Doug Pederson explains 'tough decision' to change WR coaches

Doug Pederson explains 'tough decision' to change WR coaches

INDIANAPOLIS -- For the first time since the 2016 season ended with a win over the Cowboys at the Linc on Jan. 1, Doug Pederson spoke to reporters at the combine on Wednesday afternoon. 

There was a bit of unfinished business. 

His coaching staff will have just one change going into next season. The team fired wide receivers coach Greg Lewis and hired former Rams and Bears receivers coach Mike Groh to take his place. 

At the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, last month, vice president of football operations Howie Roseman passed on the question, saying that all coaching decisions were Pederson's. 

So, Doug, why the switch? 

"You make tough decisions with players, you make tough decisions with staff, and for me, it was a tough one to make," Pederson said at the podium inside the Indiana Convention Center at his combine media availability. "But at the same time, I want to do everything that's right for the organization and I'm looking forward to working with Mike this spring." 

Pederson made sure to thank Lewis for his one season of work under him in Philly. Lewis bounced back quickly from getting fired, moving on to take the receivers coach job under Andy Reid in Kansas City. 

While Lewis didn't have a ton of talent to work with in 2016, his young players didn't discernably improve at all during the season. Pederson didn't get into the specifics of why the decision to fire Lewis was made, but it seems very possible this was the reason why. 

When Lewis was hired by the Eagles last offseason, he had never held a position coach job in the NFL. The Eagles went with more experience this offseason when they hired Groh, who has been a position coach for the Bears and Rams.

"I sat down and had a great conversation with him," Pederson said. "We really hit it off. Some of his expertise, some of the players he's coached, past experiences, and a lot of recommendations from around the league that made him a great candidate for us."

Groh, 45, has worked with two of the biggest free-agent receivers in this year's class: Alshon Jeffery and Kenny Britt. He spent just one season with the Rams, in 2016. The coaching staff underwent a big change after the season, when Jeff Fisher was fired. Before then, Rowe was with the Bears for three seasons. 

The last of those years in Chicago came under head coach John Fox, who allowed Groh to leave after the 2015 season to take a promotion (the label "passing game coordinator" was added to his title) with the Rams. 

"Typically, guys that are under contract, as an organization you can say no," Fox said on Wednesday. "Sometimes you do. I've always been under the belief that you have to let people professionally grow. I thought he did a good job. He had a great opportunity. It didn't work out. Sometimes it doesn't. He's definitely a good football coach, sharp mind, understands the game. He's a very good teacher."

The Bears allowed the Rams to interview and then hire Groh after the 2015 season. The Eagles weren't as giving when it came to quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo this offseason. 

With a vacancy at offensive coordinator, the Jets wanted to interview DeFilippo, but the Eagles blocked that request. While a report surfaced that Jeffrey Lurie was behind the decision, Roseman last month said all coaching decisions were left up to Pederson. 

There hadn't been an opportunity to ask Pederson about the decision until Wednesday. 

"The biggest thing for me was, I took a lesson from a coach many years ago," he said. "It's hard to let good coaches go. DeFilippo has a great relationship with Carson, myself. He is a great coach in the National Football League. And I felt strongly about keeping him, especially in Carson's second year. The development, the growth process and keeping him intact. That was the decision with that."

Eagles Mailbag: Fletcher Cox, OTA evaluations, Nelson Agholor

Eagles Mailbag: Fletcher Cox, OTA evaluations, Nelson Agholor

The Eagles have completed one round of OTAs and will kick off another next week, starting Tuesday. 

OTAs are basically light practices in shorts and there's not a ton to gain from watching them, but they're not completely worthless. We already learned who some starters are for now and got a chance to see some new players on the field. 

Training camp will be here before you know it. 

To your questions: 

This is an interesting question because I think if I'm his teammate, I'd be a little annoyed. Especially if I'm some backup player making league minimum and the $100 million man doesn't show. 

But it really isn't like that. Even talking to players off the record, they don't seem to be bothered that Fletcher Cox wasn't with the team during a week of OTAs. Basically, players assume if a guy isn't there, they have a reason and are working out on their own. 

Guys especially understand if a player misses because of contract reasons — get paid, fellas. Obviously, that's not the reason Cox is missing. He signed a $100 million deal last offseason. And Cox's absence allows some other guys to get more reps, which is good for younger guys. 

It definitely doesn't look good from the outside that Cox isn't there. And it's pretty obvious Doug Pederson wants him at the facility. But the players inside the locker room? They're more understanding. 

Let's pump the breaks on the Nelson Agholor OTAs praise. Sure, he looked pretty good in the one day we got to watch of practice this week, but Agholor has looked good in shorts before. 

