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A matter of trust

Posted by Eric Fisher On January 22

Fisher column logo2Trust the process.

Jeffrey Lurie didn’t utter those exact words during the news conference to introduce Doug Pederson as the Eagles head coach, but the Eagles owner certainly co-opted Sam Hinkie’s message.

The process, in this case, was the process of hiring a head coach to replace Chip Kelly. The Eagles have been criticized for not casting a wide enough net, for failing to interview certain candidates and for settling for a lesser choice because they didn’t move quickly enough to lock up their top choices.

The Eagles never brought in former defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, now a successful defensive coordinator for the Panthers, for an interview. They reportedly contracted Hue Jackson, who became the Browns’ head coach, too late in the process. They didn’t interview any college coaches or defensive coaches.

The Eagles reportedly were impressed by Adam Gase, but he agreed to become the Dolphins’ head coach before the Eagles could bring him in for a second interview. They reportedly were going to offer Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo the head coaching job until he accepted a promotion to become the Giants’ head coach. Former Giants head coach Tom Coughlin was supposedly next on the list, but he removed himself from consideration.

Of the four outside candidates the Eagles interviewed, that left Pederson as the last man standing. The Eagles also interviewed offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and running backs coach Duce Staley. The choice was to hire Pederson or fall back and choose one of the internal candidates. There was little chance of Pederson going anywhere else, though. The Eagles were the only team to interview him.

Lurie countered this narrative by saying Pederson was the only candidate the Eagles offered a contract. Pederson didn’t seem to mind not being the first choice when he answered questions from the media, but Lurie insisted that Pederson was the Eagles’ top choice.

Lurie also offered an impassioned defense of the breadth of the search. He explained how the research into potential candidates began before he fired Kelly. He explained how the Eagles compiled a list of 25 candidates, each of whom was referenced and cross-referenced in voluminous scouting-style reports. The Eagles then narrowed the list to 10 candidates, according to Lurie, and then to six. He spoke of contacting multiple references for each candidate before the Eagles decided to hire Pederson.

He also explained that there are part of the process which must remain confidential. The media and fans aren’t privy to these details, so we should trust the process.

Sorry, Jeffrey, I don’t trust the process and I don’t believe your explanation.

Pederson might turn out to be a terrific head coach. But, if there were other candidates you considered – and it’s already been reported – there’s no harm in admitting it. Pederson seemed comfortable with the notion that he may not have been the first choice. You shouldn’t be so sensitive about it.

Furthermore, I don’t care how many people you contacted or how many pages were in each report on each candidate. That doesn’t impress me. My judgment is based on the final result. All of those pages of research don’t matter a lick if you bring in four outside candidates and you basically hire the last man standing after the other ones accept jobs elsewhere or withdraw their name from consideration.

Maybe that’s why I’m lukewarm about the analytics movement and questioned the hiring of Hinkie as 76ers general manager from the moment he was hired. It appears to me that people hide behind numbers. They use numbers to support their decisions.

But the numbers are only as good as the person interpreting their significance. If we don’t trust the judgment of the person or people in charge, the numbers are virtually meaningless.

It’s fair to criticize a process that yielded two candidates who became head coaches for other teams, one veteran coach who chose to remain on the figurative sidelines rather than on the literal sidelines with the Eagles, two assistant coaches who didn’t seem to have much chance to get hired and one candidate who didn’t have any other offers.

If that’s the end result, then the process was flawed.

I don’t have knowledge of the inner-workings of the Eagles’ search for a new head coach. I only know what I see.

What I see is an organization that didn’t get the coaches it really wanted and was forced to settle for a secondary choice.

But Lurie wants us to trust the process.

Sorry. I didn’t trust the process when Sam Hinkie told the media and fans to have faith, and I don’t trust the Eagles when they urge us to trust the process.

Trusting the process hasn’t worked out so well for Hinkie. I’m not about to give the Sixers a free pass on their coaching search.

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