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July 01, 2020

Ugh, I'll chime in on this moronic Doug Pederson - Sean McVay debate too, I guess

Eagles NFL
070120SeanMcVay Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports

"4th and Goal from the half-yard line... hmmm... FIELD GOAL TEAM!"

On Monday, CBS' Sean Wagner-McGough released his list of top 10 NFL coaches, which had Doug Pederson landing at ninth, with Rams head coach Sean McVay notably ahead of him, at sixth. 

I was initially prepared to ignore this bad opinion, because, you know, who cares how this one person views the hierarchy of NFL head coaches? The answer is, a lot of bored people, apparently, as questions about the list flooded my Eagles chat on Tuesday, and I even had to flip the channel away from sports talk radio in my car to avoid it. Hell, even Eagles players started responding to it. I mean, we already covered it, and I'm now writing a second article for our publication about it. But, it's July 1 and there isn't much else to discuss in sports, so whatever. 

After getting dunked on for a day or so, Wagner-McGough responded with this:

I have felt the wrath of the hive, too, my friend, but don't resort to one of the most tired references in sports, lol.

First, the easy arguments:

doug pee 2.PNG

• Pederson has a ring, with his side of the ball scoring 41 points in the Super Bowl against the Patriots with a backup quarterback, and a long list of other major injuries. Leading up to that matchup, the Patriots were thought by most to have a huge advantage on the coaching front, to the point where if Pederson were able to simply control his bowels in-game, you could go ahead and chalk it up as a win for him.

McVay, of course, is ringless, as his Rams offense was completely outcoached the following season in the most boring Super Bowl I've ever seen against those same Patriots, in which the Rams only scored 3 points. 

To note, if you don't want the list to just be the guys who have won rings, OK, fine, but two things:

  1. The ring is kind of a big deal.
  2. There is a huge contrast in the way the two coaches performed when faced with the ultimate opportunity.

• Pederson is 2-0 in his two matchups against McVay, one of which was in 2018, when the Eagles were 13-point underdogs, again, with their backup quarterback.

• Pederson has three straight playoff appearances, and while it's fair to point out that both teams finished with 9-7 records in 2019, the Eagles won four straight games to close to season with practice squad guys at almost every offensive skill position, while the Rams dropped two matchups in Weeks 15 and 16, one of which was a blowout at the hands of the underachieving Cowboys, who the Eagles handled the following week. The Rams missed the playoffs, even after trading multiple first-round picks for Jalen Ramsey during the season.

• Wagner-McGough's rebuttal was that McVay (0.688) has the best regular season winning percentage of anyone on his list (Pederson's winning percentage is 0.600 if you include playoff games), which is fine, except that by that logic, why would Kyle Shanahan (0.479) be ahead of McVay, at fifth?

And then some less obvious points:

• One of Pederson's biggest strengths is his lack of ego. He doesn't seem to care much about national recognition (relatively speaking), he isn't seeking front office power, and he is quick to pass on credit to his assistants and his players. He also listens to his players, and considers their voices both in terms of on-field suggestions, and off-field, non-football matters, which has earned him the respect of a veteran locker room, which isn't always an easy feat.

That's not to say that McVay is some sort of ego monster attention whore, but certainly his flair is covered in a way that Pederson's subtlety is not. It remains hilarious to me that people around the NFL were impressed that he knew the names of players on the opposing team:

That tweet is the equivalent of this:

• Pederson is coaching in a difficult Philly environment, where the media and fan base are hardcore, to put it mildly. McVay has the luxury of coaching in L.A., where the media and fan base... are not. That may not seem like a big deal to some. It is.

• Ultimately, Pederson and McVay are both good play-callers and schemers who have gotten a lot out of their offensive talent, but the real differentiation between the two is in-game strategy. 

Pederson didn't just ride a great team to a title, like, I don't know... Barry Switzer? In 2017, as a result of his aggressive fourth-down decision making, Pederson added on an extra 71 points to the Eagles' point differential

In the playoffs, he didn't take his foot off the pedal. For example, in the NFC Championship Game, the Eagles got the ball back at their own 20 with a 14-point lead and only 29 seconds left in the first half. Against the best defense in the NFL, most coaches would take a knee and head into the locker room content with their first half success. Pederson was like, "Nah f*** that," and instead called a 4-play, 60-yard drive resulting in a demoralizing field goal, extending the lead to 17.

And then in the Super Bowl, we all remember this, no?

Conversely, in his lone NFC Championship Game appearance in 2018 against the Saints, McVay made one of the most cowardly decisions you'll see in today's modern NFL.

On 4th and Goal from the 1 (more like the half-yard line), with a little over five minutes to play in regulation, trailing 20-17, McVay opted to attempt a game-tying field goal rather than go for the touchdown and a four-point lead. In case you need an explanation why that decision was awful: 

  1. In 2018, there were 88 times teams faced 4th and Goal situations from the 1. There were 14 cowards who attempted field goals in that situation. On the other 74 occasions, the offense went for the TD. That's 84.1 percent, in a league that still isn't nearly as aggressive as the analytics say they should be.
  2. The offense scored a TD on 43 of those 74 occasions, or 58.1 percent of the time. That 58.1 percent doesn't factor in that the Rams were at roughly the half-yard line, as opposed to "a long 1." Surely, from the spot the Rams were at, the percentage of successful TD tries would be even higher. There isn't an analytics nerd in the world who would support kicking a field goal there, but even from a non-analytics standpoint, the Rams employed one of the best running backs in the NFL at the time in Todd Gurley, as well as a sledgehammer type in C.J. Anderson, while the Saints were missing their best interior defensive lineman, Sheldon Rankins.
  3. Even if your excellent offense can't punch it in, the Saints are going to be backed up at around the 1, or likely inside the 1, especially if the play call is, oh, say, a QB sneak. There's a good chance you're going to promptly get the ball back with good field position anyway.
  4. By taking the 3, sure, you've tied the game, which is fine and good, but now you're giving the ball back to arguably the best offense in the league, that is especially adept at methodically moving the ball down the field while running clock. And all they need is a field goal to re-take the lead.

As it turned out, McVay's very wrong decision was bailed out by one of the worst pass interference no-calls that we've ever seen. Otherwise, McVay's offense might not have seen the field again after taking the 3 on 4th and Goal, and the Saints would've headed to the Super Bowl.

In conclusion, if you fancy cowards who shrivel in big moments, then McVay is your guy. Otherwise...


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