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May 22, 2017

Virtually invisible Doug Pederson now has enough weapons to make him squirm

Doug Pederson has an arsenal of new weapons available for his Eagles offense this season, but he needs to be wary of the return fire of his bosses and the fans. It is inevitable now that the head coach will be under siege in 2017.

After the addition of power runner LeGarrette Blount last week, Pederson will be coaching for his job in the next seven months. Will he adjust to the added demands of an NFC East contender, or will his inexperience and dubious play-calling doom him to failure?

Throughout a hectic off-season, Pederson has been conspicuous only by his absence. In fact, no Eagles head coach in recent memory has been erased from the scene the way he has over the past four months, and every indication is that this invisibility has been by careful design.

Pederson didn’t even bother to hold his day-after news conference following the final game of the 2016 season – a session required by NFL rules. Before that, the second-year head coach had made a series of comments that didn’t coincide with the thinking of the front office, so suddenly he was out of sight, out of mind.

Do you remember seeing him at the NFL draft here last month? You would have needed a telescopic lens on a high-powered camera. Pederson was so far back on the stage at one point, a local sports columnist compared him to a potted plant.

Look at it this way: In the course of an offseason in which the Eagles added eight significant veteran free agents to the roster – five on offense – the man overseeing those players has had virtually nothing to say. In a city as passionate as Philadelphia, in a job as high profile as Eagles head coach, the man in charge has vanished.

Until now. With GM Howie Roseman’s reconstruction of the roster complete, it is inevitable that the attention will turn to how those major pieces – Blount, wide receivers Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith, defensive tackle Tim Jernigan, defensive end Chris Long, offensive lineman Chance Warmack, cornerback Patrick Robinson, and quarterback Nick Foles – will fit together.

Pederson has no choice but to reappear now, with a plan that will not only ramp up an inconsistent offense, but also continue to develop the future of the franchise, quarterback Carson Wentz. Roseman has made it clear through his recent actions that he expects to win now, with a run for the Super Bowl soon.

Let’s apply this scenario to a plausible game situation. Imagine the Eagles are at the two-yard line, down five points, in the final 30 seconds of the opener in Washington. For whatever reason, Pederson doesn’t use Blount to ram the ball into the end zone. What response can the coach expect from his bosses and the fans?

Well, the fan part is easy. They will devour the coach. When Andy Reid was here, winning division titles, they regularly bludgeoned him when he got too creative – which was most of the time – around the goal line. Can you imagine how they will react to a coach without Reid’s record of success?

As for owner Jeffrey Lurie, Roseman and personnel guru Joe Douglas, their response figures to be fatal to Pederson’s future here. There will be no valid excuses for screwing up a chance to win the NFC East that appeared improbable just a few months ago.

It’s time right now for Doug Pederson to emerge from the shadows, whether his bosses like it or not. Seven months from now, he will either be a candidate for coach of the year, or he’ll be gone.


In the annals of Philadelphia sports history, no individual has been honored more for doing less than former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie.

Last week was the culmination of the idiocy when, on the night of the NBA Draft Lottery, 3,000 fans raised a rendering of his smug face into the rafters at Xfinity Live. Chants of “Trust the Process!” echoed through the sports bar, as the young, mostly male crowd howled in unison at the memory of their departed leader.

Matt Mullin/PhillyVoice

Sam Hinkie loomed large over The Rights to Ricky Sanchez NBA Lottery Party last week at Xfinity Live!

It has now been four years since Hinkie took over the Sixers with a single-minded determination to lose as many games, for as many seasons, as it would take to build a champion. Since then, the team has won less than 23 percent of its games, including the most recent 28-54 flop.

Somehow, these cultists from the Rights To Ricky Sanchez club saw the Sixers moving up to third in the upcoming draft as yet another triumph for Hinkie, who engineered a swap of picks with Sacramento two years ago. In the minds of these lost souls, winning is never as important as planning to win.

Yes, the Sixers could end up with another talented kid in the draft, which they can add to Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric (who actually played a full season) and a slew of other future picks to form … what? Can anybody really say? Does anyone really know?

