McMullen: Pederson finds the Next Challenge in His Coaching Staff
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Doug Pederson doesn't have to take 10 steps around the NovaCare Complex before realizing there are plenty of things the coach should feel good about.
From the Lombardi Trophy in the lobby to the Super Bowl LII adornments in the players' wing there are reminders all over the building to ensure no one forgets Pederson accomplished what no one else could in the Super Bowl era, even his highly-regarded mentor Andy Reid.
If you read the tea leaves correctly, however, it's pretty clear what Pederson is most proud of on a personal level is helping put Frank Reich in the big chair with the Indianapolis Colts and placing John DeFilippo on the fast track to a head-coaching position by getting the offensive coordinator job in Minnesota.
And now Pederson is eager to do it again for another group of assistants, who must help the coach overcome the loss of his top two assistants on the offensive side to Super Bowl attrition.
Pederson met the media before rookie camp on Friday morning and dutifully went through questions about the incoming players, a mysterious back injury to Tim Jernigan as well as the rehabilitation schedule for the face of the franchise, Carson Wentz.
Not until the coach was asked about the moving parts on his coaching staff did the face light up, however, and Pederson was eager to praise who was here and excited to help develop those who remain.
The challenge of replacing Reich and DeFilippo seems to have energized the coach.
When the dominos finished falling, Mike Groh was elevated from receivers coach to OC to replace Reich while DeFilippo's assistant, Press Taylor, got a promotion and will now work day-to-day with Wentz and Nick Foles.
The Eagles went outside the organization for a new WR coach, dipping into the college ranks for Gunter Brewer and then added to the responsibility of running backs coach Duce Staley, naming him assistant head coach, as well as offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, who is now officially in charge of the team's running game.
"It's going well. It’s going extremely well," Pederson said when asked by 973espn.com about all the changes before launching into a bit of a dissertation.
Groh, a former college quarterback at Virginia and the son of former Jets coach Al Groh, will be taking over the Reich role as Pederson's right-man man when it comes to cobbling together the offense and the weekly game plans. It's been a meteoric rise for Groh, who was brought in last year from the Rams to take over a WR position that struggled in 2016 with Greg Lewis playing the mentor role.
"The communication is great between Mike and I," Pederson explained. "[There is a] great relationship there. One of the things that Mike benefited from, really taking this role over, is being around Frank last year and being kind of tied in with Frank on how Frank thought and how Frank and I interacted and Mike's involvement with game plans and things like that.
"He's done a really good job filling in. He's leading the group offensively, the coaching staff, and he's on top of it. He's a sharp guy. Sharp guy. So I'm encouraged there."
In some ways, Taylor is taking on an even more daunting role because DeFilippo became a rising star in the industry by overseeing the rapid development of Wentz and then doing a 180 in-season to get Foles ready for the playoffs after Wentz tore his ACL and LCL on Dec. 10. The result was the organization's first championship since 1960 with Foles as Super Bowl MVP.
"Press Taylor has done a great job with our quarterbacks this spring," Pederson said. "He's one that's been kind of champing, waiting for that opportunity and it came. So this is his opportunity now to really shine and he does a great job. He's got a quarterback mind, so I'm excited for his future."
Brewer was brought in from North Carolina, where he once helped now second-year Eagles WR Mack Hollins turn into a legitimate pro prospect.
"Gunter Brewer, hired him as a receiver coach and I’ll tell you, he and [Assistant wide receivers coach] Carson Walch both are in here early and they stay late," Pederson said. "They are studying our offense and our players and they are getting to know our players inside and out. That's encouraging and they are doing a great job on the field so far here in phase two [of OTAs]."
The old standbys are "Stout" and Duce, veteran coaches who offer leadership and keep Pederson's message on point at all times.
"With Jeff Stoutland, he does a ton with the run game obviously. He's the one that sort of puts everything together," Pederson admitted. "He's got assistants there, but he kind of puts the plan together in the run game, so wanted to just give him the credit where credit is due. He's a heck of a line coach, and I'm excited to have him.
"And then for Duce to become the assistant head coach, I think it's our relationship that we had and it goes back to us as players and what I have seen with him with that running back group and how he leads. Any time I put him in front of the team or the offense, he shines there and that's his element."
Pederson may have found his own element and it involves cultivating a large coaching tree. Super Bowl hangovers can be real in the NFL and they usually stem from the human nature of feeling satisfaction from a job well done.
The good news for Pederson is the Super Bowl attrition on his staff has already ignited the next challenge.
"All the guys have done a great job this spring and looking forward to camp and then of course into the season," the coach said.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Want more NFL? Check out John's piece on Ben Roethlisberger being petty in Pittsburgh over at GetMoreSports.com.