Howie Roseman

Which Eagles coaches are on the hot seat down the stretch?

Which Eagles coaches are on the hot seat down the stretch?

That loss in Miami is the kind of loss that gets an owner’s attention. And it’s the kind of loss that can sometimes get head coaches fired.

That’s not going to happen here.

Doug Pederson is less than two years removed from winning a Super Bowl and he’s not going anywhere. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be significant changes to his coaching staff for 2020.

They won’t come now, according to Pederson. On Monday, he said no coaching changes will happen this week with the Eagles sitting at 5-7.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen on Monday said he expects “significant coaching changes” unless the Eagles make a playoff run. That was less of a report and seemingly more speculation. It certainly makes sense. This was a team with high expectations that will likely fall well short of them. Our own Reuben Frank pretty much wrote the same thing after the game.

So, now, the question becomes this: Who goes?

With that in mind, let’s take a look at each of the main assistant coaches on the staff. I stayed away from the assistant position coaches for brevity’s sake and because a major shakeup would include some bigger names. I’ll go through their histories, give a big of analysis on the job they’ve done and rank their seat temperature, as I see it, as either cool, warm or hot:

Offensive coordinator: Mike Groh

History: Groh was a college quarterback, who had a history with coaching QBs and receivers at the college and NFL level before his arrival in Philadelphia. He recently worked for the Rams and Bears. Groh’s first season with the Eagles was in 2017 as their wide receivers coach. He stayed in that position for just one year before a promotion. After Frank Reich left, Groh was promoted to offensive coordinator.

Analysis: First, Groh was a good receivers coach; perhaps the only good one they’ve had in the Pederson Era. But since his promotion, the Eagles are 18th in the league in points scored and in total yards. It’s hard to really evaluate how much of that is Groh’s fault. After all, this is Pederson’s offense and he’s the play caller. Still, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that the offense just hasn’t been as good since the departure of Reich. Not long ago, Pederson said his relationship with Groh has gotten a lot stronger in the last couple years and he has “a lot of trust and faith” in Groh. But it’s fair to wonder if some fresh ideas from outside the building would help.

Seat temp: Hot

Defensive coordinator: Jim Schwartz

History: Before coming to Philly in 2016, Schwartz had already logged 22 coaching years in the NFL and five of those came as a head coach. He hasn’t ranked lower than a defensive coordinator in the NFL since 2000, then the linebackers coach in Tennessee.

Analysis: Schwartz is the Eagles’ top-ranking assistant coach because he has a ton of autonomy over that defense. That’s his unit. The Eagles are coming off a terrible game, so opinions are going to be skewed. But, generally, I think Schwartz is a better coach than most fans seem to think. I think a lot of the frustration about Schwartz is the bend-but-don’t-break mentality. The Eagles have given up the 11th most yards in the NFL since 2016 but just six teams have given up fewer points. That can be frustrating to watch.

If we’re talking about a major shakeup, the Eagles at least owe it to themselves to question whether or not Schwartz is still the right guy for the job and to at least see if there would be an adequate replacement. I tend to think he’ll be back, but it’s worth a look.

Seat temp: Warm

Special teams coordinator: Dave Fipp

History: Fipp has been in charge of the Eagles’ special teams units since 2013, arriving for the start of the Chip Kelly Era. Before that he was an assistant special teams coach for the 49ers and Dolphins.

Analysis: The injuries in the last two years have hurt the offense and the defense, but they’ve really hurt Fipp’s units. The bottom of the roster is constantly getting churned and those are Fipp’s players coming and going. But the Eagles’ special teams units haven’t been as dominant in recent years.

Seat temp: Warm

Assistant head coach/running backs: Duce Staley

History: The former Eagles running back began his coaching career in 2011 as a quality control guy under Andy Reid and then Chip actually promoted him to running backs coach. He was interviewed for the head coaching position in 2016 and the offensive coordinator job in 2018 and didn’t get either. But in 2018, the Eagles tacked on the assistant head coach title to his name.

