Doug Pederson stepped to the podium and chuckled. It was his first Monday presser after his first regular season game as a head coach in the NFL. It was his first Monday presser after his first regular season win. He would not have been there without the man who first brought him to Philadelphia. And Pederson knew what he was going to do. His smile was his tell. He leaned a bit into the mic and said, “I just want to update you on a couple injuries from yesterday’s game…” His press conference was underway.
After enduring three years of Chip Kelly, the whole of which can be categorized as a sarcastic, finger-quoted period of franchise history (oh sure, he “coached” AND “GM’d”), Pederson represents a return to familiarity, if not normalcy. His nod to mentor Andy Reid felt like a warm blanket pulled from the back of your couch on a cold day. But it’s important to note that he is not Reid redux. After his first NFL game (all possible caveats apply), Pederson has demonstrated enough to say with caution: he’s the Andy Reid we always wanted.
Consider some of Reid’s game management follies that drove the general fan base crazy.
Reid famously used the pass to set up the run, which resulted in a 40:60 run/pass ratio. Often this philosophy came at the expense of common sense. Ten-point lead with five minutes remaining? Let’s throw the ball. Third and one? Let’s throw the ball some more. Reid was amazingly stubborn in moments like this, often a victim of strategic overthinking. I know they know that I know that they know we’re gonna do this, so we’re gonna do that instead. The result was the perception that Reid lacked decisiveness in key moments. In his first game as head coach, Pederson did enough to quell those fears with a more intentionally balanced attack: 34 rushes, 37 passes. The effective run game gave Wentz more precious pocket time in play action. Pederson’s decisiveness can be demonstrated below.
To Reid, time outs were seemingly an unlimited resource. In Super Bowl XXXIX Reid called a time out with one minute remaining in the third quarter, presumably an attempt to stall a driving New England Patriots offense, or even regroup the Eagles defense. The only problem was the clock was already stopped and that spent timeout became a critical element in the Eagles’ lumbering bid at a comeback late in the fourth.
With 7:04 remaining in the third quarter Sunday, in contrast, the Eagles faced a fourth down with four yards to go from the Cleveland forty yard line. Pederson did not call a timeout to mull things over, he immediately sent the play to Carson Wentz who completed a five yard pass to Zach Ertz for the key first down. The next play, Pederson again demonstrated decisiveness, calling the dagger play that resulted in a 35 yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor. This was almost “Chip Kelly-an” in its ideal. The only thing missing was the hurry-up.
Two Minute Drill
Under Reid’s tenure, the Eagles always seemed to struggle with the two minute drill. While some of the accountability falls on Donovan McNabb, it’s Reid who was ultimately responsible. In fact, he often said something to the effect of “I’ll take full responsibility for that,” or perhaps the less effusive, “I’ve gotta do a better job there.” This was also evident in Super Bowl XXXIX. With 1:03 (and all three timeouts remaining) in the first half of a 7-7 game, the Eagles began their possession at their own 19 yard line. Reid, in perhaps one of those “overthinking” moments, called a run (!) to Brian Westbrook, who lost three yards on the play. Bill Belichick, sensing an opportunity to capitalize, called a timeout. The Eagles eventually moved the ball twenty yards by targeting Asante Samuel before time expired. One was left to wonder what could have been.
It’s only one game for Pederson, but the there was a good sense of an effective two minute drill Sunday. The Eagles were on their own 42 yard line with two minutes and all of their timeouts remaining. Wentz was able to drive the offense down to the Cleveland 19 yard line in 1:18. The offense eventually stalled but the Eagles were able to steal three points before the end of the half. At the very least, the drill looked decent enough to project some confidence in the future.
One of the more frustrating things about Andy Reid was the dull, controlled manner in which he conducted his press conferences. He’s not a dull person. Reid is witty, fun, relatable, and possesses a great sense of humor. However, he mostly held all of that in check when in public, or more appropriately, when dealing with the media. Pederson, on the other hand, seems to be genuine across the board, holding nothing close to the vest, even speaking openly about his method for scripting plays and assembling drives.
He’s admittedly a neophyte and most likely wants to project an aura of competence, or maybe even endearment. But for now, and this may change if losses accrue, his persona is not as off-putting as his last two predecessors.
After Jeff Lurie hired Doug Pederson, and after Chase Daniel was signed, the easy and fun narrative was that Lurie and Howie Roseman wanted to recreate the atmosphere previously created by Reid. Not so fast. In just one regular season game, Pederson has done enough to separate himself from his mentor. All of this is not to suggest that Pederson will be better than Andy Reid, but rather to instill hope that he’s capable of improving upon him. If Reid is unable to learn from his own mistakes, maybe Pederson is.