Eagles New Coaching Setup, Born Out of Loyalty, Necessity
(973espn.com) - Jeffrey Lurie wanted Mike Groh and Carson Walch replaced on the Eagles coaching staff and Doug Pederson reversed course in 24 hours, firing a friend and confidant in Groh who had been told he would be returning.
That's the scenario painted by an NFL source to 973espn.com and one Pederson had to address at the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday in Indianapolis.
“There was none,” Pederson said when asked about potential meddling. “This is one of the things that I appreciate about Jeffrey, [general manager] Howie [Roseman] is they give me total control over the staff. Are they interested? Do they talk to me about certain guys and want to talk to candidates? Sure. They do.
"It just behooves them to have all the information with guys that I bring into the building.”
While no one was buying Pederson's spin, most realized it had to be done and the Eagles' new offensive coaching staff setup is the result of two things, according to a separate league source and the Philadelphia Inquirer -- Pederson's loyalty to his assistants and Rich Scangarello's reluctance to take an offensive coordinator title without play-calling responsibilities.
According to the Inquirer, Scangarello believed that being named the OC in Philadelphia after a year in which he called the plays in Denver would have looked too much like taking a step back around the rest of the NFL and instead pushed for the role as senior offensive assistant who will essentially serve as the final stop in the hierarchy between the rest of the offensive assistants and Pederson himself.
"Rich comes in and he helps bridge the gap with coach [Jeff] Stoutland as the run-game coordinator and now [pass-game coordinator] Press Taylor," Pederson explained. "Bringing all of those pieces together, along with myself, and having such a collaborative game plan approach allows us to have a better sense of the game plan we go into each game with."
Pederson likes Scangarello's background with the west-coast offense as well as the Kyle Shanahan play-action-heavy mentality, the latter of which has not been used enough by the Eagles in recent seasons.
“It’s very intriguing to be able to bring in a guy that is going to help Carson [Wentz], No. 1, help our offense,” Pederson said of Scangarello. “He’s going to be a guy, not solely his responsibility, but allowing us to take our offense maybe to a different level."
The changes, of course, also include elevating the 32-year-old Taylor, a rising star in the coaching ranks who will run the offensive meetings and still work day-to-day with Wentz as the QB coach, and adding Andrew Breiner as another mind in the passing game.
“I really felt that in order for Press to grow I’ve got to give him more as a coach," Pederson said. "I’ve got to put more on his plate. I still want him in the quarterbacks room. I still want him to be around Carson and the guys. He’s done an outstanding job there. But at the same time, I want him to have more of his fingerprints on game plans."
Eschewing the OC title, however, was done out of both necessity and shielding the assistants from being scapegoats, something many in the fan base and Lurie himself did to Groh.
"Some of the candidates I spoke with and even brought into the building, that was brought up," Pederson admitted when talking about the play-calling. "I told them up front this is a position where I’m still going to call plays … and they have to be comfortable with that.”
Some obviously, including Scangarello were not, so Pederson took a fork in the road.
“I thought long and hard about this,” Pederson said. “That’s why I took my time this offseason with these decisions and with Rich, putting him in a senior offensive position, and promoting Press to pass-game coordinator. ... But ultimately it comes down to me on game day with calling the plays.”
As for Duce Staley, the running backs coach and assistant head coach, who has been lapped twice for OC-like responsibilities and sent out feelers about returning to the University of South Carolina as an assistant, Pederson insisted there was no issue.
“Duce and I have a great relationship,” Pederson said. “... The more I thought about what he does for me and his level of comfort with all he’s dealing with. I just felt best to keep him doing what he was doing.”
After what went down with Groh and Walch Pederson is taking a page out of his mentor Andy Reid's playbook and instilling a proactive approach to shield his lieutenants.
If Lurie's got a problem next year he will have to point his finger at the only Super Bowl-winning coach in franchise history.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen