If you dared to Utter Mike Groh’s name at the family table this Christmas, you may not have been offered Christmas pudding. The Eagles offensive coordinator has come under a lot of fire this season and understandably so. On paper, this Eagles offense was supposed to be among the most exciting in the league. What followed, were months of heartbreak, adversity, and slow starts. This only added to the narrative that Mike Groh was promoted too soon in his career. But as we’re all so quick to criticize, let’s take some time to credit a surprise turnaround.
It’s always difficult with Groh because we don’t really know how many of his fingerprints are on the offense and how much impact he has. All we know for sure is that he plays a huge role in scripting the first 15 plays of every game. Outside of that, Groh has almost become a scapegoat for whenever anything fails offensively, and it doesn’t help that he seems to have a habit of saying the worst possible thing at the worst possible time.
Over the last three weeks, the Eagles have become a top-10 rushing offense, averaging 131 yards per game. What’s really outstanding however is in that same timeframe, they rank second in first downs, meaning that they’re keeping drives alive longer and sustaining progress. Their average for the year is 21.3, for context. They also rank 1st in most completions during that span, thanks to an elite spell of play from Carson Wentz…but even that can be traced back to change.
Over the last month, the Eagles have been forced to adapt. They’ve been without their featured running back, franchise right tackle, and their entire trio of starting wide receivers. Making matters worse was the fact that for as amazing as Carson Wentz, ball security and pocket awareness still haunted him.
So, somewhere along the line, the Eagles started to move things around. Instead of making Wentz stand inside the pocket and take a clattering every game in order to reduce the risk of bad decisions when escaping, the Eagles just let him…be him. The offense is now comprised of a lot of designed rollouts and sprintouts, with a heavy emphasis on play-action. This not only buys Carson Wentz time, but it gets him outside of the pocket, which as we all know, is where he’s at his most dangerous.
This also helps Miles Sanders, who has been on an absolute tear recently:
The one real hole in Sanders’ game has been the lack of patience and vision. Sanders mostly ran out of the shotgun but we’ve seen a real increase in I-formations that obviously go hand-in-hand with the play actions and designed rollouts. This gives Sanders more time to see the entire view and pick his hole, taking some of the immediacies off his shoulders. By the time he makes a decision, he can put his foot in the ground and take off with that crazy acceleration we all know and love.
Do we even need to mention Greg Ward Jr’s name, or does that speak or itself at this point?
The truth is, we don’t really know how much input Groh has had into this turnaround, but if we’re all quick to jump on his back when things aren’t going swimmingly, it’s only fair that we recognize his growth and see that maybe just maybe, he’s worthy of some praise too.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports