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February 23, 2018

Eagles stay or go: Doug Pederson

Now that the Philadelphia Eagles' offseason is (finally) underway, let's take a look at each position and figure out which players will be back in 2018, and which ones will be playing elsewhere. Here we'll look at the head coach.

Previous "Stay or Go" positional analysis
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver
Tight end | Offensive tackle | Guard/Center
Defensive end | Defensive tackle | Inside linebacker
Outside linebacker | Cornerback | Safety | Specialists

Doug Pederson

From the minute Doug Pederson was announced as the Eagles' head coach, he immediately had to answer for Andy Reid's late-game clock management strategy in the Kansas City Chiefs' playoff loss to the New England Patriots the previous weekend.

After the thrill of a 3-0 start in 2016 began to fade away, Pederson would hear about bad play calling choices against the Dallas Cowboys, a lack of effort from a number of players against the Cincinnati Bengals, the failed decision to go for two late in a meaningless game against the Baltimore Ravens, and most infamously, the proclamation from former GM Mike Lombardi prior to the start of the 2017 season that Pederson was the most unqualified head coaching hire he had ever seen.

Some of the criticism was warranted. Some of it was beyond absurd.

Luckily for Eagles fans, Pederson listened to none of it, as he eschewed conventional NFL wisdom, becoming one of the most aggressive in-game decision makers in NFL history. On the season, as we laid out in depth on Wednesday, Pederson's fourth down decisions in 2017 yielded around 74 additional points that the Eagles otherwise would not have scored had they played it safe. They missed out on a grand total of three points on aggressive fourth down calls that failed.

It will be interesting to see which teams begin to copy Pederson's aggressive approach, and which dumbass teams continue to punt on 4th and 2 from the opponent's 40. We'll see, but there's a decent chance that Pederson will go from a guy widely regarded as the worst coaching hire in 2016 to a revolutionary figure in the NFL in just two years.

From an analytical standpoint, if you were to break down Pederson's coaching traits the same way you would a quarterback's (ie. arm strength, accuracy, mobility, etc.), it's hard to find much in the way of flaws.

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. But beyond that, for a town like Philadelphia that loves nothing more than to micromanage play calling, there was almost none of that this season. 

Game-situation decisions: As noted above, Pederson was not afraid of taking risks, and they paid off for him in a big way all season long. 

Use of personnel: The Eagles didn't have that one star player on offense, well, aside from Carson Wentz. Instead, they relied on a whole slew of players to be productive in their own individual ways. By the end of the season, the Eagles had three contributing running backs, four contributing wide receivers, and three contributing tight ends. They all had different skill sets, and they were all used appropriately. 

When you contrast the way Pederson used his skill players to the way Chip Kelly would cycle players in and out of the game with no regard for strengths and weaknesses, asking guys like Demarco Murray and Darren Sproles to do the same things, you can really see what set Pederson apart in this area.

Oh, and the way that the Eagles adjusted their offense to fit the strengths of Nick Foles after Wentz's season-ending injury was kind of big too.

Game plans: Pederson, with the help of his offensive staff, often had games won before they even began because of game planning. When they played the Broncos this season, the way the Eagles used Von Miller against himself was brilliant, for example, and obviously we all saw how the Eagles had a great plan for the Patriots, which was executed to near perfection by his players.

In-game adjustments: Pederson often adjusted on the fly during games, altering his game plan to exploit weaknesses discovered in-game. For example, the Eagles were sluggish in games against the Cowboys (first matchup), and the Redskins (second matchup), but Pederson adjusted and the offense ended up piling up points against both of them.

Clock management: Remember when people thought Pederson would be bad at clock management because Andy Reid was bad at clock management? Welp, go ahead and name me an example of bad clock management by Pederson. (Jeopardy music playing). Beyond the dearth of bad clock management examples, Pederson routinely squeezed points out of the end of the first half. For example, in the playoffs, the Eagles outscored their opponents 20-0 in the last two minutes of the first half.

Player management: Pederson was, of course, a former player in the NFL for more than a decade, and as such, he understood his players. All season long, he made the right calls in terms of ramping up practices, and easing them down. Additionally, it was pretty clear to see that the team both liked and respected him. Also, he treated them to ice cream, which clearly wins championships.

QB guru'ing: The proof is kind of in the pudding on that one, no?

Ego: Ego can be a good thing or a bad thing. Pederson's lack of an ego was crucial in the team's ability to game plan so well for their upcoming opponent. Pederson 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.

#JimmyVerdict: Well, there was that one time Doug went for it on 4th and 8, but I guess I can overlook that because he won a Super Bowl.

Your verdict:

#JimmyVerdict Stay or Go Results

Green = Stay

Red = Go

Orange = They'll make it to camp, and will have to prove they belong on the roster.

(Note: Some mobile versions will not display colors.)

 QBCarson Wentz Nick Foles Nate Sudfeld  
 RBJay Ajayi LeGarrette Blount Corey Clement Darren Sproles 
 RB (cont) Wendell SmallwoodDonnel Pumphrey Kenjon Barner  
 WRAlshon Jeffery Torrey Smith Nelson Agholor Mack Hollins 
 WR (cont) Shelton GibsonMarcus Johnson   
 TE Zach ErtzBrent Celek Trey Burton  
 OT Jason PetersLane Johnson Halapoulivaati Vaitai Will Beatty 
 OGBrandon Brooks Stefen Wisniewski Chance Warmack  
 C Jason KelceIsaac Seumalo   
 DEBrandon Graham Vinny Curry Derek Barnett Chris Long 
 DE (cont) Steven Means   
 DTFletcher Cox Tim Jernigan Beau Allen Destiny Vaeao 
 DT (cont)Elijah Qualls    
 ILBJordan Hicks Dannell Ellerbe Najee Goode Joe Walker 
 OLBNigel Bradham Mychal Kendricks Kamu Grugier-Hill Nate Gerry 
 CBJalen Mills Ronald Darby Patrick Robinson Sidney Jones 
 CB (cont) Rasul Douglas   
 SMalcolm Jenkins Rodney McLeod Corey Graham Jaylen Watkins 
 S (cont) Chris Maragos   
 K/P/LSJake Elliott Donnie Jones Rick Lovato Caleb Sturgis 
 BramanBryan Braman    
 Head coachDoug Pederson    
 Defensive coordinator    

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