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NFC East Notebook: With the 2020 season in the past, teams are shaking up their coaching staffs

Here are the headlines from around the division from this past week

Philadelphia Eagles v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Though the 2020 NFL season is moving along at full speed into the playoffs, life in the NFC East has slowed down as this mark’s the first notebook of the offseason.

But off the field, there is still plenty to talk about around the division as coaching changes begin to impact each team.

The most notable one of this past week was the Philadelphia Eagles’ firing of Doug Pederson after five seasons with the team. He posted a 42-37-1 record during his time in Philly. This past season, the Eagles finished in last place in the NFC East with a 4-11-1 record. It was the worst season in Pederson’s tenure with the Eagles.

For some, the move was surprising considering the fact that Pederson brought Philly to the playoffs three times in his five seasons with the team and is just three years removed from a Super Bowl title.

But for owner Jeffrey Lurie, the poor performance of this past season demanded immediate change.

Around the division, particularly in New York, Pederson will likely be remembered for what turned out to be his final game with the Eagles in Week 17. Philly was facing the Washington Football Team on Sunday Night Football with nothing to play for. If they won the game, the Eagles would end up with the No. 11 draft pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. If they lost, Philly would get to pick at No. 6 overall.

When Pederson removed Jalen Hurts in favor of backup Nate Sudfeld in the fourth quarter trailing by just a touchdown score, it did not appear to make sense. Hurts was not having a strong game, having thrown seven of 20 for 72 yards and one interception. But with supposed franchise QB Carson Wentz benched due to the worst season of his career in which he led the league in interceptions and sacks, it appeared that Hurts should be worth evaluating for the future. Sudfeld, however, was on track to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season as he signed just a one-year deal with the Eagles. There was nothing to evaluate there.

So Pederson came under fire for throwing the game. Regardless of whether or not that is true, Pederson will not be there to have a say in what Philly does with its No. 6 overall pick.

Which, of course, will be a major storyline as the draft gets closer. Philly has a big question mark at the quarterback position. Wentz was signed through the 2024 season and the Eagles would acquire a whopping $59,220,611 in dead cap space if they release him this offseason. It’s hard to imagine Philly choosing to acquire so much in dead cap space, but it’s also difficult to picture Wentz having success on the field after this past season.

That will be the decision of a new coach to make. We’ll see who the Eagles choose.

Now, let’s dive into the headlines from around the division from this past week.

Dallas Cowboys

After firing defensive coordinator Mike Nolan after one season with the team, the Cowboys announced earlier this week that have hired Dan Quinn as his replacement. Quinn signed a three-year deal with the team.

Quinn most recently served as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons for six seasons before being fired after Week 5 of this past season. He posted a 43-42 record with the team.

The former head coach experienced the highest level of success in his career when he served as the defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks in 2013 and 2014. The Seahawks made it to the Super Bowl both seasons and won it all in 2013.

The Cowboys defense was ranked in the bottom 10 in the league in yards allowed per games in 2020 with 386.4. Their rush defense was particularly weak, finishing second-to-last in the league in rushing yards allowed with 2,541.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has been drawing interest from teams.

First, Moore’s alma mater, Boise State, was looking to hire him as a head coach. Now, it appears that the Eagles are interested in interviewing Moore for their head coaching vacancy.

More on that later.

Washington Football Team

Meanwhile in Washington, there is less commotion. After a tumultuous past offseason in which the Football Team replaced their head coach and coordinators on both sides of the ball, things should largely stay the same on the coaching front. In their first season, Ron Rivera, Scott Turner and Jack Del Rio led Washington to a 7-9 record, NFC East title, and its first playoff appearance since 2015.

Throughout all of last year though, the Football Team was without a GM. In the offseason, they are looking to fill that role. Though, Rivera has not confirmed it publicly. He told 106.7 the Fan in a recent interview that “there’s more to this position than meets the eye.”

“There’s so much operational stuff that’s involved as well,” Rivera said. “There’s a lot to it. This is not just picking players and making decisions on contracts or hiring coaches or what have you. It is a big task.”

It has been reported that Washington is looking outside of its organization to fill the GM position. Several names have since surfaced.

One is vice president of player personnel for the San Francisco 49ers, Martin Mayhew.

Mayhew spent nine seasons in the NFL, including four with Washington, as a defensive back. In his post-playing career, Mayhew spent 15 years with the Detroit Lions, rising from senior director of football administration to assistant general manager and then to GM before moving on to the New York Giants as their director of football operations/special projects. Then, Mayhew was hired by the 49ers in 2017 to be their senior personnel executive.

According to reports, Washington has also requested permission to interview Tennessee Titans vice president of player personnel Ryan Cowden. Cowden was a scout for the Carolina Panthers when Rivera was their head coach.

Interestingly, Mayhew and Cowden are represented by Frank Bauer, who is also the agent for Rivera...

Philadelphia Eagles

While Washington considers GM options, Philly is weighing potential head coaching candidates.

Numerous names have already surfaced. The list includes Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady, Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and New England Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo.

ESPN’s Tim McManus points out that a common pattern among the candidates so far is that they are young. Brady is 31, Moore is 32 and Mayo is 34.

This trend towards younger might be reflective of the direction Lurie is headed, saying he wants someone who is “constantly curious of where the league is headed.”

Other names that have surfaced are Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith (38), Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles (57) and Eagles assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley (45).

So far, the Eagles were reportedly “really impressed” with Arthur Smith, who they interviewed Thursday evening.

In addition to being young, I would highlight the fact that the majority of these candidates have demonstrated particular success with quarterbacks - a position of weakness and uncertainty for the Eagles heading into the 2021 season.

Brady worked closely with Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow during LSU’s championship season. Smith has overseen the rise of Ryan Tannehill who led the Titans to 30.7 points per game in 2020, which was good for fourth in the league. Moore is himself a former quarterback and began as the Cowboys’ quarterback coach in 2018 where he helped guide the rise of Dak Prescott.

It is still early though so it remains to be seen which direction the Eagles will choose to go.