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January 12, 2021

What they're saying: Jeffrey Lurie (and Howie Roseman) to blame for Eagles mess, not Doug Pederson

Plus, what this decision means for the future of Carson Wentz, Jalen Hurts and the rest of the organization

Eagles NFL
Lurie-Pederson-Roseman_011221_usat Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports

"OK, guys. Let's have a good, clean fight. And may the best man keep his job."

The Eagles changed course on Monday — a week after Doug Pederson addressed the media following the conclusion of the Birds' 4-11-1 season and spoke about the future — and fired their head coach, saying that it was in the best interest of both sides to move on. 

"If you want to be a leader and make the tough decisions, sometimes you just have to – sometimes you just have to look towards the future, try to evaluate things in an unemotional path and a process as possible and arrive at a decision that might make you very uncomfortable," Lurie said during his opening remarks on Monday. "But you have to feel honestly, my first allegiance is: what will be best for the Philadelphia Eagles and our fans for the next three, four, five years?

"It's not based on: does someone deserve to hold their job or deserve to get fired? That's a different bar. Very few people probably after success deserve to lose their job. This is much more about the evaluation of whether the Eagles moving forward, our best option is to have a new coach and that's really, really what it's about. It's not about: did Doug deserve to be let go? No, he did not deserve to be let go. That's not where I'm coming from and that's not the bar in the evaluation process."

In other words, Lurie doesn't appear to be firing Doug for cause, but rather because the two have different visions about what's best for the future of the organization, with Lurie taking the longview and Pederson focused on winning now. 

There have been no shortage of surprising storylines since, from Pederson potentially wanting out because he was "tired of being told what to do," to questions (and possible answers) about what this move means for Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts. There have been laser sights focused on Howie Roseman for his role — and the general lack of accountability he's faced — as well as the owner himself. And more recently, reports are beginning to trickle out about the potential candidates to replace Pederson. 

In other words, there's a lot to keep track of. Weeks like this were made for our What They're Saying format, so let's dive right in with an extended look at some of the hottest takes and biggest takeaways from a day that altered the landscape of the Eagles organization. 

[Note: We've got a lot to cover today, so I'm going to keep my analysis of each story to a minimum.]

Rotting from the head down

Marcus Hayes | Inquirer.com

The veteran columnist says Lurie and Roseman are to blame, and that Pederson was lucky to get out when he did. That might not be a stretch, considering the exodus we've seen out of NovaCare, including defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and linebacker coach Ken Flajole, both of whom reportedly left on their own accord. 

The problems go much deeper [than Pederson]; actually, they go much higher. All the way to Lurie, who is in complete denial about his pocket-protector minions. Their reputation as a meddlesome bunch always was overblown. Until now.

Because now, after years of prodding and nudging and nagging his head coach, Lurie reportedly made Pederson grovel. Lurie required Pederson to submit a list of candidates to fill key vacancies such as the coordinator positions, and examined Pederson’s reviews of his current assistants. Lurie would not confirm these reports in a news conference Monday. The coaching staff review was a shallow and hypocritical exercise since Pederson didn’t actively recruit and hire most of his assistants. Lurie and Roseman did.

And now, Lurie is putting this top-to-bottom rebuild completely in the hands of Roseman — the architect of this disastrous roster riddled with gargantuan mistakes. Pederson is lucky to escape.  [inquirer.com]

Lurie is regressing as an owner

Joe Giglio | 94 WIP

This was written before news came down that Pederson would be fired but after there was a ton of momentum heading in that direction. As such, the analysis still holds up.

The Eagles are morphing into the NFL’s biggest mess, with dirty laundry being aired for the rest of the sport to laugh at during the postseason. After a four-win debacle (including a week of debate on tanking in the NFL), the Eagles seemingly have no clue what’s happening with head coach Doug Pederson’s future, despite a full week having gone by since the end of the season.

And it’s time to recognize the biggest issue with a franchise that went from a parade to embarrassment in just three seasons: Jeff Lurie.

