Mike Groh

Eagles' coaching changes were made with Carson Wentz in mind

Eagles' coaching changes were made with Carson Wentz in mind

All the changes, all the coaches getting hired and fired, all the emphasis on new ideas?

It’s all about Carson Wentz.

With this team, it always is. It has to be.

Because if the Eagles are going to win another Super Bowl, Wentz has to be healthy first of all but exceptional as well.

Doug Pederson, in an interview with the Eagles Insider podcast on the team’s official web site, made a very clear connection between the team's recent coaching staff overhaul and the need to get the most out of their 27-year-old quarterback.

We know we have a dynamic quarterback and it starts with that,” Pederson said. “He’s great at play action, he’s great at movement, getting him out of the pocket where he can see and do some things with his legs. That’s where he excels. We’ve got to start with that.

The Eagles last year eventually got around to running more moving pocket stuff for Wentz, who clearly is more comfortable and more effective when he gets out of the pocket.

But Pederson said it was important to surround Wentz with coaches who can maximize that ability.

The Eagles made major changes this offseason to the offensive coaching staff. To recap:

FIRED: Offensive coordinator Mike Groh, WR coach Carson Walch
HIRED: Offensive assistant Rich Scangarello, WR coach Aaron Moorehead, passing game analyst Andrew Breiner
PROMOTED: QBs coach Press Taylor is now also passing game coordinator.

The two moves that were made specifically with Wentz in mind appear to be Scangarello’s hiring and Taylor’s promotion.

Pederson said he has no history with Scangarello but was intrigued by his background with current 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and his emphasis on play action, moving pocket and outside zone runs.

Scangarello was the Falcons’ quality control coach in 2015, when Shanahan was Dan Quinn's offensive coordinator, and he was quarterbacks coach in 2017 and 2018 under Shanahan in San Francisco.

Really, really was intrigued by his resume, where he’s come from and how he’s worked himself up in this league,” Pederson said. “He started as a quality control coach, just like myself, very sharp, been around some really sharp football minds. … I’m really excited about Rich because he comes from a world where it’s play action, it’s Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco, it’s Atlanta with (Shanahan and) Matt Ryan, where it’s a lot of play-action pass, it’s a lot of quarterback movement, which is what our quarterback excels at. So why not have a guy like that on my staff who has these types of ideas that can just enhance what we already have and make our offense better?

Then there’s Taylor, who originally came here in 2013 as one of Chip Kelly’s quality control coaches, was promoted by Pederson to assistant quarterbacks coach in 2016 and this month received the additional title of passing game coordinator.

Pederson emphasized how important it is for Wentz to keep Taylor in his current role with the quarterbacks while giving him additional responsibilities.

I think it's important that we don't disrupt that (quarterback) room,” Pederson said. “I don't want to disrupt the quarterback room. I think Carson's in a great place right now athletically, mentally as a quarterback, so I want to keep Press in that room. But I do want to give Press an opportunity to have more of (his) fingerprints on the game plan. Even though we're such a collaborative offense that way in gameplanning, this gives Press an opportunity to have more hands on with gameplanning during the week.

It’s all about surrounding Wentz with coaches who can get the most out of him.

Something that's been missing the last couple years.

Wentz has ranged from occasionally shaky to usually very good to often terrific when healthy in his first four NFL seasons.

These moves are Pederson’s way of trying to make sure he’s even better moving forward.

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Why you're wrong about Press Taylor

Why you're wrong about Press Taylor

Let’s talk about one of the top candidates for the Eagles’ offensive coordinator vacancy that will now remain a vacancy.

He’s just 32 and after quarterbacking his junior college to two national titles, he skyrocketed up the coaching ranks, from college graduate assistant in 2011 and 2012 to NFL quality control guy through 2015 to assistant QBs coach in 2016 and 2017 to NFL quarterbacks coach — all before his 30th birthday.

The quarterbacks he’s coached over the last two seasons have a composite 96.4 passer rating with 56 touchdowns and just 19 interceptions, and his teams reached the playoffs both years.

He’s coached in a Super Bowl and won a ring, with his team toppling one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. And he was credited for actually discovering the most historic play in that Super Bowl.

He's young, he's highly regarded around the league, he's worked under several brilliant offensive minds, and he comes from a big-time football family.

If this guy coached somewhere else, you’d be screaming for the Eagles to hire him.

But it’s Press Taylor, and he’s already here.  And that changes everything.

It’s the grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side dynamic.

If the tweets I read and the WIP callers I hear and the comments on stories I see are any indication, Eagles fans don't like Taylor and aren't in favor of his promotion to an increased role.

I’m not sure what’s in his resume or background to lead people to form a negative impression of him. But all indications are that he’s a capable coach who has a good feel for this offense.

