Fourteen weeks into the 2018 NFL Season, the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles have twenty-one first half scoring drives. That puts them in company with noted offensive juggernauts like the Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, and Arizona Cardinals. It’s pathetic and inexcusable.
After the resources spent in the ongoing “Weapons for Wentz” push, how is it even possible? How does a team with Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Dallas Goedert, and now Golden Tate achieve such a low? How does an offense go from scoring over 30 points in 9 regular season games fall to just doing it once in 2018?
We could point to the departures of Frank Reich and John DeFilippo, as many have. But it may have less to do with them and more to do with the promotion of Mike Groh to offensive coordinator. Looking at Groh’s past as the offensive coordinator at Virginia, the warning signs were there.
Virginia w/Ron Prince as OC:
2004: 24th Yards/G, 27th PPG
2005: 64th Yards/G, 59th PPG
Virginia w/Mike Groh as OC:
2006: 113th Yards/G, 110th PPG
2007: 101st Yards/G, 83rd PPG
2008: 105th Yards/G, 115th PPG
I wouldn’t want to be judged for what I was doing from 2006-2008, but it’s a little different for coaches. This is especially true when there is no other body of work as a play-caller or offensive coordinator to examine, though one must wonder about his unsuccessful stint as the Rams’ passing game coordinator in 2016. I’ve also never been fired by my dad, but to be fair I’ve never benefited from nepotism either.
The success he had after came from different positions, notably as the wide receiver’s coach for the Chicago Bears from 2013 to 2015. Working with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, Groh helped the two put up some excellent numbers. Jeffery went over 1,000 receiving yards twice in that span. This carried over to his work with the Eagles in 2017. His unit showed exponential improvement over the previous year.
Success as a positional coach is all milk and cookies, but what has he done, ever, as an offensive coordinator that would inspire hope for a complete turnaround? That’s where I separate Doug Pederson from Mike Groh.
Yes, it’s Doug Pederson calling the plays, but it’s also Groh’s job to filter information from the assistants and deliver it to Pederson in the form of a coherent plan of attack. He’s yet to show that he can do that with success. Yes, it’s Doug Pederson who made the decision to promote from within. It’s proven to be one that hasn’t worked out, but he’s had success in the past with his initial choices of Frank Reich and John DeFilippo. Past success. No success. It’s hard to make a case for Groh when there is no past success in his current position.
To play devil’s advocate, perhaps Mike Groh is a victim of circumstance. Losing a bull at running back like Jay Ajayi and field-stretcher like Mike Wallace would be a hit for any team. The lack of a deep threat has been a constant refrain for those defending what has morphed into a slow-strike offense that has to grind out scoring drives. It’s the reason the Eagles inquired about the speedy New York Jets’ receiver Robby Anderson. Does it hurt that much though?
The Eagles have a single passing touchdown of 40 yards or more, tied for last with three other teams. Do twenty-nine other teams possess a true depth threat? I’m not just talking about a guy with 4.3 speed, I’m talking about a contributing receiver that makes meaningful contributions via snaps and deep targets?
I find it hard to believe that Torrey Smith made that much of a difference. I find it even harder to believe when the player who made the most 20+ yard receptions in 2017, Nelson Agholor, is still on the team. Smith had one touchdown over 20 yards in 2017. Agholor had four. But before the Golden Tate trade he was relegated to low depth of target dump off role which never suited his game.
Teams had to respect Smith’s deep speed though, right? More than they would Agholor? Well, the data shows, that’s a lie.
Can we change the line to, “the Eagles aren’t making teams respect Agholor’s deep speed?” That seems more accurate given the data. It also points to a lack of creativity, ability to exploit matchups, and not seeing potential holes in defenses to take advantage of as the game develops. That’s led to the Eagles being the exact opposite of a quick-strike offense. They’ve had to grind out most of their touchdown drives.
The Eagles are tied w/OAK for dead last w/only 1 touchdown drive that took 5 plays or less (start own territory).— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) December 11, 2018
Touchdown drives from their own territory average 9.4 plays (7.9 last year). 31st worst in the league. It's been a slog.
No matter the angle you look at this, it’s all bad. There’s regression in nearly every important statistical category. Some of that was expected; the Eagles boasted excellent red zone and third down production last year, but the drop off is too far to defend as run-of-the-mill regression.
Last year the play designs and schemes were so fresh that they were the toast of the town. This year even new ideas become stale after two weeks of use with a failure to expand on those ideas. It’s easy to rule out the case for normal regression when the offense has become so predictable.
The statistics tell us the Eagles aren’t scoring in the first half, score a touchdown less per game than last year, convert third down less, convert fourth down less, score in the red zone less, and turnover the ball more frequently. The film tells us that we shouldn’t expect that to change, regardless of who is at quarterback.
One year removed from having a finely tuned machine that put up points in droves, the Eagles don’t have another year to waste. The coordinator that has never produced an average offense in four years at the position should have always been on a short leash. There will be a time to evaluate the rest of the offensive staffs’ performance, but for right now.. It’s time to fire Mike Groh.
Should the Eagles fire Mike Groh?
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