Fixing the Mess: How should the Eagles approach this Offseason
The Eagles are in free fall right now. They somehow sit top of the NFC East with a 3-6-1 record, but they likely end Week 12 out of the top spot with Washington and the Cowboys facing off on Thanksgiving, and with the Eagles' stretch over the last six games it is hard to imagine them regaining the top spot. With that, they will miss out on the playoffs and end with one of the franchises worst records in recent history. So, what will that mean for the future? I will address how I believe Jeff Lurie should handle the Eagles organisation this offseason, and yes, it will be full of changes.
The Front Office
Howie Roseman has to get fired; there is no other answer to this. He failed to address the receiver position in the offseason barring Jalen Reagor, his draft record has been atrocious, he has the Eagles in a terrible cap situation, and they are an ageing roster with no youth to replace older starters.
Starting with the salary cap situation heading into next season, they are $63.558 million over the salary cap meaning they are going to have to tear up the roster of its big stars. Although people view Howie as the 'cap wizard', this entire situation is his fault. The Eagles were well over the cap before COVID-19 regulations were implemented, and it is his poor roster management that has allowed this to happen. The Eagles roster is full of ageing veterans, and the likely outcome for next offseason is that there are plenty of moves across the roster to get them under the cap. Expect the new General Manager to shred the team of its highest earners to get under the cap before there is a lack of moves in free agency. They will have to accumulate large amounts of draft picks and pick up UDFA's to fill their roster and ensure they do not go back over the salary cap for next season. This Eagles team likely gets worse before it gets better, and Roseman is to blame for it.
One reason for the Eagles having such an ageing roster is due to terrible drafting and the heavy reliance of bringing in starters from free agency. Only seven of their draft picks across the last three years have started games consistently this season. Only Jalen Reagor has been trusted enough to start from this year's rookie class, and the 2019 draft class was a complete shambles outside of Miles Sanders. That says a lot about the Eagles scouting team and Roseman's ability to draft players, that they do not trust the younger draft picks to get a larger quantity of snaps especially when the roster is as bad as it is. The lack of success in recent drafts means that there is a lot more work to do to overturn the damage that has already been done and as mentioned above, things will have to get worse before they get better.
One of the most resounding quotes from the recent draft was Howie saying to Carson Wentz that: "If you let us draft Jalen [Hurts], we will surround you with weapons". That is another promise that has gone down the toilet. Roseman's response to this was to draft fifth and seventh-round receivers and trade for Marquise Goodwin. Goodwin's situation you can understand because of COVID-19, but putting faith into two late-round rookies to save your receiving corpse is ludicrous. John Hightower has shown promise with his speed but has struggled to track the ball and running routes. Then Quez Watkins has barely seen the field. So once again the Eagles General Manager has failed in another big promise.
His roster management has been a shambles, his drafting has been a joke, and his handling of the salary cap should be laughed at. On top of that, there are rumours that he decides who plays on a game day, there are more than enough reasons for Roseman to be fired. Whether Lurie does it at the end of the season, we will find out.
The Head Coach
Unless things change drastically on offense, it is hard to see Doug Pederson keep his job as Head Coach. Adam Caplan recently reported that Jeff Lurie was far from happy with the offense against the Dallas Cowboys and that if things do not improve by the end of the season, there will likely be changes. Lurie fired Mike Groh and Carson Walch after last seasons poor showing on offense, and allowed Pederson to prove that he needed new people in the building to freshen things up. Instead, we have seen more of the same from the Eagles offense, and the play-calling has gotten worse.
Pederson has moved away from the run far too often, and not showed a reliance upon one of the NFL's best running backs per carry this season in Miles Sanders. Sanders was running the ball well in the first half against the Browns before Pederson decided to take it away from him in the second half. If the best in-game adjustment your Head Coach has is to take the ball away from your most reliable offensive weapon, then it is likely that he is a huge issue in the failures of the team.
The Eagles offense is also stale and predictable. They seem to run the same three or four plays each drive, and it appears that Pederson's scheme struggles to get his players open. His obsession with curl, flat, out and comeback routes is astonishing, and his refusal to utilise the speed at his disposal is bemusing. As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, where have the jet sweep and misdirection plays from the playbook gone? He loved running them to help get Nelson Agholor in the game, but now he has quicker, more agile receivers he appears to have closed it off. He also does not let Reagor utilise his speed by calling more quick slant and crossing routes for him to run, and get him into open space. It seems impossible to remember the last time the Eagles had a large yards after catch play.
Seeing the lack of creativity, refusal to change his system, and the gradual regression of this offense, it is hard to defend Pederson's place as Head Coach. This team has gotten worse since the Super Bowl victory, and it is only going to get more painful because Doug seems too stubborn to change things up. For me he has to go, this needs to be a complete rebuild of this team and firing both Pederson and Jim Schwartz will help start things again.
Looking at a couple of the top candidates who should be in consideration for the Head Coach role should Lurie pull the trigger:
Eric Bieniemy- The Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Coordinator has played a huge role in helping Patrick Mahomes get to where he is today and has done a great job at keeping the Chiefs offense fresh with Andy Reid. The weekly adjustments to keep that offense new and exciting is intriguing to see, and it should be something Lurie looks into this offseason. Besides, a glowing recommendation from Lurie's good friend in Reid will set him up at the top.
Brian Daboll- Daboll has done a fantastic job working with Josh Allen over the last three years. He has turned Allen into a top 10 quarterback or thereabouts, and he could be the man to help work on Carson Wentz's deficiencies. Both Wentz and Allen are aggressive quarterbacks that like to work outside of the pocket; they have trust in their arm strength and like to play hero ball. It appears that Daboll has worked hard into crafting Allen to be a smarter player, and he has shown that this year. The Bills offense is an explosive and exciting one too, so that is something Daboll would bring. He may also convince quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey to be his offensive coordinator, which would also help Wentz.
Carson Wentz has been terrible for most of this season, and that is being kind. After another poor showing on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, plenty was calling for him to benched for Jalen Hurts, and that it was time to move on from the fifth-year quarterback. In reality, it is not going to happen for another year at least anyway.
Wentz's big-money contract begins next year and moving him on could end with the Eagles having around $60 million in dead cap. That would be even more detrimental to what is an already horrible cap situation. Wentz will be around next season, and it seems only fair that he gets his crack with a new offensive coordinator and a new scheme. He is walking a very thin tight rope though, and if his bad play follows into next season, it will likely be curtains. The best-case scenario is that the new Head Coach and offensive coordinator show him, tough love, from the beginning and intensely work on his deficiencies. Give him the Frank Reich and John DeFilippo treatment, and get him to change his ways.
Under a new staff, I give him half of next season to show that this is just a fluke. That is a big enough sample size to see whether he is trending in the right direction towards rectifying his mistakes and getting back to where he was. If not, you give Jalen Hurts the second half of the season to see what you have got in him. If Hurts struggles, it will be likely that the Eagles will once again have a top-five or 10 pick. That will then allow the new front office and Head Coach to draft their own quarterback, and acquire some draft stock from Wentz, and possibly Hurts for 2022.