Cue the collective groans from Eagles fans. “No,” they say, “The whole point of firing Mike Groh and Carson Walch was to get fresh blood in the building! Someone needs to bring new ideas for Doug’s offense.”
On that note, I agree. The last post I wrote advocated for the firing of Groh, Walch, and Press Taylor. And an internal promotion was not the next step I had in mind at the time. Back when I was preparing my post after the wreckage of the Dolphins game, I had a whole slew of write-ups about outside candidates at the ready for the announcement later that week that coaches had been fired. This announcement, of course, never came, and I had to write something else. But now that coaches have been fired, the Eagles’ pool of candidates has quickly dried up. I would have loved to see James Urban (who was mentioned in my abandoned coaching write-up) or Graham Harrell as Doug’s trusted lieutenant. I would have been okay with Mike Kafka, even. Of course, none of these coaches will be joining the Eagles in 2020.
And that just leaves one big name (that we know of): Jim Caldwell. To be clear, if Caldwell has a clean bill of health and feels he can handle the reins of the offensive coordinator position, I believe that is the most logical way to add him to the staff. He isn’t an Andy Reid guy so he could bring some different ideas to the table, and his track record with quarterbacks is rock solid. He should be the top option at this point.
All of that said, he’s no spring chicken at 65, and if the issue that sidelined him last year with the Dolphins isn’t completely cleared up, I’m not sure how keen I am on giving him a job with a lot of responsibility. If he needs to step away from football at any point during the more grueling period of the NFL calendar, we are back where we started with an internal promotion as the interim offensive coordinator, except now this internal hire has been put on the spot with no time to prepare whatsoever. That kind of instability can derail a season, especially with Doug, who reportedly leans on his entire offensive staff to develop game plans each week.
Things with Caldwell are - frustratingly - not cut and dry. But I still want him in the building to work with Wentz, in some capacity. If giving him the offensive coordinator title seems too risky for Doug with his health, he should still be offered some kind of assistant job with the Eagles. Of course, that still leaves the offensive coordinator position open. So what do they do with that?
Enter: Press Taylor
As I mentioned before, I have previously advocated for firing Press Taylor. In my post that published after the loss to the Dolphins, I even called him one of the Eagles’ weakest positional coaches and speculated that he projects the authority of a wet carrot. And now I’m suggesting that he be promoted to offensive coordinator? Why the extreme change of heart?
Well, like most things in life, it’s complicated. When the report came out that Press Taylor might end up getting the offensive coordinator job, I largely dismissed them. At the time, there were still a decent amount of candidates available. But as other “favorites” from the job were either finding work elsewhere or choosing to remain with their current team, and as concerns over Caldwell’s health became more prominent in discussions about him, I began to revisit the “Press Taylor as OC” idea, and did some digging and analyzing. There are a few things to note with him:
- He kept his job at the end of the season (duh). You could say that Carson’s incredible play in the last four games saved his job, but couldn’t a similar argument about the wide receivers also saved Carson Walch’s? Both Wentz and the practice squad receivers stepped up their play. Why did one assistant get the ax, then, and not the other - especially since Josh McCown is getting some credit for taking on a coaching role of sorts during that time? We don’t know how those discussions went down, but the organization clearly feels Taylor has more to contribute to the organization than Walch did.
- Taylor has received effusive praise (sometimes unprompted) from his superiors throughout his coaching career and is held in high regards around the league, as shown in this feature of the Taylor brothers from 2018.
- He is most known for the “Philly Special,” but his contributions as a quality control assistant go beyond that. His encyclopedia of plays was referred to by other coaches as “Press’ Vault.” He clearly seems to be an eager student of the game that will look anywhere for a good idea.
- He is a holdover from Chip Kelly’s staff, and let’s face it - the Kelly regime was mired with problems and controversy, but the man knew how to put together an offensive coaching staff. Most of his offensive assistants are the ones that are still here!
- From what I’ve seen from beat writers that are much closer to the action than I am, the issue with Press is not necessarily his coaching chops, but his age. He comes across as a “peer mentor” for Wentz, a quarterback with a very strong “Type A” personality that most likely needs more of an obvious authority figure to maximize his potential.
