Each week Patrick and Dave and today, James, discuss the week that was. It's
Two Three Guys Internetting Football!
Dave: Gentlemen, the Eagles finally have a head coach and it's... Doug Pederson. Doug. Pederson. He's not the flashiest hire, but also probably not the worst option, and he wasn't the Eagles top choice, but at the end of the day he was the choice. There will be puff pieces written about him highlighting his positives and there will be columns about what a bad hire he is, both about him as a coach and about the organization, all before he's even officially the coach. There will be elements of truth in both sides.
What do you like about this hire? What do you hate about it?
James: Is it possible to like the "coach they hired" and hate the "hire" itself? I really don't mind Doug Pederson as Head Coach of the Eagles. I like that he's a former NFL QB (granted he was not a very good one), but he commanded a huddle so I will presume here that he has the ability to lead men into battle. And by many accounts Pederson is an intelligent guy who also has coaching pedigree. Yes he is an apprentice to Andy Reid, but this means he's a member of the Bill Walsh head coaching tree (fourth generation). As head coach of the Eagles, Pederson will join a rather small fraternity of six (now seven) former NFL quarterbacks who became head coaches of the team for which they played. The list contains guys you may not have heard much about, like Bob Waterfield (Rams, Hall of Famer), Frankie Albert (49ers), and Kay Stephenson (Bills). The list also contains guys you have heard about: Bart Starr (Packers, Hall of Famer), Sam Wyche (Bengals), and (you'll love this, Dave) the indomitable Ivy Leaguer Jason Garrett (Cowboys). Regardless, some decent company. All of this I like.
What I hate is "the hire", that is, the manner in which Pederson was reportedly hired. We may never really know what actually happened, but the fact that reports say the Eagles wanted Gase, then McAdoo, then Coughlin, then called Hue Jackson... all without interviewing other offensive and defensive coordinators who, according to popular opinion, should have been... really leads me to think that the Eagles' search committee failed. I would feel more confident in the hire if more due diligence was reported, even if the end result was still Pederson.
Patrick: Maybe it's just me, but I'm finding it difficult to have strong feelings one way or the other. This also feels like a good time to remind folks that we really don't know anything about how a coach will perform once he's in charge. Even prior head coaching experience doesn't necessarily make a difference. For example, Chip Kelly could be just as easily turn San Francisco around as he could run it even further into the ground (if that's even possible).
As for the hire itself... well, the search process certainly didn't inspire a ton of confidence. To me it seemed pretty transparent that Adam Gase was their guy, and they didn't have a super solid Plan B in place. Again, we never know what goes on behind closed doors (as evidenced by the fact that they reportedly reached out to Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin), but ultimately Jeffery Lurie and Howie Roseman went with a guy with whom they were familiar.
The thing that is most concerning to me is that, from the outside looking in, the front office is already making demands about the makeup of the coaching staff. In a sense, I'm glad for it because the potential of Duce Staley as offensive coordinator may have prevented them from hiring Tom Coughlin. But going with a first-time head coach might mean that Roseman and company can muscle Pederson a little - which would be unfair since he's the one who actually has to work with these coaches. Then again, this is all whispers and speculation, so we don't know for sure if it's true.
But there are positives! After Chip, it'll be nice to have a coach with NFL coaching experience. And as Jim said, being a part of such a distinguished coaching tree could really be beneficial. My hope is that Pederson will seek to step out of his mentor Andy Reid's shadow, but understand what Reid does well. Not that I expect Doug to do this, but I would see those videos of Andy Reid hamming it up with his players after a win and wonder if Chip ever did anything like that. I want a coach who respects his players and treats them all like grownups, and I think we'll get that. Whew, my bar is super low here.
Dave: You guys have hit the nail on the head. I don't have a problem with Pederson per se, I'd rather have him than promote Pat Shurmur or give 70 year old Tom Coughlin the keys. And when you look around the league it's not much better, Dirk Koetter is getting a job and Mike Mularkey is about to get a third one. Gase was a hot candidate but I wasn't sold on him, McAdoo seemed like a lesser, blander version of him. As Patrick says, we don't know who's going to be a good head coach until they're actually a head coach. There are things to like about Pederson, piggybacking off of James, he went undrafted, had to start his career in the World League (under Mouse Davis, who brought the Run and Shoot to the NFL), and then made the teams of Don Shula, Mike Holmgren and Andy Reid. They obviously saw something in him, though good leadership and intelligence as a player does not guarantee leadership and intelligence as a coach.
But the process to get to this outcome feels miserable. They interviewed just three coaches who didn't currently or previously work for them, and two of them were from the Giants
who they have pretty much dominated for the past six years. Doug Pederson's not even the most impressive coordinator on the Chiefs
, and there are plenty of other coaches who at least have a better resume on paper
that never got a sniff. Perhaps if they interviewed more people they would have had a different top choice and not been spurned by three coaches. Or maybe more would have turned them down because they don't want to work with this front office.
Because this seeming desire to return to halcyon days of the Andy Reid era is a bad look. Fair or not, it feels like they hired Doug Pederson because he was the opposite of Chip Kelly: a warm, familiar presence who won't step on toes. But there are a bunch of coaches who fit that mold, this one is also a Reid protege. Is hiring Pederson tantamount to admitting firing Reid was a mistake, or just going too deep back into the well, or is it something else entirely?
Patrick: I don't think there was a person in the NFL who thought that keeping Andy after 2012 was a good idea. I was in that locker room all season - change was definitely necessary. Unless you're making deep playoff runs with one coach every year, that kind of change at the top is inevitable and healthy.
More than anything I think this search was about finding a coach who could create the kind of stability the Eagles had under Andy. You don't need to hire a Reid disciple to do that, but I think it helps to have hired a coach who's seen that stability blueprint in two separate organizations. And perhaps most importantly, he was a coordinator when Reid and his staff steadied the rudderless Chiefs. The Eagles aren't quite at that level of disaster, but understanding how to rebuild trust among players and coaches, putting a quality locker room together... these are important items for the Eagles this year, so in a sense I'm glad the Eagles' new coach isn't a guy who's been with a successful franchise for years and years.
James: No, the franchise and fans suffered from a severe case of Reid fatigue. Reid himself needed to benefit from a change of scenery (which he has), especially after the death of his son. So I don't think there is any admission of failure implied in this case. Lurie gives me the impression that he is a very introspective owner who always looks at (he'll say "evaluates") other organizations to try to identify what makes a successful head coach, what makes a successful team. This time, he looked at his own team's history and felt, in my opinion, it was time to hit the "reset" button. Since Reid represents the Golden Age of his ownership, Lurie may be looking to not only recreate it, but also improve upon it. For all of his emotional intelligence flaws, Chip Kelly did do some effective things, prime among them his sports science initiative. I would hate to see that entire effort, among other things, just thrown away. My hope (for without hope what are we?) is that Lurie, Roseman, Pederson, et al are all smart enough to realize that, yes, the organization needs to return to what worked in the past, but also have the humility and foresight to say "You know what, we have an opportunity here to enhance it." So let's see how things play out in the coming weeks.