Upgrade. It’s a common term in the offseason, where breaking the bank in free agency is a risky proposition but upgrading with a sensible contract can bring a team an.... upgrade. But players aren’t the only way a team can upgrade, the staff can too.
The Eagles had the worst wide receivers in the NFL in 2017. Most of that was talent, Nelson Agholor is a bust, Dorial Green-Beckham still needs a lot of work, Josh Huff was released midseason, and the team played two rookie undrafted free agents. They have to at least... upgrade at the position.
But not all of it was on the players, some of it was coaching. Greg Lewis was put into an impossible situation: he was the least experienced coach on staff, with just three years as a position coach, all at the college level and for three different schools, and a fourth as a positionless assistant for the Saints. And he was given the worst group of wide receivers in the league. He was destined to fail, and he did. Every non-rookie regressed, and they made careless mistakes.
His replacement, Mike Groh, has just four years in the NFL, but has a much better resume. No one should expect Groh to be a savior, but he should be an... upgrade, almost by default. That’s a start. His resume this decade shows he could be more than that.
After spending the first nine years of his coaching career working for his father Al for the Jets and then the University of Virginia, Groh went out on his own. In 2011 he came back to Alabama, where he was a Graduate Assistant in 2009, to coach their wide receivers. In 2012, Amari Cooper hit the ground running as a true freshman in the SEC, finishing 5th in the conference with 1000 yards and 2nd in touchdowns with 11. He was one of Groh’s A-list recruits for the Crimson Tide that year, which earned him Rivals.com Recruiter of the Year honors.
However, it was the commitment of Fort Worth (Texas) Arlington Heights defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson that cemented Groh's position as the Rivals.com Recruiter of the Year, according to Farrell.
"Hill and Liner were impressive and Foster and Tenpenny were beyond impressive to me, landing the former and holding onto the latter, but when I found out A'Shawn Robinson was saying no to Texas and yes to Alabama and Groh was the lead recruiter on that one, I was amazed," Farrell said. "That's a five-star kid from Texas, and all sources said his mom wanted him as a Longhorn. But Groh made A'Shawn's family very comfortable in leaving home and he went into Texas and beat the Longhorns. I don't care if Texas has had a few down years by their standards, you don't pull a kid like that out of state if Texas really wants him, and they really wanted Robinson. That's just as good as it gets."
He’s probably got a pretty good future as a college head coach if he wants it.
After that success, he moved to the Bears as their WR coach in 2013. There he inherited Alshon Jeffrey, who struggled during his rookie season, but Jeffrey’s 2013 season is still his career high in receptions and yards. After Adam Gase took the Dolphins head coaching job, QB coach Dowell Loggains was promoted to offensive coordinator, and it was thought that Groh would slide into his position. When that didn’t happen, he left for small promotion with the Rams (where he was also given the title of “passing game coordinator”).
I don’t know that John Fox has a hard and fast rule when it comes to making determinations on his assistants, but he strikes me as the kind of guy that isn’t going to block assistants on his staff from advancing their careers. He’s been in the league a long time and knows how difficult it can be to climb the ranks in the profession. In Groh’s case, he had hoped to switch from receivers to quarterbacks after Dowell Loggains was promoted to offensive coordinator. Groh was a former college quarterback and moving from receivers to quarterbacks would be a natural progression in a goal to becoming a coordinator. The Bears hired Dave Ragone, who has a working history with Loggains, to coach quarterbacks and then this opportunity materialized for Groh.
It’s a loss for the Bears’ staff because Groh did fine work with Alshon Jeffery in his time at Halas Hall and also helped bring along Marquess Wilson. The new wide receivers coach will have to refine the game of Kevin White this coming year.
In Los Angeles, despite Case Keenum and Jared Goff splitting starts, Kenny Britt had his first 1000 yard season, Brian Quick had the best season of his career, and Tavon Austin had a career high in receptions and yards. But, it must be said, they all had career highs in targets. Still, progression is progression, and after the careless mistakes under Lewis, Groh’s attention to detail might be just what the Eagles receivers need.
“I’m certainly going to be an attention-to-detail guy,” Groh said. “We want to play with relentless competitive effort and dominate our opponent on every single snap, and then move on. You can’t live in the past -- we’ve got to move on to the next play. And just be process oriented. We dont’ want to worry about the results, we want to stay in the moment, stay in the process and the results will take care of themselves.”
The Eagles might have a nearly completely new depth chart at WR when the season starts, making it hard to judge Groh’s effectiveness. But given he’s got a steady track record of production this decade, there’s reason to think that regardless of what the Eagles do at WR in the offseason, they’ve at least made an upgrade to the staff.