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NFL head coach rankings: Doug Pederson makes the top 5

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No longer “the least qualified coach in NFL history”

Super Bowl LII - Philadelphia Eagles Media Availability Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Rotoworld’s Patrick Daugherty recently released his annual NFL head coaching rankings. The entire list is always a good read, so go check it out. Here’s a look at where Super Bowl winning Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson finished.

5. Doug Pederson

Career Record: 20-12 (.625)

With The Eagles Since: 2016

Last Year’s Ranking: 23

Although Eagles fans will never forget the slights against their head coach, you are forgiven if you didn’t see Doug Pederson coming. When Pederson hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, he was still less than 10 years removed from coaching high school. He was less than two years removed from calling plays for the first time. His 2016 hiring had a “good old days” feel to it. Desperate to move on from the “crashed jet ski” Chip Kelly era, the Eagles seemed to be hiring the first Andy Reid acolyte they could find. Whatever the process was — it’s quite possible owner Jeffrey Lurie had a firm personal belief in Pederson after his four years as an Eagles assistant — it worked. After an inconclusive first season, Pederson hit the gas in the second. The fuel was win-probability analytics and run/pass options. It was the analytical play-calling — Pederson has an assistant in his ear giving him the percentages on any given call — that got the Eagles to the No. 1 seed, and the run/pass options that kept them there. When Carson Wentz went down in Week 14, that should have been the end of the Eagles’ title aspirations. Instead, Pederson summoned career-best play from backup Nick Foles, who, like Wentz, excelled with RPO play-calling. Now the Eagles are world champions with one of the best young players in football returning for 2018. The league will copy Pederson’s innovations. That’s football. He’s already proven he has the mind and derring-do to stay ahead of the curve.

Top five, baby!

So much for being “the least qualified head coach in NFL history” as once stated by Mike Lombardi.

The only four coaches that finished ahead of Dougie P: 4) Mike Tomlin, 3) Andy Reid, 2) Pete Carroll, and 1) Bill Belichick. Pretty decent company.

Pederson absolutely deserves his ranking. He should’ve been Coach of the Year in 2017. It’s really a joke that he only received ONE measly vote for the award.

Pederson checks just about every box for what you want in a head coach. He’s aggressive and creative as a play-caller. He manages the game well. He fosters an incredibly positive locker room culture. It’s all there.

The best thing about Pederson is that he operates without ego. He’s very willing to collaborate. He keeps an open mind when new ideas are presented to him. It’s not ‘his way or the highway.’

The greatness of Pederson is an underrated aspect of the Eagles’ Super Bowl run, in my view. He was fantastic in the playoffs. With Pederson and Wentz around, Philadelphia is truly set up for long-term success.

Even if Pederson somehow bombs out and becomes a disaster, which seems unlikely, he’ll always be the first head coach to do what no other Eagles head coach has ever done before: bring the Lombardi Trophy to Philadelphia.

And he made it known that he’s not just content with one championship ring.

Let’s take a look at some other rankings of note, starting with Sean McVay.

9. Sean McVay

Career Record: 11-5 (.688)

With The Rams Since: 2017

Last Year’s Ranking: — —

Coach worship can be a dangerous thing. Today’s Chip Kelly is often tomorrow’s Marc Trestman. One-year sample sizes mean very little. We can still marvel at what the youngest coach in NFL history did in his first year on the job. The 2016 Rams scored 224 points under Jeff Fisher, 40 fewer than the second-most futile offense, the 1-15 Browns. Sean McVay doubled the Rams’ 2016 output by Week 15. The rookie head coach didn’t just embarrass Fisher, he oversaw the league’s No. 1 offense. It was only the second time ever a team went from worst to first in scoring (1965 49ers). Amongst many changes, McVay’s most important was his system for audibling. McVay hurried his offense to the line so he could survey the defense and bark adjustments at Jared Goff before his headset was cut off with 15 seconds remaining on the play clock. If that sounds less like a brilliant innovation and more like something every team should have already been doing, that’s because it is. That will be the challenge for McVay in 2018. Innovation has a short shelf life in the copycat NFL. The best coaches find new edges on a yearly basis. McVay has set the bar extremely high. 2018 will be about staying above it.