Analysis: His role hasn’t changed much as an assistant head coach, but Staley seems to be performing well in his role as running backs coach. He was getting a lot out of Jordan Howard before Howard’s injury and we’re watching rookie Miles Sanders overcome early season struggles to become one of the most dynamic weapons on the team.

Seat temp: Cool

Defensive line coach: Phillip Daniels

History: The long-time NFL defensive lineman, who last played in 2010, was hired by the Eagles in 2016 as the assistant DL coach. He took over as the DL coach this season after the Eagles parted ways with Chris Wilson.

Analysis: Daniels has dealt with some key injuries on that defensive line this season. They lost Malik Jackson and Hassan Ridgeway for the year. Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham are playing well, but those guys are veterans. How has Daniels done with the younger linemen? Well, Derek Barnett has been OK and the Eagles are starting to get more out of Josh Sweat, which is a good sign. Probably haven’t really seen enough either way on Daniels.

Seat temp: Warm

Linebackers coach: Ken Flajole

History: He joined the staff in 2016 as the linebackers coach and has a ton of NFL coaching experience. Flajole was the Rams’ DC from 2009-11.

Analysis: Is there a position the Eagles have neglected more in the last four years? Since Flajole took the job, the Eagles have drafted exactly two linebackers: Joe Walker in the seventh round in 2016 and Nate Gerry in the fifth round in 2017. I wonder about the evaluation of L.J. Fort, who left and found success in Baltimore. Instead, the Eagles were playing Zach Brown, whom they cut not long after. Still, I think the Eagles’ linebackers are playing above their talent level.

Seat temp: Cool

Tight ends coach: Justin Peelle

History: Another Chip holdover, Peelle was hired as the assistant tight ends coach in 2013 and got promoted to his current job in 2015.

Analysis: Zach Ertz has blossomed into one of the best tight ends in the NFL under the guidance of Peelle and Dallas Goedert certainly seems to have a ton of potential. But Year 2 for Goedert has probably been a little disappointing.

Seat temp: Warm

Offensive line coach/run game coordinator: Jeff Stoutland

History: Stout has been the OL coach in Philly since 2013 and became the run game coordinator in 2018. He didn’t have NFL coaching experience before getting hired by Chip.

Analysis: Stout might be the best coach on the staff. With Stout in place, Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson have all become Pro Bowlers. Just last week, after Johnson signed an extension, he went out of his way to praise Stoutland and credit him for his success. Even Isaac Seumalo has settled into his role as a decent starter after Stoutland showed faith in him earlier this season. There have been some missteps, like thinking Andre Dillard could play right tackle a couple weeks ago. But the overall body of work is very good.

Seat temp: Cool

Quarterbacks coach: Press Taylor

History: One of the youngest coaches on staff, Taylor came to the Eagles in 2013 as a quality control coach. He became the assistant QB coach when Pederson arrived and became the QB coach when John DeFilippo left after the Super Bowl. Another internal candidate rising through the ranks.

Analysis: Taylor’s job is to coach all the quarterbacks, but our evaluation of him really has to be about Carson Wentz. And, simply put, Wentz is healthy now and hasn’t gotten back to his near-MVP form of a couple years ago. Wentz is the most important player on the team and the Eagles need to make sure they’re getting the most out of him.

Seat temp: Hot

Defensive backs coach: Cory Undlin

History: Undlin arrived in 2015, coming over from the Denver Broncos. He’s been in the NFL in some capacity since 2004.

Analysis: It’s hard to fault Undlin for the shortcomings in the secondary after all the injuries they’ve faced over the last couple years. In fact, I’d argue Undlin has actually kept things afloat despite the injuries. The one question is about the development of young talent. Sure, Undlin helped turn seventh-rounder Jalen Mills into a starter, but Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas were drafted in the second and third rounds in 2017 and neither has become a starter. Is that on the evaluation or coaching?

Seat temp: Warm

Wide receivers coach: Carson Walch

History: Watch was hired in 2018 as the assistant receivers coach and took over the position this season after Gunter Brewer’s departure. He had been in the CFL, but was an assistant with Groh in Chicago. Walch became the fourth different receivers coach in Pederson’s four years.  

