“I don’t know if it’s been more difficult, but it’s been challenging to integrate him.” The quote that defined 2018 in many ways for the Philadelphia Eagles. Looking back, many deem the year to be a successful one, and why wouldn’t they? The team made the playoffs in the most adverse circumstances possible and even went on to overthrow the Chicago Bears. But all it takes is a little bit of scratching to reveal a swiping of sweat from the forehead of offensive coordinator, Mike Groh.
The Birds’ really struggled to get going in 2018. They averaged just 3.2 points in the first quarter, cutting the 2017 total of 6.4 directly in half, ranking 31st in the NFL. Things really picked up towards the end of the season, but prior to the start of that crucial December month, the Eagles had scored points on just three of 26 opening quarter drives.
Then, there’s the backfield situation, one that will now hopefully improve given an offseason of strong additions. The Birds, for what felt like the third-year in a row, really struggled to balance the offense. After ranking 6th in rushing attempts per game in 2017, they ranked 21st in Mike Groh’s first season as offensive coordinator. By the time the emphasis had been placed, it felt as though it was too little, too late.
Let’s not forget the constant ‘Zach Ertz is being targeted too much’ debate that raged an entire campaign. We’ll leave that buried in the dust, for now.
Finally, there’s the Golden Tate trade…but this is where the case defending Groh kicks in. When asked if it was difficult to spread the ball around, Groh’s response caused absolute chaos for weeks. A simple and very logical sense of honesty. Of course, implementing another slot receiver is going to be difficult…especially at the trade deadline. There are very few receivers acquired at the deadline who make an instant impact. They have to get familiar with the playbook, the terminology, and concepts that an entirely different offense runs.
Don’t believe me? Let’s have a look at some of the most poignant mid-season trades of the last few years and how they panned out.
Remember Percy Harvin? The Seahawks traded him to the New York Jets in the heart of the 2014 season. He would play in 8 games for the Jets that year, totaling 460 all-purpose yards, before being cut by the team in March.
What about Randy Moss? One of the most gifted receivers of all time reunited with the Vikings in 2010 after being traded away from the Patriots. He caught 13 passes in 4 games before Brad Childress released him. Like Carson Wentz, Brett Favre needed a deep threat that year and it was assumed the best in the game could fill that void. He didn’t.
In 2008, the Cowboys made a blockbuster trade to acquire Roy Williams from the Detroit Lions. He caught 94 passes with the Cowboys and never tallied more than 38 in a single season during that span. The Cowboys gave up a plethora of assets in exchange for very little.
The Eagles acquired Golden Tate with the hopes that if they can make it to the postseason, he would provide enough of an injection to give the offense an advantage…and looking back on that clutch touchdown against Chicago, I’d say it panned out well.
But Groh should get a pass for just about everything that transpired last season.
The former WR coach has already left his imprint on the offense, but as we all know, the unit looked very different when Nick Foles was at the helm. It just so happens that from Week 14 of 2017, through to week 3 of 2018, the offense was crafted with Foles at the epicenter, preparing for the now Super Bowl 52 MVP to be the starter. Receivers got used to the timing of Nick Foles, the placement of Nick Foles, the concepts the team ran to benefit his skillset.
If that wasn’t enough, Mike Groh, who stepped up to replace Frank Reich who parted ways for a Head Coaching role in Indianapolis, had no choice but to follow suit. The most important relationship on a football team is arguably between the quarterback and offensive coordinator. Carson Wentz was sidelined for the entire offseason, meaning of course that Groh spent months working with Foles as the starter.
The relationship was bound to take time to marinate but nothing worth having comes easy and the Eagles had to fight for every last yard with what little resources they had to start the year. But now, the seeds are beginning to ‘Groh’.
The true identity of this team was never going to be discovered until mid-October because it takes time for so many changing cogs to gel and stop clicking into each other. Forget the injuries, forget the setbacks, forget the execution problems. Wentz still ended his third-year with a career-high in completion percentage, which speaks volumes.
But now, there’s no excuses. Groh has an offense that personnel-wise, is easily among the most lethal in the NFL. A healthy Carson Wentz, with whom he gets to spend a full offseason working with, a dynamic receiving group that when partnered with the tight ends, portray a terrifying red zone package, and a revived backfield.
Giving Mike Groh a pass in his first season as offensive coordinator should be easy enough, but make no mistake, if those same errors crawl out of the soil for the second year in a row, despite the optimal scenario for success, then much heavier questions will have to be asked.