It is amazing how much you can change your opinion on something in the span of a year or two. When it comes to Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, I was wrong to rush to judgment on his hiring and tenure as Eagles head coach. When the coaching hire was made by Jeff Lurie, I rolled my eyes in disbelief that the Eagles would go with a first-time head coach that was a branch of the Andy Reid coaching tree. But it’s beyond time to start confessing I was absolutely wrong about what Pederson brings to the table.
In about a week and a half, the Eagles will be playing in the Super Bowl against the defending world champion New England Patriots. Unlike in the 2004 season when the Eagles were expected to be in the big game with a roster that had just added Terrell Owens to finally give Donovan McNabb a reliable passing option, this year’s Eagles team took everybody by surprise. Carson Wentz, in his second season in the league, played like a legitimate MVP before suffering a season-ending injury. With Wentz lost for the year, the Eagles were thought to suffer the same fate the Oakland Raiders did the previous season when Derek Carr was lost for the season.
The Raiders were bounced out of the playoffs in the wild card round after looking like a team that was going to take the top seed in the AFC and go on their own Super Bowl run. The Eagles managed to finish the job and secure the top seed in the NFC Playoff, and the home-field advantage came into play as the Eagles got the wild card weekend off and home games against the Atlanta Falcons (defending NFC champion) and Minnesota Vikings (coming off a miracle win with the best defense in the league and a chance to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium). The cards were stacked against the Eagles as they were unprecedented home underdogs in each of their NFC playoff games. A brilliant defensive performance against Atlanta and the game of a lifetime from Nick Foles against the Vikings has Pederson off to a 2-0 record in his postseason coaching career, and one more win in the ultimate David vs. Goliath matchup against Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the Patriots would cement Pederson’s legacy in Philadelphia after just two years on the job.
Out of respect for all the accomplishments seen so far under Pederson, I felt it was only fair to go back and ridicule myself for my previous remarks about Pederson since the day he was hired. Literally.
Doug Pederson suffered the somewhat rare 0-1 to his coaching career after losing the press conference. #EaglesTalk
— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) January 19, 2016
I was all in on the Chip Kelly experiment when it first came to be, but even I had to realize there was a point where it was clear that was not going to work out as I had hoped. Hiring an Andy Reid assistant in an attempt to get back in a comfort zone was a plan I simply could not get on board with after arguing the Eagles made the right decision to move on from the Reid tenure. Bringing in a first-time head coach who played for and was groomed as a coach under Reid, to me, felt like a bad decision. Pederson’s introductory press conference did nothing to inspire me much of any reason to believe I would change my mind.
Maybe it is just because the Eagles have been winning, or maybe it is because Pederson has taken great strides in his growth as a head coach, but Pederson has flipped the script with the job he has done in the last two years. He may be 0-1 in introductory press conferences, but 3-0 in the playoffs sure helps make up for that in a resounding way.
Doug Pederson's play calling on 4th downs this half has been absolute trash.
— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) November 6, 2016
That was in 2016, when the Eagles converted 13 of their 27 fourth-down attempts. While the success rate of 48.1 percent fell right around the middle of the pack in the NFL, Pederson may have gambled more than he should have. No team in the NFL attempted more fourth-down conversions than the Eagles’ 27 (the next most was by Bill O’Brien and the Houston Texans with 23), and some of the calls being made and some of the distances needing to be converted were, at times, inexcusable. It’s one thing to take risks, especially on a team with a young quarterback and the playoffs not even being in the picture, but Pederson was reckless with his fourth downs overall in 2016.
Even early on in 2017, before anyone realized how the season was going to play out, Pederson left himself open for criticism on fourth down. The Eagles were once again one of the teams that went for the most fourth-down conversions (26 attempts; only Green Bay had more in the NFL this season with 28), but the decision-making going into those attempts improved. The Eagles had the third-best fourth down success rate (65.4 percent) this season, a significant improvement from a season ago. Credit Pederson for the plays being called to give the Eagles a better chance of moving the chains.
Bob Stoops > Doug Pederson.
— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) June 7, 2017
Stoops was an all-time great coach for Oklahoma before he suddenly stepped into retirement last summer. Once he became available, I joked about the idea of the Eagles making a quick change to hire Stoops and move on from Pederson just before training camp. We can rewrite this one because Stoops never won an NFC championship with a backup quarterback.
Fire Doug Pederson.
— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) September 10, 2017
This beauty of a tweet was fired off into the Twittersphere a mere 27 minutes into the 2017 NFL season. I no longer feel this way and have retired this stance and joke. He can stick around.
I still laugh at the idea the Eagles thought hiring Doug Pederson was going to be a good idea.
— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) December 18, 2016
Update: I am no longer laughing.