Doug Pederson is not on the NFL hot seat. With a first-year head coach and a rookie quarterback, this season was supposed to be something of a rebuild for the Eagles, despite a stout defense and an aging offensive line. The hot 3-0 start spun the city’s expectations to the point where 8-8 would have been a disappointment, with 5-11 — the record Pederson’s team is tumbling toward with games against the Giants and Cowboys left on the slate — an unbridled disaster.
The Eagles are 0-6 in games decided by one score. That’s on Pederson. Winning even half of those games would have the Eagles at 8-6, fighting for a playoff spot. While we wrote last week about Wentz’s struggles late in games, he was stellar on the last drive against Baltimore on Sunday. And the Eagles eventually could have won, had they kicked an extra point to tie the game and rolled the dice in overtime. Instead, Pederson went for the win — a decision he said on Monday was one he had planned to make the entire time — and the Eagles lost. Again.
To a man, the team had Pederson’s back in going for the win. It was the right call, given the way the season has gone and the coach’s penchant for risk taking.
It just didn’t work out.
Pederson has made several right calls that didn’t work out and, as any rookie head coach might do, he’s made a bunch of bad calls that, more predictably, also didn’t work out. When Jeffrey Lurie made the decision to hire Pederson, the knock was that nobody knew if he was going to be a great head coach or a total bust; his body of work as an assistant coach and coordinator gave little indication of success or failure. It was just…meh.
Fourteen games into his first season, and it’s still meh, and we still have no idea if he’s going to be a bust.
But that doesn’t mean Pederson should be fired. Not yet.
The Eagles saying Pederson is safe means nothing. The Eagles said Josh Huff was going to play the week he was arrested and he was cut the next day. The Eagles said Sam Bradford was going to be the starting quarterback and he was traded mere days before the season began. Things change all the time in the NFL, so if a hot NFL coach suddenly becomes available, there’s undoubtedly a chance Howie Roseman would dump Pederson to bring in a better guy.
Hell, Jon Gruden told me when he was in town doing Monday Night Football that he wishes the timing worked out for him to have coached the Eagles in his career. There’s no time like the present. Or future. So anything can happen, even if right now the Eagles are cruising into next season with Pederson as their steward.
While the NFL coaching carousel is always spinning, coaches are rarely fired after their first year. Sports Illustrated has a handy rundown of NFL coaches who went one-and-done and the recent list is, uh, uninspiring.
Jim Tomsula with the Niners. Rob Chudzinski with Cleveland. Mike Mularkey with Jacksonville. Hue Jackson with the Raiders (and maybe the Browns this year). Jim Mora, Jr. with Seattle. Cam Cameron in Miami. Art Shell with the Raiders. Ray Rhodes with the Packers, the year after he was fired by the Eagles. The list may include another former Eagles head coach, Chip Kelly, if San Francisco fires him this season.
Historically, teams that fire a first-year head coach have a bit of a mixed bag when hiring his replacement. Tomsula was replaced by Kelly. Chudzinski was replaced by Mike Pettine who, inexplicably, was given two years before getting fired. He was replaced by Jackson.
Mularkey was replaced by Gus Bradley in Jacksonville. Bradley was just fired after a 14-48 record in almost four years. Cameron was replaced in Miami by Tony Sparano, who won a division title in his first year before losing total control of the franchise by his third season.
There have been some successes. Rhodes replaced Mike Holmgren in Green Bay and after an 8-8 season was replaced by Mike Sherman, who went 57-39 in 96 games for the Packers. He won just two playoff games, but certainly he was more successful than most one-and-done replacements.
Jim Mora Jr. was replaced after just one year in Seattle by Pete Carroll.
If the Eagles think they can find the next Pete Carroll, by all means, dump Pederson. But if the answer is the next Chip Kelly — a hot college name with no NFL experience — or Gus Bradley — the hottest name in the coordinator game and a guy who everyone thought was getting the job in Philly before Kelly famously called Lurie during Bradley’s interview to accept the gig — it might be worth giving Pederson another crack at it.
If the Eagles reverse course and Pederson is canned after one season, the franchise will be on their fourth head coach since 2012, an ignominious statistic, even by NFL standards. SI’s The Cauldron did a study of recent coaching changes and found that of the 22 hires between 2013 and 2015, just three were one-and-done. With the six additional coaches hired before this season, the potential for three to be one-and-done would be a statistical anomaly. Since 2005 there have been 81 coaching changes and of the 75 guys hired before this season, just 12 were one-and-done.
NFL coaches get three seasons, per recent averages, before getting fired. In Philly, Buddy Ryan got five seasons. Rich Kotite got four. Ray Rhodes, Lurie’s first hire, got four seasons. Andy Reid got 14.
Kelly got three years and spent much of his final season dismantling the roster, leaving Pederson with a dearth of offensive talent and very little depth. To fire Pederson after this season, given how the Eagles ended the last regime, seems unlikely. That said, NFL coaches have been scapegoated for less.
Just not in Philly.