Doug

Posted: November 20th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

Just six months ago, Doug Pederson was on top of the football world. He had just led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title and everyone was talking about his offense, his ideas and his coaching style. The world wanted to know Pederson’s magic formula for building a great team and winning it all.

Now he’s an idiot.

Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but it sure feels like that’s what some people would have you think. Pederson did an amazing job with the 2017 team. He has not done a good job with the 2018 team. That’s the truth. But it doesn’t mean he’s forgotten how to coach. Bill Walsh, Joe Gibbs and Bill Parcells all won Super Bowls. They are considered to be three of the greatest coaches of all time. One other thing they have in common…all three had a losing season after winning the Super Bowl. It can happen to even the best coaches.

Time will tell if Pederson is a great coach or 2017 was some kind of lightning in a bottle situation. Still, don’t dismiss what he did just because of this season. Winning a Super Bowl isn’t easy. Ask Andy Reid. Or Don Coryell. Or Marty Schottenheimer. Those are three legitimately great all-time coaches and they never won it all. Heck, only Big Red got to the Super Bowl.

What Pederson did in 2017 doesn’t buy him a lifetime exemption. No coach is beyond scrutiny. Coaches will be the first to tell you that they can have a bad game just like players. At the same time, what Pederson did last year was amazing and should buy him a lot of credibility. This wasn’t Brian Billick riding a defense to a title by beating a solid Giants team.

Pederson went up against a historically good defense in the NFC title game and his offense shredded them. Then Pederson stared down the gauntlet of Brady & Belichick. He got the best of them in one of the best Super Bowls ever played. And Pederson did that with his backup QB. It really is mind-blowing.

People look at the loss of Frank Reich and see that as possibly being the big difference. Yes and no.

Reich is doing an amazing job with the Colts. He’s got them playing really well right now. He deserves a ton of credit. Reich did a great job for the Eagles last year. He was part of a terrific offensive staff.

But we need some context on Reich. Here is his track record as offensive coordinator and now head coach.

2014 – SD – 18th in yards, 17th in points
2015 – SD – 9th in yards, 26th in points
2016 – PHI – 22nd in yards, 16th in points
2017 – PHI – 7th in yards, 3rd in points
2018 – IND – 9th in yards, 5th in points

Reich was fired by the Chargers after a disappointing 2015 season. Pederson hired him, wanting a veteran coach and play-caller to help him run the offense. As you can see, Reich had not exactly set the world on fire as OC for the Chargers.

The Eagles use Doug Pederson’s playbook. Pederson calls the plays on gamedays. His staff helps him build gameplans.

“For me,” Pederson said, “this story is simple. I hired these coaches for a reason. I hired Frank as my OC for a reason. This is a collaborative effort. It has never been about one guy, one coach, one player. This is a daunting task for one guy. It’s way too much. I trust these guys to study the tape like they do, and Frank gives out the assignments during the week. Guys know their lanes, they stay in their lanes. If a play fits our personality, offensively, we will try to get it in the game plan somewhere. It’s a credit to our coaches, all of them, that they found the little gems all season.”

Some head coaches struggle to use their assistants well. While Pederson is the man in charge and this is his offense, he embraced his staff and their abilities. Go read the story linked above. You’ll see how important Reich and Mike Groh were in finding some key plays for the Super Bowl. Groh might have been the WRs coach, but he had a hand in building those gameplans. Pederson and Reich both valued his input.

Think about Pederson’s background for a minute. He played for Don Shula in a vertical passing game in the early 90’s. He played for Mike Holmgren and Mike Sherman in different versions of the West Coast offense. He played for Andy Reid for a year, in yet another version of the WCO.

Pederson coached on the high school level and had to come up with all kinds of different ideas for his team to have a good offense. He was then hired by Reid to come to the NFL as a low-level assistant. Pederson got to see the 2010 offense with Vick, Shady, DeSean and Maclin. That wasn’t your standard WCO at all.

Then Pederson went to KC with Reid. Pederson became the offensive coordinator. The Chiefs traded for Alex Smith and that proved to be life-changing for Reid, Smith and Pederson. Smith shared plays from his college years under Urban Meyer. That was Reid and Pederson’s introduction to RPOs. They embraced some spread offense concepts as well. Beyond that, Reid game Smith more freedom than any QB he’d worked with. Changing plays. Adjusting plays. Smith got the keys to the car, so to speak.

Smith played the best football of his career and the Chiefs posted winning records in each of his four seasons there. The Chiefs offense continues to embrace college ideas and is the most creative in the league right now.

Pederson brought a lot of interesting ideas to Philly and built his playbook. He kept an open mind. Pederson embraced Chip Kelly’s run game concepts that Duce Staley and Jeff Stoutland introduced him to. Sam Bradford offered some passing game wrinkles from Kelly. Rather than dismiss them, Pederson embraced the ideas.

Pederson also embraced the use of analytics to help him make game management decisions.

Reich wasn’t exactly bringing a specific expertise to the table. He’s not a Mike Martz explosive passing game guru. He’s not an Alex Gibbs running game guru. Reich never played part in developing a young QB before meeting Carson Wentz.

Reich took a lot of ideas from Pederson and the Eagles and they are serving him well in Indy. The Eagles playbook hasn’t changed, though. And you still have Pederson calling the plays. So what has changed? What is missing?