Lurie has built up equity in Philadelphia, and rightfully so. He’s been a good owner. The Eagles have succeeded under his watch. He’s hit two home runs (Andy Reid, Pederson) with coaching hires. His teams have won a lot of games.

But let’s not let past success overshadow what’s happening now: Lurie’s meddling tendencies are hurting the franchise, and a dysfunctional front office (accompanied by almost bi-weekly media leaks) is the result. This owner has too much power in football decisions (likely causing an erosion of trust with Pederson), enables general manager Howie Roseman (regardless of poor job performance), and now oversees a mess.  [radio.com]

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Misplaced blame... 

James Dator | SBNation

Over at SBNation, NFL writer James Dator is placing the blame squarely on Lurie's right-hand man. And while I don't think he's solely responsible for this 4-win season, it's hard to understand how Howie Roseman can continue to operate with impunity while those around him seem to carry all the blame.

The unceremonious dropping of Pederson has a shocking amount in common with that of Andy Reid, who created over a decade of varying degrees of success, but was critiqued as being unable to “win the big one,” which of course he did last year, leading the Chiefs to the Super Bowl.

The issue isn’t so much that Pederson got fired, it’s that it’s another case of misplaced blame. The churn of coaches continues in Philadelphia, while the man viewed as being a huge part of the problem, general manager Howie Roseman, remains teflon. It’s one of the most shocking cases of avoiding change in the NFL, and the outcome is always the same when it happens: The team regrets is. It’s easy to write off critique of Roseman by saying it isn’t his fault, and that correlation doesn’t equate to causation, but the numbers showing his failings are stark.

Andy Reid’s record without Roseman as GM: 202-104 (0.660)
Doug Pederson’s record without Roseman as GM: 67-24 (0.736)
Howie Roseman’s record as GM: 55-56-1 (0.491)

The more Roseman has to do with the roster, the worse the Eagles become. In fact, 19 of his career wins came in his first year in the role, where he had less of an impact on the roster. As time goes on and he’s more involved, the team gets worse. That is set in stone.  [sbnation.com]

... and a missed opportunity

Sheil Kapadia and Zach Berman | The Athletic

Apologies to Bo Wulf, but I snipped your part of this answer for space reasons.

What does this mean for Roseman?

Kapadia: He survives — again. This would have been such a natural point for Lurie to start fresh and blow it up. The roster is old and expensive. The Eagles don’t have a clear answer at quarterback. They’re in bad cap shape. And they have the No. 6 pick in the draft. Why not use this as an opportunity to hire a new head coach and general manager who are tied together?

Instead, Roseman will be by Lurie’s side as he looks for a new head coach. The new coach will have to operate in an environment where Roseman has the owner’s ear, and there’s always going to be the possibility of internal conflict, politics, power struggles, etc. [...]

Berman: Roseman isn’t going anywhere, and the evaluation of him was always going to be independent of the evaluation of Pederson. The public opinion of Roseman is unfavorable at the moment, and that’s merited. He should be judged on his record in bad times as he is in good times. But as I’ve written, the way Lurie views Roseman’s role and evaluates Roseman is different from how Roseman is evaluated by the general public. Lurie is more focused on the wide scope of Roseman’s job and not simply the ledger of player in versus player out, Prospect X versus Prospect Y. This doesn’t excuse Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson, bringing back DeSean Jackson, re-signing Alshon Jeffery or the poor roster management at cornerback. Those decisions didn’t just have bad outcomes, but also flawed processes.

[...] It’s critical for the health of the franchise that they hit on the No. 6 pick (or wherever they end up drafting in the first round). The Super Bowl victory didn’t give Pederson a lifetime appointment. It shouldn’t give Roseman one, either.  [theathletic.com]


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


Started from the bottom?

Albert Breer | MMQB

Unlike some of the people above, who believe the real issues came from above, Albert Breer notes that the sheer number of assistants Pederson lost in recent years played a big role in the Eagles' regression and, ultimately, his dismissal. 