Didn't Nick Foles look sharp when he had to play in 2018? Didn’t Josh McCown hang in there and play as well as you could expect in his first career playoff appearance? And most importantly, hasn't Carson Wentz looked prepared and capable the last couple seasons?

Maybe this is why a lot of fans look askance at Taylor. Because they're anti-Wentz and there's nothing he can do to change it without morphing into Foles.

The reality is that Wentz has been one of the NFL's better quarterbacks in his 27 games with Taylor as his position coach.

Let's measure this. Of those 27 games, Wentz has had four poor games, which we'll define as a passer rating under 80.

The only regular starting QB over the last two years with fewer games with a passer rating under 80 is Pat Mahomes (who's had two).

Dak Prescott had six. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers seven, DeShaun Watson nine, Jared Goff 10.  

All of which speaks to Wentz's consistency.

We can nit-pick a throw here or a decision there, but when healthy, Wentz has been one of the NFL’s most consistent quarterbacks in his two seasons with Taylor as his position coach.

His play down the stretch this past season with a cast of practice squad receivers was remarkable. Really, only Drew Brees and Lamar Jackson outplayed Wentz the last month and a half of the season. Wentz got better and better as the season went on, and there's no better way to measure a position coach than by whether his guys improve.

Other than the Wentz bias, what other reasons could there be for the negative association with Taylor?

I thought of a couple possibilities.

His brother Zac went 2-14 as head coach of the Bengals, and I’m sure part of this is guilt by association: "Zac is terrible so Press must be terrible, too."

And second, Doug Pederson’s track record with assistant coaches lately hasn’t been great, so maybe there's a tendency to think, "He promoted Mike Groh and Carson Walch, so why should I think this is any different?"

Doug has actually hired and fired Chris Wilson, Greg Lewis and Eugene Chung, Phillip Daniels and Gunther Brewer, in addition to Groh and Walch.

But this is interesting:

Of the original Chip Kelly 7 – the seven Kelly assistants that Pederson kept (Jeff Stoutland, Duce Staley, Cory Undlin, Matthew Harper, Justin Peelle, Dave Fipp and Taylor), Pederson hasn’t fired any of them.

Chip knew how to find good coaches, and he hired Taylor out of Tulsa, where he was a grad assistant. Taylor has gradually risen through the ranks since.

None of this is any guarantee Taylor will be a rousing success here and this offense will suddenly take off to new heights.

You never know with these things. Remember, nobody had heard of Andy Reid when he was hired. Doug Pederson wasn't a popular choice four years ago. Frank Reich had been fired three times in five years when Pederson brought him in.

They all did OK, last time we checked.

It's not about how big your name is, it's about your understanding of the game, your ability to communicate, your teaching skill.

Anyway you break it down, Taylor is a bright, young, rising offensive mind who's worked well Wentz, and that’s something Pederson and this offense can certainly use.

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Mike Groh reportedly joining Colts in role he mastered with Eagles

Mike Groh reportedly joining Colts in role he mastered with Eagles

If the Eagles had one of those memory-erasing stick devices from Men in Black, they would have probably used it on Mike Groh this offseason.

And then hired him as wide receiver coach.

But, alas, as technologically advanced as the Eagles are among sports teams, they don’t have that in their bag of tricks. And without it, they obviously couldn’t demote Groh from offensive coordinator to receivers coach, so the Eagles fired him.

Now Groh is going to Indy to join the guy he once replaced and he’s back in the role he had when the Eagles won Super Bowl LII.

It’s kind of a shame. Because if both sides could forget about the two years as offensive coordinator, Groh would be a great replacement for Carson Walch. But that just couldn’t happen.

While Groh lasted just two seasons with the Eagles as offensive coordinator, we might forget that during the 2017 season, Groh was a fantastic receivers coach. He was so good that he was promoted to offensive coordinator after just one year in Philadelphia.

Under Groh in 2017, the Eagles got a lot from their receivers. The trio of Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Torrey Smith played very well that season on the way to a Super Bowl title.

Take a look at the Eagles’ wide receiver production under all four of their wide receiver coaching since Doug Pederson became head coach:

2016: (Greg Lewis) 170 receptions, 1,839 yards, 8 touchdowns

2017: (Mike Groh) 178 receptions, 2,269 yards, 20 touchdowns

2018: (Gunter Brewer) 178 receptions, 2,279 yards, 13 touchdowns

2019: (Carson Walch) 146 receptions, 1,657 yards, 11 touchdowns

This can sometimes be the problem with promoting from within. While it’s great for morale in the building, when the Eagles promoted Groh in 2018, they were weakened in two positions. Groh wasn’t as good of an OC as Frank Reich was in 2017 and Brewer (and then Walch) weren’t as good as Groh was at receiver coach in 2017.

While Groh has found a new job, the Eagles still haven’t officially replaced him yet. The Eagles still need to announce four coaching hires: offensive coordinator, wide receivers coach, defensive backs coach and defensive line coach.

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