If you believe at least the general picture painted by the bullet points above, the coaching staff may actually be justified in keeping Press in the building, my previous judgments and rantings be damned. But if Caldwell’s health limits him to coaching quarterbacks, how do you get both men on the coaching staff? This brings us back to my suggestion at the beginning of this section, which now seems like a much simpler idea than before: promote Press to OC and bring in Caldwell to take his place as QB coach.
We know from Brandon’s post earlier this week that under Doug, the offensive coordinator is Doug’s right-hand man in game planning, scripts the offense’s first 15 plays, and acts as something of a “switchboard operator” on gameday, taking in critical information from the other assistant coaches and relaying it back to Doug on the sideline. If Press is as sharp and meticulous as reports indicate, and if his only real problem at QB coach was his age, then there is reason to believe he could be successful in this role (especially if he brings back his “vault” to introduce new plays and concepts).
Caldwell, meanwhile, would work directly with Carson as the “wise elder” that he needs to stay on his game. Putting him at quarterbacks coach would also give Wentz more exposure to him than if Caldwell were the offensive coordinator. And considering how Doug likes to get everyone involved in game planning, Caldwell would still have a voice for his ideas there, the same way John DeFilippo did in 2016 and 2017 (and presumably Press Taylor since then). If you buy in even a little bit that Press is an up-and-comer in this league who just needs to be put in the right position to succeed, this coaching hierarchy actually makes a lot of sense.
But What About Duce?
Duce Staley is the other name being floated around as a potential internal hire for the offensive coordinator job. If the Eagles wanted to accomplish the same goal of hiring Caldwell as an assistant without firing Taylor, they could promote Duce to the offensive coordinator position, make Press the new assistant head coach and passing game coordinator, and name Caldwell the quarterbacks coach. I would also be fine with this, but I’m not sure if it’s the best route to take. Duce is excellent at what he does, and currently designs the Eagles’ effective run game with offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, but what other ideas can he introduce to the offense that he hasn’t already as assistant head coach? He was a running back in the NFL who moved into a special teams coaching role under Reid, and then became a running backs coach under Kelly, where he has been ever since. The Eagles need to get more explosive on offense, and that’s going to have to come from the passing game, not the run game. Taylor has, on the surface, more experience with that aspect of coaching than Duce does, which is why he makes more sense from the outside.
I am not trying to discredit Duce. I think he has proven to be a great coach that deserves the opportunity to be an offensive coordinator. I’m just not sure if that’s here. Especially since Pederson opted to promote the guy who was once fired by his own dad over Duce back when Reich left for the Colts’ head coaching job in 2018. But who knows - for us on the outside, there are few options to bide time other than to speculate.
After the departure of several assistant coaches this offseason, the one takeaway everyone agrees on (myself included) is that the Eagles need to bring in some outside perspectives if they want to take the next step into being consistent Super Bowl contenders. And who knows - over the next few days another unexpected outside and promising name like Harrell might pop up as a candidate, except unlike Harrell he might actually take the job. But in the meantime, Caldwell is shaping up to be the most attractive candidate, and if his health is still an issue the Eagles should find a way to get creative to get (or keep) as many bright minds in the building as possible. If that means shuffle things around and make Taylor or Duce the offensive coordinator, well, there are worse hires they could make, in my opinion.
Of course, for us fans, that’s all we can do as the Eagles take their time to hire new coaches: share our opinions.
Assuming Caldwell is not healthy enough to be the OC, which coaching structure do you like the best?
This poll is closed
Press as OC, Duce as RB coach, Caldwell as QB Coach
Duce as OC, Press as Assistant HC/Passing Game Coordinator, Caldwell as QB Coach
Duce as OC, Press as QB Coach, Caldwell as Offensive Consultant
External Hire as OC (provide name in comments), Caldwell as QB Coach, Press let go
External Hire as OC (provide name in comments), Press as QB Coach, Caldwell as Offensive Consultant
Other (explain in comments)