COACH-QUARTERBACK CYCLE RETURNS WITH WENTZ-PEDERSON
Andy Reid took over as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999 from Ray Rhodes who left a depleted roster that included a couple of journeymen quarterbacks. But he inherited the No. 2 pick in the upcoming draft that was considered to be deep at the quarterback position.
Indeed quarterbacks were selected 1 2 3; and 5 of the first 12 selections were quarterbacks. I remember the depth of research that Andy put into studying the new crop.
Each day he would put a new QB into his video tape player to study them with a fresh set of eyes. And as the days drew nearer towards the day of the draft, Andy was certain that his eyes were not deceived by the talent and leadership that Donovan McNabb would bring to a rebuilding Eagles organization. Andy hit a home run with McNabb.
Reid and his new quarterback would be united at the hip over the following decade that would bring the greatest success the Eagles organization would ever see. Division crowns, and five trips to the NFC Conference Championship Games capped off by a 2004 trip to the Super Bowl.
It was a golden era full of victories and promise and heartbreaking defeats. But through it all, the head coach, the offensive coordinator, the play-caller and the quarterback would always be packaged together.
The similarities between new Eagles Head Coach, Doug Pederson, and his star quarterback, Carson Wentz are striking. The Eagles would pull off a series of unlikely trades to ascend from pick No. 13 to pick No. 2 to select Wentz in Pedersen’s inaugural season.
Pedersen would handle the duties of head coach, be the offensive coordinator, and handle all of the play-calling responsibilities just like his mentor Andy Reid. He handled a depleted roster, much like Reid, using a variety of formations and personnel groupings to mask their flaws. And while Andy managed five wins in his first campaign, Pederson squeezed out 7.
The head coach and quarterback relationship is the most important in sports. What Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have accomplished has set the American Sports bar higher than it has ever been before.
But if we say the Patriots are just an outlier, then lets examine the HC/QB relationships in a few other places that has seen great success.
Sean Payton took over the reigns of the New Orleans Saints in 2006. They were known more for the “Ain’ts” during their tenure in New Orleans than any kind of success. That changed immediately when Payton signed Drew Brees to a free agent contract pretty soon after he assumed the head coaching duties and the Saints have had a lot of success including a Super Bowl Championship to cap off the 2009 campaign.
In less than 4 years after this tandem united they were able to pull off the unthinkable, by bringing a championship to the Crescent City. They spend more time together than they do with their own kids. They share a vision that a coach and quarterback have to have if they are ever able to win at the highest level.
In 1992 Mike Holmgren took over the head coaching duties in Green Bay from Lindy Infante.
There had been an exceedingly long drought since the Packers last championship, especially in a town that they call “Titletown.” The new general manager, Ron Wolf, first order of business was to find Holmgren a quarterback.
He made a trade with Atlanta for a guy named Lorenzo Brett Favre. Holmgren and Favre would immediately strike up a unique relationship. It was often times volatile, but with mutual respect and admiration. After steadfast improvement and an undying belief in a system known as the West Coast offense, the Packers would return to glory four years later when they capped the 1996 season off with a Super Bowl victory.
Mike McCarthy would eventually take over the reigns of the Packers leaving Alex Smith and the 49ers to try and bring another title to “Titletown, USA” He had to navigate some turbulent waters between the eventual retirement of Favre and the grooming of an inexperienced Aaron Rogers. It was immediately apparent that McCarthy and Rogers clicked with how they [prepared for an opponent and what it took to bring another Championship Banner to Green Bay.
These are three small samples of a unique relationship between a head coach and a quarterback who have worked exceedingly well together that has brought the ultimate success to a franchise. The characteristics of all three is that the head coach was more than that.
In all 3 examples the head coach was also the coordinator and the play caller. The demands that the head coach put on the quarterback is often times straining to the relationship as the head coach is seeking perfection in everything that the quarterback needs to do to win at the highest level.
That tension that exists is commonplace as the quarterback has to be able to deflect it in some cases for the betterment of the team.
We saw small examples of the tension that existed between Pederson and Wentz last season. Pederson said after the first loss to the Giants when Wentz tossed 2 poor interceptions that “Carson needs to clean up some mechanics” When Carson was asked about what the head coach had said he quickly shot those comments on his mechanics down.
The Eagles are committed to Wentz. They will never stop surrounding him with top-tier talent, as they should. This upcoming draft should find Wentz a young receiver and running back to work with. In addition to guys named Alshon and Torrey, Wentz will have much better ammunition with which to play with. But with it will also come higher expectations.
Wentz expects that. But what is also coming is Pederson’s demands of what it is going to take to compete in the NFC EAST. The 607 passes that Carson threw in 2016 was a good starting point. In 2017 every pass will be scrutinized harder through the trained eye of Pederson. The reads have to be quicker, the adjustments more fluid, and the location more precise.
This relationship between Pederson and Wentz has to grow. It needs to be based on trust. They must share the same vision, not only in the playbook but in what it takes to bring the first championship to Philadelphia.
Over the next couple of years, coaches will come and go. Personnel people will change. Players today may not be a part to a championship run.
But Pederson and Wentz will be here; and if a parade is to be had down Broad Street then the relationship between Pederson and Wentz will be thicker than blood.*