Welcome back, Coach Pederson. I can’t say the town is ecstatic to see you. But while the reception might be tepid, every Eagles devotee wants you to succeed. So here are five bits of advice to turn around the franchise and the fan base.
1. The biggest decision you’ll make is defensive coordinator.
Chip Kelly blew it with Billy Davis. Two aspects are critical – hire a 4-3 practitioner, because that scheme better fits the personnel you’re inheriting. (This probably rules out local favorite Mike Pettine). And use this spot to add an old-head guru who knows the NFL wars better than you and can be the experienced voice you’ll need.
For Andy Reid, that sage was Jim Johnson. For you, that should be Lovie Smith. At 58, Lovie just got pushed out at Tampa, because the Bucs want an offensive head coach to direct Jameis Winston’s future. Their loss should be your gain.
2. Your next critical decision is quarterback.
You’re kind of stuck here. It would be a mistake to scrap Sam Bradford, because there’s no rookie to draft at pick 13 who projects to be any better. It would likewise be foolish for the Eagles to commit long term to Bradford based on a half-dozen strong games at the end of the season.
Hedge your bet, Doug. Persuade Jeff Lurie to franchise Bradford for 2016 – at the outrageous cost of $21 million. It gives you the chance to assess if he’ll become a late-developing star (like Carson Palmer) or another first-round washout (like, uh, Mark Sanchez).
3. Focus next season’s offense around DeMarco Murray.
Kelly’s chronic misuse of Murray ranks among the exiled coach’s worst crimes. But you’ve seen a stud running back used properly, having spent the past few seasons around Jamaal Charles and Reid, of all people.
Murray won’t ever rush for the 1,845 yards he had in Dallas in 2014. But you can get 1,200 from him next season – and add a full yard to that 3.6 per-attempt average.
4. Of course, that means rebuilding the offensive line.
Kelly, like Buddy Ryan decades earlier, ignored that critical unit. We once hollered when Andy spent first-round picks on those sides of beef. We promise we won’t gripe if you go back there (as long as it isn’t Danny Watkins).
5. Finally, don’t treat the media (and thus the fans) like chumps.
Try not to lie (as did Kelly) or stonewall (like Reid). Reporters’ questions may be inane or annoying, particularly in the aftermath of a loss. But those news conferences are the only view most fans get of the coach. Make it work for you.
And don’t be afraid to pick the fertile minds of our football community. People like Ike Reese, Ray Didinger, Brian Westbrook and Seth Joyner (bring your flak jacket) have insight into the sport and this city’s passionate relation to it.
That’s it, coach. We’re all behind you. At least today.