Despite seismic changes in sports media, #Longreads persist. The question is whether anyone ever reads every word of any of them.
I’ll wager that far fewer than 4,312 people read all 4,312 words of a three-byline opus from TheAthletic.com regarding the disintegration of the Eagles, only three years after the team won Super Bowl LII. I wanted to. I tried to do it. And after five or seven paragraphs, I did what mostly everyone else surely did — I scrolled and skimmed for anything potentially relevant or interesting.
There were several relevant and interesting nuggets in the article. Here they are.
The Eagles reportedly treated former coach Doug Pederson like “a baby,” according to unnamed sources who claim that Pederson was beaten down by relentless second guessing. In 2019, for example, after a Thursday night win at Green Bay, Pederson was grilled by owner Jeffrey Lurie (an analytics aficionado) over the fact that Pederson hadn’t called more passes.
“[Pederson] was ridiculed and criticized for every decision,” an unnamed source told TheAthletic.com. “If you won by three, it wasn’t enough. If you lost on a last-second field goal, you’re the worst coach in history.”
Said another unnamed source, “The fact that Doug had the success he did with all the shit going on in the building, sometimes I look at our Super Bowl rings, and I’m like, ‘Holy cow, I don’t know how we did it.'”
Per the report, the undermining of Pederson began in only his second season, which ended with a Super Bowl victory. Prior to the start of the 2017 campaign, word spread through the organization of a three-hour meeting between Lurie and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Multiple unnamed sources told TheAthletic.com that “there was a feeling around the team that Lurie was vetting an in-house replacement for Pederson in the event the Eagles got off to a slow start.”
The article points to tensions between football and analytics, a dynamic hardly unique to the Eagles. One unnamed source described the team’s analytics department to TheAthletic.com as a “clandestine, Black Ops department that doesn’t answer to anybody except the owner.”
That’s how it currently works in plenty of NFL front offices. And it’s why so many coaches have embraced analytics. If they don’t, the analytics employees tell ownership that, if the coach had done what the analytics called for, the team would have won.
Complicating matters in Philly is that owner Jeffrey Lurie is very involved in the draft preparations, and he always has been. But that’s his right, as the owner of the team, to be as involved or uninvolved as he wants. With most if not all owners finding a way to state preferences when it comes to huge decisions, it’s better if those owners actually have put in the work.
In Philadephia, enough work was put in to win a Super Bowl. That’s the good news. The bad news is that things have collapsed quickly. Chances are that the failures in Philadelphia bear plenty of fingerprints.