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January 11, 2021

Why would any coach sign up to be the next Doug Pederson?

The Eagles spent the final days of Pederson's tenure dragging their coach through the mud, and got plenty dirty in the process.

Eagles NFL
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Doug Pederson could not survive the Eagles' disastrous 2020 season.

Regardless of how you feel about the job Doug Pederson did as the head coach of the Eagles — and even this writer has at times been extremely critical of Pederson — there's no denying that the team did their head coach dirty on his way out the door.

And while you may not care very much about that — probably because you believe that the team was right to move on from the guy who helped bring the city its first and only Lombardi Trophy just three short years ago — it should infuriate any fan of the team, because the Eagles not only dragged their head coach through the mud, but in the process also sent out a warning for any other potential coach they may hire to replace him: join this dysfunctional organization at your own peril.

There's no denying that the Eagles are currently a broken team, and an argument could be made that this team is one of the least desirable landing spots for an aspiring head coach after the team decided to part ways with Pederson following his second meeting with owner Jeffrey Lurie. 

They have an expensive and aging roster that is absent any real game-changing talent, especially younger players you could see a new regime building the future around. They're in salary cap hell, so any major changes a coach would want to make might not even be possible in Year 1 — and that includes a pending decision on Carson Wentz that will likely be made above the new coach's pay grade. They're in the midst of a full-blown quarterback controversy. They appear to have a locker room that is divided. And they finished in fourth place in the worst division in football

And that's before even considering all the front office politicking going on at NovaCare Complex. What qualified coach would want to sign on here if there's an opening elsewhere?

The overall dysfunction of the Eagles has been covered at great length — perhaps best by our own Jimmy Kempski, who wrote that the Birds should blow it all up earlier in the failed season — but what's happened in the week-plus since the season officially ended is only making this worse for the organization.

First, in the final weeks of the season, there were reports that both Pederson and GM Howie Roseman were safe heading into the offseason, which (perhaps not so) coincidentally were followed by a report that Wentz was expected to request a trade out of Philly this offseason and was even willing to help facilitate a trade, which is easier said than done. Interestingly enough, the departure of Pederson makes it more likely that Wentz will be back in 2021. Then, Pederson and Roseman were made available to the media on the Monday after their 2020 season came to an end and spoke about the future of the organization, which seemed to confirm the various reports about both of their jobs being safe the same way Wentz declining to speak amid swirling reports about his own future in Philly suggested his time in midnight green had come to an unceremonious end. 

Then, almost out of nowhere, there came rumblings that Pederson's job might not be as safe as we'd been led to believe, rumblings that first reached this writer late last week and appeared to be confirmed on Sunday morning when ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Tim McManus reported that Pederson was back on the hot seat, and that if he didn't nail his second exit-meeting with Lurie, he could be shown the door. 

As it turns out, that second meeting spelled the end for Pederson. 

The reason for the second meeting with Lurie was an underwhelming initial meeting last week between the owner and now-former coach, one in which Pederson made some less-than-inspiring suggestions for how to reshape his coaching staff following a disappointing and unacceptable 4-11-1 season.

It appears that while Lurie and perhaps even Roseman were envisioning a total re-haul of the Eagles coaching staff, Pederson simply wanted to make some tweaks — tweaks that including promoting the guy who oversaw one of the worst areas of the team in 2020 (the passing game). His suggestions also reportedly included bringing back Corey Undlin, who oversaw the Lions' 32nd-ranked defense in the NFL last season, if the internal promotion of Matt Burke didn't work out. Yikes.

But the merits (or lack thereof) of Pederson's plan are not the issue here. The problem here is that we know about it in the first place. There are presumably only two people who would know about all these specific recommendations: Doug Pederson and Jeffrey Lurie. Obviously, others are involved, but it can be viewed as two main sides, and right now all signs point to this leak coming from the Lurie side (where Roseman is the right-hand man). 

Perhaps this was a way for Lurie and Co. to soften the blow to the fanbase when they ultimately decided to fire Pederson just three years removed from winning the title, which, by the way, is one of the fastest exits ever for a Super Bowl winning coach.

All of this has turned the Eagles into a wholly undesirable landing spot for any desirable head coach candidate.

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To start, there's an owner who appears to have become meddlesome — and isn't worried about making his coach look like a fool in the process. This isn't solely limited to this year, when Pederson was paraded out alongside Roseman following the season and took the bullets only to be told the next day that his plan to turn the team around wasn't good enough (to be clear, it wasn't) and be officially fired a week later.

Remember last year, when Pederson publicly backed offensive coordinator Mike Groh and WR coach Carson Walch before reversing course and letting the two go later that week? More importantly, do you remember what happened after that? The Eagles brought in a slew of veteran coaches and offensive assistants to work around Doug, including Rich Scangarello and Marty Mornhinweg, both of who were let go after the season. Those hires were reportedly forced on Pederson from above his head and he wasn't happy about that.

As we now know, those additions didn't work out, but it was Pederson who paid the price.

Moreover, it appears as though those forced additions to the coaching staff — and more potentially coming this offseason following a failed attempt last year — really wore on Pederson and the 52-year-old coach was "sick of people telling him what to do" and actually "wanted out of Philly."

When news came down that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was resigning and planning on taking a year off from coaching, the immediate reaction was that the veteran coach was preempting a potential firing from the Eagles. But now, with a report out that the Eagles actually wanted to bring him back for another season floating out there, it's beginning to look like he just had a better gauge of how the winds were blowing at Broad and Pattison. 

There's also a general manager who appears to be teflon, despite a recent track record of draft busts, free agency misses and questionable contract maneuvering that has left the Eagles a reported $70 million over the cap heading into next season. That might be acceptable if the team was coming off a season in which they went all-in to be Super Bowl contenders, but not for a team that publicly declared it was going to get younger and cheaper last offseason and then did neither. Instead, as they seem to do every year, they "kicked the can" down the road and figured they'd just address that problem another day. 

If Pederson is gone, the next head coach will be the fourth coach to work under Roseman. And it's becoming amazing how the coaches are always the ones to blame, and never the guy who puts the roster together and has final say over it. 

Coaches can only do so much with the players they're given — and we don't have to look far into the past to see an example of what Pederson can accomplish with the right players. It's a very management-over-labor point of view, and considering it's coming from a billionaire NFL owner, maybe that shouldn't be all that surprising. Lurie has gone to bat for Roseman so many times now that it's getting to the point where an admittance of failure on Roseman's part would, in a sense, be Lurie admitting that he himself had failed. 

There's also a quarterback who has a massive contract yet played like one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL all season. Is there a chance he can get back to being a successful passer? Sure — after all, we've seen that he has all the physical gifts to be one of the best in the league. But whether or not he does, the Eagles are still saddled with that contract and, assuming he sticks around, a budding quarterback controversy that threatens to tear the locker room apart. 

And finally, any head coach coming to replace Pederson would have to be concerned by the leaks coming out of the organization, specifically the ones that seem to be coming from above the coach. A player taking a shot at a coach is one thing; there could be playing time issues or perhaps the coach chewed out the player in practice in front of his teammates and it was done out of frustration. But these leaks are something else. They appear to be coming from the front office, and seem to serve only as a way to tear the current head coach down to soften the blow of firing a Super Bowl winning coach faster than any other such coach has been fired since 1973.

What the Eagles might not realize, however, is that in dragging Pederson through the mud, they got plenty dirty themselves. And that could come back to bite them as they search for his replacement. 

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