Eagles

Frank Reich leaving the Eagles

Frank Reich leaving the Eagles

Winning the Super Bowl does have a downside. The Eagles have now lost their top two offensive assistant coaches under Doug Pederson. 

Not long after they already lost quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo to the Vikings, the Eagles are now losing offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who has agreed to become the Indianapolis Colts' new head coach. Reich is expected to be officially introduced in a press conference on Tuesday. 

Reich received a five-year deal from the Colts, according to NFL Network. 

"Frank is a tremendous coach and very deserving of this opportunity," Pederson said in a statement released by the Eagles. "He was a valuable member of our staff and we have all benefited from working with him over the last two years. As good as he is as a leader and teacher, he's an even better person. We could not be more excited for him as he takes this next step in his career and we wish him and his family all the best."

The Colts were prepared to hire Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and were even ready to introduce him as their new head coach last week, but McDaniels backed out of the deal, which re-opened the coaching search. Maybe the Colts lucked out; Reich was extremely well-respected in the NovaCare Complex. 

With DeFilippo and Reich gone, the Eagles have two big holes to fill on their coaching staff. Their top two internal candidates are running backs coach Duce Staley and receivers coach Mike Groh. It would make sense for Staley to finally get a promotion to OC and for Groh to take over as QBs coach, while young assistant Press Taylor could then become the wideouts coach, but the team hasn't decided anything yet. Pederson does like the idea of promoting from within, though. 

It'll be important for the Eagles to make the right decisions when they replace their coaches who leave. In the early Andy Reid days, many of his coaches left and the team sometimes struggled to replace them with the same quality of coach. 

If you're wondering why DeFilippo couldn't have just waited around to see if the Eagles' offensive coordinator position opened up, it's a fair question. But in Minnesota he'll get a chance to call plays, something that didn't seem likely in Philadelphia while Pederson is still in town. And because DeFilippo's contract was up, the Eagles couldn't block him from leaving this year. 

Reich, 56, has been the Eagles' offensive coordinator for the last two years and has acted as an offensive sounding board and collaborator with head coach and play-caller Pederson. The two seem to have a very close relationship. 

It's pretty safe to say Reich will be a "players coach" in Indianapolis. The players in the Eagles' locker room really respected and loved to play for him. He's a down-to-Earth guy, who happens to be a pretty intelligent offensive mind. 

Before joining the Eagles, Reich was the offensive coordinator with the Chargers and before that was their quarterbacks coach. Reich had a long career in the NFL as a quarterback, most notably as Jim Kelly's backup in Buffalo. 

It's a good sign that other teams want to hire away the Eagles' coaches and it simply comes with the territory for successful teams. But it will be important to see how they replace them once they leave. 

Howie Roseman using what he learned from Andy Reid

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Howie Roseman using what he learned from Andy Reid

One thing Andy Reid was spot on about during his long tenure with the Eagles was the importance of building around both lines. 

Big Red always made the offensive and defensive lines a priority, and during the Eagles’ stretch of deep playoff runs — from 2000 through 2009 — the O-line was anchored by guys like Jon Runyan, Tra Thomas, Jermane Mayberry and Todd Herremans and the D-line by Corey Simon, Trent Cole, Mike Patterson and Hugh Douglas.

During that 10-year stretch, the Eagles had the most wins in the NFC and the third-most wins in the NFL, and the one constant during that stretch was solid line play. 

Donovan McNabb was very good when healthy most of those seasons, and the Eagles always had good running backs and corners, but the heart of those teams was up front.

Just look at how Big Red drafted. Eight of his 11 first-round picks were linemen. After taking McNabb in 1999, all six of Reid's picks in the first half of the first round were linemen.

They obviously didn’t all work out, but Reid was committed to both lines, and Howie Roseman, then a young, rising personnel executive, was paying attention.

The Eagles have done a lot of things differently in the five years since Reid's final season here, but one thing Doug Pederson and Roseman believe in is building around the lines, and it sure paid off last year.

According to figures on salary cap website Spotrac, the Eagles in 2017 were the only team ranked among the top five in the NFL in both offensive line and defensive line spending.

And the only team that had a parade in February.

And they’re only going to spend more this year.

The Eagles will spend 22.36 percent of their 2018 cap money on the offensive line, fourth most in the league, and 28.84 percent to the defensive line, fifth most.

That’s more than half their 2018 payroll on the big guys up front.

The Jets — sixth in O-line spending, 10th in D-line — are the only other team in the top 10 in both.

Seven of the Eagles’ 10 highest-paid players last year were linemen, as are eight of their 13 projected highest-paid players in 2018.

And five of those guys — Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce, Vinny Curry and Jason Peters — are actually holdovers from the Reid era.

Think of them as Reid’s parting gifts to the 2017 championship team.

Creating a Super Bowl roster was a complicated process for Roseman, and to be able to make this sort of financial commitment to the two lines means you just don’t have much money left for everything else. 

The only way to make that work is to build with cheap labor elsewhere. 

And that means younger players on bargain-basement rookie contracts, cheap but productive quarterbacks and low-round picks and undrafted players with cheapo contracts excelling.

It means drafting well and making exceptional free-agent decisions without overspending.

It’s a crazy juggling act, and Roseman juggled all those things magnificentely last year.

In fact, according to Spotrac’s data, the two lines are the Eagles' only positional groups ranked even among the top 15 in the NFL.

