The Case for Doug

Posted: December 31st, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 5 Comments »

I have talked about Doug Pederson’s issues more than a few times this year. He deserves plenty of blame for the Eagles 4-10-1 disaster of a season. He’s not alone, of course (Howie, Carson, etc.). Things get complicated when you try to figure out how to split up the responsibility and who should return next year. For now, let’s look at the case for Doug staying as coach of the Eagles.

Doug loves to point out past success and that is important. In five years as coach, Pederson has three playoff appearances, two division titles and a Super Bowl win. He is 4-2 in the playoffs. That is very impressive and not to be taken lightly. Marty Schottenheimer and Don Coryell were brilliant head coaches who couldn’t win the big game. Marv Levy, Bud Grant and Dan Reeves all got to four Super Bowls, but they never won it.

Jon Gruden won the Super Bowl in 2002. He hasn’t won a playoff game since and only has two appearances in that time. Mike Ditka won the Super Bowl in 1985. He coached 10 years after that and only won two playoff games. John Harbaugh won the Super Bowl in 2012. He’s only made the playoffs three times since then and only has one victory in those appearances.

Doug’s resume is not to be taken lightly. If you get Doug the right players, he can win. And he can win big.

The flip side of that is that can’t blindly reward him for past success. You need to know if he’s the right coach for 2021 and the future. Past success guarantees nothing.

Doug was hired for his “emotional intelligence” and he still seems to have a good connection with the players. The team has played hard all year. There haven’t been any issues in the locker room. When things go sideways on the field, it is easy for the same to happen off the field. Pederson has kept his team together.

Not all coaches can connect with players. You need to let the players know you have authority over them, but also that you care about them as people. Doug’s experience as an NFL player helps him with that delicate balance.

Beyond player relationships, Doug works well with the whole organization. He embraced working with the Eagles analytics staff from the beginning and continues to be aggressive with fourth downs and 2-point conversion attempts. Pederson helps with personnel decisons, but doesn’t have a desire to be the overall decision-maker. Pederson doesn’t micro-manage his staff. He lets Dave Fipp run the special teams and Jim Schwartz run the defense. They work together when needed, but he empowers his coaches to run their part of the team.

Schematically, it is difficult to evaluate Doug. The offense lacked creativity for much of the season. The 2017 team looked great, but then Frank Reich and John DeFilippo left. The offense has been erratic since. Were they the brains?

When you watch the Eagles games after the fact, you see open receivers. Carson Wentz didn’t see them on a consistent basis. Jalen Hurts has missed his share as well. The design of the plays is working, but not the execution. What good is a play if your QB can’t execute it effectively?

There are times when the scheme has not worked. Pederson has asked marginal players to win too many one-on-one battles. That’s fine when you have a terrific OL and gifted pass catchers in their prime. That is very different when John Hightower, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Greg Ward are out there trying to get open.

Wentz is good when he is on the move. For some very odd reason, Doug limited how many bootlegs and rollout plays he called. That or Wentz pushed to stay in the pocket. That seems less likely, but you never know.

I guess you could say Doug remains a good offensive mind, but 2020 has not been a good example of that. He did get much better when Hurts took over. Having a highly mobile QB seemed to bring out the best in Doug.

When you look at Doug’s two losing seasons, there were OL issues. In 2016 Lane Johnson was suspended for 10 games. The Eagles were 5-1 with him, 2-8 without him. This year the OL has been hit by injuries at a historic level and that has wreaked havoc on the unit and the offense. I think it would be naive to say fix the OL and this time is right back to being a contender, but it would make a substantial difference.

One of the key questions  you have to consider is if you let Doug go, who do you replace him with? You don’t fire Doug for the heck of it. You have to feel that he isn’t the guy for the team moving forward and you need to have a replacement in mind.

Those were not compelling candidates. That was a weak class of coaches and the results show that.

The options this year look much more promising, but the point of that tweet remains valid. Most coaches don’t succeed, let alone win a Super Bowl. Move on from Doug at your own risk.

I think the real X-factor in this decision is what Doug says behind closed doors. He needs to communicate to Jeff Lurie and whoever else is involved in the process that he understands how bad this team was in 2020 and that he can fix the problems.

The team has declined each year since the Super Bowl. Lack of talent is a big part of that, but some it is on Doug as well. He needs to own that and show he can address what has gone wrong in a real way. You cannot fix a problem until you admit it exists.

I have very mixed feelings on whether I want Doug back in 2021. He’s had success in Philly and I still think he’s a good coach. I just don’t know if he’s the right coach for next year’s team.

The Eagles are going to have a major youth movement because the team will have tough cap issues. Can Doug move on from veteran players and embrace young guys? He has leaned on Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, Alshon Jeffery, etc. more than he should have. That must change if Doug wants to be part of the team’s future.


5 Comments on “The Case for Doug”

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