Frank Reich

Eagles fans, don't blame Mike Groh for offensive mess

Eagles fans, don't blame Mike Groh for offensive mess

Mike Groh has gotten absolutely crushed by media and fans this year because of the Eagles’ terrible offensive performance.

I haven’t seen an Eagles assistant coach roasted like this since Dana Bible in 1998.

Bible was fired halfway through the season and replaced by Bill Musgrave, who may have been even worse.

That was 20 years ago.

Groh is an easy target. For a few reasons.

He replaced Frank Reich as Eagles offensive coordinator after the Super Bowl, and Reich is a pretty popular guy around here these days.

Reich's contributions last year helped the Eagles overcome the loss of Carson Wentz and win a Super Bowl with Nick Foles and then earned him a head coaching job with the Colts, where he’s now a Coach of the Year candidate with a high-flying offense that closely resembles the Eagles’ 2017 unit.

So Groh, the Eagles' receivers coach last year, is replacing not only a very popular coach who helped the Eagles win a Super Bowl but one whose offense in Indy has been far more productive than the Eagles' unit this year.

And, honestly, Groh hasn’t helped himself. 

He’s vague, distant and sometimes condescending in his weekly press conferences. Which really shouldn’t matter, but it’s the only glimpse of Groh’s personality that fans see, and unlike Reich — who was warm, funny and insightful in interviews — Groh does not come across well.

His comment a couple weeks ago that, “It’s been challenging to integrate” Golden Tate into the offense obviously did not go over well. Understandably. It was clearly accurate but did not reflect well on Groh and the coaching staff.

But consider Reich's history.

He was fired by the Colts after the 2011 season, by the Cards after the 2012 season and by the Chargers after the 2015 season.

And nobody was calling Reich a genius in 2016, when the Eagles averaged 20.8 points per game, converted 38 percent of their third downs and averaged 337 yards per game. 

Those numbers in Reich's first year as offensive coordinator are very similar to the Eagles' numbers in Groh's first year — 20.9 points, 39 percent of their third downs, 354 yards per game. 

So if you're going to call Groh a lousy coach because of the offense's performance in these 11 games, you have to call Reich a lousy coach, too.

But really the point of all this isn’t a defense of Groh. That’s not really the issue.

The point is that if you’re looking for a scapegoat for the Eagles’ lackluster offense, you’re blaming the wrong guy.

This is Doug Pederson’s team. This is Doug Pederson’s offense.

He created the offense. He puts together the game plan. He defines the players’ roles. He calls the plays. 

This isn’t to say Groh is going to turn into a genius overnight and get a head coaching job in a couple years and become a Coach of the Year candidate like Reich.

It’s that Pederson is ultimately responsible for everything that happens when the offense is on the field. 

The Eagles’ offense has been horrible this year. We can all agree on that.

The Eagles have surpassed 25 points only once, and it was against the Giants' 25th-ranked defense. They’re averaging a pathetic 20 points per game at home, their worst in 20 years — since that nightmarish Bible-Musgrave season that got Ray Rhodes and everybody else fired. They haven’t scored more than 21 points yet in back-to-back games.

Groh is certainly a piece of that. So is every offensive player and coach in the building.

But if you want someone to blame? 

Think back to 2016. Did you want Reich fired? Of course not.

Yet my Twitter feed from the last few days is filled with literally hundreds of calls for Groh to be fired. Immediately.

Pederson’s team. Pederson's offense. Pederson's scheme. Pederson's plays.

And when you look at how this offense has underachieved and underperformed the last three months?

Stop blaming Groh, and point your finger right at Doug Pederson.

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Is Mike Groh the right man to be Eagles' offensive coordinator?

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Is Mike Groh the right man to be Eagles' offensive coordinator?

Here are three takeaways from offensive coordinator Mike Groh’s chat with reporters on Tuesday afternoon. 

Starting too slow 

Here’s a look at the Eagles’ scoring by quarter this season: 

Q1: 21 
Q2: 59
Q3: 58
Q4: 57

One of those things is not like the other. The Eagles’ slow starts this year have absolutely killed them. Sure, they were on a crazy run of winning coin flips and deferring early in the season, but they haven’t made the most of their first-quarter opportunities and it’s just killed the entire team — offense and defense. 

“Well, we've put a lot of energy and thought into it,” Groh said. “We know it's an area that we need to improve on. We've been able to do a lot better throughout the course of the game, and it's something that if it was one thing, it would be an easy fix. But it's a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. Kind of everybody has taken a share of that. We're pointing those things out that need to be corrected. Trust me when I say this, we're spending a lot of time trying to get it fixed.”

After nine games, there’s not a lot of confidence that they’ll be able to figure this out. Doug Pederson accepted responsibility for the first 15 scripted plays not working. The first play from scrimmage on Sunday asked Zach Ertz to block Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence 1-on-1. 

Groh was asked if maybe the Eagles shouldn’t have a TE blocking “one of the best edge rushers” in the league. 

“Something to consider, for sure,” Groh quipped. 

Yeah. It is. 

