- Tommy Lawlor writes that the Eagles' assistant coaches deserve more credit for the Eagles' first Super Bowl Championship.
Winning the Super Bowl brought the Eagles a lot of praise. And deservedly so. Howie Roseman is talked about as one of the best personnel executives in the league. Doug Pederson drew universal praise for the job he did last year. He is considered one of the best coaches in the league. People throughout the football world are studying his offense, either how to copy it or stop it.
Eagles players have done well. Nick Foles went from backup quarterback to household name. Nigel Bradham was rewarded with a long-term contract from the Eagles. Patrick Robinson, Beau Allen, and Trey Burton all got big deals from other teams. Several Eagles placed in the NFL Network's list of Top 100 players, with Carson Wentz coming in the top 10 (his place will be announced Monday night on NFL Network at 8 p.m.).
One group that is somewhat overlooked for the Eagles is the assistant coaches.
It is hard to quantify exactly how important assistant coaches are because the work they do is behind the scenes and so much of it is minute details. If a coordinator changes his scheme or makes a great call, everyone can see that. People aren't going to notice how an assistant coach improved a player's hand placement. Football is a game of details, and assistant coaches are the masters of those details.
I think one way we can appreciate how good a job the Eagles' assistants did last year is to look at the results.
Nelson Agholor was a major disappointment in 2016. The Eagles brought in a new receivers coach, Mike Groh, and that changed Agholor's career. Groh was demanding. He wasn't there to become buddies with his players. He wanted to bring out the best in them.
Agholor responded by having the best year of his career and finally showing the talent the Eagles expected when they spent a first-round pick on him in 2015. Coaching made all the difference in the world.
Duce Staley was masterful with the way he handled the Eagles' running backs. There was no panic when Darren Sproles got hurt. Staley got outstanding play from veteran free agent LeGarrette Blount and undrafted free agent Corey Clement. Blount was the workhorse, while Clement developed into a good receiver and red zone threat.
Jay Ajayi joined the team at midseason. Staley helped him learn the Eagles' offense, and Ajayi became a key player on the run to the Super Bowl. He averaged almost 6 yards a carry for the Eagles and was the team's leading rusher in the playoffs.
Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland also had a significant challenge. Jason Peters went down for the year, and Stoutland had to find a solution. Halapoulivaati Vaitai took over at left tackle. He got better as the year went along and played his best football in the postseason.
Stoutland got veterans Stefan Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, and Lane Johnson to play the best football of their careers. That's not random luck. That is good coaching.
Chris Wilson only had minor injuries to deal with in the defensive line room. His challenge was to take a deep, talented group and get them to share reps and play at a high level. Brandon Graham had the best year of his career. Fletcher Cox was dominant in the middle. Rookie Derek Barnett got better as the year went along and made some huge plays in the postseason. Veteran Chris Long had his best season since 2013. He had a career high with four forced fumbles.
Cory Undlin got the secondary to play better than anyone expected. Jalen Mills became a starter in his second year and ended up as a Pro Bowl alternate. The Eagles traded for Ronald Darby in the preseason and Undlin had to get him ready on the fly. Darby got hurt in the opener, and that led to all kinds of lineup changes.
Rookie Rasul Douglas proved to be a good situational player. Patrick Robinson came to the Eagles on a minimum deal and ended up as one of the top nickel cornerbacks in the league. Darby came back from his injury and made some huge plays down the stretch.
Safeties coach Tim Hauck got terrific play from veterans Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. The team signed Corey Graham in August, and he ended up being a key player on the back end.
Justin Peelle did a great job with his tight ends. Zach Ertz had the best season of his career and emerged as one of the most dangerous pass catchers in the NFL. Brent Celek remained one of the best blocking tight ends in the league. Trey Burton emerged as a real threat as a receiver. He had a career-high five touchdown catches.
Ken Flajole had to deal with a season-ending injury to middle linebacker Jordan Hicks. Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks stepped up in his absence. Bradham played at a Pro Bowl level. Flajole got Joe Walker, Najee Goode, and Dannell Ellerbe to all contribute in Hicks' absence.
John DeFilippo did an amazing job with the quarterbacks. He helped Carson Wentz play at an MVP level. Wentz got hurt against the Rams and everyone thought the season was over. DeFilippo helped Nick Foles take over and play at a high level. That was no small feat, given the circumstances.
DeFilippo also has to get credit for bringing Nate Sudfeld along. The Eagles could have gone out and signed some veteran to back up Foles, but instead, they stuck with Sudfeld. DeFilippo impressed enough people that the Vikings hired him to run their offense.
Eugene Chung, Press Taylor, Dino Vasso, Phillip Daniels, Trent Miles, and Matthew Harper were assistants to the assistant coaches. All of these men played a role in the Eagles becoming a championship team in 2017.
We give a lot of credit to Roseman for building a great roster. We also have to acknowledge Pederson for crafting a great coaching staff. Those men were leaders, communicators, motivators, and most of all - teachers.
If the Eagles are going to have another great season, they'll need the assistant coaches to keep up their excellent work and get the most out of their players.