Eagles fans felt a collective shock Monday afternoon when team owner Jeff Lurie announced the team would part ways with head coach Doug Pederson.
The dismissal came after the team finished 4-11-1 with a controversial “tanking” loss at home to Washington.
The team’s struggles this season only amplified talks of infighting at the Novacare Complex. Despite winning a Super Bowl three years ago, the guy who put together incredible comebacks and won despite long odds and short rosters, took the fall for the disappointing year and murky future of franchise QB Carson Wentz.
This column is not to scrutinize the decision or ask if GM Howie Roseman is more worthy of dismissal. Rather, NJ Betting takes a look at the five-year run of Pederson in Philadelphia and some of his peaks and valleys.
“Yeah, let’s do it”
Four simple words uttered on the sideline during one of the most critical and high-risk situations anyone might face in pro sports. This wasn’t a response to a multi-state drive for Waffle House or fish tacos.
Doug Pederson and the Eagles faced fourth-and-goal from inside the two, leading the New England Patriots by 15-12 as the first half of Super Bowl LII drew to a close. Instead of taking the field goal and a six-point lead, Doug Pederson trusted his backup QB to call a tight-end pass against the best defensive mastermind in the sport’s history.
The call may be the biggest roll of the dice on football’s biggest stage. As Nick Foles drifted down the line selling an audible, rookie Corey Clement took the direct snap, flipped it to the tight end Trey Burton in motion, who arced a perfect pass to a wide-open Foles, extending the halftime lead to 10.
The backup QB-turned-coach and the Super Bowl LII MVP will stand together forever (hopefully) on Pattison Avenue, immortalized in that moment by a statue donated by Budweiser. The two currently hold the record for most points scored on a Bill Belichick-led defense in the postseason, since The Hooded One ascended to defensive coordinator in New York in the 80s.
Unlike his mentor and former boss Andy Reid, Pederson had a zest for big plays and risky calls. He probably learned that from backing up Brett Favre in Green Bay. Pederson has a ring from his time with the Pack to match the ring he earned in Philly. He knows the big games and the spotlight doesn’t scare him. That endeared him to fans and will serve his legacy well.
Leader of Men
There’s more to being a coach at the collegiate or NFL level than what happens between the lines on gameday. The role is more like a CEO or regional vice president.
Doug Pederson played for 10 NFL seasons before turning to coaching. Despite a 3-14 record as a starter, a man who’s been around coaches like Don Shula and Mike Holmgren might learn something about the profession and how to treat players.
Pederson’s greater legacy might be how he led a diverse group of players through a difficult time of social unrest and political upheaval. While Philadelphia struggled with increased gun violence, opioid addictions and deaths, and frustration with political leadership, the men in midnight green and white became a clarion call for working together and discussing differences.
The Super Bowl team set an example for ideal operations within the tenser social climes. Players came from different racial, socioeconomic, and experience backgrounds, worked towards greater understanding, and overcame obstacles together. Pederson helped set that tone and deserves credit for his leadership.
The last two playoff runs showed Pederson’s ability to win without ideal lineups. In 2018, Foles again took over for Wentz and won his way into the postseason and defeated the Bears. 2019 saw Wentz orchestrate a four-game win streak to close out the season with backups, rookies, and guys he met waiting for the El. The team rose to the occasion and played their best down the stretch.
Those two playoff runs are what will likely keep Pederson’s unemployment short. He is a man with vision, speaks with purpose, and understands the rigors his players endure. He’s earned a respected reputation around the NFL and the esteem of his peers.
Not a Great Bet
Pederson leaves the Eagles with a 42-37-1 record in the regular season and 4-2 in the playoffs. Most of the success came during the 13-3 season in 2017 capped by the Super Bowl victory.
2017 was the only year under Pederson the Birds finished over .500 against the spread. That year was more of a surprise until November. Vegas famously took it on the chin on the Sunday night thrashing of Dallas when the Eagles, coming off the bye, were only spotting the Cowboys 6.5 points. Philly won that game 37-9 – without a kicker.
The other seasons? Not so great, according to teamrankings.com. 8-8 ATS in 2016, 9-9 in 2018 (including playoffs), 7-10 in 2019. This year the team finished 6-10 against the number, including the infamous backdoor cover on Monday night against Seattle.
Coming up Small in Big D
The Super Bowl season was the only win Pederson had at AT&T Stadium in five tries. Two losses came in overtime (2016, 2018) while the last two were blowouts. In 2019, Pederson was able to overcome the October drubbing with a victory over Dallas in Week 16 at the Linc to bring the Eagles to the brink of a division title.
2020 was a different animal. The undermanned Eagles, clinging to a thread of postseason hope, took a lead against the Boys and made it look easy. Eventually, the talented Cowboys offense came to life and overwhelmed the Eagles defense. Of course, it would all be for naught, as Dallas cost themselves a chance to win the East with a loss at New York in the season finale.
Doug Pederson’s play-calling magic seemed to wear out in 2020. The Eagles surged out the gate to a 17-0 lead at FedEx Field. Interceptions and ineffective calls turned the game into a loss to Washington. That was the tip of the iceberg that sank his tenure.
Pederson, like more coaches, relied on analytics, especially when going for two. Sometimes the calls went right and he was cunning, sometimes they imploded and people wanted his head. Conceding the tie to Cincinnati instead of asking Jake Elliott to kick a 64-yard field goal upset fans.
Pederson will be tied to the failure of this season and the regression of Wentz. The #2 pick from 2016 went from franchise figurehead to benched down the stretch for rookie Jalen Hurts. The decision to sit the guy slated to make around $35 million next season may have been the coach’s downfall.
The team Pederson leaves is in for a long rebuild. The Eagles are tens of millions over the proposed 2021 cap, saddled with big contracts for aging players, and with no clear top QB. The man who will assume the reins must deal with a weak roster, a GM known for picking the wrong receivers, and leadership accused of meddling with the assistant coaches.
After years of success and getting to walk tall (and even piss off some folks outside the area), the Eagles fan base will likely return to our natural state: perpetual consternation and booing. Well, it was fun while it lasted.