The worst team in the NFC has in the past 24 months: fired the coach that won the Super Bowl two Super Bowls ago; lost the player who won that Super Bowl’s MVP award; and let walk the man who built the reigning Super Bowl champions who are favored to win the big game again Sunday night.
You’ve got to hand it to Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie: He loves to gamble, and gamble big. Andy Reid instead of Jim Haslett, for better; Jalen Reagor instead of Justin Jefferson, for worse.
And now: Carson Wentz over Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles; unknown coach Nick Sirianni over Super Bowl winner Doug Pederson; and Howie Roseman, who has brought him to this pretty pass, over talent savant John Dorsey.
There’s a reason Lurie’s team is the worst in the NFC.
The steps to this unenviable destination seemed less ominous in the moments they were taken than they do now. Further, the value of the talent lost might be less than their resumes imply. Still ...
He has Sirianni, the league’s biggest question mark, instead of Pederson, who went to the playoffs three of the past four years. They have Wentz, in shambles, instead of Foles, whom they spurned both in 2019 and 2020; they chose Jalen Hurts as a backup when they could have reacquired Foles last year. They chose Howie Roseman over John Dorsey last month. Dorsey drafted the nucleus of a Chiefs team which, on Sunday, will try to become the first repeat champions since Tom Brady and Patriots cheated the Eagles with SpyGate after the 2004 season.
Then again, those 2004 Eagles never would have been in Super Bowl XXXIX if Lurie and hadn’t gambled big.
Sirianni is a 39-year-old who has never won anything, has never called plays, and apparently, has never seen an issue of GQ.
Lurie has gone this route before.
On Jan. 11, 1999, the Eagles surprised the football world when they hired an anonymous, 40-year-old offensive line expert who’d never been a coordinator, had never called plays, and who had the fashion sense of a bachelor walrus. Notably, Lurie did not hire Jim Haslett, defensive coordinator of the Steelers, and a safer, more popular choice. Haslett landed in New Orleans the next season, where he won just one playoff game in six seasons. By the time Haslett was done in New Orleans, Reid had been to four NFC championship games and a Super Bowl.
Pederson was Reid’s quarterback in 1999, and that was a selling point in 2016, when Lurie and Roseman hired Pederson as head coach. Like Reid, by his second season in Philadelphia, Pederson had taken the Eagles to the playoffs. Unlike Reid, by his second season in Philadelphia, Pederson had won a Super Bowl.
However, by the end of this fifth season in Philadelphia, Pederson had become a fretful liability. He’d insisted on (finally) having full power over hiring his own assistants. He’d benched Wentz, to whom Lurie owed $128 million, and whose dissatisfaction with Pederson and the organization led to multiple, ongoing reports that Wentz seeks to be traded and that the Eagles currently are engaged in trade talks concerning Wentz. Neither Wentz’s camp nor the Eagles have denied these reports. Wentz also refused to attend his exit interview with Pederson.
By Friday morning, a trade seemed “close”, according to Les Bowen of the Inquirer.
So, with Wentz’s complaints in mind, less than three years from the night the “Philly Special” finally validated football in Philadelphia, Lurie fired Pederson.
That was less than two years from the day Lurie lost Nick Foles.
On Feb. 6, 2019, Foles sent the Eagles a cashier’s check for $2 million, exercising the buyout in his contract with the understanding that the Eagles would not use the $25 million franchise player tag on him, thus allowing him to become a free agent. About a month later, the Jaguars signed Foles to a four-year, $88 million deal. Three months after that the Eagles gave Wentz a four-year, $128 million extension, which kicks in for the 2021 season.
The Eagles never considered keeping Foles over Wentz, but there was considerable public debate over the choice they made.
Wentz had been injured near the end of both the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Foles, 29, had replaced him. He’d led the Eagles to a 4-1 playoff record, thrown for 725 yards and six touchdowns in the conference championship and Super Bowl, and he’d even caught a touchdown pass after suggesting Pederson call “Philly Philly” on fourth-and-goal from the 1 just before halftime. That earned him a statue outside of Lincoln Financial Field. It did not earn him the staring job in Philadelphia. Neither did a win at Chicago in the 2018 playoffs, which ended for the Eagles with a dropped pass by Alshon Jeffery in New Orleans.
The Eagles chose Wentz, who was younger, more athletic, had a stronger arm — and had cost them a king’s ransom to draft No. 2 overall in 2016.
They chose Wentz again in 2020, when the Jaguars traded Foles to the Bears for a conditional fourth-round pick; it was unthinkable that Foles could return to haunt Wentz again. Instead of trading for Foles, the Eagles took Jalen Hurts in the second round of the 2020 draft. It was a move that sped the historic regression of Wentz in 2020, and apparently, continues to rankle him today.
It’s not as though choosing Wentz was unforgivable. Since his departure, Foles has been benched three times — once by the Jags, twice by the Bears. Still, it’s fair to wonder that, had the Eagles somehow chosen Foles over Wentz, would Pederson and Foles have created some measure of magic? Further, if Foles had, in fact, retuned, might Foles’ familiar presence actually have prevented Wentz’s regression in 2020?
Obviously, the Eagles’ lousy roster sped Wentz’s regression, too.
Which is why the Eagles brought in a hired gun.
Sometime late last spring the Eagles hired Dorsey, mainly to help them evaluate talent. It was a coup. He’d been on the staffs that drafted Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City, and Baker Mayfield in Cleveland. If there were quarterback questions, surely Dorsey would help answer them. Lurie said as much himself last month.
However, at every stop, Dorsey — a 60-year-old who played linebacker for the Packers from 1984-89 — has been cast as an irascible, old-school dinosaur, with little regard for character when evaluating players. Lurie, convinced these days that kum-ba-ya management is the only sort that works, always was going to keep Dorsey at arm’s length.
That’s why it was no surprise when Dorsey left for a top spot with the Lions. Not even after Roseman, for the second year in a row, botched the Eagles’ draft. In 2019 he picked JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who was safe, over DK Metcalf, who was risky. In 2020 he picked Reagor, who is fast, over Jefferson, who is good. It was no surprise, but was it wise?
To date, Arcega-Whiteside and Reagor have combined for 45 catches, 650 yards, and two touchdowns.
To date, Metcalf and Jefferson have combined for 229 catches, 3,603 yards, and 24 touchdowns.
Dorsey could help here, too. He was on staffs that drafted Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb in Green Bay, as well as Tyreek Hill in Kansas City. None of those receivers was a first-round pick. Still, in Howie, Lurie trusts. It makes things exciting.
Pederson, Foles, and Dorsey: Out.
Sirianni, Wentz, and Howie: In.
The man likes to gamble.