Now that we’ve finished our Eagles position review series, let’s turn our attention to Philadelphia’s coaching staff. Today we’ll be evaluating head coach Doug Pederson.
Review: Pederson planted his flag shortly after the Eagles’ Super Bowl win by saying playing into February was the “new norm” for Philadelphia football. Pederson also told his team that they needed to “embrace the target” since they’d be getting every opponent’s absolute best effort in 2018. Pederson’s messaging turned out to be a little mixed as he also talked about the team needing to put their championship win behind him.
Fittingly, the 2018 season got off to an awkward start. With Nick Foles under center, the Eagles barely edged out the Falcons thanks to another last minute red zone stop. As the offense looked sluggish even with Carson Wentz returning, some began to wonder just how much Pederson was missing former offensive coordinator Frank Reich and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo.
One of the more bizarre moments of the 2018 season was when Pederson said “the pressure’s off” following the Eagles blowing a 17-0 lead in a loss to the Panthers. Whereas Pederson pushed all the right buttons in 2017, it just didn’t feel like he was doing the same in 2018.
The Eagles’ 2018 struggles reached a boiling point when Philadelphia went down to New Orleans and lost to the Saints in Week 11 by a score of 48 to 7. The 4-6 Eagles then found themselves down 19 to 3 at home to the 3-7 Giants in Week 12.
But that’s when something shifted. Instead of folding, Pederson’s players played hard for him. The Eagles battled back to beat the Giants. With the offense starting to come alive, Philly finished the regular season with only one more loss — which came in overtime to the Cowboys in a game that featured one of the biggest blown calls of the season.
For the second season in a row, Pederson was able to help the Eagles win with their backup quarterback, Nick Foles. By beating the Bears in Chicago, Pederson became the first NFC East head coach to a win playoff game in back-to-back seasons since Andy Reid last did it in 2004.
Speaking of repeats, it was looking like the Eagles were close to at least advancing to the NFC Championship Game for the second year in a row after jumping out to a 14-0 lead against the Saints in the Divisional Round. If Foles’ pass to Alshon Jeffery doesn’t go through the wide receivers’ hands, maybe that’d have been the case.
Outlook: Losing to the Saints in the playoffs was arguably the least painful end to an Eagles season ever. Coming off the Super Bowl helped, for sure, but it wasn’t just about that. It was about being damn proud of a 2018 Eagles team that had overcome a lot of injury and adversity to make it as far as they did.
Pederson had some real issues in 2018. The offense started too slow for a big portion of the season. The usage of personnel was questionable (not enough two tight ends sets). The messaging wasn’t always on point. But Pederson didn’t let these mistakes define his 2018 performance. He found a way to turn things around and ultimately save the season.
Despite some 2018 hiccups, Pederson is arguably one of the best coaches in the league. His fearlessness gives the Eagles an edge over their opponents. Contrast his penchant to be aggressive to that of weak-willed, Super Bowl losing head coach Sean McVay, who crumbled under pressure against a Patriots team that Pederson beat the year before.
Pederson’s presence provides optimism for the future. With that said, 2019 will be his toughest challenge yet. The Eagles are expected to undergo a good deal of roster turnover. Pederson also won’t have Foles to turn to if Carson Wentz gets hurt. It’s up to Dougie P to get Wentz back on track and lead this team to glory once again. The pressure is most certainly not off.
Doug Pederson: Stay or go?
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