Eagles forced to go outside comfort zone for new coaching staff

Photos: Associated Press
Photos: Associated Press
Posted: January 28, 2011

SEAN McDERMOTT, gone. Rory Segrest, gone. Bill Shuey, gone. With that, a grand experiment by the Eagles has been exposed. And because of that, the entire Eagles organization is shaken into reassessment.

McDermott. Segrest. Shuey. The Eagles invented all of them as NFL coaches. They arrived with college backgrounds, some of them pretty limited. All were the professional version of a blank slate when Andy Reid brought them in. All now have been let go.

The incubator has proved to be broken.

The Eagles have never really talked about this, but their actions have suggested a kind of vision for how this organization might run into the future. It was a vision of self-perpetuation. They had a head coach in Reid who had been in place for more than a decade, and a club president in Joe Banner who had been in place for longer than that, and they took this unusual NFL circumstance for an opportunity.

It was this: to create coaches and executives who would be trained in the Eagles' way. James Urban, the quarterbacks coach, is still on staff. Howie Roseman, the general manager, is beginning his second season. McDermott, Segrest and Shuey all were part of the same notion. All were essentially born as NFL personnel in broom closets-for-offices throughout the NovaCare Complex.

Other teams can't do it this way, because they don't have the stability at the top. The typical NFL coach isn't in place long enough to have the ability to grow a coaching staff from seeds. The typical NFL front office isn't secure enough to take the time to build a personnel-evaluating general manager out of the ambition of a young guy helping out with contracts and the salary cap.

But that is what the Eagles did. And now, at least on their defensive coaching staff, their actions acknowledge the errors.

Again, this has always gone unstated by the Eagles - but their intentions were plain. McDermott was going to be the defensive coordinator who succeeded Jim Johnson. It happened a couple of years earlier than anyone expected when Johnson died in 2009, but it was going to happen. They had been building that way for years - and when McDermott did get the job, Segrest and Shuey were also on his staff after having learned everything they knew about NFL coaching from people within the Eagles' organization.

Most teams don't do it that way. They look outside for people to fill jobs, sometimes as a kind of old-boys-network thing where they take care of friends, sometimes as a way to replenish the organizational fount of ideas. The Eagles chose not to look outside. Instead, they looked within.

Now, it has blown up on them.

It has been written before and should be written again: What all of this tumult on the Eagles' coaching staff suggests, more than anything, is what a crucial time this is for Reid and his tenure. But besides that, the turnover on the defensive staff suggests the failure of this insistent looking for answers within the same four walls.

These must be difficult times for Reid, and maybe humbling, too. There is no getting around the notion that these were his guys - born, raised and educated in the ways of the NFL by the Eagles. There is no denying that this assembly line of young coaches was an attempt to keep this organization moving forward with a kind of self-created momentum - a kind of internal power source for the Eagles, one that would never be depleted.

But now that they have been let go - and for the first time in a long time - the Eagles look outward.

For years, they have been comfortable with their structure and with their opinions - and they have won a lot of games. To deny that is to deny reality. The Eagles have been good at what they have done for a long time, and they have just accomplished a roster transition on the fly over the last 3 years while still continuing to make the playoffs. Again, that's just the reality.

Now, though, as the transition is ending and the championship winning theoretically is supposed to be beginning, the Eagles have dumped their defensive staff and engaged in a search for replacements that acknowledges the need to look outside the friendly confines for help in pushing them to the next level.

Ever since Tom Modrak was let go and Reid was named king of all football - and we are approaching the 10th anniversary of that move - the Eagles have become more and more insular. Again, the results speak for themselves - very good overall, but short of greatness. There has been a comfort level within the building about how things run, and about how the organizational players relate to one another, and there has been a confidence level that the answers to their questions could be found inside.

But now Sean McDermott is gone, and Rory Segrest is gone, and Bill Shuey is gone. And soon enough, we will all discover whether this look outside the Eagles' comfort zone makes a difference. *

Send e-mail to

hofmanr@phillynews.com, or read his blog, The Idle Rich, at

http://go.philly.com/theidlerich. For recent columns go to

http://go.philly.com/hofmann.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|