Analysis: The receivers, generally speaking, have been awful this season. They got one good game from DeSean Jackson and everyone else has either regressed or hasn’t gotten better. There’s a clear lack of talent at that position, but it’s hard to imagine Walch being back in 2020.

Seat temp: Hot

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Jeffrey Lurie can't ignore what Eagles have become

Jeffrey Lurie can't ignore what Eagles have become

This is not the team we thought it was.

Not the talent, not the coaching, not the heart.

Something's missing. And whatever combination of personnel, coaching and intangibles has turned a legit Super Bowl contender into the laughing stock of the NFL, the Eagles’ decision makers need to understand that change is necessary.

Not minor adjustments. Real change.

The Eagles tried winning with whatever was left of the Super Bowl roster. They tried to win with momentum. Just keep the thing together as much as possible and fill in the blanks with whoever they could salvage off the scrap heap.  

Last year was a bit of a step backward, but 9-7 with a playoff win in the first year after a Super Bowl championship isn’t bad at all.

And as recently as a month ago, the Eagles were sitting at 5-4 with the supposedly easy part of the schedule coming up, so you could rationalize that good things were on the horizon.

Now 5-4 has turned into 5-7, and there can be no lower point than blowing a 14-point second-half lead to a 2-9 team ranked among the bottom three in the NFL in both offense and defense.

The powers that be can no longer avoid the reality that this team is too old, too slow, too brittle and just not coached well enough to compete on a regular basis with the best teams in the league.

Or in this case, the worst teams in the league.

This isn’t a tweak. This isn’t a quick fix.

This team needs an overhaul. There’s no ignoring it now.

And it doesn’t start with Howie Roseman rolling up his sleeves and figuring out what moves to make. What former Eagles to bring back this time around.

No, it has to start with Jeff Lurie being truly honest with himself and examining whether the personnel department needs a major restructure.

Lurie will never fire Howie. But would he transition him into a role where he focuses on contracts and salary cap while a GM comes in and gains final say over personnel? It’s not unthinkable. It couldn’t hurt at this point.

And Lurie won’t fire Doug Pederson, not yet. Doug still has at least another year of equity built up from that 2017 season that seems so far in the past. But certainly every assistant on the staff needs to be honestly evaluated. Some need to be replaced.

Whether it’s Howie or someone else making the calls, this roster needs reconstructive surgery. The Eagles just don’t have enough impact players on either side of the ball. Their best players are linemen and most of them are older players.

The Eagles need playmakers. Desperately.

They have drafted exactly three Pro Bowl skill players — everything other than o-line and d-line — in the past decade. Foles, Wentz and Ertz. The last time they drafted a linebacker, corner or safety who went to a Pro Bowl? Would you believe 17 years ago?

Are the Eagles spiraling downhill because they don’t have good enough players? Or are the players not good enough because the coaching is inadequate?

Probably a little of both, but that’s something the Eagles’ brain trust — whoever that is — also needs to figure out.

New coaches are needed. New perspectives are needed. New ideas. New teachers. New vision.

Heck, even if the Eagles do beat the Cowboys and win out and make the playoffs (which I can’t imagine), that shouldn’t change anything.

Winning the division because everybody else has even bigger problems is nothing to celebrate.

Right now, there’s really nothing to celebrate other than the simple fact that if the Eagles do what they have to do this offseason and make some difficult but necessary changes, better days are ahead.

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The timeline of Eagles' year of poor decisions at wide receiver

The timeline of Eagles' year of poor decisions at wide receiver

There's a simple reason the Eagles have one of the least productive groups of wide receivers in the league.

Bad move after bad move. Poor decision after poor decision. Mistake after mistake.
 
It’s not easy to bungle an entire position group in the span of one year, but that’s what seems to have happened.
 
And this is nothing new for the Eagles.
 
Whether it’s drafting Josh Huff in the 3rd round in 2014 or trading Dennis Kelly for Dorial Green-Beckham in the summer of 2016 or signing guys like Rueben Randle and Chris Givens in 2016 or Mike Wallace, Markus Wheaton and Kamar Aiken last year, the Howie Roseman-led front office has struggled for years evaluating wide receivers.
 
