Jeffrey Lurie used words like "transition" and "retooling" as he met the media on Monday afternoon, hours after the news that shook the core of every Eagles fan's world: Doug Pederson, the head coach who brought the first Lombardi Trophy to Philadelphia for the first time three seasons prior, would not return after a 4-11-1 2020 season. Lurie spoke of a long-term vision and cited differences with Pederson in that regard, and so a change, no matter how stunning it was, was made.
Lurie will lead the team's search for the 24th head coach (including interim coaches) in team history, starting immediately.
"If I were advising a head coach, I would say you want to win and you want to win big and you want to have a fan base that's there for you, no matter what," Lurie said. "Philly is the best possible place it's the best to own a team, and it's the best to coach a team. And yeah, tough times. I love that. I absolutely love that and there's a lot of places in America in the NFL where it's very different, and they haven't had the performance of their organization. They haven't necessarily had the full commitment and the resources that are almost unlimited in terms of what we devote to football. So I look forward to, you know, having that conversation. We've always had it. We've never had a problem attracting anybody. And I think we've got a lot of really great positives."
No specifics were given as to the reason for Pederson's dismissal after five seasons, other than what Lurie said, very clearly, in a statement made when the announcement of Pederson's ouster was made.
"Coach Pederson and I had the opportunity to sit down and discuss what the collective vision would look like moving forward," Lurie said. "After taking some time to reflect on these conversations and look ahead, I believe it is in both of our best interests to part ways."
Translation: Pederson is a head coach and the head coach wants to win now, always now. Sometimes, his is not a long-term plan in accordance with the interest in winning immediately. Lurie, of course, wants to win in 2021, but he's also a strategic man who has the long-term plan in mind. The two visions simply did not meet.
And now the Eagles are in the market for a new head coach. An offseason that already had a lot of questions that needed answers – Who is the quarterback? Who is going to oversee the defense with Jim Schwartz gone? How are the Eagles going to attack the NFL Draft? – now has the biggest one of all: Who is the new head coach?
"Sometimes you have to make the tough decisions on prognosticating the future. And that's what this was about," Lurie said.
Lurie also pointed to the decisions made as the Eagles won the Super Bowl in the 2017 season and then made the attempt to "pull the band back together," in effect, trying to keep as much of that core group together for the two seasons to follow. Those decisions forced the Eagles to draft with limited resources in 2018 and in 2019 and as the team "gained from the short-term decision making," they all knew it would be difficult to sustain.
Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman will continue to oversee the roster building and the "transition point" of the team.
"We're in a real transition period," Lurie said. "I mean we've got to retrench and rededicate and allocate resources to what can make us the best possible team in the midterm in the long term, and hopefully compete in the short term just because I think we can, but honestly that's, that's really where we're at, and I have real confidence that our football operations, led by Howie, can not only repeat the performance of 2016 until now, and once again create a dominant football team that can really maximize every aspect of its potential."
Pederson made history with the Eagles in his five seasons with the Super Bowl LII victory. He took over when the Chip Kelly tenure ended and the Eagles used the No. 2 selection in the 2016 NFL Draft on quarterback Carson Wentz and, right away, the program moved in the right direction. One season later, the Eagles were the best team in the NFL, surviving an avalanche of injuries to win it all. The Eagles were set for "the new normal," as Pederson said at the Parade of Champions Super Bowl celebration throughout the City of Philadelphia.
More injuries stifled the team in 2018 and in 2019, but in each season Pederson kept the team together and the Eagles reached the playoffs and, in 2018, potentially one late-game scoring drive away from reaching the NFC Championship Game.
In 2020, a combination of injuries and poor production from the offense knocked the Eagles to fourth place in the NFC East. After a week of meetings to determine the future, a very difficult decision was made, and now the Eagles are looking at an offseason of change from the head coach and the entire coaching staff to a roster that needs an infusion of young talent.
"I think it's fair to say that I saw this as a retooling of the team in a way in which I thought we needed to make a lot of mid-term, long-term decisions, and that also had to do with coaches, how would we best set ourselves up for success two, three years down the road," Lurie said.
"I'd rather not publicly talk about any specific coaches or anything like that except to say that we probably saw things a little differently. What I was trying to get across, it's much more about where we are as a franchise heading into a retooling and a real transition period versus trying to support a coach, trying to attract potentially other coaches, a defensive coordinator, or retain people on the staff in that role, knowing that you might not have the success that you want in that transition right away, and therefore, you don't want to put Doug in that position. And therefore, I thought it was best for him and best for us that we part ways. It's just sort of the root of where we're at at the moment."