NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles
PHILADELPHIA – Jim Schwartz has a very good chance to be successful.
The Philadelphia Eagles’ new defensive coordinator is already a proven coach in the NFL. So he has his own resume on his side.
But with the Eagles, Schwartz is walking into a situation that should allow him to make the maximum impact. He inherits a defense that wasn’t very good for the last couple of years, but not because of a lack of talent. The problem wasn’t even former defensive coordinator Bill Davis, really.
Basically, the Eagles defense was handicapped by playing for head coach Chip Kelly, whose no-huddle offensive scheme forced the defense to be on the field more than any other defense in the NFL.
Kelly might have blamed the defense’s inability to force punts, but that contention doesn’t hold up. In each of his three seasons in Philadelphia, the Eagles were dead last in time of possession. As for Kelly’s belief that time of possession didn’t matter, that it was really about the number of plays run? The Eagles defense was on the field for the most plays in 2013, second-most (behind Cleveland) in 2014, and the most again in 2015.
Enter Schwartz, who will be working for a head coach who plans to run a more conventional offense. Doug Pederson was offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs for the last three years. The Chiefs were ninth in the league in time of possession last season and in the middle of the pack the previous two years.
If they can be on the sideline for an extra three to four minutes per game, the Eagles defense will immediately benefit statistically. As linebacker Connor Barwin pointed out, their stats – yards allowed, etc. – were skewed by the time-of-possession disparity. The Eagles might have given up more passing yards than other teams, but they were on the field for 18 or 19 games’ worth of plays.
On top of the change in offensive philosophy, there is a change in scheme. Schwartz runs a 4-3 designed to free up players to be aggressive and use their natural ability. Fletcher Cox, who made the Pro Bowl in Davis and Kelly’s 3-4 scheme, tweeted excitedly about the prospect of playing in a 4-3 again.
In a 3-4, Cox and the other defensive linemen have to take on blockers, hold their position and allow linebackers and defensive backs to make plays. In Schwartz’s 4-3, Cox will be playing defensive tackle. In Buffalo, with Schwartz running a 4-3, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus had 10 sacks in 2014. Two years earlier, when Schwartz was head coach in Detroit, tackle Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley combined for 11.5 sacks.
It’s no wonder defensive end Vinny Curry said this week that he wouldn’t have signed his new contract extension if the Eagles had remained a 3-4 defense.
In 2014, the Atlanta Falcons gave up more yardage than any other defense (the Eagles gave up the fifth most). The Falcons ran a 3-4 defense under Mike Nolan that year. In 2015, new head coach Dan Quinn brought his version of Seattle’s 4-3 defense. The Falcons went from the most porous defense in the NFL to No. 17.
The Eagles could make an even bigger jump. Their personnel is better than it was allowed to play in the 3-4 scheme, plus it was hampered by Kelly’s hurry-up offense. Remove both of those impediments and the defense has a chance be significantly better.
And that means Schwartz has a chance to look pretty good.
PHILADELPHIA – As head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, Doug Pederson is relying on the team’s personnel department to provide talent.
The Eagles might not hire a personnel executive until after the draft. Pederson doesn’t seem concerned. In an appearance on 97.5 The Fanatic, he said the team’s current structure would be sufficient to get through free agency and the draft.
“We’ve still got Tom Donahoe,” Pederson said, referring to the former Pittsburgh and Buffalo personnel man who is working as an adviser to the Eagles. “Tom is still here. We’ve got our pro personnel department, all our coaches. We’re in the evaluation process right now.”
Basically, Pederson sounded like a new head coach eager to make the best of his circumstances. That is likely what Eagles owner Jeff Lurie was looking for after three years of hearing what Chip Kelly insisted on changing about the organization.
Former general manager Howie Roseman will make personnel decisions after discussing matters with Donahoe, Pederson and the coaching and scouting staffs.
“We’ve got a lot of hands on deck going forward into the draft,” Pederson said.
One of the Eagles’ more pressing decisions is at quarterback. Pederson continued to sound lukewarm about Sam Bradford, which might be a deliberate strategy for the team to take. Bradford can be a free agent after one season as the Eagles’ starting quarterback.
“I just think that’s the most important position on the football field,” Pederson said. “That’s the leader of your team. It’s the face of your franchise. Everything is going to run through your head coach and your quarterback.
“Free agency doesn’t start for a little over a month now. We’ve got time. We’re going to evaluate that position. At the end of the day, we’re going to have the right guy for the Philadelphia Eagles. That’s the way we’re going to approach it.”
Pederson said everything – including salary demands – would play a role in the team’s decision at quarterback.
“At the end of the day, when all’s said and done, we’re going to have the best quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles,” Pederson said, again not mentioning Bradford by name.
Pederson also doubled down on his previous assessment of the team he inherited. At his introductory news conference last month, Pederson said he believed the Eagles could be in the hunt in the NFC East.
“This is a good football team,” Pederson said in the radio interview. “This is not a rebuilding football team. There’s tremendous talent here.”
PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles appear to have hamstrung themselves as they seek to rebound from the Chip Kelly era.
For the last two years, the Eagles have dismissed their top two personnel people at the end of the regular season, creating uncertainty and disorder as the team goes into the offseason process of evaluating and acquiring talent.
Last year, vice president of player personnel Tom Gamble was fired and general manager Howie Roseman was removed from roster decisions. That left head coach Chip Kelly to find a new personnel executive and he settled on promoting Ed Marynowitz from Roseman’s staff.
This year, owner Jeff Lurie fired Kelly and Marynowitz, who have coordinated all of the team’s in-season scouting. Roseman and veteran personnel man Tom Donahoe stepped into the breach.
Lurie said the plan was to hire a new top personnel executive, but the exact nature of the job was left vague. Lurie said that was because he didn’t want to limit the candidates who might be interested.
Now, with the Senior Bowl over and the scouting combine looming, the Eagles appear to be stuck in their search for a new personnel man. Geoff Mosher of Eagles Scouting Nest reported Tuesday that the search has been halted, likely until after the draft. The problem is timing. Most serious candidates are under contract with other teams and in the midst of offseason evaluations.
But there is likely another problem. The presence of Roseman would make a lot of good candidates reluctant to talk to the Eagles. Roseman’s history of winning internal conflicts and running his rivals out of the front office would make any serious candidate wary.
This is the legacy of Lurie’s two decades of allowing such internal battles. Ever since coach Ray Rhodes wanted to get rid of personnel man Dick Daniels, the Eagles’ front office has been the scene of more palace intrigue than Game of Thrones.
In 2001, coach Andy Reid won a tug-of-war with director of football operations Tom Modrak. That led to a fairly stable stretch in which Reid wielded final say over personnel decisions while Tom Heckert served as his top personnel adviser.
Roseman’s rise corresponded with the departures of Heckert (now with the Broncos), Jason Licht (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Ryan Grigson (Indianapolis Colts), Louis Riddick and team president Joe Banner. Banner and Riddick both work as analysts for ESPN.
Another ESPN analyst, former Tampa Bay executive Mark Dominik, was reportedly on the Eagles’ list for their current opening. But Dominik reportedly plans to remain at ESPN for now.
The Eagles also interviewed Brandon Hunt, who works for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Now it appears that Roseman will run free agency and the draft, even though he was not involved in scouting in 2015. The Eagles will likely add to their personnel staff after the draft, when scouts and executives typically become available.
Clearly, Lurie’s shuffling and reshuffling of the deck has left the Eagles playing catch-up going into a very important offseason. They have a new coaching staff and a high-stakes decision to make at quarterback. It would be a good time for some stability in the team’s front office.
PHILADELPHIA -- Gary Kubiak spent nine seasons in the NFL. He started five games at quarterback in his entire career.
This week, Kubiak is preparing the Denver Broncos to play the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl. There isn’t a direct line from backup quarterback to NFL head coach, but the Philadelphia Eagles hope there is at least a path that Doug Pederson can follow.
The Eagles’ new head coach spent 11 seasons in the NFL. He started a total of 17 games at quarterback. That sounds like a lot more than Kubiak, but Pederson started all 17 of those games between 1999 and 2000. Those were the seasons he was signed by the Eagles and the Cleveland Browns to play while young quarterbacks learned the ropes.
