One had better hope that the Eagles have a coach in the pipeline after allowing Doug Pederson to walk away on Monday, a full week after the season’s end and just three full seasons removed from Pederson’s winning the franchise its first and only Lombardi Trophy.
There are plenty of other Andy Reid disciples littered around for owner Jeffrey Lurie to pluck (insiders from NFL Network and beyond are already touting Reid’s quarterbacks coach and passing-game coordinator Mike Kafka for the job), hoping to somehow make amends for letting go of the man himself. And maybe that’s where this whole ship is eventually headed. This is a cold-blooded business after all, but one with its hilarious quirks.
If Philadelphia plans on pivoting to a wide-open search, it may be disappointed in the overall enthusiasm of the available talent pool. There are now seven head coaching vacancies and, under more harmonious circumstances, the Eagles would still not rank among the top destinations for a promising young head coach, given the crumbling status of their rapidly aging and expensive roster.
Add in the fact that the new person in charge will have to deal with a disillusioned locker room still reeling from a blatant end-of-season tank job, a simmering quarterback controversy, an untradable and unhappy face of the franchise, a front office reportedly fond of bullying its play-callers around and the fact that not even a Super Bowl title buys you one singular season of missing the playoffs, and this might have “stopgap solution” written all over it. Only the meltdown in Houston seems like a less inviting offer.
You’ve seen these kinds of hires before around the NFL. When teams can’t get their guy, they acquire a guy who will, essentially, fill the role’s bare minimum of wandering the sidelines in league-approved khaki pants and answering questions about various successes and failures while the people who actually control the team are busy knocking the roster and salary cap down into something appealing for a talented coaching prospect. At $4 million plus per year, it’s really not as bad of a gig as it sounds.
This is not to say that Pederson was perfect. Outside of the “Fearless” mythos of that 2017 run to the Super Bowl, when the Eagles were on the cutting edge of an offensive evolution that defenses were not well-equipped to slow down, Philadelphia’s offense was entirely pedestrian (or worse!). The Eagles’ expected points added per play rankings outside of the Super Bowl season were 19th, 13th, 16th and 29th, in chronological order. It’s hard not to view the loss of collaborative partners like Frank Reich and John DeFillipo as part of the reason the operation ultimately soured.
That said, the optics of letting him go without first giving him a real chance to alter the team’s offensive philosophy and see what the locker room is like once he manages to jettison the loud, unhappy quarterback leaking his displeasure through the national media, will be troubling for a prospective head coach to digest.
The reality of the coaching cycle now is similar to the reality in politics. It is no longer about years of dedicated service and more about how many television cameras you can affix your mug in front of to assure everyone that you and only you can fix the problem. As an example, take a good look at where the star-studded search in Jacksonville is headed now that the Jaguars finally have a quarterback wunderkind on deck and some cap space.
So actual good coaches and coordinators coming up through the ranks are more cautious than ever about leaving an amenable situation for what seems like utter chaos from the outside looking in, because it very well may be their only shot. Openings have to be as close to perfect as humanly possible. The roster has to be good. The salary cap has to be flexible. It boils down to coaches feeling like they aren’t wandering into an active buzz saw.
How much of that can we say about the Eagles right now?