December 24, 2020
If Jeffrey Lurie wants change at the top of his organization, one path seems more obvious than the others.
You can scratch general manager Howie Roseman off any potential watch list due to his personal relationship with the owner while the $34 million dead-money hit the Eagles would take for moving on from Carson Wentz coming on the heels of a season in which the organization lost $200M-or-so in revenue due to the pandemic certainly seems like a non-starter.
That leaves Doug Pederson even though the Super Bowl-winning coach should be the least likely fall guy if merit alone was Lurie's measuring stick.
Pederson, however, could simply lose this thing by default in the eyes of an owner who seems to regard change for change's sake as a synonym for evolution after what he regards as "disappointing seasons," at least since Super Bowl LII.
Some have even speculated that Pederson sees that landscape as well and wouldn't mind moving on from the micromanagement of his bosses because the conventional wisdom is that the veteran mentor would be unemployed for about 15 seconds while any new destination would come with the silver lining of more autonomy as well.
The coach denied that possibility was in play earlier this week.
“That is the furthest from the truth,” Pederson, who has two years left on his contract after the 2020 season, told The Associated Press "... I don’t want out of Philly, It is a great place to work."
Call me cynical but at 4-9-1 with two regular-season games left the Eagles still have a small chance to snare a fourth consecutive postseason berth, needing to win out at Dallas and vs. the Washington Football Team in Week 17, while also garnering some help in the form of the WFT losing to Carolina this Sunday and the New York Giants also losing at least one of their final two games which are at Baltimore and vs. Dallas.
FiveThirtyEight.com gives all of that a 9% chance of happening for what it's worth, but Pederson is certainly not going to make any waves until all windows and doors are shut on the playoffs.
"If I had it any other way, I’d rather be playing our best at the beginning and you sustain that throughout the year," Pederson acknowledged before addressing past late-season runs Wednesday. "... I think our guys respond well to adversity. We've been faced with that the last couple of seasons.
“They don't dwell so much on kind of where we are, sort of that 'Woah, is me' mentality. They push forward and come closer together and find a way to figure it out down the stretch. I've been very pleased obviously with the last couple of seasons, the way we finished, and it looks like we're going to have to do that again."
Everything changes once that hope is lost and people start looking forward to 2021. That’s when Lurie-season will begin because plans can’t be formulated until the boss makes it clear who and what is being planned for.
Most of the talking points are focused on the three potential paths involving Lurie’s most high-profile employees, perhaps at the expense of a potential out-of-the-box curveball.
There are avenues for that as well.
Maybe Lurie ordering his BFF Roseman to give John Dorsey an expanded role in personnel is on the table or perhaps another shake-up on Pederson's coaching staff with special teams coordinator Dave Fipp taking the lead in the Mike Groh-scapegoat race after a disastrous performance by his units in the 33-26 loss to Arizona in Week 15.
Lurie could in theory even obliterate the league's dead-money record, chalk it up as just another COVID-19 financial impact, and reboot the whole team early with Pederson tutoring Jalen Hurts although if FiveThirtyEight got into that projection game you can safely assume it would be less than 9%.
Even trading Hurts can't even be dismissed if the Eagles can turn late-season fool's gold into a first-round pick.
The weakest projection of all though is status quo, not because Lurie couldn't sell it to his fan base. They would begrudgingly accept anything and be back every single week if allowed, even another round of the square peg in the round hole of Pederson's offense and Wentz's stubbornness.
What we can surmise with some clarity is that Lurie will offer some kind of change because that's easy and it's really all he's got in his arsenal judging by the haphazard nature he’s stewarded the organization over the past two calendar years.
Maybe the biggest hint we have from the outdated playbook comes from Chip Kelly's final season in 2015 with the tortured explanation of giving the ex-coach all the rope he needed in order for Lurie to make a fair assessment on what he had in Kelly was peddled.
In this instance, Wentz's contract is the Kelly-like albatross and the rope would be a new head coach to ensure Pederson wasn't the issue with the QB and not vice versa. The dead money serving as the tiebreaker when it comes to the benefit of the doubt between the QB and the coach.
A real plan with a chance of sustained success, conversely, is a tad trickier. It involves continuity with this coaching staff and tougher decisions elsewhere.
The emotional intelligence of the gold standard of quarterback factories has given you its new normal — gestures and lip service over substance.
John McMullen is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media, the host of “Extending the Play” on AM1490 in South Jersey and also contributes Eagles and NFL coverage for SI.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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