In his other nine seasons, Pederson never got the call to start in place of Dan Marino or Brett Favre. Kubiak spent his years in Denver watching John Elway.
It’s encouraging that Kubiak is in the Super Bowl in his first season as head coach of the Broncos. But it’s a mistake to use that as the standard for Pederson to live up to. In reality, Kubiak paid a lot of dues between his playing career and his first Super Bowl appearance as a head coach.
After his playing career ended, Kubiak spent two years coaching running backs at Texas A&M. In 1994, he jumped to the NFL as the quarterbacks coach for the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners won the Super Bowl that year, and Kubiak was hired to coach quarterbacks in Denver.
That was 1995. Kubiak spent 10 years as an assistant in Denver, rising to the level of offensive coordinator. From there, he went to Houston as head coach of the Texans. Kubiak spent eight seasons there. His record was 61-64.
After being fired, Kubiak spent a year out of the league. When John Fox left Denver last year, the Broncos brought Kubiak back as head coach.
That’s where the similarity with Pederson is strongest. Kubiak used to be a backup quarterback for the Broncos, just as Pederson briefly played quarterback for the Eagles. Kubiak served as an assistant coach with the Broncos, just as Pederson worked on Andy Reid’s staff for four years.
But when Kubiak got the head coaching job, he had Peyton Manning as his quarterback. Manning is in the twilight of his career and the Super Bowl was the only realistic goal for him. Combine that with an outstanding defense coached by Wade Phillips, and the Broncos figured to be in the mix for the Super Bowl. Heck, they were in the Super Bowl just two years ago.
Pederson may have Sam Bradford, who has never played quarterback in an NFL playoff game. If not, Pederson is likely to have a rookie who may or may not be worthy of a first-round draft pick.
In other words, Pederson will have every chance to do something special as head coach of the Eagles. But he isn’t walking into the kind of ready-made situation that Kubiak inherited.
But Kubiak isn’t the only example. Other coaches have been former quarterbacks, even if they never spent most of a decade as NFL backups.
Jon Gruden was a backup quarterback at the University of Dayton. Sean Payton played at Eastern Illinois and tried out for NFL teams. He also played as a replacement player during the 1987 NFL strike before finding his way into the coaching ranks.
Being a star quarterback doesn’t seem to prepare anyone to be a successful head coach. Being a backup forces players to use their smarts and understanding of the offense to survive. That has turned out to be pretty fertile ground for a head coach to grow up in.
That’s the good news for Eagles fans. The less-than-good news is that Kubiak spent two decades coaching before getting to the Super Bowl. Maybe Pederson can find a short cut.
PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Eagles’ commitment to sports science didn’t get tossed from the NovaCare Complex along with head coach Chip Kelly.
Shaun Huls, Kelly’s sports-science coordinator, still works for the Eagles. New head coach Doug Pederson told reporters at the Senior Bowl that he was open to using sports science as a tool to help players get into shape and remain fit.
“It's something I want to dive more into,” Pederson said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “We used it obviously in Kansas City. It can be a benefit to monitor your players. It's a good way for players to recover with all the nutrition, diet, and exercise that they do.
“But at the end of the day, it's football, they're football players, and whatever we can do to get the most out of them."
That last part is the key. With Kelly, the sports-science aspect was a cornerstone of his entire operation, along with his no-huddle offense. There was a strong sense that players had to “buy in” to Kelly’s entire program or risk becoming ex-Eagles.
Heck, there was even speculation that some players did become ex-Eagles because they didn’t buy in sufficiently. DeSean Jackson, anyone?
The Eagles will be better off if the sports-science aspects are tools that players can use rather than acid tests for their level of commitment. That became an issue under Kelly because of his absolute belief in certain ways of doing things.
So it’s refreshing to hear Pederson talk about doing “whatever we can do to get the most” out of players. That suggests a more pragmatic approach to the whole thing, rather than the true-believer aspect that was part of Kelly’s program.
Ironically, the Eagles might actually get more benefit from the program this way. If it’s available but not forced on them, players might be more open to it. If they are hearing from teammates that something really works, rather than hearing from a coach that it’s mandatory, they might feel better about trying it.
