After a hot start to the season the Eagles have looked like a punching bag ever since. I know it’s only 11 games into his coaching career but head coach Doug Pederson, an understudy under former Eagles’ coach Andy Reid, perhaps needs to be let go. And here’s why.
01. Decision making during games
I get that Pederson is inexperienced and doesn’t know the whole spectrum of being an NFL head coach, but there’s certain decisions as a coach that are pretty obvious and cut and dry.
First off, during the Eagles’ 28-23 loss vs. the Giants at the Meadowlands on November 6th, Pederson’s in-game decisions were extremely poor, head scratching and questionable. Many fans didn’t understand, fundamentally speaking, why Pederson was making certain decisions.
The biggest factor, and mistake by Pederson, in that loss was Pederson’s decisions to go for it on fourth down. This occurred not once but twice. What’s significant about it, when Pederson made the decision to go for it on both downs the Eagles were in field goal range. Attempting and making both field goal attempts could’ve swung the game in their favor, but they, once again, left points on the table. Any point is better than none.
The risks were strongly criticized by the media as well as Eagles’ fans, myself included. On the first fourth-down attempt, which occurred with 3:55 left in the first half, the Eagles were on New York’s six-yard line. Six yard line. A 23 yard field-goal attempt; it would’ve been a chip shot for Caleb Sturgis. Sturgis had been having a solid season up to that point, too, and a 23 yard make was beyond perfectly capable for him to make. Up until that point, in seven games this season Sturgis was 17/18 (94.4%) on field-goal attempts.
Out of those 17, he made one from 55 against Dallas and one from 53 against Chicago.
On the first fourth-down try, the Eagles went with a half-back sweep, handing the ball off to backup running back Darren Sproles, who needed only one yard to convert and ended up gaining zero. The Giants and their defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo (a former Eagles’ coach) of course realized what the Eagles were preparing to do and thus blitzed heavily towards the center and left side of Sproles. Giants’ defensive tackle Damon Harrison and middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard made the stop.
Instead of a field goal try, which would’ve cut the Eagles’ deficit down to eight points, they screwed up the fundamentals and left points on the board. After turning it over on downs, the Giants’ failed to take advantage of the Eagles’ mistake and instead went three and out. Making a point out of that, the Eagles, had they went with the field-goal try and the fact that New York went three and out on the next drive, that could’ve switched the momentum in their favor.
On the second and final fourth-down try, which could’ve resulted in a field goal to win the game (since they were on the Giants’ 17 yard line), Carson Wentz sailed a throw deep down the field to Jordan Matthews, which ended the game for the Eagles.
According to Pederson, who was asked afterwards why he decided to go for it twice on fourth, he responded by saying “he was trying to be aggressive.”
02. Clock Management
Dating back to last January when Pederson was the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator under Andy Reid, Pederson was questioned after the Chiefs’ 27-20 divisional-round loss to New England about his clock management.
Take a look at how much time the Chiefs wasted from after the previous play occurred up until their next snap. On average (see below), they wasted over 29 seconds between each play, which is unheard of for a team during a playoff game. In the game, surprisingly Kansas City had more total yards than the Patriots (381-340), controlled the ball over 41% more than New England, even though New England averaged more yards per play (8.01-6.25).
Starting from when Chiefs’ quarterback Alex Smith scrambled for six yards onto the Patriots’ 26-yard-line, they compiled four plays and yet they wasted over two minutes of the clock. A former Eagles’ coach who wasted too much time in a crucial game. Sound familiar?
Pederson defended the Chiefs’ poor clock management by rationalizing that by doing so, they didn’t want to hand the ball back over to Tom Brady. As well as that, he also clarified that he knew for sure that the Chiefs would score on that drive and still had their timeouts just in case. Mind you, they were down by two touchdowns, not one. So the best course of action there could’ve been; keep as much time on the clock, run no huddles, and conserve the timeouts and the clock. Had they had more than 2:30 minutes left, they wouldn’t of needed to call for an onside kick. They still had timeouts and the two-minute warning left.
Time was burned, and so were the Chiefs’ hopes of advancing to the AFC Championship Game. I doubt any of these type of scenarios will end as Pederson continues his coaching stint here.
03. Lack of coaching experience
In January 30th of 2009, 12 days after the Eagles lost to Arizona in the Championship Game, the team released a press release deciding to bump offensive assistant James Urban to quarterbacks coach, after Pat Shurmur left for the Rams, and Pederson took Urban’s spot as the team’s quality control coach. It was his first ever NFL coaching job.
From 2009-10, he was the team’s quality control coach, then was promoted to be their quarterback’s coach for the next two seasons. After Andy Reid was fired and was succeeded by Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, Kelly dismissed Pederson and Virginia’s offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Bill Lazor took his place.
Reid took Pederson with him to Kansas City, making him their newest offensive coordinator, which lasted for three seasons. Before his first NFL coaching gig in 2009, Pederson only had coached high school football, at Calvary Baptist School in Lansdale, PA. Before beginning his foray into coaching, he was an NFL quarterback, and not a very good one, for a decade. As most Eagles’ fans will remember, he was second-overall pick Donovan McNabb’s mentor (and eventually backup) in 1999.
It seems that Pederson’s clock management struggles still haven’t changed and thus, unfortunately, have spilled over into this year.
The lack of coaching experience made his hiring last offseason a questionable one. Most fans and reporters believed that CEO Jeffrey Lurie made the call to hire him based off being a likable guy as an Eagle (during his playing and coaching career) and an Andy Reid guy, instead of hiring an experienced and successful coach like Tom Coughlin. Giants’ head coach Ben McAdoo was in the running for the vacancy as well, before landing in New York.
Perhaps the break from between the team’s 3-0 start and the start of their poor play since then can be attributed to the recent amount of losses. Most teams when they get hot and push together consecutive after consecutive win need not a bye to break their chemistry and success up until then. Had the Eagles had their bye week later on in the season, perhaps we’re looking at a totally-different team. But Pederson has been a huge factor in the team’s recent struggles.
Although the players are the ones called for the penalties, Pederson has been unsuccessful so far in controlling the team’s crucial mistakes, such as the string of penalties called against them this year. In early October against Detroit, they were flagged for 14 penalties, which is unacceptable. Three other games this year they accumulated 10 or more penalties, including 13 a week later at Washington. It was no coincidence that they ended up 0-2 in those games. This season, they rank tied for third worst in the league in penalties (90). Pederson needs to take control and emphasize to the team the importance of not shooting themselves in their own foot.
It’s more-than fair to allow Pederson more time to learn from his mistakes, correct them, and improve the team and it’s clock management, but so far, after the hire, he’s making the Eagles look bad for it.
So far, I’m more than unimpressed with his decision making, clock management, leadership skills, and the fact that the team almost every game kicks themselves in the foot. If he continues this streak, perhaps it’s time for the team to cut their losses and move on. Only time will tell.