Does he have a shot at being a starter? Maybe a very slim shot. But the chances he actually beats out Torrey Smith for a starting gig seem minuscule. Perhaps you're thinking Smith is completely shot after looking that way in San Francisco, but it's hard to imagine he can't beat out Agholor for the job. 

That said, Agholor will be on the team this year. His contract makes cutting him nonsensical. And it'll be interesting to see how he performs without the pressure of being a starter. To me, it would make sense to occasionally work him into the slot, something the coaching staff hasn't done much of in the last couple years. 

I put these together because I want to make this point first: we have only been allowed to watch one of their three practices, so we don't have a lot to work from. But I'll give you what I can. 

Barnett: He looks impressive in shorts, at times beating Lane Johnson, who is a very good tackle. That bend we've heard so much about was evident really early. Remember Joe Douglas' talking about ankle flexion? Well, it's absolutely there. It's clear Barnett is a technician, but I'll reserve my judgment until training camp when the pads go on. 

Wentz: Thought he looked fine. I saw some folks saying they saw differences in his mechanics ... Eh. Hard to say in one practice. What I did see were a few beautifully tossed balls and some chemistry forming with Alshon Jeffery, who ought to be the team's No. 1 target this year.

NFL Notes: Vikings' Mike Zimmer says he'll coach with 1 eye if necessary

NFL Notes: Vikings' Mike Zimmer says he'll coach with 1 eye if necessary

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has had a lot of time on his hands this week while sitting at home on his Kentucky ranch as his team went through optional practices in the Twin Cities.

Zimmer was under strict orders to leave the team and rest his right eye, which has needed eight surgeries to try to repair a detached retina. The lingering issues have led some to wonder if he would be forced to shorten his career.

Zimmer has heard the speculation all week long. The hard-nosed coach said he has reached out to some of those doubters personally this week.

"I'll be back shortly," Zimmer vowed in a conference call with reporters on Friday. "One eye or two, it doesn't matter. I'll be back. We can put that retiring thing to bed quickly."

Zimmer missed one game last season due to the problems with his eye . He tried to work through the issues, but said on Friday that he was told to skip this week's practices and go home to allow his eye to recover.

"It's not much fun," he said. "Usually I love it down here in my place here. But I don't love it too much this week. It was kind of a forced situation. But for the long run it's the best thing for me."

Giants: Smith trying to resurrect career
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Geno Smith didn't catch a break in his final two seasons with the New York Jets, and it seems his chances of resurrecting his career with the Giants are facing obstacles.

Not only does Smith have to beat out incumbent Josh Johnson for the backup quarterback job to Eli Manning, his prospects of making the team took another hit in the NFL draft when the Giants selected Davis Webb with their third-round draft pick.

The 26-year-old Smith doesn't seem concerned.

Speaking after the Giants organized training activities Thursday, Smith sounded confident for a player who had a promising rookie season four years ago and then regressed, in large part due to inconsistency.

"Honestly, I don't feel like I have to prove anything to anyone other than myself," said Smith, who has played in only three games in the past two seasons, starting one. "I am just trying to be my best every single day, focusing on trying to be perfect. I know that is a far goal to try and reach, but just trying to be perfect every day and understanding what is required of me once I step onto the field, and then trying to get it done."

Redskins: Injured Moreau final draft pick to sign
ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins have signed the final member of their 10-player draft class, third-round pick Fabian Moreau.

The team announced the deal Friday.

The cornerback out of UCLA tore a pectoral muscle at his pro day in March. He was projected to be a first- or second-round pick before the injury and went 81st overall to the Redskins.

Moreau says doctors told him it was a five-month recovery, putting him on track to be ready by late in the preseason. The 23-year-old was at Washington's practice facility for rookie minicamp and the first sessions of organized team activities.

Coach Jay Gruden says the team is playing by ear the injury situations of Moreau and fourth-round pick Montae Nicholson and hopes they learn the schemes for the secondary as they rehab.

NFL: Judge tosses lawsuit over cheerleader wages
SAN FRANCISCO -- A lawsuit accusing the NFL and team owners of conspiring to suppress wages for cheerleaders lacks evidence to support that claim, a federal judge said.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup dismissed the lawsuit by a former San Francisco 49ers cheerleader. The suit sought class action status on behalf of all NFL cheerleaders.

"To state an antitrust claim here, plaintiff must plead not only `ultimate facts, such as conspiracy, and legal conclusions,'" Alsup said. "The complaint must answer the basic questions of `who, did what, to whom (or with whom), where, and when?'"

An email to an attorney for the 49ers cheerleader, Drexel Bradshaw, was not immediately returned. The cheerleader was only identified in the suit as "Kelsey K."

Alsup gave her an opportunity to amend the lawsuit and refile it by June 15.

The lawsuit was among a spate of legal actions in recent years accusing NFL teams of failing to pay cheerleaders for hours they spent practicing and making public appearances.