‘Groh-ing’ Into an OC
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The sexier story surrounding the Eagles quest to repeat as Super Bowl champions will almost certainly center around the health of Carson Wentz and how Doug Pederson navigates the pleasant problem of having one of the top-5 quarterbacks in football and the Super Bowl MVP at the same position.
The bigger potential pitfall, however, is the elevation of Mike Groh to offensive coordinator to replace the highly-regarded Frank Reich, now the head coach in Indianapolis.
Philadelphia's attrition on the offensive coaching staff doesn't end there, however, as the obvious heir apparent to Reich, former QB coach John DeFilippo had already left for the opportunity to call plays in Minnesota in an effort to get on the fast track to his own head-coaching gig.
In other words, Pederson's two closest confidants when it came to putting together his stellar offense are no longer in South Philadelphia and Groh, both a coach's son and a former college QB, took a two-pronged leap up the ladder to take his place at the right hand of a Super Bowl-winning coach.
“I see the game as a quarterback,” Groh explained at his first press conference as Philadelphia's OC. “I know that, by trade, I’ve been coaching the wide receivers here in the NFL the last six years. So that’s, I guess, where my expertise would be at this level. But I’ve always seen the game through the eyes of the quarterback."
That was the trait that gave Groh the advantage over running backs coach Duce Staley, who has the longer history with the Eagles and Pederson. Staley was ultimately placated with his own promotion to assistant head coach.
As for Groh, he's now a coordinator for the first time since he was running the University of Virginia offense from 2006-2008.
In the decade since most of his time has been spent around NFL WRs and he was a significant upgrade for the Eagles last season over former position coach Greg Lewis with the development of Nelson Agholor at the top of Groh's list of accomplishments.
“It makes it so much easier for me," Agholor said when asked about the shift at OC. "Mike did so much for all of us. He’s a quarterback, so he taught us where the ball is supposed to go on time and how to run routes with progressions in mind. … [Frank's] attention to detail was special and he accomplished a lot. I think Coach Groh is special as well.”
The other aspect to the change which will enable Groh to grow [pun intended] into his new position is that Pederson is an offensive-minded head coach and handles his own play-calling, already proving to be one of the best in football.
“It certainly is not Mike’s offense. It’s Coach Pederson’s offense," Groh stipulated. "It’s the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense. We’re going to work collaboratively to try to continue to be as multiple and stay out in front of the defenses as we can.”
The collaborative work between Pederson, Reich, and DeFilippo was elite and perhaps once in a generation so expecting things to be the same from Day 1 is probably a bit pie-in-the-sky.
The reality is that Groh, 46, can't be Reich and needs to find his own way to accentuate what this offense does so well and the one thing Groh honed in on was “multiple.”
Pederson likes to be able to run all of his plays out of different formations, something which gives the defense a different look and theoretically can keep them off balance.
For instance, this season the addition of rookie tight end Dallas Goedert with the length and speed he brings to the table at tight end could give the Eagles even more of an opportunity to toggle between 11 and 12 personnel yet always keep the same options on the table.
Building ideas off of that simple concept is the job description here and it's one which Reich excelled at as a true coordinator, a person able to take good ideas from the entire staff, cobble them together with Pederson's DNA as a play caller in mind, and insert them into the offense.
“If we can do that, we feel like [Pederson] is going to call a great game,” Groh said.
Pederson seems excited to continue to build a coaching tree that typically defines the legacy of truly great coaches. Groh is now the next branch in line.
“[Mike] saw firsthand how Frank and I interacted and things we did,” Pederson said. “I’m encouraged by where he’s at and what he’s doing. He’s doing an outstanding job right now."
Since learning under his father -- former Jets coach Al Groh -- at UVA the younger Groh has excelled on his own with stops at Alabama and Louisville in the college ranks before crossing over into the pros with Chicago, the LA Rams and now the Eagles.
“I’ve grown significantly,” Groh said when reflecting on the past decade. “I’d like to think I’m a lot better coach now than I was 10 years ago. Just like anybody who has done something for 10 years, you hope you’ve learned a lot from your experiences and taken bits and pieces from the bright people that you’ve been around.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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