Losing a playoff game sucks. Holding the other team to 17 points but losing is deflating. Scoring nine points in it should be an embarrassment.
And yet, Jadeveon Clowney’s hit on Carson Wentz aside, it’s hard to feel too down about the end of the Eagles’ season. The loss to the Seahawks doesn’t bolster Doug Pederson’s resume on paper, but anyone watching that game, and the four games leading up to it, knows that this was a great coaching job.
The Eagles had no right to be in this game at the end, let alone in the game to begin with. 5-7 teams aren’t supposed to make the playoffs. The offense was missing six starters from the beginning of the season, and one of them was playing through injuries that kept him out of the last game. The entire WR depth chart had been overturned during the course of the season. The secondary was a revolving door of injured cornerbacks all year long. 10 players on the active roster on Sunday were on a practice squad earlier this season. This is a recipe for a 5 win season, not a division title. Then add on Carson Wentz missing for most of the game and replaced by a guy who was retired in August and you have the makings of a leave midway through the fourth quarter blowout. Instead, the game was still to be decided coming out of the two minute warning.
It takes a strong coach and a strong leader to pull off what Doug Pederson, and his staff, has been able to pull off. “Next man up” is a mantra every team tells themselves to get through it. They usually don’t. For the Eagles under Pederson it is a way of life. It started with Jake Elliott going from practice squad to hero practically overnight. It continued on through Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Nick Foles (twice), Avonte Maddox, Cre’von LeBlanc, Josh Adams, Craig James, Boston Scott, Greg Ward, Josh Perkins, Deonte Burnett, Robert Davis, and Josh McCown. Apologies if anyone was overlooked, it’s a list that is too long for a team with Super Bowl aspirations, and far too long for one with a Super Bowl. Losing the players they replaced would devastate most teams. Doug Pederson seems to thrive in it. (By the way, on the subject of leadership, take notice of who hasn’t been around or has barely been around over the last five weeks.)
As if we needed any more validation that Pederson is a hell of a coach, we got it on Sunday. Yeah, his team lost. They didn’t even score a touchdown. But those aren’t the point. At multiple turns this season, and last season, and the season before, the Eagles should have folded. Instead, they stood up. Carson Wentz’s concussion was a bridge too far, but how many coaches, how many teams, could make a competitive game with practice squad players and a 40 year old high school coach at QB?
Someone other than Doug Pederson is going to win the Super Bowl this year, but they almost certainly won’t have done more to make their whole greater than their sum.