Fate of Eagles' assistants tied to length of playoff run

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Fate of Eagles' assistants tied to length of playoff run

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was asked Tuesday about potentially being a candidate for head-coaching jobs this upcoming offseason. It was only a matter of time before the question came up. It’s been a topic of conversation for as long as he’s been with the team.

Schwartz was a head coach for five seasons in Detroit, and there’s little doubt he’d like another opportunity. Now that the Eagles have one of the best defenses in the NFL, he very well may draw some interest again.

And he’s not alone. Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo are on the radar, having played significant roles in the development of Carson Wentz. In fact, Reich and DeFilippo might be stronger candidates than Schwartz because of the league’s preference for offensive-minded coaches. Running backs coach Duce Staley could be in line for interviews as well, and some have even mentioned special teams coordinator Dave Fipp as possibly on the move.

It’s only natural. The Eagles are 10-2 and almost certainly heading to the playoffs, and Sunday’s loss in Seattle aside, they look like one of the best teams in football. Assistants from successful programs tend to be rewarded with head-coaching jobs and coordinator promotions.

Of course, if the Eagles want to avoid having their coaching staff ransacked come January, there is a relatively simple solution: Just make sure the team is still playing in February.

The longer the Eagles’ season lasts, the less likely it is another franchise will steal their assistants, and the reasoning is simple. NFL teams generally try to settle on a head coach as quickly as possible, so that coach can fill out his staff as quickly as possible to allow the organization to move on to preparing for free agency and the draft as quickly as possible.

If the Eagles make it all the way to the Super Bowl, or even just the conference title game, there are front offices that won’t want to wait and will inevitably wind up going in a different direction. There are enough quality head-coaching candidates available, but a lot of competition involved in trying to assemble a staff.

What could further complicate matters is if the Eagles fail to earn a first-round bye in the playoffs yet still manage to mount a lengthy run. At least a bye week affords candidates a comfortable window to go interview. Without the bye, assistants can interview only the following week, with the Eagles’ permission, while preparing for a divisional-round playoff game. Then, if the Eagles are able to advance, the window closes until after the conference championship.

Obviously, it’s a tad presumptuous to suggest the Eagles will be playing deep into January in a tight conference. That being said, if the concern over assistants leaving is tied to the Eagles’ success, the truth is more success in the playoffs actually reduces the odds of a vast number of defections.

There are exceptions, of course. Most recently, the 49ers decided to hire Kyle Shanahan this past offseason, despite the fact that he was still working for the Falcons in February. It can happen.

Shanahan was also one of the hottest coaching candidates in recent memory. Would Schwartz generate that kind of buzz? Would Reich or DeFilippo?

The reality is it’s impossible to predict which franchises will fall in love with which candidates, and how desperate they are to fill those vacancies. Just as it’s impossible to predict how deep into the postseason the Eagles will be playing, and how that might influence front offices across the league.

By the same token, it would be premature to write off any particular Eagles assistant on his way out. Because while there are numerous qualified candidates for head-coaching and coordinator jobs on Doug Pederson’s staff, whether or not they land any of the upcoming openings could depend on one key factor.

Their availability in January.

Eagles wise to reject Nick Foles trade offer ... for now

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Eagles wise to reject Nick Foles trade offer ... for now

Nick Foles for the 35th overall pick in the draft? A lot of Eagles fans would’ve probably pulled the trigger on that trade.

We know now the Eagles, wisely, did not.

Technically, it was Foles who shunned the Cleveland Browns’ overtures. According to an report, the Eagles approached the Super Bowl MVP in March about the Browns’ offer of a second-round choice in the 2018 draft. He would rather remain a backup quarterback in Philadelphia than start for the league’s most pitiful franchise.

The Eagles respected his wishes. It wasn’t what was best for Foles. He earned that deference.

But it wasn’t what was best for the Eagles, either.

Never mind the organization owed it to Foles to ask his feelings about a possible trade, or that dumping him off in Cleveland against his wishes would’ve been unpopular with fans and around the league. Those were good reasons to turn down the offer. Just not necessarily the only reasons.

There was no need for the Eagles to settle for a second-round pick at that point in time, and all the rationale in the world says to wait and see what transpires.

Carson Wentz’s ongoing recovery from a torn ACL is the obvious. As confident as Wentz is he’ll be under center for the Eagles in Week 1, that remains to be seen. His progress was an even greater unknown when the offer was made over two months ago.

Was No. 35 enough to gamble on Wentz’s getting healthy in time for the 2018 season, amid the Eagles’ bid to repeat?

Maybe, maybe not – fortunately, the Eagles didn’t have to decide to trade Foles right then and there.

If recent history has told us anything, it’s not only do the Eagles have the option to trade Foles at a later date, but his value could increase based on demand.

The Eagles would know. Fans couldn’t believe the front office didn’t ship a disgruntled Sam Bradford to the Broncos for a second-round pick after making the move to draft Wentz in 2016. A few months later, almost everybody was amazed when Bradford was dealt to the Vikings for a first and a fourth.

Circumstances changed. The Vikings were a viable contender that, due to an injury, suddenly became desperate for an established quarterback just as the regular season was about to begin.

There’s no telling which teams might have interest in Foles between now and the mid-season trade deadline, or what price they might be willing to pay. And the Eagles were never going to find out had they shipped him out for the first semi-decent package that was floated their way.

The absolute worst-case scenario now is Foles sticks with the Eagles all this season, is never called upon to play a meaningful snap, then opts out of his contract and becomes a free agent next year.

Yet, even in that scenario, the reigning Super Bowl champions had the best insurance policy in the NFL, for a relatively modest price at $8 million against the salary cap, and the league eventually awards the team a compensatory draft pick after his departure. Along the way, the Eagles simultaneously get to do right by Foles and engender positive vibes among fans and around the league.

The Eagles could’ve used the cap space and another second-round pick this year, but they were better off keeping Foles.

For now, at least.

Eagles releasing Mychal Kendricks the right thing to do

Eagles releasing Mychal Kendricks the right thing to do

For the past two years, the Eagles kept Mychal Kendricks in a state of limbo. It was about time the team set him free.

The Eagles didn’t release Kendricks on Tuesday simply because it was “the right thing to do” — if there was such a thing in this instance. They did it because the move will save $6 million against the salary cap in 2018. They did it because Corey Nelson is a cheaper alternative. They did it because Kendricks isn’t an ideal fit for Jim Schwartz’s scheme. They did it because, evidently, they couldn’t find a trade partner.

In short, the Eagles released Kendricks because the 27-year-old linebacker wasn’t worth $16-plus million over the next two seasons. That really should be enough.

It was also about time the Eagles put Kendricks out of his misery. He made no secret about being unhappy with his reduced role since Schwartz became defensive coordinator, asking the team to either cut him or move him last offseason. The subject of trade rumors annually since 2015, Kendricks probably hadn’t felt comfortable about his standing with the organization for quite awhile.

At what point are the Eagles holding him hostage?

Good thing the club didn’t oblige Kendricks’ request last year, as he wound up filling in for the injured Jordan Hicks and playing a pivotal part in the Eagles’ Super Bowl run. Some see that as evidence the team made a mistake in letting a six-year veteran with 78 career NFL starts to walk away for nothing.

While it’s true Kendricks came up big in 2017, he wasn’t exactly an impact player for the Eagles, finishing the season with four tackles for loss and two sacks in 18 games, including playoffs. He hasn’t forced a fumble since 2015. He hasn’t recorded an interception since 2013. And rushing the passer, arguably his greatest strength, goes almost completely unutilized in Schwartz’s scheme, which sent Kendricks after opposing quarterbacks just eight times all year, according to Pro Football Focus.

Numbers may not do Kendricks’ campaign justice, but typically more would be expected of somebody who was set to carry a $7.6 million cap figure into ’18.

The Eagles also feel they are in better shape now in terms of depth at the position (see story).

Kendricks’ days appeared to be numbered the moment the club signed Nelson and the free-agent addition declared he would compete for the starting weakside linebacker job. It’s unclear whether the Eagles are putting too much faith in the former Denver Broncos reserve and the host of linebacker prospects already on the roster. Regardless, the team likes its options.

So why force Kendricks to stick around? From the team’s standpoint, it was a lot of money for the level of production, for not being a great scheme fit and given his impending return to the bench. The Eagles were wise to keep him around for one more year, but with other arrangements since made, moving on now doesn’t sting as much.

The fact Kendricks was anything less than thrilled to be back only makes it easier. After handling his displeasure like a pro last season, then helping the Eagles win their first Super Bowl championship, granting his release seems like the least the team could do.