Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

15 Jan 2011

Eagles Fire Sean McDermott

Five days ago, Andy Reid said Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott would be back next season.

Today, the Eagles fired defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 15 Jan 2011

24 comments, Last at 17 Jan 2011, 5:41pm by tunesmith


by Harris :: Sat, 01/15/2011 - 7:06pm

The last time Andy Reid said somebody's job was safe, then changed his mind was when he played Vick instead of Kolb. Apparently, he can only get his personnel decisions right on the second attempt.

Hail Hydra!

by Pass to Set Up ... :: Sun, 01/16/2011 - 3:48am

Garry Cobb is reporting that Andy was outvoted by the rest of the front office: http://www.gcobb.com/2011/01/15/eagles-fire-defensive-coordinator-sean-m...

by Key19 :: Sat, 01/15/2011 - 7:50pm

After my quick look at the DVOA data of the Eagles DEF over the past several years, I'm not sure what to think. The clamoring of the Eagles fanbase for him to be fired has been loud enough for me to hear despite my avoidance of such circles, so I certainly understand that this is a popular move based on the so-called "fan eye-test."

But the numbers don't exactly make a case for his dismissal. The Eagles did have their worst defensive season since at least 2005 this year, but from what I remember of their season, they did have some injury problems at various points (Samuel, Allen, Graham, Bradley, etc). Even with all of that taken into account, the Eagles DEF finished 14th in Total DVOA, which is definitely markedly worse than their previous 5-year average of 7.6, but isn't exactly a collapse either. And let us not forget, the Eagles DEF did finish 6th in Total DVOA last year under McDermott.

I'm no Eagles expert by any stretch, but it seems a bit odd to me to fire a guy whose unit regresses from "elite" to "above-average" for one year. I could understand if McDermott kept posting average numbers over multiple years, but his career Total DVOA average is 10th, which is not shabby at all.

I think Philly fans who loved Jim Johnson like a local hero expected too much out of McDermott. You don't often transition from HOF-caliber DC to another. I expected some decline when McDermott took over, and that's exactly what happened. Not sure that's a fireable offense.

by bubqr :: Sat, 01/15/2011 - 8:47pm

Some comments by Eagles players suggested not everyone was buying into/understanding McD' scheme. I think it was the key factor.

by speedegg :: Sun, 01/16/2011 - 12:51am

Huh? I thought McDermott ran the same scheme as Jim Johnson, being a former assistant coach for Johnson at Philly kept the same system.

Also, the defense was hit by a bunch of injuries to the safeties, the corners, and the starting MLB. They had a chance to draft Eric Berry to shore up the secondary, but decided to go with a pass-rushing DE. Did McDermott push for drafting DE Brandon Graham?

by Pass to Set Up ... :: Sun, 01/16/2011 - 3:33am

Not the same as Jim Johnson. Both are "pressure" defenses but McDermott was much more about the coverages than Jim. As a result he would call some complex schemes, with difficult assignments and reads (especially for young/rookie players). My guess is that Andy would have kept him on, but that the players weren't happy with the schemes. This probably accounts for the reversal of his opinion. McDermott had probably lost the locker room, much like the end of last year when folks like Sheldon Brown were grousing about the schemes. Andy probably was inclined to keep McD but probably talked to vets on the D and decided that they might not play for McD.

by JerseyDP :: Sun, 01/16/2011 - 11:13am

Eagles Redzone DVOA ranked 27 and 32 for 2009 and 2010. In 2006, 2007 and 2008 they were 5, 1 and 7.

I think that is the major reason for the fan talk and the eye test. Fans selectively remember the important areas and don't remember the rest of the field.

Plus as others have said this is likely a move to keep Jauron around.

by dbt :: Sun, 01/16/2011 - 8:55pm

Reserving comment on Jauron as DC, but he has been a terrible HC twice now.

by ChaosOnion :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 10:13am

As another poster stated, the Eagles red zone defense was awful last season and this season fell to dead last. Yes, there were injuries and some would argue a lack of overall talent on the defense. A large part of the problem was McDermott not adjusting to the injuries or simplifying the scheme for his young backups. There were veterans having problems understanding the scheme. He did not adjust his scheme to work with the available personnel.

They could not get pressure with the down lineman or the blitz. At the end of the year, they could no longer stop the run. The pass coverage was spotty and you could see confusion in the secondary. They could not get off the field on 3rd down. They could not stop anybody in the red zone. The only time the defense was effective was getting a stray interception. The only time the Eagles stopped GB was when a GB WR dropped a pass.

by Bearjew (not verified) :: Sat, 01/15/2011 - 8:07pm

Anytime the eagles fire an assistant it's newsworthy

by Pass to Set Up ... :: Sun, 01/16/2011 - 3:37am

First time an Eagles coordinator has been fired by the head coach since 1989.

by Mr. Housebroken :: Sat, 01/15/2011 - 10:31pm

Poor McDermott should play for the Cowboys now... you know, because saying someone is "your man" then "your man" plays for a division rival. Nice. Smooth move. Must be more going on. Rob Ryan coming to Philly? Now if I were McDermott I'd also be cautious of Jerry Jones saying he is "our man" later on... because... man this whole coaching carousel thing has to stop in the next CBA or something... at least make it so you can't lie then fire a person.

by the cat in the box is dead (not verified) :: Sun, 01/16/2011 - 8:18am

I can see where this came from- McDermott seemed like a decent coach, but he was basically the one potential candidate they had left when Jim Johnson died. He wasn't great but he was always going to have trouble living up to the perceived alternatives.