McVay did a great job in turning around the Rams during the 2017 regular season. Unlike Pederson, he also did a great of getting eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

16. Jason Garrett

Career Record: 67-53 (.558)

With The Cowboys Since: 2010

Last Year’s Ranking: 12

While you weren’t looking, Jason Garrett — The Clapper — became the eighth-longest tenured coach in the NFL. Garrett has been on the job for 7.5 seasons in Dallas, finishing below .500 only once. So why does he feel so uninspiring? Having just one playoff win is a good place to start. The larger problem is that it remains unclear where Garrett provides value. He doesn’t call plays. He manages the game poorly. He does seem to have the backing of his players, but that’s not enough of an edge in a league growing increasingly analytical and forward-thinking. The nicest thing you can say is that Garrett has established an identity. The “Keepaway Cowboys” seek to dominate time of possession and avoid mistakes on defense. The formula worked in 2014 and 2016 but revealed its limitations in 2015 and 2017. There’s little room for error when the crux of your strategy is keeping the other team off the field. The Cowboys could win a Super Bowl with Garrett. He’s no better or worse than the average coach. But that’s what he is: The most average of coaches.

If I’m the Eagles, I’m fine with the Cowboys continuing to keep this puppet around.

19. Jay Gruden

Career Record: 28-35-1 (.445)

With The Redskins Since: 2014

Last Year’s Ranking: 16

Jay Gruden has run the mediocre gamut the past three seasons, finishing 9-7, 8-7-1 and 7-9. It has been partly beyond his control, as the Redskins have annually been amongst the league’s most injured teams. Front office feuds have also made for a muddled personnel approach, as well as poison the team’s relationship with would-be franchise quarterback Kirk Cousins. Of course, Gruden himself never seemed too crazy about Cousins, who executed Gruden’s plug-and-play offense to the tune of a 67.0 completion percentage over the past three years. Gruden could still prove to be an above-average coach, but 2018 will be his moment of truth. Will Alex Smith, a slightly more precise, slightly more gun shy version of Cousins be a better fit for Gruden’s system? Can Gruden finally find a running game? Can anyone stay healthy? The first Redskins coach to get a fifth season since Norv Turner in the ‘90s, Gruden has achieved the near-impossible task of gaining owner Daniel Snyder’s trust. 2018 should decide if it’s warranted.

Gruden isn’t a terrible head coach, but he’s not a particularly good one. Mediocrity is where you want your divisional rivals to be.

The optics of hiring Pat Shurmur — a 52-year-old failed former Browns coach — are not great. It must mean the Giants really liked what they heard behind the scenes. In front of the cameras, Shurmur’s colleagues and players stumped for him to get a second chance. Shurmur made the case on the field in 2017, turning Case Keenum into a viable starter while overseeing the continued rise of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. He expertly managed the Vikings’ committee backfield following Dalvin Cook’s season-ending injury. Shurmur previously coaxed career-best play out of Sam Bradford in St. Louis and Minnesota. Shurmur’s apparent quarterback magic gives the Giants hope as they try to revive Eli Manning one final time before finding a young replacement, perhaps with the No. 2 overall pick in April’s draft. Shurmur is a retread. That doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to fail. He wasn’t the right man at the right time in Cleveland. Perhaps he will be in East Rutherford.

Rotoworld doesn’t give a ranking to first-year head coaches. If they did, I imagine Shurmur would start out near the bottom of the list anyway. Based on my experience personally covering him, I’m pretty skeptical about his chances of success.

Frank Reich wasn’t the Colts’ No. 1 choice to replace Chuck Pagano. He was somewhere beyond the top five. GM Chris Ballard was forced to dig deep after Josh McDaniels’ stunning betrayal. Ballard insists the circuitous process ended with the right man. “I thought about it after I got done interviewing (Reich). I go, ‘My Lord, what was I thinking?’” Ballard said of his initial failure to interview the Eagles’ offensive coordinator. Maybe that’s true and maybe it isn’t. What we know is that Reich just spent two seasons as the top assistant to the hottest head coach in football. Like Doug Pederson, Reich is a former backup quarterback who spent some time away from the league before quickly climbing the coaching ladder. It’s been just 12 years since Reich’s first coaching gig, an internship with Tony Dungy in Indy. Affable and self-deprecating in his introductory press conference, Reich sounded like someone who learned from his time in Philly, pledging to run an aggressive, up-tempo offense. It’s possible the Colts have backed into a great hire. So is the reverse. It’s all on the table when you arrive in town as the mystery option. That’s sort of the point.

I think the former Eagles offensive coordinator is going to be a good head coach for Indy, assuming the Colts can get their quarterback situation worked out.