It’s also important that players who did fully buy in to Kelly’s program don’t feel as if they are seen as suckers. Veteran tight end Brent Celek was frequently mentioned by Kelly as an example of a player who was committed to the sports-science initiatives.
If the Eagles had dropped the entire program, they would have risked making Celek feel like he was duped. This way, Celek gets to continue doing what he believes in and deriving the benefits, while players who weren’t as convinced can pick and choose what works for them.
It’s a win/win for the players, which could lead to some wins for the team.
Irvin selected Jenkins ahead of several other safeties during the Pro Bowl draft Wednesday night. In explaining his pick, Irvin praised Jenkins for his versatility, as he is able to play safety or cornerback.
Darren Sproles, who was Jenkins’ teammate in New Orleans before Philadelphia, will joins Jenkins on Team Irvin. Sproles was selected as a punt returner for the second consecutive year.
Fletcher Cox, the defensive tackle selected as a starter, will play for Jerry Rice’s team in Sunday’s Pro Bowl.
Like Jenkins, Cox will be making his first Pro Bowl appearance. He was voted in after a career-high 9.5 sacks in 2015.
The Pro Bowl will be played Sunday evening in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson announced the hiring of Wilson at the Senior Bowl.
The 46-year-old Wilson had just taken a coaching job at the University of Missouri before getting this opportunity. He came to Missouri from USC. Wilson has coached at the college level for 22 years.
Wilson replaces Jerry Azzinaro, who held the title of assistant head coach as well as defensive line coach. Azzinaro was close to former Eagles head coach Chip Kelly and followed Kelly from Oregon to the NFL. Azzinaro left to work for Kelly with the San Francisco 49ers.
Under Azzinaro, the Eagles ran a 3-4 defense. Cox, who is preparing to play in his first Pro Bowl this week, played defensive end in that alignment. He is likely to move back to defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
Pederson also told reporters in Mobile, Alabama, that he has hired Joe D’Orazio to work with new wide receivers coach Greg Lewis. D’Orazio, a 2011 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, spent the last two seasons as an assistant on Andy Reid’s staff with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The hiring of Wilson fills the last vacant position coaching spot on Pederson’s staff. Pederson could still add lower-level assistants to his staff.
Wilson, 47, has coached at USC, Oklahoma and Colorado as well as Mississippi State. Wilson played linebacker at Oklahoma before beginning his coaching career.
As we’ve said here before, Kelly should have made the Bradford trade contingent upon the Eagles negotiating a contract extension with the quarterback. As Kelly said in December, “We wouldn't have traded for him if we thought he was going to be here for a year.”
But that’s exactly the situation Kelly created by failing to tie a contract extension to the trade. If Bradford had refused to accept an extension, the Eagles could have voided the trade. That would have left them with Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez, but would that have been worse than their current predicament?
The Eagles can use the franchise tag to hold on to Bradford, but that would mean paying him a guaranteed $25 million or so for 2016 and then facing the same predicament next year.
It’s no wonder, then, that the Eagles’ public comments about Bradford have been measured. Pederson said positive things about Bradford last week, but stopped well short of making any kind of commitment. Owner Jeff Lurie and vice president Howie Roseman have been just as noncommittal.
The Eagles’ plan seems to be pretty simple: go to the Senior Bowl and the scouting combine and take a close look at draft prospects such as Carson Wentz, Paxton Lynch and Connor Cook. Get a feel for which, if any of them, would be available with the 13th pick in the first round. Simultaneously, get a sense of whether any of them can be legitimate franchise quarterbacks.
If they’re convinced they can get a legit quarterback in the draft, the Eagles can let Bradford walk in free agency. If not, they can use the franchise tag or negotiate a long-term contract with him in order to keep him.
There are ramifications beyond the identity of the Eagles’ quarterback.
At his introductory news conference last week, Pederson was asked if he believes the Eagles can get back into contention in 2016.
“I think the nucleus of this football team is very good,” Pederson said. “It's structured very well. There's some talent here and I do believe that you can put yourself in a position to not only win the [NFC] East, but have a chance to get yourself into the postseason and then go deep into the postseason.”
That’s fine to say, but if the Eagles draft a quarterback, expectations are going to change. It should take a year or two -- or three -- for that quarterback to be ready to take a team deep into the postseason. That scenario would give Pederson some slack as he remakes the Eagles in his image.
