As the Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive coordinator search rolls on, I wanted to take a closer look at a question that I’ve seen pop up.
“What does the Eagles’ offensive coordinator do, anyway?”
We all know what the Eagles’ OC doesn’t do and that’s call plays. Head coach Doug Pederson handles that responsibility. And because of that, there’s thought that the Eagles’ vacancy isn’t so attractive to prospective candidates.
But I think that’s a flawed assessment. The OC role definitely carries some importance. Let’s look back at how Pederson and former Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich previously described the job in 2017:
Doug Pederson: Really, there’s three main aspects to a game plan. There’s your 1st-and-2nd down plan, which is [Wednesday]. Then you have your 3rd-down plan, which is [Thursday]. And then your red-zone plan, which is Friday. We spend — and the way [Offensive coordinator] Frank Reich sort of assigns duties or responsibilities to that is with the assistant coaches. Frank and myself do the base. Frank, myself and [Wide receivers coach] Mike Groh will spend time on 3rd down. Then Frank, myself and [Quarterbacks coach John] DeFilippo will attack the red zone later on. Our guys are studying those areas during the week and have a really good plan.
Frank Reich: Yeah, I mean, the people upstairs, I talk to the people upstairs for the most part as far as that kind of thing. Coach [Pederson], he’s worried about calling the game, thinking about that, managing the defensive side of it, being over that side a little bit, listening to what’s going on over there. I’m gathering information in between series, and then from up top. And then I’ll talk to Stout [Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland] on the sideline as far as the run game, hear what he’s talking to his guys about with the offensive line. I’ll talk to [Wide receivers coach] Mike Groh in the pass game, what are the receivers saying? Is there one corner that we think we can [pick on] — are we feeling anything down low, trying to get a hands-on approach. So we have a pretty thorough process that we go through after each series where I’m talking to the offensive line coach and I’m talking to the receiver coach and I’m talking to the guys upstairs for the stats. And then it’s my responsibility to filter that information and to kind of give Coach [Pederson] what I think is necessary for the next drive.
TL;DR — the Eagles’ OC serves as an important filter between Pederson and his position coaches.
The OC also has another key role: assisting in developing the game script.
Reich was in charge of third downs and scripting the Eagles’ first 15 plays from scrimmage. He’d pop into the quarterback meetings at 6:30 a.m. daily, usually opening the door and shouting, “What’s up guys? You got the juice today?”
Under Reich, the Eagles ranked second in first quarter points in 2017. The Indianapolis Colts hired him away as their new head coach after Philly’s Super Bowl win. That ranking then dropped to 32nd in 2018 and tied for 19th in 2019, which is part of the reason the Eagles needed to move on from Mike Groh.
This Thursday will mark two weeks since the Eagles dismissed Groh. The team has been connected to replacement candidates but there have been a number of dead ends (see: Graham Harrell, James Urban). It doesn’t appear the search is immediately about to be over, either:
One of the things I came to Mobile hoping to accomplish was to get a better feel for what the Eagles have in mind at offensive coordinator. So far I don’t. If they have a pending hire they’ve settled on, it’s a closely kept secret. My sense is the process remains open.— Les Bowen (@LesBowen) January 21, 2020
There are three key boxes for the Eagles to check when it comes to hiring a new OC.
- Can this candidate help to maximize Carson Wentz?
- Can this candidate bring new ideas to the table?
- Can this candidate effectively collaborate with the rest of the staff?
Using this criteria, Jim Caldwell still seems like the best candidate to me. He has a strong track record with getting the most out of quarterbacks, he’s an external candidate who could bring a different perspective to Philly, and he’s had experience working with others as a head coach in two previous stops. Caldwell could essentially be the new version of Reich. And if the Eagles thrive while Caldwell is around, well, maybe he gets a third stab at leading a team.
If the Eagles are truly taking their time to hire a new offensive coordinator because they’re conducting a wide-ranging search, that’s commendable. They made a big mistake by not interviewing any external candidates at all back when Groh was promoted in 2018.
Let’s just hope the search isn’t taking long because the Eagles are struggling to land a strong candidate. Even though the OC doesn’t call plays, this is still an important hire.