“This has been a disappointing, embarrassing, frustrating season. Obviously what we’ve done here when you win four games; that’s on all of us, that’s on me. We have really good people here and we have to figure out how to fix this and get this back on the right path.” – Howie Roseman
Words that sound too familiar, it’s almost like we’ve been in this place before. About 365 days since general manager Howie Roseman proclaimed “I will be better”, we sit and watch as the roster that he assembled was only able to produce four wins on the season. There was talk about investing in younger talent and not viewing hope as a strategy when it comes to relying on oft-injured players. Yet the 2020 Philadelphia Eagles presenting anything but. While injuries forced younger talent into play, it didn’t take long for snap to be reduced upon the return of high profile players.
Travis Fulgham seemingly came out of nowhere and gave a glimmer of hope to Philadelphia with 38 receptions, 539 yards, and four touchdowns on the season. The teams leading receiver–yet his production and playing time slowly but surely vanished upon the return of Alshon Jeffery. Jordan Mailata played phenomenal down the stretch, yet it took a Jason Peters injury to clear the path for him despite Peters’ not so stellar play.
New year same Eagles.
“As much as there’s a little voice inside of your head that said, ‘You know, now is probably the right time to change it,’ I think that’s my responsibility that I didn’t really listen to that as much as possible. And now we’re in the situation we are in … where change is necessary and change is inevitable to this roster and the things that we need to do to get back [to] being the kind of team that we know we can be.”
This season was a product of the Philadelphia Eagles simply thinking they were better than what their current record says. Of course, no one expected things to go this bad but simply relying on the fact that you were the only team in the division with continuity isn’t generally a good idea when your roster isn’t trending in the right direction.
Even in a pandemic year, both Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson understood that this roster was in desperate need of an infusion of youth. They decided to bank on a set of unforeseen circumstances in a year where unforeseen circumstances became a general norm.
Now, we find out how they plan on cleaning up their mess.
1) So, about that quarterback factory?
Howie Roseman and the Philadelphia Eagles shocked the football world when they took Jalen Hurts in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Just months after giving quarterback Carson Wentz a huge contract extension (that we’ll touch on more in a few), Roseman decided to draft his replacement? Nonsense according to Roseman and Pederson, as there was no way a rookie could unseat the unquestioned franchise quarterback. At least that’s what they said, and it’s what it appeared to be until Pederson shockingly pulled Wentz in the third quarter in a contest against the Packers. Rightfully so, as Wentz had only produced 79 passing yards on 6 of 15 passing and had taken four sacks at the time of his benching.
Pederson didn’t pull Wentz because the game was meaningless or because it was out of reach. He did so to give his team a “spark”. What could you say when up to that point, his fifth-year quarterback was not only having the worst season of his young career but was statistically the worst quarterback in the league ranking at the top in both interceptions and sacks prior to the change. But Howie Roseman is no fortune teller, and no one could have possibly envisioned Wentz having regression of this nature.
So what was the reason for taking Hurts with a selection that could have been used on one of the many positions of need on the Philadelphia Eagles roster?
Well the logical reason is that the team doesn’t have any significant salary cap available for the 2021 off-season (at least not yet) and the team was going to need a backup quarterback, while Nate Sudfeld is on the roster (we saw that probably wouldn’t have been the best idea), Pederson has already mentioned Sudfield has told the team, he’d like to be able to compete for a spot somewhere. Meaning at some point the position would need to be addressed, so taking a young quarterback to mold at some point in the draft sounds ideal.
The Howie Roseman reason, however? Is because the Eagles are a QUARTERBACK FACTORY!
“For better or worse, we are quarterback developers. We want to be a quarterback factory. We have the right people in place to do that. No team in the National Football League has benefitted more from developing quarterbacks than the Philadelphia Eagles.” -Roseman in 2020
Of course, that statement didn’t go over too well with just about anyone and when asked about it, it didn’t take long for Roseman to express regret.
