With four games to go in 2016, the Eagles season has been over for a few weeks already. It’s time to go shopping for next year, so hop up on Big Red’s lap (no, not that Big Red) and let’s talk about what we want for next year.
But before we get to our holiday wish list, let’s clean up one very important thing: Doug Pederson is not going to be fired after the season. Probably.
I say probably because you never know in the NFL who might come available and, well, Howie Roseman and Jeffrey Lurie have done some unexpected things in the last few seasons. One of those, if we’re being honest, was hiring Doug Pederson as head coach. But here we are, and here we’ve been all season.
Pederson’s team is bad, and it has gotten worse this year, which has led some to lobby for the coach to get fired.
This is an easy narrative for writers to fall back on when a team struggles. Though there’s absolutely zero indication Pederson’s job is in jeopardy, on the record or by anonymous reports, suggesting a coach should get fired is pandering to frustrated fans and a fast way to get a ton of radio or TV requests.
Perpetuating the narrative is key. Keep hammering home that the coach should, maybe even could, get fired. When enough writers and sports talkers get in on the conversation, it doesn’t take much for someone — maybe even you — to ask the coach about this ‘speculation’ at his Monday press conference. Heck, two people may even ask him, just to hammer home the narrative.
Now it’s a story. An actual news item. No longer is the headline ‘Doug Pederson should be fired: MY COLUMN’ it’s ‘Doug Pederson responds to questions about his job security.’
Those questions about his job security were created by the media. But they’re as real as Santa Claus.
The Eagles may not win another game this year, so these questions are going to continue to be asked. And maybe that’s fair, but until Roseman or Lurie give some indication this could actually happen, in public or anonymous text message to a reporter, it’s all sports talk radio fodder. It’s like asking Santa for a flying pony. Don’t get too excited, because it’s (probably) not going to happen.
Though speaking of flying ponies, let’s look at some of the actual things the Eagles organization should wish for this holiday season.
A No. 1 Receiver
Duh. The Eagles receivers, by and large, stink. Outside of Jordan Matthews, there’s not a trustworthy NFL pass catcher in the bunch. Dorial Green-Beckham has been better lately, but he’s not exactly the Randy Moss prototype people tried to make him out to be when the Eagles dumped back-up lineman Dennis Kelly for him. Nelson Agholor, we’ve addressed. The Eagles need cheap dynamic help at the position and with a mid-first round draft pick coming their way thanks to Minnesota’s implosion, there are some options.
NFL Draft guru Matt Miller at Bleacher Report has three wide receivers listed in his top 32 players, including Mike Williams from Clemson, Corey Davis from Western Michigan and John Ross from Washington. He also has three tight ends in his first 32, a clear position of need for the Eagles at Brent Celek has become more of a mentor than a player and Zach Ertz is about as good as he’ll ever be.
Would the Birds blow a first rounder on another wide receiver, just two years after taking Agholor in the first round? They might have to. Besides, they blew next year’s first on trading for Wentz before they got it back in the Sam Bradford trade, so clearly they’re playing with house money on that (super important) pick.
A Shutdown Corner
Miller has five corners in his top 32 right now, so if a pass catcher isn’t in the cards for the first round pick, a pass defender has to be.
The injury to Ron Brooks has proven to be too much for the Eagles secondary to handle, as Nolan Carroll hasn’t been great and Leodis McKelvin has been routinely replaced by Jalen Mills, neither of who have had sparklingly stellar seasons.
Safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod are both signed long-term, but Jenkins’ cap figure is scheduled to double in two years and McLeod, who is making $2.6 million this season, will have his salary double next year, then balloon to $7.6 million in 2018 and more than $9 the year after that. Let’s not expect either to be working in Philly on those deals to their duration, so something will have to happen there as well.
The Eagles need help in the secondary, both in the short term and the long term. There are a ton of potential free agents in the secondary, so hopefully Santa… er, Howie… can find the right pieces.
A Better Pass Rush
This doesn’t mean a better pass rusher, it means a better pass rush. Please, Santa, can we get some pass rush under the tree and some run stuffing in our stockings?
The defensive line has to get to the quarterback, because Jim Schwartz has been clear that he does not like to blitz. Let’s not forget, a position of need is the secondary, so blitzing would only serve to put more stress on the cornerbacks to make plays in one-on-one situations. Besides, the Eagles have a strong defensive line rotation — the strength of their team when the season began — so they need to figure out a way to put some pressure on the quarterback with who they have, fast. The roster can’t afford paying for another lineman.
A Quarterback Guru
Pederson is the head coach, who calls the plays on offense. He is also a former NFL quarterback who, week after week, talks about needing to know the intricacies of the position to help rookie Carson Wentz develop.
Frank Reich is the offensive coordinator who was a pretty good NFL quarterback. He works closely with Wentz during the week and is involved in the offensive game plan, but he does not call the plays, nor is he the quarterback coach.
John DeFilippo, former OC of Browns, is the Eagles’ quarterback coach. He was the Raiders’ QB coach before going to Cleveland, and his bio credits him with helping Derek Carr develop during his rookie season. DeFilippo played college ball at James Madison, which doesn’t mean he’s a bad coach, unless you listen to the head coach talk about how important playing the position at the NFL level has been for him as a coach.
Press Taylor is the offensive quality control coach, who also serves as the assistant quarterbacks coach. He played quarterback at Marshall after winning two Junior College national championships.
The Eagles have four quarterbacks who are coaches. They need a quarterback guru.
There are four former QBs on the staff and the only QB who matters — Wentz — has regressed as the season rolls along. He’s worse now than he was the first three weeks of the year, which might be an indication of teams getting a book on him, or could be due to the makeshift offensive line and lack of weapons to help him on offense.
Whatever it is, when the head coach says in the post game press conference that Wentz has correctible mistakes with his mechanics and five minutes later Wentz walks in and says the issues with his bad throws aren’t mechanical, the dude needs some more help.
Santa, get Carson a guru.
Holy Hell Some OL Depth
Big V looks like he can play. Lane Johnson, when not suspended, is a fine tackle and moving him to the left side and putting Vaitai on the right makes sense for the future. Allen Barbre might be the offensive MVP this season with what he’s been asked to do and Brandon Brooks has been solid at guard when he’s in the lineup.
The Eagles have some hard decisions elsewhere. Jason Peters is slated to make more than $10 million next season, with a cap hit of $11.2 million, but his dead cap number is just $2 million. If the Eagles opt to keep him around next season, which would be hard to believe given the other roster needs and his penchant for injury, he has a similar cap hit in 2018 with just a $1 million dead cap number.
In short, he gone. Soon.
Jason Kelce is signed through 2020, and will make $6.2 million next year, with a $2.4 million dead cap hit. That number drops to $1.2 million next year. Kelce is a shell of his former self, which means at the very least, future plans must be made. Can Isaac Seumalo be the center of the future, or will Pederson need him at guard? And regardless, if both Peters and Kelce go, who will serve as back-ups to the young starters?
Stefen Wisniewski has not been happy with his role on the team this year, and he’s set to be a free agent. Matt Tobin can fill in when needed, but not in a long-term capacity.
Chip Kelly really did a number on this offense before he left. Rebuilding the offensive line may take some time, but a few of the pieces are in place. But if this season has shown anything, it’s that more pieces are always needed.
So, Santa, that’s the wish list, and I’m not even going to ask for a new coach or a flying pony. We’ll save those for next year.