AskITB: Are The Eagles Truly Rebuilding?
It's been too long but it's time for another #AskITB Twitter mailbag. This week's mailbag answers questions about Lincoln Riley, the fate of the team's current staff, and if the Eagles' head coaching vacancy is really an attractive position. Let's get on with it:
Ray Ice (@RayIce11): What % chance is there that Lincoln Riley becomes the head coach?
Geoff Mosher: It's extremely hard to pin a percentage on this, Ray. As I write this Thursday, I've been told that Riley is still weighing whether or not to announce his commitment to Oklahoma or take an interview with the Eagles. If he commits to Oklahoma, the question becomes moot. However, I've been told Riley is high on the Eagles' wish list and they're hoping to at least be able to sit down with him. Jeffrey Lurie has always been fascinated by offensive minds and program builders. Riley didn't exactly build the Sooners program, but in his four seasons there he's taken command and propelled it into one of the four or five best in the country, with an offense that's averaged over 41 points per game in that span. Two of his quarterbacks have been the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. One of his quarterbacks could be the Eagles' starter quarterback in 2021. There's plenty of reasons for Lurie and Howie Roseman to put on the full-court press for Riley like they did with Chip Kelly (sorry for the painful reminder), but they can't if Riley isn't willing to sit down for the interview. I suspect we'll know more about Riley's intentions sooner than later.
Leo Pien (@Chilei76): Who are the notable staffs/position coaches that you guys think that are well-respected by the players and others in the org that should/would remain with the team next season?
(Or who are the current position coaches that the new HC will likely to be happy to keep/work with?)
Geoff Mosher: This is a tough one, Leo, because these decisions could come down to the next head coach's preference, in tandem with Roseman's and Lurie's input. Obviously, running backs coach/assistant head coach Duce Staley and offensive line coach/run-game coordinator Jeff Stoutland are as respected as they come. Staley could end up being the next head coach. Stoutland reportedly has eyes on the Alabama O-line coach vacancy, the job he held prior to coming to the Eagles, which could signify some dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs in Philly. Tight ends coach Justin Peele also survived the transition from Chip Kelly to Doug Pederson, so that's a feather in his cap. Passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach Press Taylor was central to the split between Pederson and Jeffrey Lurie, so it's safe to assume Taylor's job isn't safe. Wide receivers coach Aaron Morehead has only been here for a year, so his security is also in question. The same can be surmised about passing game analyst Andrew Breiner. On defense, the new coordinator will probably have a tough time bringing in his own people in Year 1, which bodes well for secondary coach Marquand Manuel, who'll get a shot to interview for the vacancy. The departure of linebackers coach Ken Flajole creates an opening for Matt Burke if he doesn't become defensive coordinator. It's my understanding Burke has no interest in coaching defensive line again without Jim Schwartz in the building. His specialty is linebackers.
DJ (@EagleArcher20): Due to Lurie stating the Eagles are rebuilding, looking at 2-5yrs ahead, does that mean we may be moving on from guys like Fletch, Lane, Slay, etc this offseason since they will be well into their 30's by the time they get to year 3-4?
Geoff Mosher: Good question, DJ. I'm not sure Lurie is truly eyeing a rebuild in the way some think a rebuild typically takes place. No question Lurie wants to turn the roster, but Lurie also said he wants to win. If the Eagles manage to repair their relationship with Carson Wentz, Lurie is going to expect a rebuilt Wentz to play at a level high enough to make the Eagles competitive and compensate for deficiencies elsewhere on the roster. But you're right that some difficult cap-related discussions and moves will be taking place this offseason. Some are obvious – Jason Peters, Malik Jackson, DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery will all come off the books. We need to see what becomes of Jason Kelce, who could retire or perhaps be asked to take a paycut. He doesn't make a ton of money overall, but he's among the league's highest-paid centers, which means the Eagles spend more than average at his position. Keep an eye on the Brandon Brooks situation. He's healthy now and was even activated into the 21-day window at the end of the season to practice, showing that he was fully recovered. The Eagles liked what they saw from rookie Jack Driscoll and believe he can be a good interior offensive lineman even though he played right tackle this year. Nate Herbig also performed better than expected, more as a run blocker than pass protector, but still better than expected. Herbig started his Eagles career at center and could be Kelce's replacement. If the Eagles feel like they can move forward with Herbig and Driscoll – and add another body in the draft – they could try to shop Brooks to get his money off the books. As for Fletch, the Eagles aren't steeped in pass rushers, especially if they part ways with Jackson. I'm not sure they're ready to say goodbye to Fletch. Same with Slay. They have so few competent bodies at outside corner that it would be extremely risky to make him a cap casualty.
Blocked by Mike Missanelli (@j_straface_): If they move on from Wentz. Can they get a team to compensate them more than what he’s worth because of the 33 mill cap hit. Like how they did with the Bradford trade.
Geoff Mosher: Sorry you're blocked by Mike, maybe I can talk to him...As for Wentz, it's hard to see the Eagles getting overcompensated the way they did for Bradford. First off, the Vikings were desperate after Teddy Bridgewater went down in the 2016 preseason. They were built to win and immediately needed a starting quarterback. The Eagles had just drafted Wentz and were content to let him groom for a year behind Bradford (or take over after Bradford inevitably lost the job). So the Eagles needed to be romanced into the deal by a team desperate enough to fork over a first-rounder. I've asked around the league and, right now, few believe the Eagles can recoup a first-round pick for Wentz, who's coming off the worst season of his career. But they do expect that several teams will be interested, so that can help drive the price, but don't make too much of that. Any team knows that Wentz needs some serious repair and there's an inherent risk in trading for him. Bradford didn't wow anyone in 2015, but he was 7-7 and presided over an offense that finished 13th, not 26th.
Joe Post (@Joe_Post3): Doesn't it seem a bit shortsighted for folks saying this job isn't attractive? Yes next year could be rough, but Lurie has proven to be a top owner in the NFL. Would think that is attractive.
Geoff Mosher: The problem, Joe, is that Lurie's recent history is clouding his past history. No question he's the best owner the franchise has had and did an excellent job finding Andy Reid, who's mostly responsible for the team's success for the past 20 years. The Pederson hire led to a Super Bowl and multiple playoff trips, but it's a bad look to fire a head coach three years after he hoisted the Lombardi and right after his first losing season following a stretch of three straight playoff trips. Candidates will want to understand more about why Lurie fired Pederson so quickly and will have to consider if the same fate could happen to them. Lurie has now fired two coaches in an eight-year span after those coaches had just one-sub .500 season. Also, as we've outlined on Inside The Birds, Lurie has become more involved in football operations lately – despite his denials about it – and has hitched the franchise to analytics in a manner that could scare off some potential candidates. Pederson was ideal for them, among many reasons, because of his affinity for being aggressive on fourth down and for two-point conversions, which matched their vision. Not every coach shares Pederson's appetite for aggression. Also, the team's unsettled quarterback situation and cap issues, even for just a year, aren't as enticing as other openings that come with either an established starter (Deshaun Watson, Matthew Stafford), a top draft pick (Trevor Lawrence), and ample cap space. – Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the "Inside the Birds" podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com. Listen to the latest "Inside The Birds" podcast from Geoff Mosher and Adam Caplan here: