and a lot of those guys got hurt, that’s not an excuse, but to me it starts up front, protect Carson Wentz, use Jalen Hurts appropriately, fix the line, get it healthier, you’ve got to move on from aging players. But I absolutely think you can win with Wentz.”
Woods: “You talk about Jalen Hurts and using him correctly and putting him in the right position, what is that position, I mean I saw signs last year you know, positive signs from Jalen Hurts, what do you think his future is moving forward in Philly?”
Tannenbaum: “I really like him, he played the position better in year one than I thought for a lot of reasons we’ve already discussed, but when you scout him, he’s a big man from the waist down, he can make a miss, he can break tackles, his accuracy I thought at times looked really good and at other times I thought it could get better...we could break down Baker Mayfield and three years in there’s still parts of his game that aren’t good enough. Or Sam Darnold and what the Jets are going through, so to do what he did in year one in my area, definitely up on Jalen, now he has to go work on his weaknesses and be more comfortable from the pocket, throw the ball, consistency outside the numbers, because if you can do that, he becomes even much more that much more dangerous to defend, but his floor is really high, his character is really high, and to me, like they are going to look back to the second round pick we got a really good football player.
Woods: Does Wentz stunt or improve the growth of Jalen Hurts?
Tannenbaum: “That’s a great question, we’ve talked about it all in one way...if I’m Jalen Hurts I’d say, ‘hey you know I left Alabama and I was successful at Oklahoma, just make it a fair fight and I’m going to win the job.’ I don’t know Jalen, but he seems to be one of these guys who’s uber-competitive, somebody you want in your fox hole and again, he needs an offseason like all these rookies do, and I’d be really interested to see like that would be like their preseason games next year, I want to be seeing the development and I think he has a real chance to start based on the foundation he showed this year.”
Woods: When you think of Philadelphia, Philadelphia sports, in particular the Eagles, what stands out to you?
Tannenbaum: “Well I got married in Philly, so I married a Philly girl, so I know a little bit. I know a whole bunch to be dangerous here, but it’s an unforgiving town. ... The standards are the standards, but when you win there you know the adulation is second to none but it’s not for everybody. And again, you know half of all my family is from Philly and I think it’s a very special town and one that...if you can embrace it it’s unlike any other place.”