February 25, 2020
There has been a lot of hot air blown and ink spilled this offseason over the process that led to the Eagles restructuring their coaching staff, hiring several new names and promoting a few familiar faces to new or expanded roles.
Perhaps that's because from the very start this coaching search, specifically the search for an offensive coordinator to replace Mike Groh, there have been issues — mostly of the team's own making — dating back to before there was even an OC vacancy in Philadelphia.
A few days after the Eagles season ended with a wild-card loss to the Seahawks, Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman met with the media, and one of the biggest topics was the status of their current coaches, specifically Groh and wide receivers coach Carson Walch. At the time, Pederson said both would be back for the 2020 season, but just a day later the two were fired and the Eagles began a month-long search for a replacement.
On Tuesday, Pederson and Roseman took the podium again for the first time since that botched January press conference, and naturally, the Eagles' head coach was asked about his sudden change of heart concerning his top offensive assistant.
"I'm going to go back to a WIP interview that I had about a week later," Pederson started. "That decision, obviously I was not clear in what I said and the communication level there, and I was still in my evaluation process there of my entire staff at the time, so it was just a situation where I misspoke and I apologize for that."
At the very least, it's refreshing to see Pederson own his mistake rather than claiming his comments were taken out of context. So, why did he ultimately decide to fire Groh?
"You know, there are times where [over] the course of the season, course of the year, things just don't work out," Pederson said. "I'm constantly evaluating everybody and my coaches know this coming into this business and coming into our organization. And I have to make tough decisions — we have to do it with the players and we have to do it with the coaching staff — so I just made that move."
The key there is that this was Pederson's decision — and Pederson's alone — to make. Following the swift change in direction, some believed that Roseman or ever owner Jeffrey Lurie stepped in and forced his coach's hand, which would at least explain the flip-flop, even if it painted an overall worse picture of the team's power structure.
Pederson said that couldn't be further from the truth.
"There was none. There was none," he said when asked if Lurie had any involvement in the process that led to Groh's dismissal. "This is one of the things I appreciate about Jeffrey [Lurie] and Howie [Roseman], they give me total control over the staff. Are they interested and 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 on the guys I bring into the building.
"They give me that control to make these decisions. I've got to make the tough ones, but at the same time, I felt like I made some really good hires this spring."
Among those hires was new senior offensive assistant Rich Scangarello, who it appears will be the team's offensive coordinator in everything except title. He has previously worked under Kyle Shanahan as the San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks coach and was most recently the Denver Broncos offensive coordinator in 2019.
With the Eagles, he'll work closely alongside Pederson and will have his fingerprints all over the team's offense.
"It's various roles," Pederson said of Scangarello's responsibilities. "One, he's going to be able to bridge the gap and bring together the run division and the passing division and bring that together with a blend of formations and plays and things that really kind of tie everything together. And so that's going to be a key component. Obviously game planning, he's going to have his hands all over the game plan as well. A lot of communication, a lot of film study. He'll work with quarterbacks, just like I'm in that room. He'll have a chance to do that as well and have some input there as well. And just assist with us on offense."
The one traditional offensive coordinator role Scangarello won't have, however, is the play-calling duties. That's something that Pederson wasn't willing to give up just yet. The soon-to-be fifth-year coach said calling the plays and installing the offense in the weekly meetings is the part that "keeps him attached" and "connected to the team offensively."
As a former quarterback, it's not surprising that Pederson wants to keep that responsibility, but he did admit that decision made it slightly tougher when courting OC candidates.
"I mean, that's always something that a candidate who wants to be an offensive coordinator — if they're going to a place where the head coach or someone else is going to be calling plays, yeah, that's difficult," Pederson said. "And so some of the candidates that I spoke with and even brought into the building, that was brought up. And I told them up front, this is a position where I'm still going to call the plays. I'm not going to give that up, so they have to be comfortable with that. Listen, I would have a hard time too if I was interviewing for a coordinators job, having called plays previously, that would be tough to give up."
So what did Pederson decide to do? Just change the entire structure of his offensive staff, breaking the norm by having a run game coordinator (Jeff Stoutland, who has had that title for a few years now) and a passing game coordinator (newly-promoted Press Taylor), something only two other teams, the Rams and 49ers, currently have.
Pederson explained that decision on Tuesday, and to hear him tell it, it seems like he simply put the correct titles on the system that was already in place.
"You know, the thing is, for the last four years I have had an offensive coordination, by position and by title, and yet when it comes to game-day decisions and calls, I'm the one that's calling the plays, so the offensive coordinator doesn't do that," Pederson explained. "I've thought long and hard about this, which is why I took my time this offseason with these decisions with Rich, putting him in a senior offensive position, and then promoting Press [Taylor] to pass game coordinator. I really feel like that in order for Press to grow, I've got to give him more as a coach, 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 and he's done an outstanding job there. But at the same time I want him to have more of his fingerprints on game plans.
"And then Rich [Scangarello] comes in to bridge the gap with Coach [Jeff] Stoutland as the run game coordinator and now Press, and bringing all those pieces together, along with myself. And having such a collaborative game-planning approach allows us to really have a better sense of our game plan that we're going into each game with. I just made that decision, and obviously it ultimately comes down to me calling plays on game days."
With all the new faces on the offensive staff, including Scangarello, new WRs coach Aaron Moorehead, pass game analyst Andrew Breiner and others, the Eagles will now have a chorus of voices with backgrounds in different offensive systems. According to Pederson, that was very much intentional.
"I mean, again, our approach has been very collaborative," Pederson said. "Our approach has been very direct from the standpoint of, you hire position coaches for a reason, not just to coach the position but to also have input on game plans. Having Rich [Scangarello] now being around Kyle [Shanahan] and his offenses, whether it be in Atlanta or San Francisco, being around quarterbacks like Matt Ryan and obviously [Jimmy] Garoppolo and Nick Mullens in San Fran, and then having coordinator experience in Denver last year, just for me it's very intriguing to bring in a guy who is going to help Carson No. 1, going to help our offense, he's going to be a guy — not solely his responsibility but — allowing us to take our offense to a different level.
"And it's something that we weren't as good at last year as in the past couple of seasons. And those are all things that I have to take a look at through the evaluation process. So I'm excited to work with Rich and Aaron [Moorehead] and the guys as we get ready for OTAs."
Believe it or not, OTAs are only a few months away.
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