The decision to move on from Doug Pederson as head coach ultimately came down to “differences in visions,” according to Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie. He didn’t want to go into specifics, other than to offer it had to do with retaining certain coaches and staff.
Lurie did admit he was looking at the bigger picture and establishing a plan that could set the franchise up for success two to three years down the road. He called it a “transition period” and felt it was unfair to put Pederson in that position (or maybe Pederson decided to opt out). The Super Bowl-winning coach thrives more in a win-now mode.
“What I was trying to get across, it’s much more about where we are as a franchise heading into a retooling and a real transition period versus trying to support a coach,” Lurie told reporters on Monday. “Trying to attract potentially other coaches, a defensive coordinator, or retain people on the staff in that role, knowing that you might not have the success that you want in that transition right away and therefore, you don’t want to put Doug in that position.”
The Eagles felt they were only a few plays away from getting back to the Super Bowl in 2018 and 2019. In fact, Lurie cited Alshon Jeffery’s dropped pass in the 2018 wild-card round as evidence. For those reasons, they tried to “keep the band together” by plugging holes through free agency and trading away draft picks. Those short-term decisions just haven’t worked out and now it’s time to start retooling.
“I think we gained from the short-term decision-making,” Lurie said, “but there was no stage where we weren’t aware that a lot of those decisions and resource allocations and the lack of volume of draft picks wasn’t eventually going to create a real trough, a real transition period, and I think that’s what we’re in. We’re in a real transition period, and it’s not unlike 2016.”
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Lurie Pins Tanking Decision Solely on Pederson
There had been murmurs that the decision to pull Jalen Hurts for Nate Sudfeld in the season finale came from upstairs. The front office wanted the No. 6 pick and instructed Pederson to tank. If that was the case, Lurie wasn’t taking the bait.
“No, nothing to do with it whatsoever,” Lurie said about having input. “I heard that Doug wanted to give Nate some time.”
Fine and plausible. Then, Lurie launched into a bizarre soliloquy where he showered effusive flattery on Sudfeld. He credited the third-stringer for setting a new NFL record for completion percentage (82.6%) against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 16 of the 2017 season. Which he did. Sudfeld went 19-of-23 for 134 yards.
“He was awesome. What is it, 19-out-of-22, you know, unstoppable,” Lurie said. “He was our backup in the Super Bowl because we had so much confidence in Nate. We talked about [how] we are going to advance far here, we hope, and who is going to be there if Nick [Foles] gets injured, and we had a lot of confidence in Nate.”
Don’t laugh. The billionaire owner is a frequent observer at practice so he honestly might have more insight than most about Sudfeld’s potential. However, it was a bit odd to hear him gush about an outgoing free agent quarterback who attempted 37 passes in four years. The plan going into the year — before the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out preseason games — was to establish the 27-year-old as the Eagles’ long-term backup quarterback.
“I’m at practice a lot. Our coaches know much more than I do. Throws the best long ball on the roster,” Lurie said. “I think Doug just wanted to give Nate a chance. He deserved it. He’s been part of our Super Bowl-winning team. He contributed to the scout team. He contributed so much. I think it was just with good intentions.”
What About Carson Wentz’s Future?
Lurie was equally liberal dousing Carson Wentz with praise, but he stopped short of guaranteeing the one-time franchise quarterback would be on the roster in 2021. He’s leaving the personnel decisions up to the football people, an unwritten rule that most owners (except Jerry Jones) follow.
“First of all, I don’t think any owner should decide that,” Lurie said.
Still, it was hard not to get the feeling that Lurie wants Wentz back. He’s been open in previous years about his affection for the kid from North Dakota State and those emotions were on full display in the way he talked about him. He even lumped Wentz in with Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger as guys who saw regressions in terms of touchdown-to-interception ratio.
“Carson, to us, to me, and to I think virtually everybody in our organization, is a quarterback that his first four years was in many ways elite and comparable to some of the great quarterbacks’ first four years in the league,” Lurie said. “He’s a great guy and he wants nothing but to win big and win Lombardi Trophies for Philadelphia.”
So don’t be surprised to see No. 11 at least in training camp to battle for the starting job. It would be more shocking not to see him back.
Roseman Gets Huge Vote of Confidence, No Blame
It’s very hard to look at the Eagles’ roster and not blame the general manager. The franchise has drafted incredibly poorly under his watch, neglecting the linebacker position for years while passing on several high-profile wide receivers. The fans want Howie Roseman gone.
“I have real confidence that our football operations, led by Howie, can not only repeat the performance of 2016 until now, and once again, create a dominant football team that can really maximize every aspect of its potential,” Lurie said. “I think that’s the transition period we’re in.”
The organization, specifically Lurie, views Roseman in a different light. He sees those short-term decisions as necessary evils that were going to come back to haunt them anyway. If they wanted to make smarter picks or hold onto early-round picks, they could have easily done that.
“We haven’t had that balance,” Lurie said. “We have much more erred towards giving up a draft pick for an immediate infusion at a position or drafting for a specific position because we thought it was our biggest weakness, or a trait that we thought was our biggest weakness. I don’t regret any of that, but I know where we’re at.”
When he was directly challenged on Roseman’s dismal track record, Lurie brought up the Super Bowl and multiple NFC East championships as better barometers. You can’t do win all those games without a talented roster, right? Never mind the fact the Eagles have only drafted one Pro Bowl player (Wentz) since 2013.
“We’ve over the last 10, 15 years, had a lot of success, a lot of success winning divisions, being in NFC Championship Games,” Lurie said. “I think one-fourth of the time I’ve been owner in the last 20 years, we’ve appeared in an NFC Championship game. That’s hard to do without really good talent.”
The franchise has also never won a Super Bowl without a really talented head coach. Good luck finding the next one.
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