It’s been a rollercoaster week for the Philadelphia Eagles. After winning Super Bowl 52 in incredible fashion, the team lost two of the most important names on their coaching staff. Frank Reich and John DeFilippo, who had a huge impact on the growth of Carson Wentz since his drafting in 2016, were poached by Minnesota and Indianapolis respectively after being handpicked by the Eagles just two years ago. How Doug Pederson and the Eagles fill those vacancies will be among their toughest offseason challenges. So, who’s next?
Perhaps the most popular in-house choice, the promotion of Staley wouldn’t come without risk. Staley was one of the few coaches to retain his position after the changing of the guard at Head Coach when Doug Pederson arrived. Familiarity and respect are two qualities that are often associated with the former Eagles running back and his players certainly speak highly of him.
Development among players however is key when evaluating a coach. DeMarco Murray and company aside, there hasn’t really been much in the way of development from running backs under Staley’s guidance. The best example may be Wendell Smallwood, who completely changed his rushing style this season, although he didn’t get a lot of opportunity to show it. Having said that, he did help LeSean McCoy become the first Eagle to lead the NFL in rushing and scrimmage yards since 1947.
The Eagles have a well adorned and vigilant coach in Staley who has been coaching with the team for seven years now. Staley spent his first two seasons in Philadelphia as an assistant special teams coach, while helping with the running backs develop and eventually being promoted to the full-time running back coach. Staley embodies everything the Eagles want in an offensive coordinator and has been there and done it himself. Without play calling responsibilities, this could be a great opportunity for Staley and the Eagles to create continuity.
Before you lose your minds, just remember one thing. Prior to the absolute catastrophe that was the 2017 season and even before his playoff push in 2016, Ben McAdoo was a leading candidate for the Eagles Head Coaching role before the G-Men snapped him up. The Eagles held McAdoo in high-regard and while his reputation may not be glowing, does that not fit the Philadelphia mold?
McAdoo recently interviewed for the Cleveland offensive coordinator role, showing an intent to re-establish himself after a long career as an assistant coach. Like Chip Kelly, he may not be the best Head Coach, but the signs of an explosive offense were there in New York. During his first season as OC with the team, the offense improved from 28th to 13th in 2014 and jumped to 6th one year later in scoring under Ben McAdoo. That was with the losses of starting LT Will Beatty and WR Victory Cruz.
McAdoo may not be the most glamorous option, but he could well be one of the most experienced and bears that same underdog mentality.
The recently-fired Seahawks offensive coordinator could be a hot name to watch for the Eagles. Sure, his most infamous moment was THAT goal line throw that cost Seattle Super Bowl XLIX, however he did guide the team’s offense to a top-10 ranking in four of his seven seasons with the team. The traits? A young franchise quarterback and a bruising run game. Sound familiar?
It’s unfair to pin the offensive decline of Seattle on Bevell, who was working with a depleted offensive line, lack of run-game and situations where the entire game was put on the shoulders of elusive quarterback, Russell Wilson. But trick plays and creativity headlined a season where simply HAD to find an edge through any means necessary.
Not only that, but Bevell was Green Bay’s QB coach while Pederson was a backup. The familiarity is there and both have also gone on to have long and successful careers in very different capacities.
After spending five years as the Panthers offensive coordinator, Shula is looking for a new gig. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Eagles turn to the former Alabama quarterback who has had a monumental impact on the growth of Cam Newton and the shaping of Carolina’s offense, through good and bad.
Over their past five seasons, the Panthers averaged the 128.3 rushing yards per game, the fourth most in the NFL. They also lead the league in time of possession dating back to that same start date in 2013. Those are two qualities that the Eagles are building a culture upon.
Shula saw a lot of the blame for the loss of Carolina’s offensive identity, but it’s not always easy when your quarterback has two offseason surgeries, Greg Olsen falls injured in week 2, Christian McCaffrey takes a while to get churning at the NFL level and then the team trade Cam’s favorite target in Kelvin Benjamin.
Interestingly, Shula was also an assistant coach when Pederson was on Miami’s roster as a quarterback back in 1991. While contact would have likely been minimal, it’s an interesting tidbit.
Shula would likely be a long-term signing for the Eagles as they aim to build a sustainable offense moving forward…and there may be few more dimensional than Carolina’s.
Much has been said about the Eagles current Wide Receiver coach and it’s not difficult to see why. Whether it was helping Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery excel in Chicago, pushing Kenny Britt to his first 1,000 yard season with the Rams or being key cog in the ever dominant wheel of the Alabama Crimson Tide, Groh has succeeded wherever he’s coached. This season is no exception. Despite the team not registering a 1,000 yard receiver, the Eagles wideouts were the most dominant they’ve looked in years due to a culture shift that focuses on selflessness. Grow was instrumental in that and as a former quarterback for UVA, leading them to bowl victories in 1994 and 1995, Gross’s coaching style is very much framed through the eyes of a quarterback. Grow brings the qualities that the Eagles desire from their QB coach along with a year’s experience inside the system. The only downside is, they would then need to find a wide receiver’s coach to replace Groh and that would leave even bigger boots to fill.
Taylor is very much the ‘X-Factor’ in all of this. While many see him as a potential replacement for Groh should he move to WR/OC, Taylor could be perfectly primed for a QB coaching role. In his first season with the Eagles (2016), he worked with Carson Wentz as an assistant QB coach alongside DeFilippo. The Eagles have trust and familiarity in Taylor, as do their quarterbacks. During that time, he helped Wentz set an all-time NFL rookie record 379 completions.
A former quarterback himself, Taylor would also bring a unique perspective to the quarterback room and leave the Birds with a much smaller hole to fill.
A former third round pick back in 1994, O’Connell has had a storied career as both a player and a coach. Most recently hired as the Redskins quarterback coach, O’Connell played for six teams during his career, including the Chargers and Patriots. Learning from some of the finest coaching minds in the league, O’Connell is an under-the-radar prospect after beginning his coaching career with the Browns as a QB coach in 2015.
What Makes O’Connell so appealing is that one again Washington is in disarray at the QB position. Should they desire to move some pieces around, the young coach could potentially be swayed to Philadelphia. A recent playing experience in multiple offenses make him an intriguing option for the Eagles, who are always willing to learn from divisional rivals, just ask Nate Sudfeld.
Another quarterback coach who faces uncertain times, the future of Russell Wilson’s quarterback guru has been really hot and cold during the last few weeks. The veteran previously served as offensive coordinator for the Jags and was a QB coach for the Browns. But after Russell Wilson was drafted, the Seahawks ensured that Smith would be the man to guide him to the very top of his game.
If there is truth to the sporadically speculated discomfort in Seattle, Smith would be the perfect guru to help Carson Wentz marinate and take his game to the next level.
A familiar name to many, Kinne spent three years bouncing on and off of the Eagles roster between 2013-2015 when quarterback injuries plagued the team before he eventually ended up in New York. So what happened to Kinne? Well, he turned his talents to coaching and currently coaches at SMU. He called plays during the team’s Frisco Bowl loss to Louisiana Tech. Not only that, but he also worked with Press Taylor during his days as a quarterback at Tulsa. The familiarity with both the franchise and coaching staff is there and if there’s anybody who relishes QB experience in a coach, it’s Doug Pederson. Kinne may be a wildcard, but don’t overlook him just yet.
Mandatory Photo Credit: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast