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Could the Eagles trade Doug Pederson?

It’s possible.

Indianapolis Colts v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Carson Wentz’s name has emerged in NFL trade rumors since he’s reportedly expected to request a change of scenery this offseason. But what if it’s actually Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson on the move instead?

THE PREMISE

This Pro Football Talk report that emerged on Saturday grabbed my attention:

It’s a viable strategy for any coach seeking a new head coach, and hoping to hire a proven commodity instead of relying on the potential Peter Principle-proving promotion of a coordinator. It’s not a trade per se, because it starts with the new team calling a coach’s current team, inquiring about whether the current team would be willing to be compensated for losing the coach, and reaching a deal for what the compensation would be. Then, the new team would communicate directly with the coach in the hopes of working out a contract pursuant to which he’d be employed by the new team.

In the current cycle, there’s buzz that one of the teams currently looking for a coach — the Jets, Jaguars, Lions, Falcons, Chargers, and Texans — could attempt to hire a current head coach with another team. The coach’s current team could end it all quickly by hanging up the phone. But it costs nothing to make the call, and it’s believed that at least one team may make the call to one of the teams that, at least for now, has a head coach.

Hm. Could one of those teams be inquiring about Pederson’s availability? There isn’t anything in that PFT report to directly suggest as much.

But there IS this interesting blurb from an ESPN article published on December 6 that I’m not sure Eagles fans were previously aware of (bold emphasis mine):

A Philly special in N.Y.? When the Jets start their head-coaching search, which appears inevitable, one name to watch is Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson. You can already hear the rumblings in league circles. His stock is down because the Eagles (3-7-1) are struggling and quarterback Carson Wentz is regressing, but he’s a Super Bowl-winning coach with an important connection to the Jets.

Pederson and Jets GM Joe Douglas arrived the same year (2016) in Philadelphia, where Douglas served as the vice president of player personnel. They worked together for three years, highlighted by the Super Bowl championship in the 2017 season. Right now, things are so bad in Philly that Pederson’s job security has become an issue. If he gets fired, he’d be free to talk to any team. There’s some thought the Eagles might look to “trade” him, extracting compensation from another team.

Three years ago, Pederson was a Philly hero. Since the parade down Broad Street, he’s 21-21-1. But relationships matter in the NFL, and that’s why you should pay attention when the firing/hiring season starts.

This isn’t the first time I’ve caught wind of the possibility of Pederson getting traded, by the way. So, I’m inclined to think this idea isn’t some far-fetched outcome. Especially when there’s logic behind it.

THE OTHER TEA LEAVES

In addition to the aforementioned PFT and ESPN reports, there are some other clues that could suggest Pederson won’t be back.

Jimmy Kempski, my BGN Radio co-host, had the following to say about a Pederson trade possibility in his Sunday mailbag for PhillyVoice (bold emphasis mine):

That wouldn’t surprise me. The Jets need a head coach, and obviously, Pederson and Joe Douglas worked together in Philly. The Jets also have an extra first round pick, an extra third round pick, and either an extra fourth or fifth round pick, depending on conditions from their trade of Leonard Williams. Add in recent reporting that Pederson wouldn’t mind being somewhere else, and it’s really not that crazy.

Additionally, if I’m going to put my tin foil hat on here for a second, I’ll add that the Eagles had the opportunity to coach one of the Senior Bowl teams, but my understanding is that they turned it down, though that could be pandemic-related. To note, you cannot coach the Senior Bowl if you have a new head coach.

I’d also like to note that it’s been unusually quiet on the offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator searches so far. Maybe that doesn’t mean anything because the Eagles are merely taking their time. Or maybe it’s because Pederson is going to be the first domino to fall.

THE JETS CONNECTION

As ESPN noted, Pederson has a natural connection to the Jets. Douglas has previously spoken very highly of the Eagles’ head coach.

Here’s what Douglas had to say about Pederson shortly after getting hired as the Jets’ general manager in 2019:

“Just the way Doug handled his first year. We started off 3-0, things were looking great, we lost some guys, we hit some pot holes along the way, we finished the season 7-9 and the way that he attacked that offseason and how he was able to unify the team with his messaging. And the type of guy he is, he’s as genuine and authentic of a person as you’ll ever meet. He’s a guy who says what he means, and means what he says, and players believe in him and they believe in his aggressive mindset, and so I love how he managed the team.”

And here’s what Douglas had to say about Pederson just a few days ago when being asked about #TankGate during a recent WFAN interview:

“I can speak to my time with Coach Pederson, and he had unbelievable cred with the players, being an NFL quarterback for so long. The players loved him, and that’s a big thing he has. He’s smart and has great relationships around the building. I’m not familiar with the situation there, but I have the highest regard for Coach Pederson.”

Pederson also appears to have respect for Douglas. The head coach had the following to say when Douglas was being connected to the Jets’ GM job:

“Our relationship has been great. It’s like we’ve said before: He’s a big part of our scouting process and getting the information we need through our scouts and assisting us in that area. Our process has always been a collaborative one. There is a lot of open dialogue, whether it’s between me and Howie, Joe and Howie, the three of us together, our owner [Jeffrey Lurie], and he’s [Joe] really built that relationship and has done a good job for us.”

THE COMPENSATION

Why would the Jets give up asset(s) to trade for a head coach when they can merely hire one without doing so? Well, maybe they’re not thrilled about potential candidates and/or the candidates don’t think the gig is all that attractive. The Jets’ ownership could be a deterrent.

Also, the Jets have some draft capital to burn. They have two first-round picks, two third-round picks, and two fourth-round picks (assuming Leonard Williams re-signs with the New York Giants) in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Jets also have two first-round picks and two fourth-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Point being: the Jets have ample ammo to surrender for what could be considered an exciting hire in the form of a Super Bowl-winning head coach who made the playoffs three out of the last four years.

Hard to say what Pederson would fetch in a deal. A first-round pick seems too rich to me. What about the Jets’ third? Or maybe their second?

THE OPTICS

I think the Eagles might want to move on from Pederson. I just don’t think they want to do it by outright firing their only Super Bowl-winning head coach.

Especially following the report that Wentz’s relationship with Pederson is “fractured beyond repair.” If the Eagles fire Pederson, it’ll look like Wentz forced the head coach out. (Not crazy to think that could be the case given the organizational power he’s said to wield.)

By trading Pederson, though, the organization can garner fan excitement about the asset the team would be getting in return. The team can also spin it like they wanted Pederson back but the value was too good to pass up.

THE PEDERSON FACTOR

Pederson would probably be more than willing to join a new team. The Eagles’ current outlook is bleak and it’s been said that Pederson “wouldn’t be totally unhappy if he ends up getting fired.” It’s not hard to understand why when one considers that Pederson receives a disproportionate amount of blame for the Eagles’ struggles. He’s often left to answer for failings that should be attributed to Roseman and the front office.

Pederson’s intention is relevant here because — unlike when a team trades a player — the coach needs to give consent to being moved since they’re signing a new contract.

THE WENTZ FACTOR

As a reminder, the following report emerged last week:

A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Tuesday Carson Wentz needs time away to think about his future with the Philadelphia Eagles and is hopeful it won’t end in a divorce. [...] Wentz’s relationship with the organization is strained, according to another person close to the situation. It’ll take both sides coming together to make it work.

I wrote this at the time:

Based on what’s said here, it would seem Wentz’s hope about returning would be based on stipulations. Perhaps he has hope that the Eagles will move on from Pederson even though that doesn’t appear likely at this point?

Trading Pederson could be a way for the Eagles to salvage their relationship with Wentz.

Now, whether it’s worth getting rid of Pederson in order to prevent Wentz from demanding a trade is up for debate. The feeling here is that the Eagles could come to regret that decision. But I’m just outlining another reason why trading Pederson could be realistic.

THE NEW HEAD COACH

So, let’s say the Eagles trade Pederson. Who’s his replacement? Wouldn’t the Eagles be behind the eight ball with other teams already interviewing head coach candidates?

It would seem so. But maybe the Eagles have quietly been doing their homework. Perhaps they can heavily lean on agent connections, such as Howie Roseman and Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator both being represented by Bob LaMonte.

Or maybe the Eagles would just pivot to promoting assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley to Pederson’s old position. They could then look to hire an offensive coordinator with play-calling duties since Staley doesn’t have experience in that role. I’m only spit-balling here. But it makes some sense?

THE LIKELIHOOD

Despite last week’s reporting that Pederson is expected to return as head coach in 2021, things I’m hearing lead me to be less than 100% confident he’s going to be back.

To be clear, my understanding isn’t based on preference. I’d actually like to see Pederson get at least one more year. I don’t think he should serve as a scapegoat for this organization’s wide-ranging issues. I think the Eagles know that many others feel similarly, which contributes to the trade route being more palatable than firing him.

We’ll see what happens. The upcoming week could be a big one as far as Pederson’s future in Philly is concerned.

UPDATE: Naturally, as I was writing this post, the following report emerged:

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