Is Mike Groh Set to be the Scapegoat in Philadelphia?
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The Eagles still have seven games with four in the division to change the narrative from disappointment to division champion.
If they are unable to do that, however, it's fair to start pointing out that first-year offensive coordinator Mike Groh is shaping up as a likely scapegoat when the mob demands sacrifice at the end of a stunted Super Bowl sequel.
Head coach Doug Pederson pointed out that his offense is performing similarly to last season's explosive bunch from a numbers perspective except for the one number that really counts -- the scoreboard.
Philadelphia is currently 21st in the NFL in scoring offense at 22.0 points-per-game, that down from 28.6 in 2017 which was third-best in the league.
The obvious change starts with the coaching staff where former OC Frank Reich left to become the head coach in Indianapolis and his heir apparent, John DeFilippo, went to Minnesota for the coordinator job there because it included play-calling responsibilities.
So Groh, the receivers coach last year, leap-frogged his way over Duce Staley and Jeff Stoutland to snare the promotion, largely due to his background as a former college quarterback at Virginia and ultimately the OC at the same school under his father Al Groh.
Certain things have looked spectacular like Carson Wentz's 108.5 passer rating or Zach Ertz's 75 receptions in nine games, a record-setting pace for an NFL tight end. But, the situational football success that defined the Super Bowl campaign has eroded, as has the team's penchant for starting fast.
"We're very close. We're so close in a lot of areas," Pederson said. "You look at our output and production offensively, we’re very similar to where we were last year. We're plus 30 passes down the field, explosive passes. I think we're second in the National Football League; we're sixth at 20-plus explosive plays; third downs we're within a percentage point or two of being where we were a season ago.
"The difference is creating turnovers on defense and then scoring in the red zone. That's kind of what's staring at us right in the face. Time of possession is good, all those things we look at. Red zone defense has been good throughout the season. We have to finish better, and we have to score more points."
To pin the inability to do that on Groh is probably unfair because the OC here doesn’t call the plays and he may not even be involved with the game-planning the way Reich was.
"I'm not going to get into the specifics of how we go about our game planning," Groh said on Tuesday.
That wasn't enough to stop the sharks from circling, though.
"Now that we're pretty far into the season, has the transition from former Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich to you at offensive coordinator gone as smoothly as you expected, and has that transition negatively affected the offense at all?" a reporter asked.
Groh ignored the inference but the message was likely delivered. Fair or not the Eagles' offensive struggles are sitting on Groh's doorstep.
"Well, sitting here with the record that we have, we're not pleased with where we stand," he admitted. "We have aspirations to compete for the playoffs. I think that we're still in the playoff hunt, and we can do that. We've talked about some of the things that need to improve to give ourselves the best chance to do that."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen