Rich Scangarello

Learning more about Rich Scangarello’s role in Eagles’ offense

Learning more about Rich Scangarello’s role in Eagles’ offense

INDIANAPOLIS — It’s a pretty ambiguous title.

The Eagles earlier this month hired former Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello as a senior offensive assistant. But if Doug Pederson is the play-caller, Press Taylor is the passing game coordinator and Jeff Stoutland is the run game coordinator, it begs a pretty obvious question:

What the heck is Scangarello going to do?

At the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday, Pederson finally answered that question with at least a little bit more depth than we previously heard.

“He’s going to be able to bridge the gap,” Pederson said Tuesday. “He’s going to be able to bring together the run division and the pass division. With a blend of formations and plays and things that really tie everything together. He’s going to have his hands all over the game plan as well. A lot of communication. A lot of film study. Yeah, he’ll work with the quarterbacks, just like I do. He’ll have a chance to have some input there."

OK, so we don’t exactly know how Scangarello will fill every minute of his work days but we’re starting to get a clearer picture.

Pederson said he and Scangarello bonded over their early backgrounds in the West Coast offense but it’s Scangarello’s close ties to 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan that the Eagles found most intriguing. Scangarello worked under Shanahan in both Atlanta and San Francisco and the Eagles are hoping to blend some of those concepts with the offense Pederson is already running.

Namely, the Eagles are hoping this hire really helps Carson Wentz. That’s the No. 1 reason Scangarello was hired.

In addition to the time Scangarello will spend actually coaching the quarterbacks, the idea of QB movement is key. For whatever reason, the Eagles seemed hesitant to move Wentz in and out of the pocket early last season but once they did, he thrived.

That movement, throughout Wentz’s career, has always seemed to get him in a rhythm. And the Eagles are finally ready to lean into that.

“It was important for me,” Pederson said. “I think when I look back at our season and how we kind of finished the season, the thing Carson excelled at was basically those two elements. The play action, the QB movement stuff, the screens were important. And the run game ties into all that.

“This was what was intriguing with Rich, the background, what he’s learned. He studies this game now. You’ll learn when you get to speak to him. This guy has spent a lot of time studying the game. Now helping us, helping our offense. That’s why he was so intriguing to me.”

Despite finding a relatively high level of success with rookie quarterback Drew Lock in Denver, Scangarello lasted just one year as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator.

After the season, head coach Vic Fangio fired Scangarello and replaced him with Pat Shurmur. There’s plenty of smoke around the idea that Fangio and Scangarello didn’t have the strongest of working relationships.

Check out this exchange I had with Fangio on Tuesday morning:

What were some of Scangarello’s strengths?

“Rich is a good football coach. He knew the system well that he came from, does a good job with quarterbacks. I think Rich has got a bright future.”

What specifically did you like about Scangarello as a coach?

“I think for the first year in there, he did a good job. We played with three quarterbacks, so that has some stress to it. He did a good job of handling that.”

So why didn’t it work?

“That’s a long answer to a short question. I’m not going to get into that.”

See? Plenty of smoke.

Fangio did say on Tuesday that he wanted his offense to be more aggressive in 2020, so perhaps that’s another reason they elected to make a switch.

The word out of Denver is the area where Scangarello struggled was on game day, calling plays. On the flip side, he seemed to excel in preparation and game-planning. The good news for the Eagles is that Pederson is probably never going to give up play-calling responsibilities, so they won’t need Scangarello to do much on game day anyway. They’ll be able to utilize his strengths without worrying about his weaknesses.

Only Pederson really knows the logistics of how this new offensive structure will really work. It’s rare for a team to not have someone with an offensive coordinator title but it’s not unheard of. And the Eagles even thought of deviating from the norm back in 2018 when they promoted Mike Groh.

If this structure doesn’t work in 2020, that failure will belong to Pederson. But if it does work, Scangarello will be a big reason why. 

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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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The one huge reason Eagles' coaching hires make sense

The one huge reason Eagles' coaching hires make sense

When you look through new Eagles senior offensive assistant Rich Scangarello's bio, as hard as you try, you literally can't find a single link to Doug Pederson, Andy Reid or anybody else from the Reid/Pederson coaching universe.

Same thing when you look through new passing game analyst Andrew Breiner's bio. There's nothing, no matter how hard you try to find something.

And the same with new receivers coach Aaron Moorehead. 

It's not easy to find offensive coaches who have no connection whatsoever to the whole Doug/Andy/Marty/Brad coaching tree. The branches spread throughout the NFL and into college football, and that speaks volumes of Andy's ability to evaluate and develop coaches and also to the effectiveness of his offensive scheme over a long period of years.

But all three of this week's new offensive hires are outside voices.

And that's huge.

As a head coach, it's so imperative to hear new perspectives, fresh ideas. To not get stuck just relying on the same tired opinions. In the NFL, if you don't constantly grow and change and evolve, you're going to fall behind. And there were times this past year when the Eagles' offense looked stale, looked tired. Looked desperate for a new vision.

Now, a lot goes into that. It's not easy to look like a cutting-edge offense when you're playing with five practice squad receivers.

But it's like anything else — in sports or in life. If you surround yourself with people who think the same way as you do, you're never going to grow much.

Scangarello? He took a big pay cut to leave a comfortable coaching job at Northern Arizona to essentially be an intern with the Falcons because he was that desperate to work under Kyle Shanahan. When Shanahan got the 49ers' head coaching job, he brought Scangarello in as QBs coach, and Scangarello spent two seasons working with Jimmy Garappolo and studying every aspect of Shanahan's system, which is heavy in pre-snap motion and zone running. 

Breiner? You may not have heard of him, but you've probably heard of Joe Moorhead, who was Penn State's offensive coordinator in 2016 and 2017 — a span when the Nittany Lions had the 6th-highest-scoring offense in college football. Breiner followed Moorhead from UConn to Fordham to Mississippi State, learning every aspect of his system, which has a big emphasis on versatility without substitution and lots of RPO action.

Moorehead? He's not really a disciple of any one coach like Scangarello with Shanahan and Breiner with Moorhead. But he's worked under some pretty highly regarded offensive minds — David Shaw at Stanford, Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M, Scot Loeffler at Virginia Tech.

Will these guys work out in their new roles in this reshaped Eagles offensive coaching room? Or will they wind up on the Doug Pederson assistant coach scrap heap with Groh, Greg Lewis, Carson Walch, Gunter Brewer and all the others?

Who knows. So much goes into the success of assistant coaches. Communication with their players, chemistry with the head coach, work ethic, the ability to shine on when the pressure is at its highest on game-day.

But what I like about each of these hires is that they all bring something new to the table. They're all outsiders, they're all new voices. They all come with solid credentials without being Doug Pederson clones. They speak the same language but a different dialect. 

This Eagles offense wasn't awful last year, especially considering the injuries. When Miles Sanders emerged as a big-time weapon and Doug began rolling Carson out of the pocket more and Greg Ward started to play, things began clicking and the Eagles began winning.

But the inconsistency much of the season was a problem. During that seven-game stretch from Jets through Seahawks the Eagles averaged just 17 offensive points per game, and it took too long to find answers.

With some new ideas, some invigorating voices, some outsider coaches who paid their dues far removed from the Andy Reid/Doug Pederson coaching tree, those answers should start to come a lot faster.

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