The secondary and QB positions rank 16th in cap allocations, tight end 18th, running back 21st, wide receiver 27th, linebacker 31st and special teams 32nd.

These numbers are all based on the 53 highest-paid players currently under contract, so they will change slightly once the final roster is set, but they won’t change much.

The Eagles were very good in a lot of areas last year — really, in every area — but their offensive line was the best in football and the best in Eagles history, and the defensive line was easily one of the two- or three-best in football.

Everything the Eagles did, everything they accomplished, started up front.

Put Peters back on the O-line and add Haloti Ngata and Michael Bennett to the D-line with an increased role for Derek Barnett, and both lines could conceivably be even better this year.

It’s going to get harder for Roseman to keep paying the Eagles’ linemen the way he has. Once Carson Wentz signs his next contract, the Eagles’ entire salary cap balance will change. 

Those $25 million annual cap hits for one guy have a tendency to make roster decisions way more challenging.

So it will be tricky for the Eagles to re-sign Graham. He wants a fortune, and he deserves a fortune. 

But even if Roseman can’t get that done, Barnett has three more years on his rookie deal, and that’s the key to making this whole thing work. 

You can’t re-sign everybody, so if you want to remain elite, you have to draft well so you can replace the people you invariably lose.

You lose Patrick Robinson, you have Sidney Jones waiting. You lose LeGarrette Blount, there’s Corey Clement ready to go. You lose Mychal Kendricks, you hope a Nate Gerry can contribute. Trey Burton leaves, and Dallas Goedert is cheaper and better.

You get what you pay for. And the Eagles right now are paying for the best in the business.

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Even after winning Super Bowl, Doug Pederson is still himself

Even after winning Super Bowl, Doug Pederson is still himself

On Feb. 24, Moorestown, New Jersey, held “Doug Pederson Day” to honor the Super Bowl-winning head coach, one of the town’s most famous residents. 

It’s estimated that a couple thousand people showed up on the lawn of the Moorestown Community House to celebrate Pederson’s big win in Super Bowl LII. For a guy who was once loathed as a player and doubted as a coaching hire, to become this revered is pretty incredible. 

It’s also the type of attention that would change a lot of men. It’s the type of attention that would swell the heads of most. 

Not Pederson. 

"Hopefully, one of the things you guys have seen and noticed from me is that I'm going to be the same,” Pederson said to a group of reporters earlier this offseason. “I don't want [success] to ever change me. I don't want it to define me.”

This, more than anything, is Doug Pederson. He’s genuine, he’s real, he’s dependable, he’s the same guy today that he’ll be tomorrow. Sure, he’s aggressive as a play-caller and he’s shown himself to be a brilliant offensive mind, but that’s not why his players love him. 

This is why his players love him. 

And, boy, do they love him. 

Pederson might aim to stay the same, but the world around him has certainly changed. There’s no arguing that. He went from an afterthought in the NFL to becoming one of the most revered coaches in the league. He went from being ignored to being copied and it happened in a pretty short timespan. 

I remember running into Pederson at the owners meetings in late March the night before an hour-long sit-down breakfast with reporters. Pederson was gracious enough to chat with me for a while, even while knowing he’d be stuck with me for 60 minutes the next day. The one thing that struck me that night was that Pederson was the big man on campus. While me and Pederson and another reporter chatted for about 10-15 minutes, I couldn’t help but notice how many other coaches and front office men came to congratulate him. I could tell Pederson was proud, but he wasn’t boastful. That’s not his way. 

Recently, Pederson said he feels respect from the NFL coaching fraternity and he appreciates it. 

But ask him about being considered one of the best coaches in the NFL and Pederson gets a little uncomfortable. 

“I don’t think about it. I try not to,” Pederson said just before these past spring practices wrapped up. “I don’t want to get there. That is probably not my personality. I try to just stay in this moment, today. I think that is for sports writers to talk about and put me in that spotlight. And that is fine. That is great. But again, when it is all said and done, I think for me it is about focusing on today and the team, and these next three practices and training camp. 

“Now if I’m sitting at home and there is nothing else to do? You kind of sit back, my wife and I might have a conversation like, ‘Man, this is kind of cool.’ It is cool to be mentioned that way. For a guy that, you know, didn’t have probably a lot of support coming into this job initially. To be on the other end of that spectrum is cool. But I know what it took for me to get here. And I have to continue that for myself.”

I always come back to that emotional intelligence Jeff Lurie mentioned after he fired Chip Kelly. We laughed at Lurie then, but it turns out he was right. That’s an incredibly important part of who Pederson is as a person. 

And it’s extremely good news for the Eagles that it doesn’t seem like Pederson is going to change. 

Pederson said he doesn’t want his success to define him. That’s a tough ask, because his win-loss record and that Super Bowl ring are what most fans will always remember him by. But if Pederson had his way, how would he be remembered? 

What does he think defines him? 

“I think the things that can define me is that I’m going to be honest, I’m going to be transparent, I’m going to be as open as I can,” Pederson said. “I’m sort of a father figure to a lot of these players. Kind of what you see is what you get. There’s no fluff anywhere. I don’t try to come across that way, and I basically just want to do my job. That’s what I was hired to do and that’s what I want to do is coach football. I’m obviously a spiritual man and hopefully that comes out sometimes. 

“It comes out with the players, too, and I think the team can reflect the coach’s personality and my personality and hopefully that’s been evident the last couple years. And I think those are some things that define who I am and what I’ve done.”

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