Eagles coach Doug Pederson, asked about the team’s three-year slide since Super Bowl LII, talked Monday about injuries, and youth, and pandemic restrictions.
“You can’t sit here and just say, ‘Hey, it’s been such a demise.’ This has been a strange year all around. So I look at things a little bit differently,” Pederson said.
Many, many Eagles fans, sitting and reading the coach’s words: “Hey! It’s been such a demise!”
Had the Eagles won instead of getting blown out at Dallas, 37-17, on Sunday, they would need only to defeat Washington to grab another playoff berth for themselves, despite everything. But they were outscored, 34-3, after taking a 14-3 lead into the second quarter. They are assured of the worst record for an Eagles team since Andy Reid went 4-12 in 2012, his last of 14 seasons here.
“My confidence lies in myself,” said Pederson, who is 22-24-1 since the Super Bowl season in 2017. “I know exactly how to get things fixed. We’ve won a lot of games around here, we’ve been in the postseason, three of the five years I’ve been here, won a championship. So I’ve seen it, I’ve done it, and that’s where my confidence lies.”
Asked why the Eagles have been among the teams most affected by injury three years in a row, Pederson said: “Football is a rough sport, man.”
“You look at our team [Sunday] and there are so many new faces out there, so many young players out there playing,” Pederson said. “It’s been that way the last couple of seasons. That’s the part that is the most challenging to deal with, when you’re dealing with a roster that way, that gets hit with the amount of injuries.
“You look at the offensive line. Let’s just start there. You lose Brandon Brooks in the offseason; Andre Dillard goes down; then Lane [Johnson] and J.P. [Jason Peters], and your entire O-line. Isaac [Seumalo] is out for eight weeks [and seven games]. Where are you going to find continuity? How are you going to get continuity there?”
Pederson also referred to the problems raised by the pandemic (which, of course, all 32 teams have faced) and yearned for a year with a normal offseason of preparation. It isn’t clear this coming offseason will be that much more normal, given the status of national COVID-19 numbers and the vaccine rollout.
“I just know that we’ve got to get back to fundamentals, back to basics,” he said. “Having a missed offseason, we got to get back to that. We got to get back to the teaching of the basics and the fundamentals and having OTAs and having practice and getting back to the things that we’ve had success [with] here in the past.”
The Eagles have to decide whether to go forward with Carson Wentz or rookie Jalen Hurts at quarterback, and they will need to shed and/or restructure the contracts of a number of high-priced veterans, as they tackle the NFL’s worst salary cap situation.
“We know there will be a lot of decisions to be made ... and that’s obviously at a different time. But I know that we can get back to that, get back to the fundamentals, basics, get back to who we are, start our identity in the offseason, and that’s where you build the foundation,” Pederson said.
Pederson said that “It’s very disheartening” to be in this position.
“I just sit here today and just have to apologize to the fans ... this is not what we expected. It’s not what I expected back in training camp and the early part of the season. But I know in my heart that this is a great place to play, this is a great place to coach. We do have the best fans; when we win, it’s unbelievable, and it’s exciting, and I know we can get back to that level. ... I know what that looks like, I know what it takes.”
Pederson said the Eagles have “some great young players, and they’re getting valuable experience right now playing, and it’s just unfortunate that we’re not winning these games.”
Pederson’s answer to a question about seeking more say in personnel was hard to parse. He talked of wanting to focus on coaching, but he also said: “I want to be a part of the evaluation process, I want to be a voice that’s heard. ... I want to be part of the solution, right? I want to help evaluate and help bring guys in here that can help us win.”
The Eagles always talk of a consensus on decisions, but general manager Howie Roseman has ultimate personnel say. It has never been clear what sort of clout Pederson wields in personnel; early on in his tenure, he seemed to want to stay away from those matters entirely.
That was the final question of the Monday session. Without a chance for reporters to follow up, it wasn’t clear whether Pederson feels he has such a “voice” already, or if he might be seeking more influence.