Whether you feel like the Philadelphia Eagles were making a mistake by moving on from Andy Reid, which was commonly unlikely at the time, or if you were skeptical about the hiring of Chip Kelly, which was about 50/50 at the time, both are no longer in the City of Brotherly Love.
To be honest, it seemed like the right time for the Eagles to move on from Reid. However, It did seem a little premature that they cut ties with Kelly after only one offseason with roster approval, something that Reid had eventually earned during his tenure. So, yes, the front office is to blame for handing that power over to a college coach after a pair of 10-win seasons in Philly, only to part ways with him. Some say that the front office has fallen from elite status behind Donovan McNabb, to one of the most dysfunctionally run franchises in the league today.
In a way, they could be righting the ship in hopes of quickly retooling and creating an all-for-one atmosphere. The new coach in town was once an assistant for the Eagles and that man is Doug Pederson. The former quarterback spent a career with Reid in Green Bay, Philly, and Kansas City. This is a guy that has been groomed for this position for quite some time after stints with Bret Favre and the aforementioned McNabb. His latest role, offensive coordinator for the Chiefs, included second half play-calling duties without Pro Bowl Running Back Jamaal Charles. They caught fire and racked up 11 consecutive wins, including a playoff victory.
I preface all of that to tell you that I am a huge fan of Reid, although I agreed that it was time for a change. That I was skeptical about Kelly, but he actually won me over despite being let go. The thing is, I also agree with naming a familiar face like Pederson the next head coach. More importantly, I really like the staff that he has either kept in tact, as well as the new faces that he brought on board with him.
There is no question about the play-making ability and consistency from the special teams, arguably the strongest aspect on the team and Dave Fipp will stick around. As valuable as it will prove to have a former quarterback in Pederson to call the plays and try to maximize the talent of whoever is under center next season, it’s just as important to have Frank Reich as the offensive coordinator. Reich is another former quarterback that helped Philip Rivers throw for a career high 4,793 yards (2nd in the NFL only behind Drew Brees). The Chiefs didn’t turn the ball over much, so it will be interesting to see if he and Reich can strike a balance between their coaching abilities and strategies to get the best out of the offense and from their quarterback.
The naked eye and statistician might not be high on Sam Bradford like I am. He proved to me that he is a starter in this league. His performance during the second half of the year was far from perfect but very promising. Take it from someone that watched every single snap played by the Eagles, the wide receivers were the weakest link on the entire roster. Jordan Matthews was a few yards shy of 1,000 yards as a sophomore, but the kid is far from polished with all of those mental mistakes and drops. There was really no one else ready to make an impact and what do you know, the veteran losses of Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson made it painful to watch the offense.
Keep in mind, new QB coach John DeFilippo, was the QB coach for the Jets when Mark Sanchez made the AFC Championship game. That may be a key indicator that Bradford may be out of their price range entering free agency, and at the moment, Sanchez is the only QB under contract right now. The combination of these three coaches could have next year’s offense living up to the expectations that Kelly left behind. Maybe DeMarco Murray can lead the backfield like he did during his contract season in Dallas. Maybe he can shed my critical thoughts of “Mo’ Murray, Mo’ Problems,” based off those Dallas comments and how his first season in Philly played out. Apparently, Pederson and the Chiefs made due without Charles after he went down, so Murray better bring his A-game.
I’m much more excited about the defense. Considering that the offense should be running more of a simple and vanilla scheme featuring a three-headed backfield, but also realize that the D ranked inside the top-10 through the first 9 weeks. Why the sudden fall off? Well, there is absolutely no excuse, but the truth of the matter is that they got wore down from the offense’s lack of scoring and routine 3 and outs. Not only those factors, but the new defensive coordinator is Jim Schwartz, another coach in the right situation with a ton of talent to work with.
Let’s just say that the Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills both ranked top-10 defensively under Schwartz. This year they ranked 18th and 19th. I know, I know, the Eagles finished 30th on that side of the ball but I’m telling you, I watched every game and it was very reminiscent of a MLB pitcher not getting any run support. It wears on the mind and body and once they get out of that zone it can take a negative domino effect like it did in this case. Led by Fletcher Cox, Malcolm Jenkins, and versatile linebackers, this could very well be the Jim Johnson replacement that Philly has been longing for.
If the Eagles don’t come to a financial agreement with Bradford, it should prioritize the reborn Walter Thurmond and extend the beast that has become Fletcher Cox. Not to get too far ahead into the offseason, but the clear needs are at the perimeter, at wide receiver and cornerback. They can’t go into the season expecting Byron Maxwell to be a shutdown corner. Nor can they rely on Nolan Carroll, who broke out as a solid starter before snapping his ankle and missing the final 5 games. With that said, the defense looked pretty good before the locker room issues spilled onto the field and everything fell apart. Talk about a tale of two halves to the season.
The NFC East can send any given survivor to the postseason. Washington, Philadelphia, and Dallas were all crowned in the past 3 seasons. Washington and Philly both went from worst to first, so who’s to say that any of those teams should be counted out entering 2016? The New York Giants also elected to move on from their coach, although they did keep the rest of the staff in place so those changes are less drastic. This could finally be the year that Jason Garrett and his staff get put on the hot seat. I think that’s a harsh way to look at things because they lost Tony Romo to injury, twice. That would basically wipe out any team from playoff contention since there’s not too many reliable starters at QB anymore. It’s not far-fetched at all to look at a healthier Cowboys team, the newly-staffed Eagles, an improved Giants defense, or the NFCE champion Redskins and believe they can win the division next season.