The Eagles this year will have their fifth wide receivers coach in five years under Doug Pederson and their third defensive line coach in three years.
They’ll have their third offensive coordinator in four years and a new secondary coach as well. And there could be more changes on the way.
It’s a lot of turnover for a team that’s reached the playoffs each of the last three seasons and won a Super Bowl just two years ago.
And it tells you two things:
1) Doug Pederson won’t hesitate to jettison coaches he feels aren’t getting the job done,
2) And Doug's track record of hiring coaches is bad.
Let’s go back a few years. When Doug replaced Chip Kelly four years ago today, he kept seven of Kelly’s assistant coaches and brought in 11 assistants of his own. A year later he brought in Mike Groh.
Out of those seven original Chip assistants? Six are still here, all but Cory Undlin, just hired as Lions defensive coordinator.
Of the 11 guys he brought in? Only four are still here — all defensive coaches: Jim Schwartz, Dino Vasso, Ken Flajole, Tim Hauck.
All seven assistant coaches he’s fired — Eugene Chung, Carson Walch, Greg Lewis, Gunter Brewer, Chris Wilson, Phillip Daniels and Groh - are his own hires.
Of the 10 coaches from 2016 who are still here, six – more than half – are Chip Kelly holdovers.
So the pattern keeps repeating itself. He keeps Chip's guys and fires his own guys.
And with four coaching openings at the moment, that doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.
Some of the most highly respected coaches on Pederson's staff - Jeff Stoutland, Duce Staley, Dave Fipp, Press Taylor - are guys he didn’t even bring in. Duce, of course, pre-dates Chip and coached under Andy Reid.
Both his original coordinators, Frank Reich and Schwartz, were very good hires. Beyond that? His track record is kind of ominous.
Coaching is just a fancy word for teaching. And we keep seeing the Eagles’ draft picks - Sidney Jones, J.J. Arega-Whiteside, Derek Barnett, Rasul Douglas, Donnel Pumphrey, Mack Hollins – failing to develop the way they should.
If you can’t develop young players, you have no shot.
So many of the players at the heart of the Eagles’ recent success – Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Malcolm Jenkins, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Zach Ertz, Nigel Bradham and Lane Johnson – will all be in their early 30s by opening day this fall and with most NFL players in that 30-to-33 range, you know you're going to get a gradual (or sometimes abrupt) decline.
So the challenge facing the Eagles isn’t just drafting talented players, it’s coaching them and developing them so they can become that next generation of Malcolms and Fletchers and Jasons. That next generation of guys who can lead this franchise to more deep playoff runs and maybe another championship.
That’s why it’s imperative that Pederson figures this coaching thing out.
We all remember what happened when Reid struggled to replace that brilliant initial staff he put together 20 years ago this month. As those guys left for head coaching jobs or coordinator positions – John Harbaugh, Ron Rivera, Leslie Frazier, Brad Childress, Pat Shurmur, Steve Spagnuolo – he replaced them with long-forgotten, over-matched assistants.
There are a lot of reasons the Eagles were essentially a .500 team in Reid’s last eight years here (66-61-1), but a huge one was the inability of that second wave of coaches to develop the young players who had replaced the nucleus that made the 2000 through 2004 team such a powerhouse.
Pederson was there for that decline as part of Reid’s staff, so nobody understands better than him just how critical it is to find people who can teach promising young players how to become pros, how to take their game to the next level.
The challenge now is finding an offensive coordinator with fresh ideas and a vision for the future, a wide receivers coach who’ll stay more than a year, a secondary coach who can salvage Sidney Jones’ career and a defensive line coach who can make Barnett more than just an average pass rusher.
It’s easy to fire coaches. It’s a lot harder to find bright, motivated, capable replacements who can mold young players into big-time pros.
Pederson needs to prove he can do that.
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