But if the Eagles bring Bradford back, the equation is different. A 28-year-old quarterback will and should be expected to win right away. There might be an adjustment period as Bradford learns his fifth new offense in seven years and as the Eagles plug some of the other holes that Kelly left behind, but fans will be expecting results sooner rather than later.
Pay Bradford and increase the pressure on Pederson to win right away. Draft a rookie and reduce the pressure, but take the risk that the rookie isn’t a franchise quarterback. The third option is to acquire a veteran quarterback that some other team has already determined isn’t a franchise quarterback.
That is the knot the Eagles have to untie, and it was tied for them by Chip Kelly.
PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Eagles finished the 2015 season without a head coach. They begin 2016 with newly hired Doug Pederson looking to get the Eagles back into contention.
How did it happen? We looked at the 10 most compelling moments of 2015. Today, we finish up the series.
No. 10: The Pat Shurmur era
A year earlier, the Eagles finished the 2014 season with a victory over the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Two years before that, Andy Reid coached his final game after 14 seasons as head coach of the Eagles, against the Giants at MetLife.
So the stadium, although relatively young, had hosted a lot of Eagles history. This time, a 6-9 team traveled up the New Jersey Turnpike to close out another season. This time, head coach Chip Kelly didn't make the trip. He had been fired five days earlier.
Pat Shurmur, the Eagles’ offensive coordinator for the previous three seasons, served as interim head coach for the game. He also made a few adjustments that served as examples of what Shurmur would do if given the job and as comments on what Kelly had not been doing throughout the 2015 season.
Sam Bradford? The quarterback was given more flexibility to change the play at the line of scrimmage. That flexibility was made possible by the Eagles’ slower tempo. Instead of Kelly’s frantic, no-huddle pace, the Eagles took their time, called a play and let Bradford scan the defense.
Bradford completed 30 of 38 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns. He threw one interception.
DeMarco Murray? The running back benched by Kelly took his first handoff early in the first quarter. He sprinted through a big hole and didn’t stop until he’d gone 54 yards for a touchdown.
The Eagles won 35-30. Their record was 7-9. Their head coach was gone.
After the game, Bradford endorsed Shurmur for the head coaching job. He said he would like to return to Philadelphia, but it ultimately wasn’t his call. He definitely enjoyed having the freedom to audible at the line of scrimmage.
Shurmur talked like a man who knew his work in Philadelphia was likely finished. He said his only concern was making sure the team got home safely. Shurmur handled exit interviews with the players on Monday, then sat down with owner Jeff Lurie to talk about the head coaching job.
Two weeks later, Lurie hired Doug Pederson to replace Kelly. Shurmur was not retained. Bradford’s future was very much up in the air as a new Eagles era began.
The feeling here is that Chip Kelly erred last March when he worked out the trade that sent Nick Foles and a second-round pick to St. Louis for Bradford. Kelly should have made the trade contingent upon the Eagles’ ability to work out a contract extension for Bradford.
As Kelly said in December, "We didn't trade for him to say, 'Hey, we want to get one season out of him and then we are going to go in a different direction.' That's certainly not the case."
ESPN’s Jim Trotter shed some light on the matter last week during an appearance on "NFL Insiders." Trotter said he was told that Bradford’s agent, Tom Condon, asked for $25 million per year. Negotiations broke down after that.
Two major points:
One, that number is not all that extreme. There is a very good chance the franchise tag salary for quarterbacks will be about $25 million for 2016. So that’s a perfectly reasonable starting point for an agent representing a starting quarterback.
The logic is simple: If there is no deal, the team will have to pay $25 million for 2016. So that’s a good starting point for negotiating a long-term deal.
Two, that number suggests the Eagles were looking to do a relatively short-term contract for Bradford. That’s understandable. Bradford had missed a season and a half with two ACL tears. The Eagles didn’t know how his knee would hold up or whether he would play well in Kelly’s offense.
If the Eagles had made the trade contingent on a deal, they would have accomplished two things. Bradford’s price might have dropped a bit because he wanted to get out of St. Louis by that point, and the Eagles could have voided the trade if no deal was possible. They probably wouldn’t have had a worse record with Foles at quarterback, and they would still have a second-round pick in this year’s draft.