This year, it’s been worse than ever.
 
Let’s take a look:
 
MARCH 13: Acquired DeSean Jackson from the Buccaneers

The Eagles didn’t give up much to acquire DeSean from the Buccaneers — two late-round picks. The deal in itself wasn’t bad. I liked it. It’s what happened one day later that now looks like a mistake.
 
MARCH 14: Signed the 32-year-old Jackson to a three-year, $27.9 million contract extension with $15 million in guaranteed money

We saw in the opener Jackson can still play, but he hasn’t played since, and it’s fair to question giving an aging speed receiver a contract that runs until he’s 35 and is worth over $9 million per year. Receivers can play at a high level into their mid-30s — guys like Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne and Derrick Mason have done it — but it’s tough to find a speed receiver who has. It's a huge financial commitment for a guy in his mid-30s whose whole game is based on speed.
 
APRIL 26: Selected Stanford’s J.J. Arcega-Whiteside in the second round

OK, it’s way too early to give up on JJAW, and he’s actually shown a couple flashes the last two weeks. But D.K. Metcalf, drafted seven picks later by the Seahawks, has 38-for-630 and 5 TDs. JJAW has 5-for-86. It’s still early. Maybe Arcega-Whiteside will end up being the better player. We've now seen both of them drop TD passes. Time will tell who's ultimately the better receiver, but the early returns favor Metcalf. Maybe JJAW can play. But we know Metcalf can play.  
 
APRIL 30: Exercised the 5th-year option in Nelson Agholor’s contract for 2019 at $9.4 million guaranteed

Has anybody ever done less for more? Agholor has 322 receiving yards with five games left. So far, pro-rating his contract, Nelly is earning $18,882 per YARD. Or $168,889 per catch. Agholor ranks 76nd among NFL wide receivers in yards, 46th in catches and 18th in salary. Just a miserable year for a guy earning nearly $10 million.
 
AUG. 31: Kept Mack Hollins on the 53-man roster at final cuts

It’s not like there was anybody decent that they released to keep him unless you’re a huge Marken Michel fan. But Hollins, a one-time 4th-round pick, has just 10 catches for 125 yards all year despite playing 396 snaps. He's now gone seven straight games without a catch. ANYBODY would have been a better option. But the Eagles couldn't find him.
 
SEPT. 7: Restructured Alshon Jeffery’s contract

The Eagles converted $11.5 million of Jeffery's 2020 base salary into guaranteed pay. That essentially made him un-cuttable. Jeffery’s production has dropped steadily, and he’s having an awful season marred by injuries, drops and a lack of productivity. He’s been hurt much of the last few years, and although he’s only 29 it’s a very old 29. The Eagles would love to move on from him, but thanks to the guaranteed money, they really can't at this point. The thing is, they had no reason to guarantee Jeffery’s 2020 salary.  So they went out of their way to make sure they kept a player who a couple months later had worn out his welcome.
 
SEPT. 24: Released Greg Ward

With Jeffery inactive for the Lions game, the Eagles signed Ward from the practice squad. But he played only two snaps on offense, wasn’t targeted, and was released the next day. I don’t want to get carried away with Ward, but he showed Sunday — with six catches, three for first downs — that he can at least get open and catch the football. Mack Hollins has NEVER caught six passes in a game. Ward did it in the first game he ever got significant playing time.

NOV. 11: Signed Jordan Matthews

Matthews’ third tenure with the Eagles lasted only 21 days, and he was just 4-for-33 receiving despite playing 135 snaps in two games. How does the Eagles' brain trust like Matthews enough to give him 73 snaps on Sunday — more than any other receiver, tight end or back — but decide to release him the next day? What’s crazy is that the Eagles have seen Ward since he got here on April 9 (and really for most of the last three years) but they still thought Matthews was a better option. They’ve watched Ward practice every day since training camp began, but they still left him rotting on the bench. Only when they were finally forced to play him did they realize … “Oh, he’s not bad.” It sure looks like they had no idea what they had in Ward. Which really should be impossible considering how long he's been here. Then on Monday they released Matthews. Why? To play Ward. Who could have been playing all along.

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