The Eagles’ season effectively came to an end with Sunday’s 37-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, as they became the first team eliminated in what will go down as of the worst divisions in NFL history.
That’s right: with a loss on Sunday night, the Birds will finish dead last in an NFC East that many believed they would win.
That’s how disappointing 2020 has been, and owner Jeffrey Lurie has had to sit back and watch it all unfold. There are a myriad of reasons this season went completely off the rails for the Eagles — we’ve already gone over them several times in this space and will likely to continue doing so once their finale against Washington is over — but no matter how you slice it, this year was a massive letdown for a team coming off three straight postseason appearances and just a few years removed from a Super Bowl title.
The real question on the minds of many fans is what happens once the dust settles on this lost season. Are there big changes coming? Will they really consider running it back with the same core? What happens at quarterback? These are just a few of the big issues facing a team that might best be served by a full top-to-bottom rebuild.
There are franchise-altering decisions that need to be made this offseason, and there aren’t really any easy answers. Let’s take a look at some of what Lurie will have to reckon with this winter in our latest edition of What They’re Saying…
Pederson confident in a return
Jeff McLane | Inquirer.com
Immediately after the game on Sunday, you could tell that Doug Pederson sounded like a guy who knows he’s coming back next season. That continued the following morning on his weekly WIP radio hit, and again at his day-after press conference. The first question of that presser — after finding out who will be the starting quarterback in Week 17, of course — was regarding the head coach’s job security, and whether or not that confidence came from a conversation he’s had with Lurie.
“My confidence lies in myself, that I know exactly how to get things fixed,” Pederson said. “We’ve won a lot of games around here. Been in the post-season three out of the five years I’ve been here and a championship and all that. I’ve seen it, I’ve done it.
“That’s where my confidence lies.”
But what if that isn’t the real source of his confidence? What if it isn’t confidence at all? What if Doug just DGAF anymore? After all, there were reports earlier in this miserable season that Pederson didn’t even want to be back next season, perhaps in large part due to all the input this offseason from those above him. Now, with 2020’s disaster in the rearview, the Eagles are in a terrible position, saddled with an aging roster, questions at quarterback, big holes to fill up and down the roster and very little cap flexibility.
Here’s more from Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer…
Pederson, who has two more years left on his contract, said that he hasn’t spoken to Lurie about his future. When they have had conversations, it’s been strictly about the present.
So why is Pederson, who has seen his team take a step back in each of the last three seasons since winning a Super Bowl, so confident? His record, however diminishing, does warrant another opportunity. He did help bring the Eagles owner his only Lombardi Trophy.
Or maybe Pederson knows more than he’s letting on, in that he would welcome being fired, certainly if he has another job lined up. The most obvious guess would be a reunion with former Eagles executive and current New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas.
For five years, Pederson has endured a front office that has weighed in heavily on football decisions, and in some cases has undermined him. Last offseason, Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman essentially forced Pederson to fire offensive coordinator Mike Groh and hire new offensive coaches.
He was not pleased.
Pederson also knows where all the bodies are buried, so to speak, in terms of personnel. The Eagles’ roster has been an abomination, and a mismanaged salary cap offers little opportunity to go outside for improvement next offseason. [inquirer.com]
Taking it personnel-y
Jeff Kerr | CBS Sports
At that Monday presser, it certainly didn’t sound like Pederson had one foot out the door. Instead, he sounded more like a man pleading his case to ownership as to why he should be brought back next season. He also talked about taking a larger role on the personnel side, something that’s largely been in the hands of Howie Roseman.
“I want to be a part of the solution,” Pederson said when asked about an increased voice in personnel decisions. “I want to be a part of the evaluation process. I want to be a voice that’s heard, and I want to have that collaborative communication with Howie [Roseman] and his staff and be a part of that process.
“I don’t necessarily want to cross that line because it takes you away from doing your job as the head football coach. I like being on the football side of things as a former football player and obviously now a coach. That’s where my passion lies.
“But yet, I want to be part of the solution. I want to help evaluate and help bring guys in here that can help us win.”
Given Roseman’s missteps in the past, perhaps it’s not a bad idea to let the coach have more sway. Here’s more from CBS Sports’ Jeff Kerr…
Pederson has never been in a position of power when it comes to roster decisions on the Eagles. That belongs to general manager Howie Roseman, the man responsible for taking Donnel Pumphrey in the fourth-round of a historic 2017 running back class and who selected J.J. Arcega-Whiteside in the second round over D.K. Metcalf and Terry McLaurin in a talented 2019 wide receiver draft class. While it’s too early to determine what Jalen Reagor’s career will look like, Roseman selecting him one spot above Justin Jefferson looks at the moment to be a major mistake.
Perhaps Pederson feels he can do better if he had more control over personnel decisions. Not working well with Roseman usually results in an exodus — see Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht or ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick. Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and general manager Brett Veach could also be included here, since Reid was fired by the Eagles in 2012 after 14 successful seasons and took Veach — a scout for the Eagles — to Kansas City.
Will Pederson get that opportunity? That’s what Eagles owner/CEO Jeffrey Lurie will have to decide in the coming weeks. With a quarterback who has regressed and takes up a huge amount of cap space, it’s hard for the Eagles roster to improve in 2021. Pederson thinks he’s the guy to collaborate with Roseman in getting this team fixed — if his voice is more powerful in the front office. [cbssports.com]
Either way, what’s abundantly clear is that the Eagles GM needs another strong voice in the room. Do you think it’s a coincidence that the Eagles won the Super Bowl while Joe Douglas was here and have regressed since he’s left?
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Doug vs. Howie
Bo Wulf | The Athletic
Many believe that either Roseman or Pederson must go following this season, but that’s not necessarily the case: it could be both of them…or it could be neither.
Sure, they’re both responsible for the dumpster fire that was 2020, but it will be up to Lurie to decide who will bear the brunt of that responsibility. Last offseason, it appeared that Lurie, through the forced-addition of offensive assistants that McLane mentioned earlier, put the blame on Pederson. This time around, maybe he sees it differently. Above, Kerr listed some of Roseman’s individual draft misses, but Bo Wulf of The Athletic says there’s a case that the big-picture roster building has been even worse.
Will they both be back in 2021? We’ll see…
On the whole, Pederson’s track record as a head coach is impressive. He and Mike Tomlin are the only coaches hired this century to deliver a Super Bowl championship and three playoff appearances within four seasons. His players, time and again, profess their loyalty. …
But Pederson’s job is about more than motivation. He’s also the steward of one of the league’s worst and most uncreative offenses. And the players’ loyalty to a players’ coach spun this season into an undisciplined team that beat itself more often than it beat anyone else. That was punctuated by an astounding six false starts during Sunday’s elimination. Last offseason, Lurie’s actions – jettisoning then-offensive coordinator Mike Groh, pushing for a reworked offensive staff at the exclusion of veteran player upgrades – indicated he felt Pederson bore the brunt of the blame for a disappointing 2019 season.
On the whole, Roseman’s tenure as general manager since his return to power includes the hits of a Super offseason and the lows of inadequate player acquisitions since. It’s easy to point to the Justin Jeffersons that Roseman failed to acquire and the Alshon Jefferys he extended. There’s a case that the big-picture roster decisions — cultivating an aging core, ignoring draft-pick volume, prioritizing defense last offseason — are more damning than the individual misses. There’s also an argument many of those decisions were natural reactions to the success of the 2017 season. We know Lurie has scoffed whenever he’s been asked about Roseman’s job security in the past. What we don’t know is how many of those decisions were driven by input from others, including Lurie himself. [theathletic.com]
Can Pederson save Wentz?
Mike Kaye | NJ.com
According to Mike Kaye of NJ.com, the real choice for Lurie won’t just be between Roseman and Pederson: it will also be between Wentz and Pederson … if, that is, the Eagles owner doesn’t think the coach can mend his broken quarterback.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie needs to determine whether or not Pederson can fix Wentz, who despite playing in just 13 games, still leads the league with 15 interceptions and 50 sacks taken. Wentz played like the worst starting QB in the league before Pederson put him out of his misery and benched him for Hurts in Week 14. …
If Lurie doesn’t think Pederson can fix Wentz, then he needs to decide who he’d prefer: the Super Bowl-winning head coach whose offense is as predictable as the prize at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box or the slumping, ball-and-chain salaried QB who looks like one of the deer he hunts in North Dakota when faced with pressure in the pocket.
It’s a massive, franchise-altering decision, but it’s the mess that Lurie and GM Howie Roseman made when they decided to select Hurts on Day 2 of the draft. The Eagles have two QBs, which typically means they have none. That’s a problem for the “QB Factory” and its supposed guru, Pederson.
Hurts wasn’t able to run away with the offense down the stretch, and that might ultimately cost Pederson his job. The Eagles benched and embarrassed Wentz due to his poor play, but Pederson could pay the price. It’s hard to come back from that sort of decision, so a divorce between the two stewards of the offense seems apparent. [nj.com]
That escalated quickly
Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia
If the Eagles were to fire Pederson, it would come just three years after he helped deliver the city’s first Lombardi Trophy. That seems fast, but the team has clearly regressed in each of the last few years, culminating with one of the worst seasons in recent memory in 2020.
But as fast as that precipitous decline has been, it wouldn’t be the fastest a team has decided to move on from a Super Bowl winning coach, although they typically get much longer leashes.
To get a sense of how much equity winning a Super Bowl brings a head coach, we took a look at every head coach that’s ever won a Super Bowl and the circumstances that eventually led to them leaving the job.
There have been 54 Super Bowls won by 33 different coaches. Sixteen either retired on their own or resigned voluntarily. Seven are still coaching the team they won the Super Bowl with.
That leaves only 10 Super Bowl-winning coaches who were eventually fired by the team they won the Super Bowl with.
Only two of them were fired within six years of winning the Lombardi Trophy. And one of the two wasn’t technically fired.
Pederson is three years removed from winning the Lombardi.
So if he is fired, he’d be the third-fastest Super Bowl winner to be fired. [nbcsports.com]
To see who the two coaches are, you’ll have to click over to Roob’s story.
What about Wentz?
Jeremy Fowler | ESPN+
Over at ESPN, Jeremy Fowler spoke to a bunch of NFL executives to get some predictions for what will happen in 2021. Unsurprisingly, Wentz’s future was a big topic — and naturally, Frank Reich’s name came up. Essentially, the execs Fowler talked to believe that either Matthew Stafford or Wentz will be traded to Indy this offseason.
Wentz’s future is cloudier. As we broke down earlier this month, the dead money attached to Wentz’s contract hurts the Eagles, whether they trade or keep him. But some executives believe Philadelphia will at least try, given the experiment with rookie second-round pick Jalen Hurts has gone relatively well.
Colts coach Frank Reich’s presence looms large here. Wentz threw 49 touchdown passes and 21 picks with Reich as his offensive coordinator in Philly from 2016 to ’17, and word is the two connected on a personal level.
“Maybe [Wentz] would rework his deal in order to facilitate a deal,” an NFC exec said. “At this point, he might simply want out.”
Another AFC exec believes the Eagles would be making a mistake not trying to convince Wentz they can salvage the relationship.
“I’m not convinced of the [Hurts] situation just yet,” the AFC exec said. “Bailing on a franchise quarterback after one bad year is a bad look. Even really good quarterbacks have down times.” [espn.com]
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