The primary way teams lower the salary-cap number on player contracts is by giving the player a large amount of guaranteed money up front and then spreading the cap hit out over a multiyear contract. If the Eagles were looking to do a two-year contract with Bradford, for example, that would make it tougher for them to lower the cap number.
Faced with that, Condon would have been smart to seek the franchise tag salary for a shorter deal.
The main point is that none of that prior conversation is applicable now. If the Eagles want to sign Bradford to a five-year contract, they can negotiate one that provides a market rate of guaranteed money and then work out terms that make the contract work under the Eagles’ salary cap.
Bear in mind that the top 15 quarterback salaries for 2016, based on salary cap charges, are all at $17 million or above. The salary cap is expected to rise again this season, giving teams more money to spend. If anything, quarterbacks are even more valuable today than they were in the past, so they will continue to command a large percentage of salary-cap space.
That is the climate in which the Eagles must figure out the Bradford issue. As the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft, Bradford has made $78 million during his six-year career so far. He has no pressing need to take a below-market contract.
Though it sounds shocking in the context of a conversation on television, $25 million is roughly what the market bears in 2016.
The Eagles have to weigh that outlay against their prospects of finding a better quarterback in free agency or the draft.
PHILADELPHIA – We conclude our position-by-position look at the Philadelphia Eagles with a piece on the specialists.
Punter: Donnie Jones
Long snapper: Jon Dorenbos
State of the specialists: The Eagles had very good special teams again in 2015, but they are at a bit of a crossroads with their specialists.
Jones had an excellent season. He set an Eagles franchise record with his 41.6-yard net average. He also placed 29 of his 86 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
But Jones will also be 36 next summer. While punters can continue to work into their 40s, every player hits a point of diminishing returns. Jones didn’t look like he was close to that in 2015, but the Eagles don’t want to wait until it’s too late to find an alternative.
The same goes for Dorenbos. The long snapper also turns 36 in July and has been an Eagle for 10 years. Those things are true because Dorenbos has been outstanding at his job.
During the Eagles’ 20-19 loss to Miami, Dorenbos had a couple of bad snaps. One contributed to a blocked punt, the other to a missed field goal. As Dorenbos put it, “I get paid to throw strikes. I threw balls.”
The Eagles worked out a couple of long snappers in the aftermath of that game. The team decided to stick with Dorenbos.
A new coaching staff is coming in, but head coach Doug Pederson spent four seasons as an Eagles assistant under Andy Reid. Dorenbos was the long snapper for those four years. Special teams coach Dave Fipp is returning for his fourth season in that position.
So Dorenbos is likely to be back in 2016. It wouldn't be surprising if he faces competition in training camp, though.
With kicker Cody Parkey, the issue isn’t age. Parkey is only 23. He went to the Pro Bowl last year after his rookie season with the Eagles. It looked as if the Eagles had found their kicker for the next decade or so.
And maybe they have. But Parkey injured a groin late in training camp. He tried to rest it, then tried to play through it. After three games, he was placed on injured reserve.
The Eagles worked out a handful of kickers and signed former Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis. In his first game, at Washington, Sturgis missed a 33-yard field goal and an extra point. The Eagles lost 23-20.
Coach Chip Kelly decided to stick with Sturgis. None of the other candidates looked like they were going to be improvements. Kelly thought it made more sense to show some confidence in Sturgis and let him work his way into shape.
Sturgis made 18 of 21 field-goal tries the rest of the way. Two of his misses were from 50 yards. As for a 32-yard try that missed, Dorenbos took blame for a low snap. Sturgis only missed one more extra-point try, and that came during a 39-17 victory over the New Orleans Saints.
During the season, Sturgis said he knew he was only holding down the job until Parkey was eligible to resume kicking. Parkey is likely to be back on the field in OTAs. But until he shows his groin will hold up while he’s kicking at a high level, there’s a good chance Sturgis will remain on the roster.
Good specialists are hard to find, at any age.
PHILADELPHIA – After a pause for the introduction of Doug Pederson as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, let’s continue our look at 10 moments that defined the Eagles’ 2015 season.
