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NFL head coach rankings: Doug Pederson improves from last year

Nowhere to go but up.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles-Minicamp Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports analyst Elliott Harrison recently released his annual head coach rankings for all 32 NFL teams. These rankings weren’t so kind to Doug Pederson last year. The Eagles boss ranked dead last.

After his first year on the job, however, Pederson is no longer on the bottom! Check it out.

25) Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles - Although Pederson falls below Hue Jackson (who has more experience and was an outstanding offensive coordinator in Cincinnati) in these rankings, don't take that as a harsh judgment on the relatively new head coach. Underneath that gnarly, salty visor lies Philly's best hope for a potential NFC East takeover. Pederson's greatest asset is the wisdom he can impart on former No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz. The coach's decade-plus of experience playing in the NFL puts him in a unique position to help Wentz take the next step. Pederson's mentor, Andy Reid, helped guide the development of another highly drafted Eagles quarterback, Donovan McNabb -- with Pederson as McNabb's backup in 1999. That brief time in Pederson's career should serve Wentz well.

Pederson moved up seven spots following Philadelphia’s 7-9 campaign in 2016. Part of the explanation for that is a lot of new head coaches rank below him. Those behind Pederson include: Doug Marrone, Kyle Shanahan, Todd Bowles, Sean McDermott, Sean McVay, Vance Joseph, and Anthony Lynn. Only Bowles is a returning head coach from the 2016 season. So Pederson moved up by default.

This is a meaningless, arbitrary activity and all, but I think 25 is slightly low for Pederson. I agree a little more with Rotoworld’s decision to rank the Eagles head coach 23rd. I wrote about my evaluation of Pederson earlier this year.

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.

I know this is very hard to believe in a city like Philly, but I think the Pederson criticism goes overboard sometimes. Some paint him as a bumbling idiot because he’s awkward in press conferences and believe he doesn’t know what he’s doing since he stays aggressive on fourth downs. There’s no denying Pederson is awkward, but I don’t think that matters a ton in relation to his success on Sundays. And personally I really like his aggression.

Again, that’s not to say Pederson is perfect. I was very skeptical of the hire. He still has a lot to prove. I’m just not ready to write him off after one year.

I’m really interested to see how Pederson does in Year 2. There will be less excuses for failure this time around. He finally has some real offensive weapons to work with. He’ll be working with a more experienced Carson Wentz instead of a rookie who wasn’t even supposed to play last year.

On paper, the Eagles look like an improved team. Now it’s up to Pederson to lead the squad to success this year. I think nine wins is a realistic/reasonable expectation for this season.

Elsewhere around the NFC East, Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett ranks first in the division at No. 13. My thoughts on that:

Ben McAdoo of the New York Giants is second in the NFC East at No. 20. I think he’s overrated. Yes, the G-Men went 11-5 in 2016, but that success came on the backs of their defense. McAdoo’s offense, meanwhile, ranked 27th in offensive points per game, 23rd in yards per game, and 24th in giveaways. And it’s not like they lack offensive weapons.

Checking in at third in the division is Jay Gruden at No. 21. For whatever reason he’s had the Eagles’ number in recent years, so it’s not like I can talk a lot of crap about him. Still, he’s 21-27-1 in 49 games with Washington (including playoffs). That’s hardly great.

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