The Philadelphia Eagles failed to create a “new norm” under Doug Pederson.
Turns out the “new norm” was anything but. That’s the term a triumphant Doug Pederson used in the midst of the Philadelphia Eagles raucous Super Bowl LII celebration. That’s when he vowed the jubilation reverberating around the city that day was a harbinger of things to come.
“This is our new norm,” promised Pederson from the makeshift podium on the steps of the Art Museum that brisk February day. “Get used to this.”
“This is our new norm, to be playing football in February.”
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No one could’ve imagined then that less than three years later he would be shown the door, after owner Jeffrey Lurie decided yesterday to cut ties with the only man to lead his team to a Vince Lombardi Trophy. No one could’ve foreseen the manner in which the Birds would fall from grace, culminating this past season when they staggered home 4-11-1, finishing last in a sorry NFC East won by a 7-9 Washington team with no name.
That followed consecutive 9-7 seasons, good enough both times to land the Philadelphia Eagles in the postseason, going in as 2019 NFC East champs.
But when it all unraveled this season, a season in which the offensive line and secondary were ravaged by injury, while franchise quarterback Carson Wentz regressed at an alarming rate, Lurie decided it was time to the pull the plug. Essentially citing philosophical differences, as the motivating factor behind the move, but using the words “a difference in vision” instead, he felt a new coach rather than a new general manager had to be the first step.
Not that it appears GM Howie Roseman or anyone else in the front office and scouting departments responsible for drafting J.J. Arcega-Whiteside over DK Metcalf, Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson and just one Pro Bowler since 2014, has anything to worry about.
“The difference in vision is much more about where we’re at as a franchise,” said Lurie during his 40-plus minute Zoom call with reporters. “We’re at a transition point.”
“We’ve got to get younger. We’ve got to have a lot more volume of draft picks. We’ve got to accumulate as much talent as we possibly can with a focus on the mid-term and the long-term and not on how to maximize 2021.
“I know where we’re at. Doug also knows where we’re at. It’s almost not fair to Doug because his vision has to be what can I do to fix this right away and what coaches can I have to help me get to a smoother 2021.
“My vision is much more about how can we get back to the success we’ve had and what we’re used to in the next 2-3-4-5 years.”
That’s because that “new norm” Pederson was so certain was on its way simply never materialized. In both the 2018 and 2019 seasons the Eagles, sporting losing records heading down the stretch, needed big finishes just to reach 9-7, going 5-1 and 4-0 respectively.
Both times, though, Wentz wasn’t there at the end. In 2018 a back injury sidelined him after 13 weeks, sending Super Bowl hero Nick Foles to the rescue. Foles rallied them to an improbable wild card win in Chicago, before coming up short the following week against the Saints.
Then last year after finally making it through the regular season clean for the first time since his rookie year, Wentz’ post-season ended prematurely courtesy of Seattle’s Jadeveon Clowney’s first quarter late hit. But he was fully recovered by the time the Eagles reconvened for an abortive training camp and back at the helm opening day in Washington.
There’s no need to rehash what happened after that. Suffice it to say Carson’s season was so disastrous, Pederson felt compelled to turn to rookie Jalen Hurts trying to salvage it. That didn’t work out too well, either, which brings us to the current predicament in which the Eagles find themselves; a predicament they’ll now tackle with a new coach and almost certainly a revamped roster.
Will Carson Wentz be a part of that , and if so will he resume the lead? Or has Hurts shown enough in his extended four-game cameo to convince Lurie and Roseman the job should be his?
Those are just some of the questions they and the new coach—be it hot ticket item Eric Bienemy, former backup Eagles quarterback Mike Kafka, Brian Daboll, home grown favorite Duce Staley or someone else—will have to answer. As for whom he gets to coach some of that might not be part of his job description. Before the new guy even gets to work Roseman will be forced to do some major salary cap surgery, which will likely send all or most packing from a group that includes Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Malik Jackson, Vinny Curry, fall guy quarterback Nate Sudfeld, even Zach Ertz.
These Philadelphia Eagles have become such an apparent mess that Lurie reached the conclusion that they’ll be better off with a coach willing to look beyond any short term fix than Pederson, who was convinced 2020 was an aberration. Because of that he was sure he could put it back together.
Only Lurie wasn’t buying. After all, it wasn’t like the guy had ever won a Super Bowl or anything?
Oh, you’re saying he did? “It’s much more about where we are as a franchise heading into a retooling and a real transition period,” emphasized Lurie, who’ll be hiring his fifth coach (Ray Rhodes, Andy Reid, Chip Kelly, Pederson) since taking the reins from Norman Braman in 1994. “Knowing that you might not have the success that you want in that transition right away.”
“Therefore, you don’t want to put Doug in that position. And therefore, I thought it was best for him and best for us that we part ways.”
Pederson, for his part, doesn’t exactly seem broken-hearted, issuing a glowing statement which extolled his love for the City and all that’s been accomplished over the past five years. He even had praise for the man who had just set him free, although Lurie doesn’t think Doug will be out of work for long.
Wherever that, is, you can be sure Doug Pederson has learned one thing which should be of use in his new job.
No more new norms, please. They’ll come back to haunt you.