It’s hard to say this was surprising. But it was certainly disappointing. Last night, Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News reported that the Philadelphia Eagles were going to name Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson as their new head coach. On the same day former Eagles head coach Chip Kelly was hired by the San Francisco 49ers, the Eagles’ coaching search concluded.
Where do we start? Well it’s obvious owner Jeffrey Lurie was just so fed up with Kelly that he wasn’t going to allow him to coach the final game against the New York Giants and wanted him gone as soon as possible. Lurie’s reason for firing Kelly before the last game of the season was to get a jumpstart on finding the next coach. There were seven head coaching job openings this year and the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and Miami Dolphins all hired coaches before the Eagles.
Not only is it clear Lurie didn’t really want to get a jumpstart on finding the next coach, but Lurie and Howie Roseman didn’t seem to have much of a plan following Kelly’s firing. They opted not to interview hot names like Hue Jackson, Sean McDermott and Josh McDaniels. Right before the Browns announced Jackson as their next head coach, the Eagles reportedly called him in a last-ditch effort to speak about their opening but it was too late. While it’s easy to argue the best players on the Eagles roster are on defense, not one defensive-minded candidate was interviewed. Adam Gase and Ben McAdoo decided to take other jobs and Tom Coughlin withdrew his name from the search. Just like that, a poorly organized search came down to Pat Shurmur and Pederson, and Pederson was the pick.
| Orlin Wagner/Associated Press|
Kansas City's offenses certainly haven't lit
the world on fire in Pederson's three years
as offensive coordinator.
The Tennessee Titans are the only team with a vacancy remaining. Pederson’s name was not linked to any of the other five teams that have already hired coaches. When you look at his resume, there isn’t much of a reason to be confident in his ability as a head coach. Before joining the Eagles in 2009 as an offensive quality control coordinator, Pederson was a high school football coach. In 2011, Pederson was elevated to quarterbacks coach, a title he held for two seasons. In the first of those two seasons, Eagles’ quarterbacks threw the most interceptions in the NFL. In the second season, the team was 25th in the league in passing touchdowns. Then in 2013, Pederson followed Andy Reid to Kansas City as Reid’s offensive coordinator, where Reid did most of the play calling. It certainly doesn’t help Pederson that in his tenure in Kansas City, the Chiefs went 18 consecutive games without having a wide receiver catch a touchdown pass. While the Chiefs threw just seven interceptions in 2015, an NFL season low, there aren’t many reasons to think Pederson is ready to be an NFL head coach.
What made him so attractive to the Eagles is certainly a question I’m sure Lurie will address at the introductory press conference after Kansas City is eliminated from the playoffs. But after Kelly, it’s certainly easy to make a conjecture or two about why the Eagles settled on Pederson. Lurie stressed the importance of a coach being able to relate with players. Many current and former players have spoken highly of Pederson as a person once the news broke. There is also a history between Pederson and the Eagles. As previously mentioned, Pederson was a part of the coaching staff at the end of the Andy Reid era. He also started nine games at quarterback for the Eagles in 1999 before handing the reins to Donovan McNabb. So when you consider his history with the Eagles and relative inexperience when it comes to holding positions of power on NFL coaching staffs, Pederson is just what Lurie and Roseman were looking for. He is an NFL coaching neophyte that will not challenge their decisions.
With this being the end result of the coaching search, some have even gone as far as suggesting Kelly was fired too early. It was clear Kelly had gone downhill since winning the NFC East in his first season. Defenses seemed to catch up to his unconventional offensive philosophy. His personnel decisions blew up in his face. His dismissal was certainly warranted. But, Kelly was only part of the problem.
| Robert Deutsch/USA Today|
Lurie is not the kind of owner whose
decisions deserve to go unquestioned.
The first seven years of the Reid era were some of the most successful years the organization has ever had as the Eagles went to four straight NFC championship games and appeared in one super bowl. In bringing Pederson back to the organization and having Roseman running the personnel department, it looks like Lurie is trying to re-create an old era of Eagles football, rather than start a new one. Now in his 22nd year as owner of the Eagles, Lurie has repeatedly failed to surround himself with the appropriate football minds necessary to win a championship. Many people have been in and out of the Eagles’ front office, but Roseman remains Lurie’s confidant having been employed by the Eaglessince 2000.
Some have pointed to the fact that no one really knew what to expect from Reid when the former Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach was hired in 1999. Can Pederson be the next Reid? That’s what Lurie and Roseman are hoping for. But Reid had two very important constants as Eagles coach that we aren’t sure if Pederson will have or not. Reid had a very sound and reliable coaching staff with defensive coordinator Jim Johnson’s units always keeping the Eagles in games and current Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh in charge of special teams. Reid also had a franchise quarterback in Donovan McNabb. Will Pederson have the right coordinators that a head coach with his limited experience needs? What will the Eagles do at the quarterback position this offseason? These are two very important questions to which the answers may determine the future of the Eagles.
Some rumors swirled last night that Brad Childress might come from Kansas City to be Pederson’s offensive coordinator. Childress spent seven seasons on Reid’s staff in Philadelphia. As much as the Eagles may want to go back to the Andy Reid era, it’s going to be hard to find another Jim Johnson and potentially even harder to find the next franchise quarterback. Sam Bradford is slated to become a free agent, which gives the Eagles a huge decision to make at the most important position.
After the Eagles fired Kelly, I argued that Lurie shouldhave cleaned house entirely. Instead it looks like the organization is trying to rekindle the magic of the early 2000s. It’s a questionable plan at best and one that didn’t appear to be well thought out following the firing of Kelly.