The Point After: It’s Pederson, Wentz ‘Till It’s Over
Forget about the sinking ship analogy for this Philadelphia Eagles season. At this point, the rudder is already a detached, decaying piece at the bottom of the sea.
There can no longer be a plummeting feeling for a team that’s officially crashed into rock bottom, a team that couldn’t find any cure for its season-long passing game lethargy Sunday against a Browns defense without its best pass rusher and an average secondary.
If Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz weren’t going to find answers in Cleveland, then they just aren’t going to find them, certainly not in coming weeks against Seattle, Green Bay, New Orleans and Arizona.
What the Eagles need most is the very thing that’s eluded them all season and the one luxury they can’t afford this late into the season – a fresher perspective.
As I wrote Sunday, the Eagles need one of two changes: the play caller or the trigger man. We need to know if this offensive malaise is more traceable to the guy calling the plays or the guy responsible for executing them.
There’s evidence that both can be true, that Pederson’s predictable play calling and Wentz’s lousy quarterbacking aren’t mutually exclusive issues, but the Eagles aren’t pulling a double-switch without first finding out if one substitute is good enough.
The first domino to fall would logically be Pederson surrendering play-calling duties. It’s easier to step aside and let someone else strategize the offense than to execute an offense with an untested rookie over an entrenched quarterback.
But none of Pederson’s cast of complements has established himself as an obvious choice to take the wheel. Press Taylor? The team promoted him by adding “passing game coordinator” to his title in the offseason, along with role as quarterbacks coach.
With both Wentz and the entire passing game crash-landing to all-time low under Pederson – 28th in passing yards per game, 24th time of possession – it’s beyond ludicrous to hand over play-calling to the guy who’s helped build the foundation of this crumbling shed.
Senior offensive assistant Rich Scangarello? He’s a decent enough choice but the former Broncos offensive coordinator has just one year of play-calling experience – last year in Denver, when his offense ranked 28th in scoring and 28th in passing.
It’s not Scangarello’s fault that Joe Flacco didn’t stay healthy and the Broncos were besieged by injuries, but Scangarello just got here, and many of the fresh designs he was supposed to bring haven’t manifested into the offense, for whatever reason. Scangarello also had no prior history with Pederson before being hired this season.
Marty Morhinweg was another veteran offensive mind ushered in from the wave of “ideas guys” added to the coaching staff after owner Jeffrey Lurie somehow made the determination that Mike Groh had single-handedly wrecked his team’s offense.
In 2006, when Andy Reid decided that his 4-4 Eagles team needed a new voice top the offense, Reid turned to Mornhinweg to take over as play caller. Reid and Mornhinweg had coached together on the same staff before, in both college and with the Green Bay Packers. Mornhinweg also had experience as a play caller and NFL head coach before coming to the Eagles as “senior assistant” in 2003, and then spent three seasons in Philadelphia before Reid entrusted him with the keys to the offense during a time of need.
But Mornhinweg’s “consultant” post here is the coach’s fourth different job since the start of 2013, and first since losing play-calling duties in Baltimore to Greg Roman after the 2018 season as the Ravens transitioned from Flacco to Lamar Jackson, a move that pushed Mornhinweg into “retirement.”
If there’s a fingerprint from Mornhinweg on this year’s Eagles offense – good or bad – you need a microscope to see it.
And therein lies Pederson’s dilemma. Even if he wanted to step aside, there’s no confidant on the staff in whom Pederson can confide.
The other option is changing quarterbacks, but that’s high unlikely given rookie Jalen Hurts’ inexperience in the offense, going back to the truncated minicamps and OTAs and altered training camp schedule. There’s no Nick Foles here to rescue the season.
Sure, guys like Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow have managed to excel despite similar impediments, but those were high first-round picks, widely regarded as top-shelf quarterbacks with off-the-charts attributes and talent.
Hurts, picked by the Eagles in the second round, was seen more as an upside prospect who could eventually be groomed into a potential starter with proper coaching and an offseason dedication to fundamentals and technique. Using a high second-round pick on Hurts baffled many in the league’s scouting and personnel community.
Could Hurts possibly catch the Seahawks or some other opponent off guard? Sure, it’s possible. Pederson could theoretically design an offense more catered to Hurts’ abilities and find some success moving the chains.
But that’s just a Band-aid for a hemorrhaging wound and doesn’t solve the ultimate problem of either fixing the issues with Pederson’s current offense or rebuilding Wentz into an championship-level quarterback.
As long as the Eagles are still in the playoff hunt, Pederson won’t force himself to make an uncomfortable change, and that’s part of the problem.
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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