“Well, of some of the things I’ve done this season, I certainly regret that comment about the ‘quarterback factory.’ Really (the comment) was in terms of the importance of the position around the league, the importance of the position to this organization, and really a reflection of our experiences with backup quarterbacks. Anyone who knows Carson Wentz knows how strong of a person he is, and knows how much he believes in his own abilities. In terms of why we didn’t have a good season, it’s not just on one player. When you look at the team as a whole, they didn’t perform up to expectations. The moves we made didn’t live up to expectations and to put it on Carson isn’t fair.” -Roseman in 2021
2) What’s next for Wentz?
There’s a question going around Philadelphia and it’s a $100 million question.
With Carson Wentz’s contract extension set to kick in and a $10 million roster bonus due to him on the third day of the new league year, the Eagles have a decision to make.
“In terms of Carson, I don’t think it’s a secret that we moved up for him because of what we thought about him as a person, as a player. We gave him that extension because of the same things. And so, when you have players like that, they are like fingers on your hand. You can’t even imagine that they are not part of you; that they are not here. That’s how we feel about Carson.”
While there has been a litany of reports to recently surface regarding Wentz and the relative nature of any future relationship with the Eagles going forward. Roseman, while not completely ruling out a trade at some point.
He did emphasize that Philadelphia isn’t looking to move the franchise quarterback without at least putting up a fight.
“That is not anything we are talking about right now. We are talking about a guy that’s immensely talented, has a great work ethic and doing whatever we can to put him in the best possible situation to be successful.”
Recently reports surfaced that maybe there’s a chance Wentz believes there is a chance to save the relationship with the Eagles, but that all starts and ends with Doug Pederson (we’ll touch on that in a few).
3) Head still not in the sand?
Death, Taxes, and Howie Roseman selecting the wrong wide receiver in the NFL draft. Of course, as Roseman has said on numerous occasions wide receiver is one of/if not the hardest positions to translate skills from the college to the pro game. The spacing is much different, the rules change, and the defenders are 20 times better.
Still, one year (or two in JJAW’s instance) doesn’t make or break a career and there is still a lot of time for development. With that being said, that’s two years and two what could be considered”misses” at the wide receiver position. While Jason Kelce has mentioned how one player doesn’t make or break a football team; there’s no question having a D.K. Metcalf or Justin Jefferson caliber receiver would have made some type of difference on the offense.
However, with the 6th overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft and another high-quality wide receiver class, the Eagles are once again in a prime position to come away with a legitimate WR1. The question remains will Howie Roseman make the right decision? Though it has been reported that the Reagor selection was a product of the scouting department preferring Jefferson, while the coaching staff was high on Reagor and Roseman decided to go with the latter. With Roseman being in charge of the final say, the only context that matters is that Roseman didn’t pick what many consider to be the better player on two separate occasions. The worst part? He doesn’t seem to have learned his lesson.
Here are Roseman’s comments on Arcega-Whiteside over Metcalf in 2019:
“There have been some successful receivers from this draft class, and we don’t have our head in the sand and not notice that and go back and kind of look at that. I think when we look at it, the most surprising thing for us as we’ve studied this and the things that are important, is that there are three rookie receivers who never had more than 40 catches in a college season who have been tremendously productive this year. Is that a factor for us when we look at college production and we kind of see how important that is to us, do we have to go back and look at that? And I think we do.”
Now here are Roseman’s comments on Reagor over Jefferson in 2020:
“Obviously, the guy you are talking about [Justin Jefferson] has had a phenomenal year. It’s not like our head is in the sand and we don’t see that and we didn’t spend a lot of time on that guy. I think when you talk to other GMs in this league, if everyone knew what those guys were going to do, they wouldn’t even be close to the pick that they were at. We went into the draft trying to find the right guys for our team in terms of what we thought we needed to have a better offense. That’s with a lot of discussion, with our scouts, with our coaches. There was definitely a lot of opinions on this draft class and this receiver class for sure. I would also say Jalen is a very young player. He just turned 22. He missed a bunch of games with injuries. He didn’t really have durability issues in college. And sometimes those things over a period of time, they play out.”
And while the Eagles will probably use a draft pick on the position this off-season, it still sounds like both Reagor and Arcega-Whiteside are primed for big roles in 2021.
“We are counting on both of those guys to take a big step this offseason, J.J. too. I was happy J.J. got an opportunity yesterday. But there is no doubt — we are not sitting here, not watching that, not seeing that and not going through it in what made that decision when we looked at all those guys. Sometimes, also, you see it and we talk about this all the time — sometimes there are medial grades. I am not talking about this particular situation in the first round, but sometimes there are medical grades and sometimes guys are off our board. It is just the nature of this business.”
4) Howie has a new right-hand man?
So Eagles fans in case you haven’t heard, it appears Howie Roseman’s job security is safe. Just like the reports have said and apparent by his comments during the press conference.
“I’ve been here for a long time, and I have tremendous feelings about this football team, this organization, the people in this organization, and I’ve been very fortunate to be in this league for a long time. I’m going to do everything that’s in the best interests of this team to get this team back to being a perennial playoff team. I’m not worried about my job. That’s not anything that really concerns me. That’s out of my hands. I’m worried in doing what’s the best and right thing for this team to get back. Like I said, when we talked about it, I think that some of the things that we did were more short-term oriented.”
In fact, it sounds as if owner Jeffrey Lurie didn’t even give the move a thought. It is well known that the extensions of both Pederson and Roseman run through 2022, and it is becoming pretty apparent that Lurie will let the two continue to run the show for at least the duration of their contracts.
So what now?
Same general manager, same coach, and if either of them had their wishes — same quarterback. So with Philadelphia intent on ‘running it back’, should fans really expect a different result than what has been shown for the last few years? Sure this Eagles brass had 35 wins in three seasons prior to this past year and can make the case that this year was an anomaly. However with the roster trending downward, veterans expected to depart, and a lack of significant cap space to improve what is in place, Howie Roseman once again has his hands full.
Can Eagles fans really trust Roseman to make the right decision this time around? Hard to tell, but the press conference certainly became pretty interesting when Roseman confirmed the reports that the Eagles had indeed bought in John Dorsey in a consultant role. Of course many may know Dorsey as the man who was fired twice in an 18-month span, leaving both situations in tough salary cap situations. And yes, there could be an argument made that it will be a while before Dorsey sees another general manager opportunity. Yet when you think about the prospects of a duo like Howie Roseman and John Dorsey, considering both of their background this could easily go really bad. Or, this JUST MIGHT be crazy enough to work.
While Dorsey certainly has his flaws, which in turn has resulted in him being fired on two separate occasions. It’s no coincidence that after his departure both of those franchises suddenly began trending in the right direction, with much thanks to many of the players Dorsey added to the roster prior to his departure. You know those crazy moves like trading for a Stefon Diggs or DeAndre Hopkins, or that a player that is ultra-talented but had questions surrounding his character but just needs one team to trust in him. These are the type of moves Dorsey likes to make and for the most part they generally turn out well for him. Of course, it will be interesting to see how much/if any influence will Dorsey have on Roseman given the fact that these are the type of moves and players Philadelphia has tended to shy away from in recent years. Still, with Dorsey’s history with personnel and Roseman’s history with salary cap management (up until this point), it’s possible Philadelphia just might have something.
5) Any update on Ertz?
Last off-season Howie Roseman admitted that in recent years he has let relationships with players impact the decision he has made regarding the roster. Names like Darren Sproles and Jason Peters are considered Eagles greats, there is no disputing that their stints on the roster lasted maybe a year too late. Still, Roseman vowed to make a change and if not for an injury to Andre Dillard last off-season, a full-fledged young movement could have been underway in Philadelphia. With Peters not initially resigned and Malcolm Jenkins allowed to walk, the Eagles began taking steps in the direction in regards to turning over the roster. Now as the team enters the 2021 off-season, another difficult decision is upon them. This time the hero of Super Bowl 52 and the man ranked second in receptions in franchise history.
While Ertz has made it known that he’d love to return to Philadelphia and even retire as an Eagle, he also acknowledged the fact that he understands that this is a business on more than one occasion. Following the team’s loss in the home/regular-season finale against the Washington Football Team, Ertz and a few other established Eagles took their fair share of time to take in what could be their last moments in Lincoln Financial Field, as members of the Eagles.
