Good morning, Eagles fans and happy new year! Here's to 2019 being better than 2018 for the Eagles, if that's possible. The Eagles players have off to celebrate the new year today and will be back at the NovaCare Complex tomorrow. Offensive coordinator Mike Groh and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will speak to the media at noon and we will carry both live. Here's what you need to know in today's Morning Roundup...
1. The Last Coach Standing
Eight teams are in search of a new head coach after Black Monday. Six teams announced the decision yesterday, while two teams – Cleveland and Green Bay – already started the process during the season.
Three of those teams – Cleveland, Miami, and Tampa Bay – hired their coaches in 2016 which is when the Eagles made Doug Pederson the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. The move was criticized at the time. But Pederson has proven to be the right choice.
Pederson has taken the Eagles to the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2008-10. He is one of only eight head coaches in NFL history to win a Super Bowl within his first two seasons. This year, the Eagles won five of their last six games after a 4-6 start to get into the postseason.
Of the seven head coaches hired in 2016, Pederson is the only one remaining with his team.
"You have to have confidence in your ability, and obviously I'm not going to speak for the other guys, but I had a lot of confidence in myself," Pederson said. "I feel like you have to surround yourself with really, really good assistant coaches, good coordinators, and guys that love ball and love to teach. That's obviously something I learned from Mike Holmgren and Andy (Reid).
"Again, I can't speak for the others, but that's just what I know. Then having the ability and confidence in myself to lead and teach and get guys to play. I feel like if that's good enough, it's good enough."
2. Malcolm Jenkins: A True Ironman
Safety Malcolm Jenkins played all 1,039 snaps on defense in 2018. He just wrapped up his fifth regular season with the team after signing as a free agent in 2014. He's never missed a game. And in 83 regular-season and postseason contests, he's played every snap in all but six of them. And one of those was the 2017 regular-season finale when starters were rested for the playoffs.
His position coach, Tim Hauck, played in the NFL for 13 seasons – in fact, he forced a fumble in the last Eagles-Bears playoff meeting – and knows how hard that achievement is to accomplish.
"He does a great job of taking care of himself and finding ways to keep himself young in this business," Hauck said. "When you get a little bit older, it's hard to do that. It's hard to get yourself ready every single week because it takes a little bit longer to recover from the week before. I think he does all the right things off the field also to get himself prepared."
3. And The Referee Is ...
Eagles fans can breathe a little sigh of relief. Tony Corrente is the referee for the Eagles-Bears Wild Card matchup. According to Football Zebras, this is Corrente's 18th playoff assignment. Corrente was the referee for the Eagles' win over Washington on December 3. The Eagles were called for five penalties for 38 yards that night compared to 10 for 69 against Washington.
4. Foles Will Start In Chicago
In his Monday afternoon press conference, head coach Doug Pederson announced that Nick Foles will be the starting quarterback on Sunday when the Eagles travel to Chicago to take on the Bears in the NFC Wild Card round. Foles had to exit Sunday's Week 17 game against Washington with a chest injury early in the fourth quarter after taking a tough hit. Pederson said Foles is "feeling good" and will make his fifth-career playoff start for the Eagles with Nate Sudfeld as his backup.
5. It's Playoff Week
The new season is upon us.
As the Bears await, the Eagles are set to embark on a brand new season where records are thrown out the window and everyone has a shot at the ultimate prize. A year that looked in danger of going downhill has turned around and the Eagles, winners of five of their last six, are one of the hottest teams in the NFL heading into the playoffs. There is an air of confidence and excitement at the NovaCare Complex as this postseason berth just gives validity to Pederson's expectation of a "New Normal."
The Eagles face a difficult challenge in the 12-4 Chicago Bears who they will have to beat on the road. But as Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro writes, the team is clicking on all cylinders at the right time and has gotten its preparation started:
"We've got our work cut out for us. We know how good they are and we're looking forward to preparing for that," Pederson said. "Our job as coaches is to make sure our protection is sound, make sure that we've got the guys in the right position. Of course, the players around our quarterback have to do their job in protection and keep him clean. It's a tough task, but I appreciate what our guys go through."
6. Thanks For The Playoff Spot, Now ...
Pederson and Foles will be facing off against an old friend on Sunday in Bears' head coach Matt Nagy. Pederson and Nagy worked for years together, "hip-by-hip," as Nagy said, on the offensive staff here in Philadelphia and in Kansas City both under head coach Andy Reid. Foles worked with Nagy in his rookie year with the Eagles and in one of the most important years of Foles' career in Kansas City as he contemplated retirement.
While these great relationships will be put aside on Sunday during a game with everything on the line, the appreciation and respect from both sidelines is undeniable:
"I went to Training Camp, signed late at Kansas City, went to get my physical, and was dropped off at Nagy's house at Overland Park (Kansas) because it was his off day," Foles said. "I had known him from my rookie year.
"I got to spend time with his family, hang out, and then I drove back with him, and I didn't have a car, so he let me use his car in Training Camp so I could get from place to place and he just rode with a coach. And that's just who he is, not only as a person but as a coach. He's unbelievable. So, I admire him, I'm proud of him, it will be fun to compete against him."
7. Lawlor: Eagles Kick Off The New Year Right
Sunday was a blast. While there was never really any time to relax, the Eagles dominated Washington in every facet of the game and the Bears took care of business with a 24-10 to punch the Eagles' ticket to the playoffs. An entire season came down to one weekend and the results of two games and it went just as it needed to.
Tommy Lawlor writes that the Eagles played like they should. It wasn't a flashy game with big plays and a lot of offense. Instead, the Eagles controlled the ball on offense and methodically marched while shutting down everything Washington threw at them while on defense. That kind of performance in a critical game shows what a team is made of and bodes well for the postseason:
If you love good defense, then Sunday was a lot of fun. The Eagles dominated on that side of the ball. They only gave up 89 yards all game. Washington didn't have any third-down conversions. They never got into the red zone.
The Redskins had 44 offensive plays. They were held to zero or negative yards on 24 of those plays. That's insanely good defense. Washington never stood a chance.