January 29, 2019
Doug Pederson won a Super Bowl without his MVP quarterback and his Hall of Fame LT, among others in 2017. In 2018, dealing with even more injuries as well as some major losses to his coaching staff, Pederson got his depleted team back into the playoffs, and even won a road playoff game, advancing to the divisional round.
I think his job is safe. Still, from an analytical standpoint, let's break down Pederson's coaching traits in 2018 the same way you would a quarterback's (ie. arm strength, accuracy, mobility, etc.).
• Play calling: Pederson was as unpredictable a play caller as there was in the NFL in 2017, which made his offense incredibly difficult to defend. In 2018, he did not keep as many opponents off balance as he did the previous season, and I think there were some legitimate quibbles, such as the usage of Josh Adams on some key short yardage situations, among others. Overall though, Pederson has proven to be a very good playcaller, even if the results weren't always there in 2018.
• Game-situation decisions: For the first time in his NFL head coaching tenure, Pederson didn't lead the NFL in fourth down "go for it" attempts. He was third. Still, he was aggressive as always, and his willingness to take chances led to far more points gained than points lost, as we laid out in detail on Monday.
• Use of personnel: Pederson was masterful in the usage of his offensive personnel in 2017, accentuating the individual skill sets of his players, however, he faltered a bit in that regard in 2018, especially early in the season. It took too long for Dallas Goedert to become a heavily used TE2, and the Eagles' staff struggled to unlock Golden Tate's abilities after the team traded for him at the deadline.
On the bright side, I do think the staff got the best usage of their players figured out for the stretch run. Oh, and the way that the Eagles adjusted their offense for the second straight season to fit the strengths of Nick Foles after Carson Wentz got injured was kind of big too.
• Game plans: In 2017, Pederson, with the help of Frank Reich and John DeFilippo, often had games won before they even began because of game planning. When they played the Broncos that season, for example, the way the Eagles used Von Miller against himself was brilliant, and obviously we all saw how the Eagles had a great plan for the Patriots in the Super Bowl, which was executed to near perfection by his players.
In 2018, for most of the season, the Eagles' game plans stalled, especially right out of the gate during the scripted play portion of games. During the regular season, the Eagles' offense had 34 points in the first quarter, compared with 113 in 2017:
It is worth noting that the Eagles did score 17 combined points in the first quarter in their two playoff games, but there's zero doubt that the Eagles missed Reich and DeFilippo.
• In-game adjustments: While the Birds' game plans fell flat early at times, they did turn it on quite a bit in the second half of games, so Pederson deserves some credit in (a) figuring out in-game what opposing defenses were trying to do to his offense, and then (b) attacking it appropriately.
• Clock management: Pederson's clock management was again very good in 2018, like it was in 2017. His two highlights were the game-winning drives against he Giants and Texans. Against the Giants, Pederson and Wentz engineered a 10-play, 5:27 drive ending in a made field goal with 22 seconds to play. Against the Texans, it was a speedier drive in which they went 72 yards on 11 plays in 2:04, ending with a made field goal with no time left on the clock.
The biggest controversial clock-management situation Pederson found himself in was on the final drive against the Saints in the playoffs. With the clock ticking down in the fourth quarter and the Eagles trying to drive for the win, the Eagles opted to run a play prior to the two-minute warning rather than taking a little extra time off the clock.
At the time, the Eagles were at the Saints' 27-yard line, a spot on the field where having two minutes (and one timeout) is an eternity. I think there was certainly some well-founded logic that balancing the need for a score with trying not to leave too much time left for Drew Brees and the Saints to score going the other way might dictate that you just let the clock wind down to the two-minute warning.
Instead, they ran the play, the ball slipped through Alshon Jeffery's hands, and yada yada yada, the Eagles' season was over.
The immediate reaction by many was that the hurried play led to the interception. It did not. Jeffery was open, and the ball hit him in the hands. Sometime players just make bad plays. I don't fault the Eagles for running a play there if they liked the look they were getting from the defense when they got to the line of scrimmage.
• Player management: Pederson was, of course, a former player in the NFL for more than a decade, and as such, he understands his players. Pederson is a "player's coach," but also not a pushover. The players like him, but they also respect him, and they played hard for him all season long, despite dealing with more than their share of adversity.
• QB guru'ing: Wentz took a step back in 2018, which was always going to be the case for a player coming off an MVP-like season who was still trying to recover from ACL and LCL tears.
• Ego: Pederson's lack of an ego was crucial in the team's ability to game plan so well for their upcoming opponents in 2017. He took ideas from his entire staff, and implemented them into the game plan. There was never a feeling that things had to be done "his way." He just wanted to win, so all ideas were welcomed. That may not sound like much, but it's certainly not the approach many NFL head coaches take.
Yes, he wrote a book last offseason, but I don't think his approach to the way he coached his team changed in any way because of his success, at least from an ego perspective.
#JimmyVerdict: Stay, obviously.
MORE STAY OR GO
Green = Stay
Red = Go
Orange = Will be back in camp in 2019, but a roster spot is not guaranteed
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