The outcome of the Eagles’ situation really highlights how coaching is more than a one-man show, and how a head coach’s job is so much more than just that of a play-caller. Doug Pederson won a Super Bowl three years ago. He made the playoffs the two years to follow, and last year with a legit skeleton crew. And now he’s out. Why? It’s not that complicated. In 2017, Pederson had a loaded staff. Then, OC Frank Reich left for Indy, QBs coach John DeFilippo left for Minnesota, DC Jim Schwartz didn’t get the second shot at being a head coach many thought he would, and the dynamics changed. Pederson’s turned over the offensive staff twice. Schwartz stepped away, as it looked like his time way coming to an end. And it was clear that owner Jeffrey Lurie, among others, thought that the staffing issue that cropped up after the Super Bowl title needed to be fixed once and for all. Sometimes, when there are disagreements on how to go about overhauling staff, bigger change comes naturally. This is one of those times. The first sign of this, for me, came a couple weeks ago, when I heard Pederson’s name pop up in connection to the Houston job, a sign that some contingencies may have been explored. So I don’t think this came out of nowhere for anyone, nor was it entirely unpredictable.  [si.com]

Wentz didn't undermine Doug

Rob Maaddi | The Associated Press

One of the people who took some early heat for Doug's firing was Carson Wentz, as there was a report that their relationship had become fractured beyond repair. Rob Maaddi of the AP, who previously reported that wasn't necessarily true, came out with a new report on Monday that stated that Wentz had no input in the decision to fire Pederson. That, however, doesn't mean he wasn't a factor in Lurie's decision. 

Wentz’s $128 million, four-year contract kicks in this year and he knows the Eagles control whether to keep him or trade him. Wentz has been taking time away to reflect on his situation before meeting with the team to discuss his future, a person close to the situation told the AP last week. Wentz was frustrated with his season and unhappy that he got benched, but he had no input into Pederson’s firing, two people said.

“Carson and Doug got along way better than people think,” a teammate told the AP on Monday. “That stuff got exaggerated.”

The player spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss private conversations.

Wentz hasn’t spoken to reporters since Dec. 6. He didn’t immediately return a phone call from the AP on Monday.  [apnews.com]

Could Wentz still be gone?

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

While many believed that either Wentz or Doug would be elsewhere in 2021 — and we already know that Doug will be — Reuben Frank brought up a good point in a recent column breaking down what Lurie had to say about his 28-year-old quarterback. What if it was never one or the other? What if it's both?

Lurie did talk up Wentz a little bit, said he’s a “great guy” and is “tireless” and “has his heart in the right place.” But he also said “We have an asset and we have a talent.”

“Asset” is the word that NFL front offices use to describe trade pieces, and if you’re fully committed to Carson Wentz as your starting quarterback moving forward, there is no way you’re calling him “an asset.”

So right there is a pretty strong sign that trading Wentz is at the very least on Lurie’s mind. But it goes beyond that. If you listen to Lurie’s rationale for firing Pederson it boils down to this: 

“Doug’s … vision has to be: ‘What can I do to fix this right away,’ (and) my vision is much more: ‘How can we get back to the success we've had and what we're used to in the next two, three, four, five years?’”

So essentially, Pederson wants to win now and Lurie is more interested in building for the long haul.

Guess where a 28-year-old quarterback fits into those two divergent visions.  [nbcsports.com]

And while there was an ESPN report on Monday that suggested the dismissal of Pederson meant Wentz was more likely to stay in Philly, Maaddi threw some water on that on Tuesday.


MORE: With Pederson gone, Lurie leaves door wide open for Wentz to be back with Eagles


A tough act to follow

Kaelen Jones | The Ringer

As we wrote on Monday, the Eagles job might not be as desirable as some think, and there are several reasons for that. One that we didn't consider: the next guy will be coaching in the shadow of a statue built to honor his predecessor. Good luck with that — especially if Eagles fans think every coach should be capable of winning a Super Bowl in his second season. 

