After Doug Pederson’s first year as Eagles head coach, some fans and media (read: mostly sportstalk radio yappers) wanted him fired. Now, as he prepares for the final game of his second season in charge, those same people hope to throw him a parade.
Looking back on some of the Pederson-era stories we’ve published over the last two seasons, it’s hard to gauge exactly when the city fell in love with him — it might not have been until after the playoff win over Atlanta — but at some point around this season’s bye week, the question marks about his ability as a head coach changed to exclamation points.
The concern when he was hired was that Pederson would be, at best, Andy Reid 2.0. Reid was head coach of the Eagles for 14 seasons and finished his time in Philly with a 130-93-1 record, though just 10-9 in the playoffs, losing his only Super Bowl appearance. Pederson, like Reid, got the Eagles to the playoffs in his second season. But unlike Reid, Pederson didn’t need four shots at the conference title game to win his first NFC championship. And unlike Reid, Pederson might actually win the Eagles a Super Bowl.
As the year progressed and the Eagles went from 1-0 to 1-1 to 10-1 to eventually a franchise-best 13-3, I kept thinking back to the article I wrote on September 10 (after the season-opening win at Washington) titled: The Eagles won but everyone in Philly still hates Doug Pederson
Go back and read some of the comments in that story, and it’s a clear indication that nobody had much faith in Pederson this season. At best Doug was “a mess,” and at worst people wanted to shoot him to the moon.
Now, people are comparing him to Charlie Manuel. Media are asking about his “emotional intelligence” in press conferences, marveling at how he kept this roster focused and together after all the injuries to key players. No one can understand how Pederson and his staff have turned Nick Foles from a bum three weeks ago into one of the greatest playoff quarterbacks in history and, no, that’s not hyperbole look at the man’s stats.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) January 22, 2018
Pederson didn’t win Pro Football Writers’ Association coach of the year, but he should have. Had the award been voted on after the playoffs — I’ve long said coaching awards should be picked after the Super Bowl for this exact reason — there’s no question Pederson would win it. What he’s done with this team, and for this city, in such a short time is unexpected, and the fans (and media) have all come around.
Here’s a look back at some of the stories we’ve published since Pederson was hired, with dates and key excerpts from each, to see how the city has begun to fall in love with its football coach.
When Doug Pederson was hired as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, owner Jeffrey Lurie made a clear indication: His franchise was headed backwards. Specifically, Lurie’s hiring of Pederson — a former Eagles quarterback and Andy Reid disciple — was a sign to fans in the city that the days of steadiness, consistency and quality were coming back.
The Reid era, itself, wasn’t making a comeback, what with Reid firmly entrenched in Kansas City. But the sell on Pederson was that he was the next best thing to Reid’s steady (read: successful) hand.
Pederson is Big Red 2.0.
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.
If Pederson wants to Trust the Process, as he’s often borrowed the phrase made famous by Sam Hinkie and the Sixers, he needs to understand it better. Winning on Thursday was great. Winning next year, with Wentz on the field, is what actually matters.
There are things to fix, but in all, Pederson’s team ended the season where most of us thought they would: 7-9. He didn’t handle the off-the-field distractions with a ton of nuance, at least with the media, but he held the locker room together all season and found value and depth at positions on the offense few expected. This was not a bad year for a first-time coach. But next year has to be better.
Is Doug Pederson a good coach?
Knowing this city, and knowing the sport talk radio horde and rabid fanbase, what will be enough to keep Pederson safe? Nine wins? A 10-win season and trip to the playoffs? Will 8-8 be enough to keep people happy for another year?
Moreover, no matter what the record is, will anyone consider Pederson a good coach? Can we punt on answering this question until the end of the year?
No. That’s cheating. We’ll say this, then: Pederson has done some very good things as a coach. He goes for it on fourth down all the time and he seems to have handled a lot of tumult in the locker room very well. The team seems behind him. But he needs to get more out of Wentz this season than he did down the stretch last year, and he needs to run the darn ball more effectively. Clock management has to improve and the Eagles darn well better not lose another seven games by one score or less.
Is Doug Pederson a good NFL head coach? No. But maybe he can become one.
Why does everyone hate Pederson? Well, after an off-season of questions about his qualifications as a head coach, his ability to calls plays has been a hot-button topic this week. The offense didn’t exactly look balanced in the win over Washington, with Carson Wentz throwing 39 times — for 307 yards and two scores, one pick, while getting sacked twice. The Eagles only ran the ball 24 times, and four of those were by Wentz. LeGarrette Blount, who caught a TD pass, only carried the ball 14 times and with just over two minutes to play and less than a foot to go for a first down to seal the win, Pederson opted to kick a field goal instead of giving the ball to the team’s new bruising back.
For the record, I also would have kicked the field goal to go up five points, but the Eagles opted to call a timeout in that situation after trying to get Washington to jump offsides, which was ridiculous. And people WENT. NUTS. ABOUT. IT.
It’s not just that people are frustrated with Pederson. They’re openly calling for his ouster. After a win. This is going to be a long year.
In two weeks — in a win and Sunday’s loss in which they were tied halfway through the fourth quarter — head coach Doug Pederson put the ball in Wentz’s hands 101 times and has called just 33 handoffs. Without a more balanced offense, defenses can go after Wentz on virtually every play. Without some semblance of a run game, there’s no way Wentz will survive the season.
Pederson is on a very short list of coaches who can win NFL coach of the year. Given all the injuries he’s had to deal with this season — not just Carson Wentz, but losing Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Darren Sproles, Chris Maragos and Ronald Darby for half the season — it’s remarkable that Pederson has his team in line for home field advantage in the playoffs.
Howie Roseman should win GM of the year, which is why Pederson may not get as much credit for the Eagles’ rebound as he should.
The Eagles have had Andy Reid, Chip Kelly and Doug Pederson. And while many of us made the point that Jeffrey Lurie parting ways with Reid and going with Kelly was like a divorced dad trading in his minivan for a sports car, the switch back to the safe and sensible Pederson has proven to be a success.
All the credit in the world for this game goes to head coach Doug Pederson, who should have been NFL coach of the year, and Howie Roseman, who was named executive of the year by the Pro Football Writers Association of America.
Pederson and his coaching staff have been remarkable all season, but since Wentz went down they’ve lost just one game, the meaningless season finale against the Cowboys. They absolutely dominated the second-best team in the NFC with the best defense in football.