Doug Pederson to Jeffrey Lurie: It’s your move.
On the day after the Eagles’ season effectively ended, Pederson made the case for why he should stay and why he is the coach to restore the team to its high-level mark of 2017.
“My confidence lies in myself, that I know exactly how to get things fixed,” Pederson said Monday after the Eagles were pounced by the Cowboys, 37-17. “We’ve won a lot of games around here. Been in the postseason three out of the five years I’ve been here and a championship and all that.
“I’ve seen it, I’ve done it.”
Pederson, who has two more years left on his contract, said that he hasn’t spoken to Lurie about his future. When they have had conversations, it’s been strictly about the present.
So why is Pederson, who has seen his team take a step back in each of the last three seasons since winning a Super Bowl, so confident? His record, however diminishing, does warrant another opportunity. He did help bring the Eagles owner his only Lombardi Trophy.
Or maybe Pederson knows more than he’s letting on, in that he would welcome being fired, certainly if he has another job lined up. The most obvious guess would be a reunion with former Eagles executive and current New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas.
For five years, Pederson has endured a front office that has weighed in heavily on football decisions, and in some cases has undermined him. Last offseason, Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman essentially forced Pederson to fire offensive coordinator Mike Groh and hire new offensive coaches.
He was not pleased.
Pederson also knows where all the bodies are buried, so to speak, in terms of personnel. The Eagles’ roster has been an abomination, and a mismanaged salary cap offers little opportunity to go outside for improvement next offseason.
That alone may be reason for Pederson to want to leave, but if he were to prefer to stay, the decline of the roster could offer an opportunity for the coach to have more say in personnel. He has never publicly questioned Roseman or their partnership, but on Monday he seemingly got as close as ever to asking to pick the groceries.
“I want to be a part of the solution. I want to be a part of the evaluation process,” Pederson said. “I want to be a voice that’s heard, and I want to have that collaborative communication with Howie and his staff and be a part of that process.
“I don’t necessarily want to cross that line because it takes you away from doing your job as the head football coach. I like being on the football side of things as a former football player and obviously now a coach. That’s where my passion lies.
“But yet, I want to be part of the solution. I want to help evaluate and help bring guys in here that can help us win.”
Pederson has always had input, especially on offensive players, but Roseman makes the decisions and has final say on the roster, from the offseason maximum of 90 men to the in-season 53.
As poor of a job as Roseman has done over the last three years, it’s hard to see Lurie thinking that giving Pederson more authority would reverse the direction of his franchise. He already didn’t think he had done well in coaching evaluations.
Pederson might not even think it’s possible himself, but that publicly flexing his muscle could create doubt in Lurie’s mind about making a change. The owner had previously been patient with Ray Rhodes and Andy Reid – likely regretfully – and may view the quick hook of Chip Kelly as the course here.
Lurie has a lot to consider when the season is officially over in a week. Was 2020 just an anomaly? Was it a further regression? Or was it just the low point of what has been status quo during Pederson’s five years, or for that matter, Roseman’s ten years as GM?
Much has been made of the Eagles’ slide since 2017 – 9-7 and reaching the second round of the playoffs in 2018; 9-7 and getting knocked out in the first round of the postseason in 2019; and 4-10-1 in one of the worst divisions in modern NFL history in 2020.
But the better way of looking at the last three years – and in the bigger picture, the last decade – is that 2017 was the anomaly. In Pederson’s case, the Eagles are 29-33-1 in his four seasons outside of 2017. And in Roseman’s, they are 71-71-1.
Even if you take out his first three seasons as GM when Reid had final say, and 2015 when Kelly oversaw personnel, the Eagles are 49-45-1 in non-2017 seasons. They’re 62-48-1 overall, which may be enough to retain Roseman in Lurie’s eyes, but it doesn’t speak to a franchise that has sustained success.
Lurie likely blames Kelly for the 2013-15 implosion, but there’s little getting around Roseman’s role the last five years – from great to OK to bad. And the bad is really bad, and perhaps more should have seen it coming.
The Eagles may have won the NFC East in 2019, and battled the Seahawks in the playoffs with a 40-year-old backup quarterback, but the division was among the NFL’s worst since it went to 32 teams and eight four-team divisions.
The NFC East’s collective record last season was 24-40. It was the fifth-worst since 2002 behind the 2008 NFC West (22-42), 2014 NFC South (22-41-1), 2008 AFC West (23-41), 2016 NFC West (23-39-2) and tied with 2009 NFC West (24-40).
There’s still Sunday’s season finale, but because divisional opponents play each other, the final record for the 2020 NFC East will be 23-40-1, or fourth-worst. If Washington were to lose to the Eagles, however, the Cowboys or New York Giants would be the first six-win divisional winner ever.
In terms of its collective -233 point differential, the 2020 NFC East would finish seventh behind the 2008 NFC West (-372), 2010 NFC West (-322), 2004 NFC West (-306), 2009 NFC West (-272), 2008 AFC West (-260), 2014 NFC South (-227), and tied with 2016 NFC West (-223).
But over a two-year span, the NFC East may be the worst. The 2008-09 NFC West has a worse collective record (46-82 vs. 47-80-1) and collective point differential (-644 to -368), but the division-winning Cardinals did reach the Super Bowl in 2008, and did win 4 out 6 playoff games in those years.
It’s hard to see any of the remaining NFC East teams doing much of anything in the postseason.
The NFC East was relatively strong in 2016 (39-24-1) and in 2017 (32-32), but it started to slip in 2018 (31-33 with a -87 point differential), and has been nothing but abysmal since.
Pederson pointed to injuries, the coronavirus pandemic and the relative inexperience of the replacements as reasons for the Eagles’ decline. But every team, at least this year, had the same obstacles.
And in terms of the Eagles’ abundance of injuries over the last three seasons, a portion of culpability can be pinned on adding or bringing back older or injury-prone players.
Pederson didn’t go deep in explaining why his team has been among the most injured – “Football is a rough sport, man,” he said – because otherwise he would have been directing blame at Roseman for his decisions, or at the medical staff the GM assembled.
But the coach did puff out his chest Monday. Will it have the desired effect?