There are a couple of possibilities. First, I do think Reich’s personality was important. He and Pederson were friends. They genuinely enjoyed working together. Reich also did well in dealing with other coaches on the staff and acting as a buffer to Pederson. Coaches would bring him ideas and Reich acted as the gatekeeper, choosing the ones he liked the best and giving them to Pederson. That can be tricky. You need the right guy doing that or you can have some people taking offense when their ideas don’t make it.

The Eagles have a more collaborative approach to gameplanning than most teams. That can’t always be easy. Reich obviously did a great job of coordinating the different ideas and helping Pederson build strong gameplans.

The other issue is that Pederson lost both Reich and John DeFilippo to promotions. That’s not lost on the other assistants. Pederson is trying to use Duce Staley more this year in gameplanning. Jeff Stoutland still is the one in charge of the run game. Groh became the OC and I’m sure wants to impress people internally and externally. Assistant coaches want to move up the ladder. That can be a problem if they get away from what made them such good assistants in the past. Success can have a negative affect on people, even if they don’t realize it.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Eagles would be better with Reich as part of this staff.

There is also no doubt in my mind that having him would not significantly improve the results.

Think about Pederson, Flip and Reich and what’s happening this year. The Colts are the only offense in that group that is playing well. The Eagles have Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz. The Vikings have the best WR duo in the league and good play from Kirk Cousins. Both teams are 15th or lower in scoring. The Colts are red hot and playing lights out.

Wow. Five straight games without allowing a sack. That’s incredible protection. The Eagles OL is middle of the pack. The Vikings are down toward the bottom of the league.

Think about the Eagles on Sunday. On a pivotal play, C Stefen Wisniewski failed to block the man in front of him and that DT sacked Wentz for a big loss. I don’t remember Reich coaching the OL a whole lot last year. That play had nothing to do with design or coaching. A guy just failed to do his assignment. He was expecting some help from the LG, but still shouldn’t have turned the defender loose that quickly.

These are the kinds of mistakes this team is making this year. Ultimately, you hold Pederson responsible for them. Coaches get credit in wins and blame in losses. But in reality, that’s on the player. He’s got to do a better job on that play. You could have Bill Walsh and Paul Brown on the staff and I don’t think it would make a difference with brain farts like that.

OL play is a big reason this offense is struggling. Re-watch the NFC title game and Super Bowl. Foles had a clean pocket most of the time. RBs had room to run. Watch the Chargers game. The OL was fantastic on that final drive. This year? You see the pocket collapse too fast, too often. RBs aren’t getting the same kind of blocking. I don’t know what happened, but I do know the results are very different and the play up front has more to do with offensive struggles than anything Reich did or would do.

Reich was part of the staff in 2016 when Lane Johnson got suspended. That killed the Eagles and they went 2-8 without Johnson. They didn’t score more than 26 points in any game in that stretch and really struggled on offense at times. If you can’t win up front, all the gifted offensive minds in the world don’t do you any good.

Many people now wonder if Pederson can fix the Eagles, this year or moving forward. I still believe in him.

Pederson has shown he can be a leader. Players and coaches have responded to him. He’s shown he can coach QBs (Alex Smith, Nick Foles, Carson Wentz). Pederson put together a great staff when he was hired. He has been willing to admit mistakes. Pederson hired Greg Lewis to be his first WRs coach. Clearly that wasn’t working so he fired Lewis and hired Mike Groh to coach the receivers. Pederson made Isaac Seumalo his LG at the start of 2017. Seumalo struggled and got benched.

Good coaches can make decisions, but also evaluate them and make changes if needed. One of Reid’s problems is that he can be too stubborn at times. Pederson has shown that he will admit a mistake and adjust. I know many people see Groh being the OC as a major mistake and want him fired. Pederson will study that situation in the offseason and act accordingly. Do not assume that means Groh will be gone. Pederson will evaluate the offense and decide if Groh can help fix things or needs to be replaced.

Pederson weathered the 2-8 stretch in 2016. He kept his team together last year even when Wentz went down. Pederson has proven that he can handle adversity and work his way through it. I don’t know if 2018 will work out like he wants, but I still have faith in Pederson.

He will get this thing turned around.

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One Comment on “Doug”

  1. 1 Eagles News: Perspective on Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz – SportsNewsNow said at 1:51 AM on November 22nd, 2018:

    […] Doug – Iggles BlitzOL play is a big reason this offense is struggling. Re-watch the NFC title game and Super Bowl. Foles had a clean pocket most of the time. RBs had room to run. Watch the Chargers game. The OL was fantastic on that final drive. This year? You see the pocket collapse too fast, too often. RBs aren’t getting the same kind of blocking. I don’t know what happened, but I do know the results are very different and the play up front has more to do with offensive struggles than anything Reich did or would do. Reich was part of the staff in 2016 when Lane Johnson got suspended. That killed the Eagles and they went 2-8 without Johnson. They didn’t score more than 26 points in any game in that stretch and really struggled on offense at times. If you can’t win up front, all the gifted offensive minds in the world don’t do you any good. Many people now wonder if Pederson can fix the Eagles, this year or moving forward. I still believe in him. […]