December 05, 2016
Immediately following his team's worst loss of the season – a 32-14 drubbing at the hands of a now 4-7-1 Bengals team playing without its two best offensive weapons – Eagles head coach Doug Pederson that the result wasn't due to a lack of effort on his players' part.
But then he watched the film. And he must have seen something he didn't like because during his day-after press conference on Monday, the first-year coach had the following to say when asked if he thought all of his players gave a maximum effort in Cincinnati.
“Not everybody," Pederson said. "And that’s the accountability that I talk about. I hold coaches accountable for that. I hold myself accountable for that, because it all starts with me — and I pride myself each week to make sure the guys are ready to go. But at the same time, it comes down to, it’s a mentality by each individual player. And this is a business where we have to be ready to go every single weekend because every team in the league — there are some teams that are better than others, obviously — but for the most part, anything can happen each weekend.”
That's a strange thing for a coach to admit, especially after saying the total opposite just a few minutes earlier. You see, not only did Pederson directly contradict his statement from Sunday -- that would be understandable given that he hadn't yet re-watched the game at that point -- but he also contradicted one of his answers from a few questions prior.
I actually went back and timed it for you. This was exactly seven minutes and 15 seconds before admitting some players were dogging it against the Bengals:
“I didn’t see any quit in the guys. We battled back, scored two touchdowns, had opportunities on a couple other drives to score, defense was creating turnover in the second half, we had a big kickoff return. Everybody was doing everything we could to get us back into that football game. So I didn’t see any quit in the guys.
"The dejection and the ill feeling after the game in the locker room when you look those guys in the face and look them in the eyes shows me that this team, they care about each other. They’re disappointed that obviously we didn’t play well. And we’ve got another opportunity.”
I'm not quite sure how Pederson squares those two statements, which on their surface appear to be totally contradictory. The only way they could both be true is if Pederson saw the same level of effort throughout the game, meaning the guys who didn't play hard have made a habit of doing so, and thus there was no drop off, but that's semantics -- and really just takes away from the larger point.
Perhaps this gem by Zach Ertz, which happened in the first half, is what Pederson had in mind when saying some guys didn't give their all.
Pederson said earlier in the presser that Ertz should've made that block, but he seemed to have no interest in making contact. Instead, he was left looking like Jahlil Okafor setting a pick. I don't know how anyone can look at that and think the team is giving 100 percent.
If you've been assured you won't be fired, you can admit w/o repercussions that some of your players aren't giving full effort. #Eagles— Mike Sielski (@MikeSielski) December 5, 2016
There's quite a bit of truth to that, and it's worth pointing out that all of these quotes came after Pederson said that he'd already been assured by owner Jeffrey Lurie and head of football operations Howie Roseman that he'll be back next season.
He likely needed to hear that given how the last two months have gone. But it's not all on the coach. Somehow, though, he has to justify his team's performance in a must-win game against a struggling Bengals team.
“Do we expect to go out and play like we did the last couple of weeks? No, we don’t," Pederson said. "Do we expect to be down 19-0 at halftime? No, we don’t. Therefore, it goes back to, I know where we are as a football team as far as, we are playing with some young guys on offense. There are some younger guys on defense. And we’ve got a left guard playing right tackle. There’s some things, there’s some pieces that are not cohesive right now. When we had everybody in the early parts of the season — Lane [Johnson] was there on the right side and Allen [Barbre] was at the left guard position — things were rolling pretty good.
"So we’ve had our share of adversity this season. By no means do we go into any game — even the night before the guys are energetic and ready. I reminded them Saturday night just how good they can be. And, you know, I just felt that everything about this team right now is still right there for the taking ...
"... and I don’t see any quit in the guys.”