No. 8: Chip’s last words
Two days after the Eagles were eliminated from postseason contention with a 38-24 loss to Washington, coach Chip Kelly held his usual Monday news conference. Nobody knew it would be his last as head coach of the Eagles.
In retrospect, the news conference might have been the final straw as far as Eagles owner Jeff Lurie was concerned. A day later, after the Eagles had practiced under Kelly, Lurie called the coach into his office. He fired him, effective immediately.
Decisions like that aren’t made in an instant. Clearly, Lurie had been considering his options for some time. The Eagles’ series of mind-bending losses – 45-17 to Tampa Bay, 45-14 to Detroit, 40-17 to Arizona – surely played a part in the owner’s dissatisfaction.
But there was more. Lurie clearly was unhappy with the way Kelly seemed to dodge accountability. The coach had “decisively” insisted on control of player personnel decisions a year earlier, at the expense of general manager Howie Roseman. Lurie had given Kelly that control, and now the team was getting blown out every week with a playoff berth on the line.
That was bad. But then, in that final Monday news conference, Kelly was asked a question about the demands of being both the head coach and the general manager.
His reply must have hit Lurie like a slap in the face.
“I'm not the general manager, so I don't run our personnel department,” Kelly said. “I'm not in charge of scouting. I didn't tell our scouts where they are going. Ed Marynowitz does a great job with that.
“The only difference is I was in control of the 53-man roster and now I'm in control of the 90-man roster, but all of those decisions made in-season, we always went over who was available for putting a guy on IR, we all understand that. My job has never changed.”
Sorry? Were we all under a misapprehension for the past 12 months?
“To say I'm a head coach and a general manager, I am not the general manager,” Kelly said. “I don’t negotiate contracts. I don't do any of that stuff. I just have a say of who is on the 90-man roster, as opposed to the 53-man roster. But once the season starts, I have always had control of the 53-man roster. So that has not changed at all, nor has there been any more time devoted to any of that because that's not the way it's set up here.”
Lurie had a clear idea of “the way it’s set up” in the Eagles’ front office. He had taken the GM title and authority away from Roseman. He had given the authority to Kelly.
Technically, Kelly’s title was head coach and not general manager. But his denying of reality, while playing games with words and titles, apparently struck Lurie as an attempt to avoid accountability.
It wasn’t the only reason Kelly got fired. It was just the last reason.
Next: The coaching change
PHILADELPHIA – With the hiring of Frank Reich as offensive coordinator, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is building a quarterback-friendly environment.
Reich, 54, spent the last two seasons working with Philip Rivers as the San Diego Chargers’ offensive coordinator. He was fired earlier this month but was hired by the Eagles on Wednesday, according to a CBS Sports report.
In Reich’s first coaching stint, in Indianapolis, he worked closely with Peyton Manning.
Pederson and Reich also had long careers as backup quarterbacks in the NFL. In 10 seasons, Pederson backed up Dan Marino, Brett Favre and Donovan McNabb. In his 13-year career, Reich backed up Jim Kelly, Kerry Collins and Scott Mitchell.
It is unclear whether the Eagles will make it a priority to bring Bradford back. His contract is expiring. The Eagles could use their franchise tag to retain him for 2016 or work out a long-term contract.
Pederson described Bradford as a “top-notch” quarterback who would “fit perfectly” in Pederson’s offensive system. Pederson is expected to run an offense similar to the one Bradford learned as a rookie under St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.
Shurmur and Pederson both learned the offense from Andy Reid. Shurmur was on Reid’s staff in Philadelphia when Pederson was a player. Shurmur also worked with Bradford in 2015 as the Eagles’ offensive coordinator under Chip Kelly.
Bradford endorsed Shurmur for the head coaching position at the end of the season. Shurmur interviewed for the job on Jan. 4. There is a chance, Pederson said, that Shurmur will remain on the Eagles’ staff.
If the Eagles choose to retain Bradford, he should find comfort in working with Pederson, Reich and DeFilippo. The system will be different from Kelly’s but familiar to Bradford. The coaches will be different, but their work with everyone from Marino and Favre to Manning and Rivers should make Bradford feel right at home.
