Greg Lewis

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."

Senior Bowl Notes: Roseman on WRs coach, Lurie, possible trade down

Senior Bowl Notes: Roseman on WRs coach, Lurie, possible trade down

MOBILE, Ala. — After speculation for weeks about the possibility that one of the Eagles’ coordinators could end up leaving for a head coaching job, it looks like the team will have just one change from last year’s staff.

The Eagles fired Greg Lewis after one season and hired Mike Groh as the new receivers coach.

On Wednesday during Senior Bowl week at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman didn’t want to talk about the reasons for the switch at receivers coach. He said those questions would be better answered by head coach Doug Pederson (who was not available to the media on Wednesday), because the decision was the head coach’s.  

“[Pederson] decides who the coaches are,” Roseman said. “He’s in charge of the staff. That’s how we roll.”

Recently, the Eagles blocked quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo from interviewing to be the Jets’ next offensive coordinator. While ESPN reported that decision came from owner Jeff Lurie, when asked if the decision to block DeFilippo from interviewing was Pederson’s, Roseman repeated himself: “Doug decides who’s on the staff.”

Speaking of staff, there aren’t nearly as many coaches in Mobile this week as there were last year. Just Pederson and the coordinators are representing the coaching staff during practices this week. Roseman said Pederson wanted his coaches to stay at home and work on scheme.

Roles in pre-draft process
While Pederson and Lurie weren’t spotted during the first day of Senior Bowl practices on Tuesday, there they were on Wednesday afternoon, standing next to Roseman as the North team got going.

As the practice broke down into individual drills, the trio walked to the complete other side of the field to watch the receivers work for an extended period of time. Among the North receivers is Eastern Washington’s Cooper Kupp, who has a connection to Carson Wentz (see story).

While a recent ESPN story detailed Lurie’s growing involvement in football matters, Roseman on Wednesday downplayed the owner’s role. Roseman said Lurie isn’t giving his input on players, instead, he’s asking questions.

“It’s our responsibility to make these decisions,” Roseman said. “He just loves being around football. He loves being around the people in the organization. He has a good time, he gets energy from it. It’s kind of a dead time of year where there’s not a lot going on for all of us, where you don’t see action, where you don’t get a practice. It’s a beautiful day.”

Last year when the Eagles arrived at Senior Bowl week, Pederson’s coaching staff wasn’t even fully assembled. He was still interviewing candidates while in Mobile – the team hired Chris Wilson as the defensive line coach and Joe D’Orazio as a quality control/assistant receivers coach.

On top of that, Pederson was still learning how to be a head coach and was still implementing his scheme.

Things are a little different this year as the second-year head coach is able to be a little more involved during this pre-draft process.

“Now we’re at a point where we have that stability,” Roseman said. “And we’re able to kind of talk about what fits best for our coaches and our coaching staff and ideally when we make decisions, we’re trying to find guys who fit the Philadelphia Eagles.”

Thinking of trading down?
Eagles vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas seemed to be pleased with the depth in this year’s draft. And on top of that, Roseman listed several positions of strength in this year’s class, including running backs, receivers and defensive backs.

So the strengths of this year’s class and the Eagles’ biggest needs seem to coincide. It would be logical to think maybe that coincidence might allow the Eagles to trade back in the first round to acquire some additional draft picks.

But Roseman seemed wary of that idea on Wednesday.

“We’ve had some good success 20 and higher,” he said. “I think that there is a line where you don’t get a difference maker and this is your opportunity in the first round of the draft to find a difference-making player. That’s our first priority is to bring a difference-maker to the Philadelphia Eagles. By trading back and getting extra picks but not having someone who can affect the game. You’re watching the games and you’re watching the championship games, and you’re seeing that there are difference makers making big plays in these games, so we gotta make sure that we come out of that. If there’s an opportunity to get that and get an extra pick, that would be great.”

The last time the Eagles traded back in the first round was in 2014. They went from the 22nd pick to 26th and ended up with Marcus Smith.

“One of the lessons I learned there was that you’re not trying to win the draft,” Roseman said. “You’re just trying to get good players who fit the Philadelphia Eagles.”

Report: Eagles interested in Bills WRs coach Sanjay Lal

Report: Eagles interested in Bills WRs coach Sanjay Lal

The Eagles fired Greg Lewis on Tuesday, so now they have to find a wide receivers coach to take his place. 

We have our first name. 

The team has "strong interest" in Bills receivers coach Sanjay Lal, according to ESPN's Adam Caplan.

While Lewis, 36, had never been an NFL position coach before the Eagles hired him last offseason, Lal has significant experience. 

The 47-year-old just finished his second season as the Bills wide receivers coach and has been a receivers coach in the NFL since 2009. He held the position with the Jets from 2012-14 and with the Raiders from 2009-11. Before that, he was an assistant receivers/quality control coach with the Raiders. 

With the Bills' firing of Rex Ryan, their position coaches have uncertain futures. 

A big problem with the Eagles' receivers group -- aside from an obvious lack of talent -- is unfulfilled potential. The Eagles started the season with a first-round pick, two second-round picks and a third-round pick at the position. And the only player who had a good season was Jordan Matthews. 

Nelson Agholor, the team's first-round pick from 2015, was slightly better in his second season but wasn't able to come near fulfilling his potential. 

Lal should know something about unfulfilled potential. In 2009, his first season as the Raiders' wide receivers coach, the team drafted Darrius Heyward-Bey with the seventh-overall pick. In his first two seasons, Heyward-Bey had numbers worse than Agholor's. But in his third season, and Lal's last with the team, Heyward-Bey caught 64 passes for 975 yards and four touchdowns. It's the best season he's ever had in the NFL. 

Maybe the Eagles want to see if Lal could squeeze some production out of their disappointing receivers.