The Hinkie zealots choose to ignore the fact that their hero botched the third pick in the draft two years ago by taking useless Jahlil Okafor, and that this still-unemployed GM assembled an unorthodox medical staff that has failed repeatedly to rehab young players (Embiid, Simmons, Okafor, etc.)

To their credit, these young enthusiasts really care about the Sixers. I can tell because I have been a fan of the team for over half a century myself. We share a passion for seeing winning basketball. The difference is, I was there when the 1967 and 1983 Sixers were truly great. I saw real heroes like Wilt Chamberlain and Julius Erving.

What separates us is age and logic. People who know greatness when they see it can identify Sam Hinkie as the fraud he was, and will always be. Those stooges cheering for a hero with clay feet will have to learn the hard way what it takes to be a real champion.


What the Phillies did last week, in a season when nurturing young talent is their top priority, defies belief. They proved more vividly than ever why their emphasis of statistics over people is destined to fail.

With two outs in the fifth inning of a rare game the Phils were winning – 2-0 in Texas – manager Pete Mackanin removed prospect Nick Pivetta and summoned the worst bullpen in baseball to protect the lead. At the time, the kid was pitching a shutout against a top offensive team, but he made the mistake of throwing 107 pitches.

One out from qualifying for his first big-league win, the analytics-obsessed Phillies were more interested in a completely arbitrary pitch limit rather than the psyche of a young player. Before Pivetta reached the clubhouse, the Rangers were leading, 5-2.

Then GM Matt Klentak compounded the mistake by sending Pivetta back to the minor leagues. Let that sink in for a moment. In the course of a couple of hours, Pivetta went from pitching a shutout in the big leagues to heading back to Lehigh.

The official explanation was that Aaron Nola had completed his rehab and was ready to rejoin the Phillies, so Pivetta was out of luck. At 24 – the final year of true prospect status in baseball – Pivetta was told to wait for his next chance. After all, the other starters have been so spectacular, it’s not like any of them could head to the bullpen.

Whether Pivetta will ever pan out in the big leagues remains to be seen, of course, but crushing a young player’s hopes the way the Phillies did last week, in the interest of their sacred statistics, was potentially destructive. The kid should have had a chance to finish the inning. The kid should still be pitching here. It’s that simple.

Two weeks ago, Klentak said “everybody can see” that the Phillies have made progress this season, despite their record. Yeah, sure. Maybe he should ask Nick Pivetta if the young pitcher agrees with the way this lost organization is grooming its next era of stars.

And finally …

     • The NFL cares so much about its players that it is expected to cut overtime from 15 to 10 minutes. At least that’s the story the league is telling. Meanwhile, its biggest star, Tom Brady, suffered a concussion last season that went undiagnosed, according to his wife. If you really want to know how much the NFL cares about the health of its players, read the recent Sports Illustrated piece on Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti. That’s the real story.

     • The NBA playoffs stink. For the past month, the entire post-season has been a waste of time until the two best teams, Cleveland and Golden State, play for the championship. Last Friday night, the Cavaliers rested their starters and still beat Boston by 44 points. The whole idea of competition is that either team could win. Not in the NBA, not this year. Wake me when it’s over.

     • After having four months off, Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said he missed a week of voluntary workouts earlier this month because he wanted more time with his family. Imagine that. Graham was home, 24/7, for one-third of a year, and it wasn’t enough? Hey, everybody should try that today. Tell your boss you won’t be in for a week because you need more time with your family. Let’s see if that works in the real world.

     • While a group of clueless fans were honoring ex-Sixers GM Sam Hinkie last week for his 47-199 record here, a real champion remained under the radar. Cole Hamels, who was not available to pitch against the Phillies in Texas, still took time out to honor the fans and to reflect on his great career here. The most under-appreciated player in recent Philadelphia history is Hamels, a World Series MVP. The most over-appreciated? Take a wild guess.

    • Former Eagles president Joe Banner – who won zero championships here and destroyed the Cleveland Browns – vowed last week never to return as an NFL executive. That announcement must have shocked the one or two people who actually still remember who he is. Say it ain’t so, Joe.