Let us now take a moment to celebrate Doug Pederson.
Be honest: It’s easy to love Carson Wentz. We’re enthralled with Jim Schwartz and his stifling defense. We’ve declared Howie Roseman executive of the year. We’ve embraced one-time problem children Lane Johnson and Nelson Agholor.
But Doug? Ask 100 Eagles fans their take on the head coach and the most common answer might still be, “Meh.” Even now, with his team 9-1, Pederson doesn’t get much adulation outside the locker room – not that he likely cares. Inside, with his players, there’s no shortage of respect.
I’ll fess up and admit I was among those who cringed when Andy Reid’s protégé got the job in 2016. I preferred candidates like Adam Gase and Ben McAdoo. Fool that I was.
Pederson didn’t dominate the NFL as a rookie coach. But he proved competent. Still, he drew unwarranted criticism, like analyst Mike Lombardi demeaning him as, “less qualified to coach a team than anyone I’ve seen in my 30-plus years in the NFL.”If anything, Lombardi’s low-blow takedown started to rally Eagles fans to Pederson’s side.
Anyway, many remain skeptical of the coach even as his team has played brilliantly. There’s an underlying fear – and I hear it on my WIP show all the time – that the Eagles will succeed, “as long as Pederson doesn’t screw it up.”
The time has come to move past that trepidation. As much as anyone, Pederson is responsible for the seasonal joy that permeates our town. The Eagles are winning because of him, not in spite of him.
Notice how Eagles players never miss an assignment? Or how Wentz never needs to waste a timeout waiting for the play call to come on? That’s the coach.
Notice how in a season where half the league’s teams have been destroyed by injuries, the Eagles have overcome theirs without a glitch? That’s on Roseman, personnel guru Joe Douglas – and the coach.
Sunday night was a great example. Kicker Jake Elliott went out with a concussion – the second kicker the team has lost this season. Forced to improvise, Pederson dialed up creative plays that allowed the Eagles to convert three of four two-point conversions. It would have been all four had Zach Ertz not fumbled one at the goal line
One of Pederson’s strengths this season has been his flexibility – a refreshing change after the rigidity of Reid and Chip Kelly. On Sunday night, the Eagles offense sputtered in the first half, as the coach called 18 pass plays and just 10 runs. Throughout the Delaware Valley, fans were screaming at the TV from their Barcaloungers.
But rather than stick with a losing formula, the coach rebooted the game plan for the second half. On the first three drives, he called for 16 runs versus just eight passes against Dallas’s milksop defense – and the Eagles put together three long scoring drives. Game over.
Four RBs got into the mix Sunday, two of whom – Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount – have done enough in the NFL to warrant big egos. But none complained about his limited role. None attempted the DeMarco Murray gambit of melting owner Jeff Lurie’s ear on the plane ride home.
Players never complain about Pederson. They respect him too much.
It’s time for us all to feel the same.