Rotoworld’s Patrick Daugherty recently released his annual NFL head coaching rankings. The entire article is always a worthwhile read, but with the Philadelphia Eagles in mind let’s take a look at where Doug Pederson checks in.
23. Doug Pederson
Career Record: 7-9 (.438)
With The Eagles Since: 2016
Last Year’s Ranking: – –
All you can really say about Doug Pederson’s 2016 is that we need more information. A first-time head coach who had never been a full-time play-caller before arriving in Philadelphia, Pederson’s offense veered between mediocre and unwatchable. That’s life when your quarterback is a rookie, your running back is Ryan Mathews and you have no receivers. Elsewhere, there were positives. Pederson’s defense was much improved on Chip Kelly’s abominations, and his team stayed feisty down the stretch, enduring a five-game losing streak before beating the playoff-bound Giants in Week 16. Pederson’s future fortunes rest squarely on Carson Wentz’s shoulders. If Pederson can turn Wentz into a franchise quarterback, a rise up the coaching ranks is inevitable.
Pretty fair assessment here. I think Pederson’s first season as a head coach was generally encouraging. He wasn’t perfect by any means, but if I had to give him a letter grade, it would probably be a "B."
It’s hard to blame Pederson for the team’s failures on offense. The Eagles simply need better talent. I thought Pederson actually did a really good job of scheming offense early in the season. I was always impressed how wide open guys were getting. This is also when Carson Wentz had his best stretch of the season. The problem is, as Chip Kelly’s tenure taught us, scheme only goes so far. Teams will catch up to schemes. The offensive players just weren’t good enough. The Eagles had the worst wide receiving corps in the NFL and no real stability at running back. In addition, Philadelphia was missing one of their best offensive linemen for 10 games. And I didn’t even mention the fact that Wentz started the whole season after the original plan was to not even really have him play at all as a rookie.
Pederson certainly isn’t above criticism by any means. His game management decisions in the first Eagles-Cowboys game, for example, cost the team a win in Dallas. He threw his challenge flag at some real questionable moments last year. He also had that whole weird thing where he caved into the media’s pressure and publicly questioned the effort of his players just a few days after defending them.
But for all his faults, Pederson’s rookie season was a decent starting point for himself. And it’s really all about where he goes from here. It’s his job to ensure Wentz becomes a franchise quarterback. NFL players typically make their biggest leaps in development from Year 1 to Year 2. Pederson will be a key factor in making sure Wentz improves next season.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Eagles’ offense performs next year after Philadelphia is able to acquire some weapons this offseason. Once the proper talent is acquired, we should have a better gauge on Pederson’s coaching ability.
For now, I think 23rd is a fair ranking. If anything, Pederson might be a little underrated. I will die on the hill that the 2016 Eagles were better than their record indicated. The Eagles ranked ninth in point differential and seventh in turnover differential. Those figures were big improvements from Chip Kelly’s last year as head coach.
Elsewhere around the NFC East, Cowboys puppet Jason Garrett ranks as the best coach in the division.
12) Jason Garrett
College football writer Spencer Hall once made the case for "not changing a damn thing" at coach. Hall argued that, with some Charlie Weis exceptions, most coaches are held to impossible standards, and discarded too quickly. NFLers like Gus Bradley and Joe Philbin beg to differ, but the Cowboys obliged. They didn’t change a damn thing at coach, keeping Jason Garrett after a 29-27 start to his career. Their reward has been one of the NFL’s clearest identities — control the ball on offense, bend, but don’t break, on defense — and two 12-win seasons in the past three years, with two different quarterbacks, no less. Owner Jerry Jones has found his desperately-sought return to relevance in the most surprising of places: Patience. Garrett is not a future Bill Belichick, or even Andy Reid. Given enough chances to implement his formula, he just might be the man to bring the Lombardi back to Dallas.
My question is: how much credit does Garrett really deserve when he doesn’t call the plays and he doesn’t decide who plays? What does he actually do?
After Garrett, it’s Washington’s Jay Gruden, who recently received a contract extension.
16) Jay Gruden
Jay Gruden is the Redskins’ best head coach since Joe Gibbs’ first go-around. That may seem like damning with faint praise, but even faint praise has been hard to come by during the Daniel Snyder era. Gruden has installed a system offense that’s amongst the league’s most prolific, resulting in a 17-14-1 record since Robert Griffin III was cast aside in 2015. It will be put to the test in 2017. Gruden’s top lieutenant, OC Sean McVay, is gone. Free agents DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are likely to follow. The run game remains rudderless. Most worrying of all, Kirk Cousins is disillusioned after two years of contract disrespect. It’s not unusual for a Redskins coach to find himself at the center of this sort of hurricane. What will be unusual is if Gruden can weather it.
As the write-up notes, Gruden will really have to prove himself here moving forward. Washington has been decent under him over the past two seasons, yes, but it’s not like the team has accomplished much. They got blown out at home in their only playoff appearance under Gruden.
Third place goes to New York Giants head coach Ben "Don’t call me Bob" McAdoo, who ranks only one spot ahead of Doug.
22) Ben McAdoo
Rarely will an 11-5 coaching debut be less impressive. Ben McAdoo is an offensive mind, yet his offense scored only 32 touchdowns in 2016, the third fewest in the league. McAdoo could not scheme Eli Manning out of a season-long slump, while his running game was nonexistent. McAdoo’s team made the postseason by the grace of a massive cash infusion on defense. There were bright spots. McAdoo’s decision to retain DC Steve Spagnuolo, dubious on paper, worked brilliantly. The offensive line (sort of) improved. Injuries seemed down. McAdoo put down a solid foundation. It’s just not going to hold up if he can’t do a better job on his side of the ball.
Kudos to Rotoworld for being smart about McAdoo’s ranking. Some might look at the Giants’ record and go "Oh, McAdoo did a great job!" Not so fast. The Giants’ offense was terrible, and that’s the unit McAdoo is responsible for. And unlike the Eagles, New York actually has some legitimate offensive weapons. He has less room for excuses than Pederson does.
I have my doubts about Pederson ever becoming a great coach in the NFL, but I do think we’ll see him higher on this list next season. The make-or-break factor is the development of Wentz.