Ertz also got emotional when speaking with the media during his final session of the season.
Yet despite Ertz pleas to remain an Eagle, it is no secret that Howie Roseman and the Philadelphia front office have been playing hardball in regards to an Ertz extension for the last couple of seasons.
There have been multiple reports of offers, denials, talks breaking down, and even a “heated discussion” over the course of the season.
Yet with the situation at hand becoming a tense and emotional sequence, both parties have spoken highly of the other when given the opportunity.
Howie Roseman on Zach Ertz— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) January 4, 2021
“He is an intense competitor. For him it’s all about him wanting to be here. Sometimes you’re in a mode of having to do what’s right for the team. It’s hard. He’s been a great player for us. Zach’s one of the truly great guys we’ve had here” pic.twitter.com/fNk6thc48h
There is hope that Ertz can remain an Eagle and there are even reports that Roseman has reached out to Ertz in efforts to find ways to re-establish a relationship with Carson Wentz. Still, with Ertz due $12.4 million next season, the team being able to save $4.7 million by parting ways, and a restructure unlikely. There’s a massive chance we’ve seen the last of Ertz in an Eagles uniform.
6) Can Pederson and Wentz be saved?
As we said any chance of a relationship with Carson Wentz being saved all starts and ends with Doug Pederson. For weeks reports have mentioned a rift between Wentz and the Eagles brass, listing rumors such as he doesn’t believe he can trust Pederson, he feels betrayed by the Eagles (and the only person he thinks he can trust is Frank Reich). Then of course there’s the obvious lack of communication, particularly the way Pederson handled the initial benching.
One thing that is apparent however is that something is going on. How could this coach and this quarterback; both of whom are immensely talented at what they do despite what recent history may say, have such a disconnect? Since their epic 2017 run, neither of them have been able to get on the same page. Whether it be Pederson’s questionable play calling or Wentz’s erratic play, the Philadelphia Eagles offense has regressed yearly, all leading up to this moment.
Still, as we mentioned earlier there don’t sound like there are too many people around the Novacare Complex that want to see Carson Wentz in another uniform, despite the reports of a Wentz departure swirling.
On top of Roseman’s aforementioned statement on Wentz, Pederson also commented on the state of his relationship despite this season’s turmoil.
“I’m not going to speak for Carson, but I can speak for myself and say that the relationship is good, it’s fine. It’s something that we’re going to continue to build upon and listen I know Carson’s disappointed. It’s not the season that he anticipated, it’s not the season that I anticipated as the head coach. There were a lot of moving parts, it’s not about one guy here. It takes all of us, and that’s something that we’ve stressed a lot here. But at the same time I’ve also been hired as the head coach, I’ve been challenged as the head coach. I personally challenge myself to get things right, to get him right, and to makes sure we move forward that we’re doing everything in the best interest of the team. I know we can do that and obviously surrounding the quarterback position with the right guys. That’s also something we’re going to work on this off-season.”
7) Who replaces Schwartz?
The news broke early Saturday, just a day prior to the Eagles season finale against the Washington Football Team that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz would not be returning to Philadelphia next season. Recent reports say that Schwartz will take the year off from coaching and is even contemplating retirement following his five-year stint with the Eagles. Thus Philadelphia appears to be in the market for coordinators on both sides of the ball.
Replacing Schwartz, who has been into coaching for 32 years (one-year hiatus in 2015) will be no easy task for head coach Doug Pederson. For much of Schwartz’s time in Philadelphia, he has been able to produce many formidable units despite the lack of depth across the defense. Just take his final performance against Washington for example; three sacks, five quarterback hits, two interceptions, and 248 yards allowed all without many of the pillars on the defense.
In fact, there could be an argument that during the entire Pederson era, Schwartz’s defense has been more consistent than Pederson’s offense, at least statistically.
So with that being said how will Philadelphia go about replacing what linebacker Alex Singleton called the “smartest football mind” he’s ever been around? Well according to Doug Pederson.
“I want to spend some time with Jim first before I make any decisions or comments about the next coordinator or what I’m looking for. Those are all things that are going to take some time as I process everything, and really have conversations with Jim; just to pick his brain a little bit.”
8) More coaching staff changes?
Is anyone really surprised this didn’t work?
Just over one year ago the Eagles fired offensive coordinator Mike Groh and wide receivers coach Carson Walsh. The plan was to bring in an “outside” mind and a fresh set of eyes to add new wrinkles to the offense. The result? A multitude of voices, all trying to have a say in the offense.
Needless to say, the octo-man system failed the Eagles in a massive way which has led to reports that Philadelphia will now look to bring in a traditional offensive coordinator.
“As far as the offensive side goes, listen; it’s all about the evaluation process. Every year we go through this, and just like I’m evaluated; I evaluate my staff and I want to make sure I have the best guys around our players. The best teachers around are players. Because that’s how I view us as coaches, we’re teachers first and no only being able to teach information but being able to take the complex and make it simple for our guys to play fast and execute on game day.”
It was recently announced that Rich Scangarello will not be retained and with Pederson still going through evaluations, more changes could follow.
9) Doesn’t Hurt(s) to tank?
You know what they say, sometimes you either sink or swim. Or in Philadelphia’s case, you either tank or try. So when Doug Pederson decided to pull Jalen Hurts from the game against the Washington Football Team early in the fourth quarter despite it still being a one-possession game, the criticism quickly began to pour in from media, fans, and… the New York Giants?
Remember that athletic symphony given by center Jason Kelce?
“Nothing takes precedence over trying to win a football game. I don’t care who you’re trying to evaluate. I don’t care if you’ve lost every game, you’re 0-15, and it’s the last one you’ve got. Everything is about winning in this league. And I know that … won’t appease a lot of people out there that always want to talk about getting better draft positions or getting looks at certain guys to see what you’ve got for the future. But, again, the moment a team feels like you as an organization aren’t doing your job for me to go out there and win, all of a sudden you’ve shown who you are. You don’t care about me or this team. You care about the future. … That’s not what the focus is here.”
Well, this was not even one month ago. Yet despite the passionate speech Kelce gave the media, the Eagles seemed to do the exact opposite when given the opportunity to follow suit.
Of course, when asked, Pederson refuted the idea that he “wasn’t coaching to win”
“Our offensive struggles have not been about one position group or one guy or whatever. It’s been a multitude of issues that we’ve had. And again, last night in that game, we were in a situation where we’d failed to score as an offense.–And my plan was to get Nate in the game. Nate’s a guy that is very capable of running our system and executing it [with] an opportunity to pull that game out last night.”
Given the fact that Hurts was the only starter (that played) that was removed from the game and Pederson explaining that Sudfeld plans to move on this off-season, it’s possible that Pederson generally wanted to get Sudfeld some playing time and a chance to showcase his abilities.
Still, when you take into account the circumstances, it’s understandable why there was suspicion of tanking.
“You’re not going to sit here and pin this on Nate Sudfeld or the decision to put him in the football game. Nate’s been here and is an NFL quarterback. He’s a good quarterback, and he’s done some great things for us. He was our backup in the Super Bowl for goodness sakes.”
There were originally reports that players were against the idea or even that they didn’t know. Especially after the remarks from running back Miles Sanders, which stated “nobody liked the decision.“
This raised the idea that there could be a possibility of Pederson ‘losing the locker room’, this was immediately shot down when veterans like Jason Kelce.
“I went up to Doug and asked him if he was taking Hurts out, he said, ‘Yes, I think Nate’s earned the right to play.’ I said, ‘Everyone else is staying in?’ He said, ‘Absolutely.’ At no point was anything from me or anyone else confrontational. We all knew leading into the game that Sudfeld was told to be ready to play, and that Doug wanted to see what he could do in a game situation. All of us during the week leading up were excited for Nate, a guy that has been with us for 4 years to get an opportunity in a real game to show the world what he can do. We all have complete confidence in Nate as a player, there’s a reason he’s been here this long, and a reason the team brought him back. And that’s because we feel like Nate is a guy we can win with.” – via Kelce’s Instagram
Featured Image: Yong Kim/The Inquirer