Whoever is chosen to replace Pederson will step into a cloudy situation, at best. Hurts flashed potential, but didn’t demonstrate enough to solidify his role as Philadelphia’s starter next season. That’s more than what can be said for Wentz, who struggled all season and finished 2020 as one of the NFL’s least efficient quarterbacks. Before Pederson’s departure, Wentz posed the biggest question mark of the Eagles’ future. The 28-year-old is owed almost $50 million in guaranteed salary over the next two seasons, but would cost nearly $60 million in dead cap if Philadelphia decided to cut him this offseason. Per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Pederson’s firing “significantly increases” the likelihood Wentz stays in Philadelphia. His cap figure is only part of an unfavorable cap situation for the Eagles, whose expected 2021 salary cap space is well over the projected cap figure.

Beyond the cap, there’s a matter of following Lurie’s vision for the Eagles, both on the field and in assembling a coaching staff. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Pederson was “forced” to fire former offensive coordinator Mike Groh in 2019. Additionally, Pederson “wasn’t keen on” making significant changes to his coaching staff, and lobbied to make in-house promotions... [Jeff] McLane added that Lurie was underwhelmed with Pederson’s suggestions.

Now, the Eagles are starting over. Just three years ago, the NFL world was awed at the mention of “Philly Special” and lauded Philadelphia’s Super Bowl triumph, which was commemorated by a statue featuring former QB Nick Foles and Pederson erected outside of Lincoln Financial Field.  [theringer.com]

The worst opening?

Eric Eager | Pro Football Focus

On Monday, PFF's Eric Eager ranked the six head coach vacancies around the NFL. Then a 7th opened in Philly, and Eager said it wouldn't be difficult to re-rank them, because he would simply just tack the Eagles opening on to the bottom of the list. 

THE EAGLES HAVE ONE OF THE LEAGUE’S WORST STARTING QUARTERBACK SITUATIONS

Carson Wentz was basically a replacement-level quarterback in 2020, leading the league in turnover-worthy plays despite not playing in any of the last four games. More than 18% of Wentz’s dropbacks were negatively graded, a percentage that was higher than even Mitchell Trubisky‘s in 2020.

In addition to his poor play, cutting Wentz would cost the Eagles more than $59 million in dead money and would not result in any cap savings until 2022. And even then, said savings would be minimal.

This brings me to the second point.

THE EAGLES HAVE THE SECOND-WORST CAP SITUATION IN FOOTBALL

The Eagles are an estimated $51 million over the projected cap for 2021, per our friends at OverTheCap. Only the New Orleans Saints have less space.

This is despite the fact that their roster in 2020 earned only 2.9 wins above replacement from top to bottom, fifth-worst in football. In addition to Wentz’s deal, there are a number of deals — like those given to Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, Jason Kelce, Malik Jackson, Darius Slay and Javon Hargrave — that range from not trivial to impossible when it comes to getting out of them.  [pff.com]

Where does Doug land?

Mike Kaye | NJ.com

This WTS wouldn't be complete without circling back to the now-former head coach of the Eagles and where he might wind up next. One of the first teams thrown out there were the Jets, were Pederson has a good relationship with current GM Joe Douglas, who was a part of the Super Bowl winning front office here in Philly. But it doesn't look like the New York media wants any part of him... 

So, where else could the 52-year-old coach land? 

Texans

Deshaun Watson is reportedly at odds with the Texans’ brass over their GM and HC searches. That said, Pederson should be appealing to the young QB, as the Super Bowl-winning head coach has had success with mobile quarterbacks like Alex Smith and Michael Vick in the past. Pederson’s use of RPOs with Nick Foles and Jalen Hurts, should also appeal to Watson’s desire for a better offensive system. Pederson can relate to Watson on a player level, given Pederson’s history as a backup QB and head coach in the NFL.

Jaguars

With Trevor Lawrence set to be gifted to the Jaguars with the No. 1 overall pick, Pederson could jump at the chance to develop the promising prospect. While Urban Meyer is among the rumored suitors for the job, Pederson might have a bit more shine to his name as a recent Super Bowl-winner who is still in the prime of his coaching career. Pederson helped develop Carson Wentz into an MVP candidate in 2017 and made the most of Foles’ skills on the way to a Lombardi Trophy. If Jags owner Shad Khan wants to make a splash, he could do a lot worse than Pederson.  [nj.com]

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