PHILADELPHIA - Doug Pederson liked and trusted Mike Groh and wanted him back as the Eagles offensive coordinator for the 2020 season.
It didn’t seem possible after the terrible loss to then-moribund Miami, the 2019 version of Cleveland in which Jeffrey Lurie’s “embarrassment” resulted in an emotional spur of the moment decision.
The offense needed a tuneup, new ideas from outside the organization to supplement Pederson.
Forget that the Eagles scored 31 points that December afternoon and had a 28-14 advantage before leaking oil on the other side, Lurie is always rightfully concerned above all else with offense in the modern NFL and the owner didn’t like the trends he was seeing.
From there, the Eagles ran the table against inferior foes in the NFC East to again reach the postseason before Carson Wentz’s concussion derailed things against Seattle on Wild Card Weekend.
In Pederson’s mind, the finish was more than enough to highlight that Groh was the right man for the job (and homophone intended) was starting to grow into the position.
It was never going to be an easy road for Groh, who replaced Frank Reich, the well-regarded former OC who went on to Indianapolis and has become a top-tier head coach.
Pederson and Reich were an arranged marriage at first but had so much in common that they grew into great friends and did amazing things by the 2017 season through Super Bowl LII.
Now that the Eagles have fallen from that lofty perch the presumption from many as that Reich was the real architect of the SB offense, a faulty thesis by the way,
The revisionist historians tend to gloss over the 2016 season when the Eagles were seriously considering elevating then-quarterbacks coach John DiFilippo to OC and making Reich a one-and-done coordinator in town after a 7-9 finish.
Evolution, however, is important when it comes to NFL coaching.
Pederson was very comfortable with Reich and was feeling better and better with Groh, ironically now the WR coach in Indy under Reich, but his desires as a Super Bowl-winning coach were ignored, not only with Groh last year but also receivers coach Carson Walch, admittedly a tougher sell.
In the end, Pederson was “strongly encouraged” to move on from Groh and had to walk-back an announcement that both embattled assistants would be back.
The Eagles then went back into their questionable hiring practices, one in which general manager Howie Roseman identifies candidates for Pederson before the coach, in theory, makes the pick within the candidate pool.
The top names targeted were Baltimore QB coach James Urban and Southern Cal offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, for whatever reason Lurie's’ preference, according to sources.
Neither jumped at the opportunity, at least partially because this is Pederson’s offense and he’s the play-caller.
The Eagles were left settling for Rich Scangarello, who was coming off a tough year as OC in Denver with a rookie head coach and a terrible QB situation.
A Kyle Shanahan disciple, Scangarello was supposed to marry the league’s best play-action-looks with the passing game, a far cry from the snake-oil Lurie was trying to buy with Harrell’s Air-Raid background.
Both sides didn’t even want to jump into the pool together instead dipping their toes in, something by Scangarello’s one-year contract and insistence on eschewing the OC title.
Instead, a more-convoluted setup was unveiled with Press Taylor taking on additional responsibilities as the passing game coordinator and someone Pederson does trust implicitly, veteran coach Marty Mornhinweg, brought on as a senior consultant.
There were simply too many chefs in the kitchen, something Pederson alluded to earlier this month.
“Really everybody has great ideas,” Pederson insisted when discussing his mega-sized offensive coaching staff. “That's part of putting plans together. But at the end of the day, I want to make sure there's one voice, and that's my voice, that's heard offensively and nobody else's.”
Proof positive that this remains Pederson’s offense no matter the No. 2.
“That's the part that I've got to get across to the staff, and I have done that,” he said. “I want to make sure that there's one voice talking to the quarterbacks, whoever is in this [QB] room. Press has been in that room, [pass game analyst] Andrew Breiner has been in that room.
“They're speaking the same language, we're all on the same page. I think that's very important at every position.”
Notably absent from the discussion were Scangarello and Mornhinweg, and their short-term contracts will be allowed to expire. In Marty's case, it always understood from both sides as a short-term thing.
Scangarello, however, had an opportunity and while Taylor handled the bulk of the play-calling in a last-ditch effort to get Carson Wentz going before he was benched, Scangarello was involved as well during the season when it came to two-minute and/or hurry-up offense.
Pederson certainly seemed to be foreshadowing Taylor as taking the next step, at least in his mind.
Perhaps Taylor gets the OC title and Breiner is elevated to the day-to-day grind of working with the QBs at the position.
And if that’s Pederson's choice, he should be allowed to make it.
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Tuesday and Thursday on "The Middle" with Eytan Shander, Harry Mayes, and Barrett Brooks on SportsMap Radio and PhillyVoice.com. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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