During the course of his highly successful tenure as Chairman and CEO of the Philadelphia Eagles, Jeffrey Lurie has always encouraged the team to think outside the box and to, when appropriate, address oncoming decisions with a risk-averse philosophy. As the team heads into the 2020 season with changes to the coaching staff, the personnel department, and the player performance areas, that approach is very much evident.
On Thursday, the Eagles announced additions to the coaching staff, one that now has a nontraditional structure minus an offensive coordinator, sprinkled with coaches who bring with them NFL playing experience and, in some cases, new-wave approaches to offensive schemes.
On Friday, the team completed its front office and coaching face-lift with the announcement of a new director of sports performance and additions to the personnel department that include former players Connor Barwin, Brent Celek, and Darren Sproles.
What have the Eagles added?
Fresh minds. Fresh ideas.
That's the word from the NovaCare Complex. Head coach Doug Pederson brings in Rich Scangarello as a senior offensive assistant, and Scangarello has a history of studying this offense. He'll add fresh ideas, a new perspective.
Andrew Breiner is the team’s pass game analyst. He brings an in-depth knowledge of the RPO game the Eagles use and this offense's "Tiger" personnel package, the two-tight end usage. A former head coach at Fordham and recently the pass game coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Mississippi State, Breiner studied the Eagles very closely, specifically in those two areas. He's here to help enhance the passing game.
Press Taylor and Breiner will work very closely together, along with Scangarello, in a collaborative approach with Pederson and the offensive coaching staff to take a good offensive scheme and make it better. Make it great.
Aaron Moorehead is the new wide receivers coach. He brings with him a commanding presence and a confidence from his days playing in the NFL, making it as a backup, an important theme with Pederson. Moorehead is all about attention to detail and hard work and dedication and putting the team first. He was beyond impressive in his meetings with the team.
There is no "traditional" offensive coordinator, which has been very much discussed out there. Inside the NovaCare Complex, the Eagles understand that Pederson calls the plays and oversees the offense. Taylor, the team's quarterbacks coach the last two seasons, is ready for the next step. The Eagles believe that Taylor is on his way to becoming an offensive coordinator and perhaps beyond that.
Here is how it has worked for the Eagles in the past, in terms of preparing the game plan: Taylor has put together the red zone package, the wide receivers coach has put together the third-down plays, tight ends coach Justin Peelle has his hand in short-yardage and goal line, assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley designs the quarterback movement plays and screens, offensive line coach/run game coordinator Jeff Stoutland handles the run game, and will get some assistance from T.J. Paganetti, the assistant run game coordinator/assistant running backs coach – and then everything funnels through the coordinator. In this scenario, all of those packages funnel through Scangarello and then, ultimately, funnel through Pederson.
This is, at the end of the day, Pederson's offense. And it was Pederson's call to bring in fresh ideas and fresh eyes. Nobody pressured Pederson to "have new ideas." Someone said to me on Friday, "having new ideas here is not a new idea."
On defense, the Eagles added Marquand Manuel to coach the defensive backs, and Manuel brings an intensity, and attention to detail, to the room.
"Give me your best every single day, because I'm going to give you mine," Manuel said. "Everyone has a story. Now, with that, we need to create our own. That's how we're going to start it here."
Matt Burke, who has had a prolonged relationship with coordinator Jim Schwartz, served in an assistant role last season and is now in charge of the defensive line and the defensive run game. His vision for the front four is very clear.
"The plan is to be the hardest-playing D-line in the league. I think that's our starting point," said Burke, the guest on the next Eagles Insider Podcast presented by Lincoln Financial Group (dropping on Monday). "I've been in this scheme with Jim for a long time and I've run the scheme as a coordinator. The starting point for everything is an attack mentality. We have to be the hardest-playing in the league, like, that's what this scheme is built on and it's funneled through the D-line.
"Our starting point is going to be that, utilizing the energy of BG (Brandon Graham) and those types of guys and the attitude … we have to be the fastest, hardest, most attacking defensive line in the NFL. … That's going to be our identity."
On the player performance side, Tom Hunkele takes over as director of sports medicine after being named in 2019 as the Tim Davey Assistant Athletic Trainer of the Year for the NFC. He was also part of a Minnesota Vikings staff that was honored by their NFL peers as the 2017 Athletic Training Staff of the Year. Ted Rath is the director of sports performance. In 2017, Rath was named the Strength Coach of the Year by the Professional Football Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association, an award voted on by strength and conditioning coaches around the NFL, while with the Los Angeles Rams. That season, according to Football Outsiders, the Rams finished as the healthiest team in the NFL based on adjusted games lost due to injury.
There are familiar faces with fresh eyes added to the personnel staff in the form of former Eagles Connor Barwin, Brent Celek, and Darren Sproles, three players who were the epitome of what professionalism is all about. They will add their perspectives to personnel evaluations as the Eagles get set for an exceptionally busy few months ahead, armed with as many as 10 draft picks (including compensatory selections) and room to maneuver within the salary cap for 2020.
The Eagles performed their due diligence here. They talked to a lot of people. Pederson had many targets, heard from a lot of coaches, and, in the end, he put together his staff. On the player performance side, the same. The Eagles want to be healthy in 2020. They want to provide the best conditioning to prevent injuries and the best care when they happen to the players.
So, the changes were made. And the theme, above all else, is this: New faces, fresh ideas, interesting perspectives. The Eagles are one of only four teams to make the playoffs the last three seasons. They want more than that, of course. They want it all. And they aren't afraid to do things in a nontraditional manner, as they've shown over and over again in the Jeffrey Lurie Era.