There's been an awful lot of vitriol directed at Mike Groh considering nobody knows what he did.
I've never really seen anything like it. Fans grew angrier and angrier at Groh as this past year went on for reasons nobody could ever really explain, other than … "HE'S AN IDIOT."
What was it based on? What were people seeing? Where was this hatred coming from?
Groh never called plays in his two years as offensive coordinator, and an offensive coordinator who doesn't call plays under an offensive head coach is tough for outsiders to evaluate.
Was he good at his job? I have no idea. None of us really know exactly what his job even was.
The offense has been inconsistent the last two years, no doubt, but it's Doug Pederson's offense. His scheme, his gameplan, his play calls.
Yet when the offense struggled, it was always Groh's fault. And when things picked up over the last month with a cast of practice squad alums, Pederson got the credit.
I always got the feeling fans were reluctant to criticize Pederson when the offense sputtered, since he was the head coach that delivered a Super Bowl to Philly. The dude's a legend in this town. How do you criticize him for the Eagles scoring 10 points at home against the Patriots or Nelly's shocking regression or Carson Wentz's early inconsistency?
You can't. He's Doug.
Groh? He was always an easy target.
And what made him an easier target was his public persona.
He was bad at press conferences. Really bad.
For two years, Groh met with the media on a weekly basis, and I don't know if he ever said anything of substance.
He spoke in the broadest of generalizations, packed his answers with tired cliches and never criticized players, no matter how poorly they had played. He's a nice man in private, but in those public forums – streaming live for every Eagles fan to watch – he often came across as condescending and defensive.
Receivers coach Carson Walch, who was fired by the Eagles Thursday along with Groh, was even worse. He only spoke sporadically, when the Eagles made the positions coaches available a few times a year, but when he insisted that Mack Hollins was doing a great job because he lined up right … yeah, it was pitiful and it was embarrassing.
All of this came to mind Thursday when I mulled a tweet by Jeff McLane of the Inquirer, who reported that Eagles owner Jeff Lurie of all people wanted Groh and Walch gone.
That struck me as odd, since Lurie has almost always kept himself at arm's length from all football operations. Other than maybe his first couple years as owner, when he tended to meddle a bit in personnel, he's always left football decisions – except the very biggest ones – up to his carefully selected football people.
Lurie is never on the sideline during games. He occasionally watches practice but isn't in meetings or the locker room or film sessions. He's not a football guy, and he never has been, and he's never pretended to be one.
Does he sign off on huge contracts? Sure. Is he involved in head coaching hires? Sure.
But assistant coaches? Lurie? It makes no sense.
Lurie has always been keenly attuned to the way his franchise is perceived. Top to the bottom.
And the reality is that Groh and Walch were both perceived by the public as incompetent and arrogant. The way they spoke in press conferences had little to do with how they did their jobs, but it had everything to do with how Eagles fans viewed them and, by association, viewed the franchise. And, honestly, it probably shaped the way they were covered in the media as well.
And that sort of thing resonates deeply with Lurie, who's obsessed with making sure every facet of the organization is cast in a positive light.
Down to every detail.
Maybe this was a purely football decision. But Lurie's involvement tells me it very well could have been more than that.
It sure seems possible that this had more to do with how Groh was perceived than how he coached.
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