A Golden opportunity 

The Eagles traded away a third-round pick for eight games of Golden Tate and then played him 18 snaps (29 percent) in his debut. Pederson said it was because the offense went with tempo and Tate’s plays were out of the huddle. That’s an explanation, but not a good one. It’s crazy Tate didn’t play more. 

“We brought him here to play him a lot,” said Groh, who added that they’ll continue to build on Tate’s package of plays. 

Groh wouldn’t say who will lose time because of Tate, but said it’ll probably depend on the play. The two most obvious candidates are Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor. 

Either way, Howie Roseman traded for a guy who was supposed to help this year and then the coaching staff didn’t play him. Really, this is inexcusable. 

Are YOU the problem? 

The Eagles are scoring more 6.5 points fewer per game this season, so we’re all trying to figure out why. One reason floated more than a few time is the loss of offensive coordinator Frank Reich. 

I asked Groh on Tuesday if the transition from Reich to him has gone as smoothly as expected and if it has negatively affected the offense. 

“Well, sitting here with the record that we have, we're not pleased with where we stand, and we have aspirations to compete for the playoffs. I think that we're still in the playoff hunt, and we can do that. We've talked about some of the things that need to improve to give ourselves the best chance to do that.”

OK, so he clearly wanted no part of this question and I can’t say I blame him. It’s really hard to know how much swapping Reich for Groh has affected the offense. It’s really hard to gauge the value of an OC, especially when that role isn’t as a play- caller. But I think it’s a fair question. And I wonder how much it has hurt the Eagles this year.

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10 things Eagles need to revive inconsistent offense

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10 things Eagles need to revive inconsistent offense

There are a lot of reasons the Eagles are 4-4 a year after winning the Super Bowl.

Tops on that list?

Points. Not enough of them.

Defensively, the Eagles have had their issues, especially late in the Titans and Panthers games, but the bottom line is, they've allowed the exact same number of points this year after eight games (149) as last year.

The offense, however, has dropped from 26 points per game a year ago to 22. That's a 15 percent decrease.

If the Eagles had scored 26 points in each game this year, they'd have one loss. Their losses have been by 6, 4, 3 and 2 points.

"The reality is we're not getting killed by these teams," Jason Kelce said. "It's three or four plays ultimately making the difference and the more we can stay disciplined and the more we can eliminate mistakes, we're going to win more of these close games. Hopefully, we can start to develop some momentum and make them not close at all. Our defense really isn't paying bad. I'm sure if you asked them they'd say there's things they need to improve on. At the end of the day, we need to put up more points to help them out."

What has to happen for the Eagles' offense to start rolling again?

1. Pass protection

The Eagles ranked 13th last year in the NFL in sacks allowed at 6.4 per 100 pass plays. They're down to 22nd this year at 8.4. Halfway through the season, the Eagles are on pace to allow 52 sacks, which would be their most in 20 years. They've got to sort out their O-line issues, which won't be easy with Lane Johnson out for a few weeks.

2. Running game

The Eagles are averaging just 4.1 yards per carry this year (22nd in NFL) after averaging 4.5 last year (fourth-best). There've been flashes, but they haven't been able to find any consistency with the ground game. No Eagle has had 40 rushing yards in back-to-back weeks all year.

3. Play-calling

Maybe it's the loss of Frank Reich, but Doug Pederson's play-calling magic has been missing, and too often the offense simply has been unable to find its rhythm early. The Eagles are 30th in the NFL with just 21 first-quarter points and 22nd with 77 in the first half. Not easy to recover from those slow starts.

4. Converting 3rd-and-Long 

The Eagles got themselves out of some tough spots last year by converting 29 percent on 3rd-and-10 or longer, third-best in the league. They've tumbled all the way to 12 percent on those plays this year, 28th-best in the league.

5. Scoring at home

The Eagles have failed to score more than 21 points in their first four home games for the first time since 1998, and they've lost two of those games despite allowing 21 and 23 points. They need to get back to dominating at the Linc.

6. Field position

The Eagles' average drive started at the 29.8-yard line last year — third-best in the NFL — but has started at the 25.9-yard line this year — third-worst. This has a lot to do with the lack of takeaways by the defense as well as the return game.

7. Carson on 3rd down

Wentz was best in the NFL on third down last year, with a 123.7 passer rating and 65.3 percent accuracy, and he converted 50 percent of the time. This year, he's down to 59 percent accuracy with a 99.1 rating and 44 percent conversions.

8. Red zone

Wentz last year completed 65 percent in the red zone and converted 60 percent on third down. This year, he's at 53 percent and 23 percent on third down. As a result, the Eagles have dropped from first in the NFL in red-zone scoring last year (66 percent) to 17th (55 percent).

9. Big plays

Last year the Eagles hit on 16 plays of 40 yards or more, including the postseason. This year, they have four. Just in the running game, they had 24 running plays of 20 or more yards last year, including the postseason. They have three this year, none over 21 yards.

10. Turnovers deep in opposing territory

The Eagles committed only three turnovers in 19 games inside the opposing 40 last year. They've already committed six in eight games this year and they probably cost the Eagles the Panthers and Vikings games.

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