PHILADELPHIA -- His boss is promising “100-percent accountability” for personnel decisions. For Howie Roseman, getting pushed out of his job carried the sting of accountability.
Roseman was the Philadelphia Eagles' general manager when coach Chip Kelly convinced owner Jeff Lurie to give him full control of personnel decisions. A year later, Kelly was fired and Roseman was back in a position of authority.
Roseman helped Lurie with the search process that resulted in the hiring of Doug Pederson. He will be involved as the team hires a new personnel executive.
The whole experience has changed him, Roseman said Tuesday.
“I think when this happened last year, this was something I took to heart,” Roseman said. “I think it goes back to what was really important to me and that was the relationships. So how can I build better relationships?”
Roseman’s record as a GM was mixed. He was in charge when the Eagles drafted Danny Watkins in the first round, but also when they took Fletcher Cox. He said Tuesday that he was responsible for the team’s drafting of linebacker Marcus Smith II in the first round in 2014.
“I’ll take responsibility for everything that happened when I was the general manager here,” Roseman said. “I’m happy to take responsibility for all that.”
With Pederson, Roseman has a chance to rewrite his Eagles legacy. Pederson was an Eagles assistant coach for four years. On top of that, Pederson and Roseman are both represented by agent Bob LaMonte. There is already a familiarity and trust that Roseman never developed with Kelly.
“I’ve been very fortunate in the National Football League about how my career has been and so I took it as an opportunity to work on some things that maybe I hadn’t had a chance to work on because I was too busy doing whatever the role is,” Roseman said.
“And that’s not an excuse, but I felt like it was an opportunity for me to do that and work on things and I feel very fortunate that I had the opportunity to do that.”
Before Kelly, Roseman was a constant in the turmoil that became characteristic of the Eagles’ front office. Executives, from Tom Heckert and Jason Licht to Joe Banner and Tom Gamble, have left the team while Roseman survived.
“I learned that the relationships are really important to me, that the people are really important to me,” Roseman said. “And all I could do is kind of move forward here and kind of just work on some things through the course of the year and kind of learn from the experience.”
The Philadelphia Eagles’ new head coach said he believed the team can be back in the playoffs in 2016.
“I do,” Pederson said. “And there's some pieces that we’ve got to work on and try to get back, and free agency -- as you know, you're going to lose some and you're going to gain some. I think the nucleus of this football team is very good. It's structured very well.
“There's some talent here and I do believe that you can put yourself in a position to not only win the [NFC] East, but have a chance to get yourself into the postseason and then go deep into the postseason.”
Pederson spoke highly of key players on offense such as quarterback Sam Bradford and running back DeMarco Murray. A coach expecting to take a few years would be more likely to plan on drafting a quarterback and building around him.
“We’ve got some guys over there that I'm very familiar with, you know,” Pederson said. “[Tight end] Brent Celek being one of them, [tackle] Jason Peters being one of them, [center Jason] Kelce being one of them -- guys that I've had a chance to work with in the past.
“I think a DeMarco Murray fits well into what I can bring. I think there's a unique style there with him. When you go back and look at his tape in Dallas, I think there's some great opportunities with him, more of a downhill-type guy, physical running back.”
Murray was signed as a free agent last year after former coach Chip Kelly traded Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy to Buffalo. But Murray, who led the NFL in rushing for the Cowboys in 2014, never quite fit into Kelly’s offense. He gained 702 rushing yards in 15 games in 2015.
Bradford’s situation is complicated. Acquired in a trade with St. Louis in March, he was going into the final year of the contract he signed with the St. Louis Rams in 2010. The Eagles were not able to agree to a contract extension, so Bradford could become a free agent in March.
The Eagles could use their franchise tag to retain him, but at a prohibitive cost of about $20 million for one season.
“I think Sam brings a whole skill set that benefits him. You know, it is a pass-friendly system, but yet it's not so much of a vertical system than what people think.
“I think Sam, he's got all the tools, there's no question. There's no denying that. Got good size, got a great arm, good mind for the game, and it's just a matter of now just plugging him in and cutting him loose and utilizing those strengths in this system.”
Pederson said he hadn’t yet spoken to Bradford, but planned to soon.