My problem with him was the constant tinkering, and the naggingly present 'Team's best pass rusher drops into coverage on crucial passing downs' play that he persisted in calling. Drove me and a lot of other fans nuts to see Trent Cole, the one guy who's a cast-iron beast on the team in pass rush, backpedalling from the DE spot and trying to cover a slot receiver. It was like he was running a 3-4, whilst pretending it was a 4-3.

I thought he'd get one more year. I also think he'll be pretty good if he gets a decent opportunity with the right personnell.

by ChicagoRaider :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:11pm

What are the right personnel for him? Apparently not the Eagles.

by Pass to Set Up ... :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 5:03pm

I agree. He got a pass in 2009 because he was working with Jim Johnson's personnel (although it's not clear why that should be a tremendous handicap, given that J.J. was McDermott's mentor for years). In 2010, the Eagles drafted 13 players, 9 of whom were for the defense. He got new personnel and shipped out the players who weren't buying into his schemes (e.g. Gocong, Witherspoon, S. Brown).

I think the problem was that McDermott wanted to run schemes that were complex and clever, but couldn't pull them off with a defense full of rookies and special teams guys asked to step up when the starters got injured. Apparently the front office was angry that, for example, rookie CB Trevard Lindley didn't see any playing time, principally because the schemes were too complex for the rookie to get on the field and execute right away.

by French guy (not verified) :: Sun, 01/16/2011 - 8:59am

The Eagles fired McDermott in order to promote Dick Jauron (secondary coach), who otherwise would have left for Cleveland. I think it's a smart move, even if I liked McDermott.

The issue with McDermott was the complex schemes that personnel couldn't execute well enough, and an ineffective defense in red zone. Defense was better than average (cf DVOA), but far lower than average when it counted (dead last in red zone defense). It's like an offense that takes a lot of yards but cannot convert them to a TD. You don't win games this way. Same thing in defense: if you can't stop any offense in the 20 final yards, the other plays are useless.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sun, 01/16/2011 - 9:27am

If your personnel can't execute a complex scheme then doesn't that lead to blown coverages lead to big gains lead to easy touchdowns?

If the scheme is complex then you have to spend a lot of time teaching it, and making sure that it gets taught.

Or go with something simpler that works and the players can execute.

by prs130 (not verified) :: Sun, 01/16/2011 - 3:48pm

The Eagles boom-and-bust offense is a much bigger problem. Eagles gave up 24 points to the Vikings in a game where the offense was three-and-out every drive. 21 points to the Packers, who hung 48 on the Falcons? With 6th and 7th round rookies at MLB, CB, and FS? And the DC gets his walking papers? Gimme a break.

With all those playmakers on offense, you score 16 points in a playoff game and then fire your DC... unbelievable.

by Pass to Set Up ... :: Sun, 01/16/2011 - 8:13pm

I think the problem on offense is multifaceted. The o-line was weak all year from C to RG to RT. Vick apparently has problems recognizing the blitz and calling his own protections. And Morningwheg persisted in calling lots of slow developing passing plays, rather than utilizing McCoy or short passes or other influence plays, despite the fact that by the second half of the year everyone in the NFL had the same heavy blitz formula to use against us.

They need to draft o-line players who can step in immediately. Vick needs to spend time studying in the offseason. And I wouldn't have been sad if Morningwheg had gotten that job in Cleveland, even if it meant bringing in someone like Childress (again) or even Josh McDaniels. Despite the fact that the offense has set franchise scoring records for three seasons in a row now, I think it has more to do with the Jimmys and Joes rather than the Xs and Os. You're spot on in recognizing how feast-or-famine and dependent on the big play the Eagles offense has been.

by chemical burn :: Sun, 01/16/2011 - 11:06pm

I'm not sure the Eagles need to change all that much, truthfully. I think at the end of the season, a close loss to the Packers will not look as bad as it feels happening right at the beginning of the playoffs. With the Pats out of the picture, I think the Packers have to be the new favorite to win it all - if they go out and cruise to the title (which seems possible) then the Eagles missed field goals margin of loss will look better in retrospect. And having Jackson back to call blocking assignmentswill be huge - if he's too burned from injuries, hopefully an offseason of prep will be enough to get McGlynn into shape for it.

Not sorry to see McD go - so much of his success felt it came from guys developed under Johnson and the young guys/free agents like Allen, Tapp, Sims and Graham made mistakes that NEVER would have happened under Johnson, not just blown assignments, but backside.over-pursuit responsibilities and focus on limiting big gains. The red zone problems were egregious, too - especially after 1st and goal stops had been a specialty for Johnson...

by prs130 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:22am

The Eagles don't need to change that much... and luckily for the rest of the league, they won't.

by prs130 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 12:20am

I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed the "slow developing passing plays"... especially with a banged up line. We don't need avant and celek 25+yards downfield. We need them hanging out underneath to punish defenses for staying deep.

by KDDM (not verified) :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 1:59am

I for one thought he would go based on where there's smoke there's fire... it was reported half way through the season it would happen. As for the OC (he who must not be named), as an avid Eagles fan, I agree with most that I talk to that the Eagles success on offense has most often been despite the OC; he is terrible and needs to go! Vick, Desean Jackson (ala turning a simple hitch into a 90+ yard TD againt the Cowgirl), and others have been great due to their talent mostly, and the play calling has always been awful under the OC.
The OC makes no adjustments or smart game plans (who didnt think the Vikings were going to blitz the hell out of Vick).

by tunesmith :: Mon, 01/17/2011 - 5:41pm

Apparently he's becoming the DC for the Carolina Panthers. He was reportedly also negotiating with the Denver Broncos, but Carolina got him.