Where is Real Doug Pederson? Where did that guy go?
Real Doug Pederson gambles like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Real Doug Pederson rolls the dice more than Leroy Brown. Real Doug Pederson had more gadgets up his sleeve than James Bond and more flavor than Flav, but this Doug Pederson is just ... Bland. Blah. Blech.
Who is this pathetic, beaten, bewildered man wearing Chip Kelly’s old visor? Real Doug Pederson’s playbook was a Picasso canvas, innovative and thrilling and unconventional; this Doug Pederson is painting like Bob Ross on PBS.
Where is dangerous Doug? Daring Doug? Dougie Fresh?
The answer is simpler than it seems. Old Doug Pederson, the Real Doug Pederson, no longer believes in his players. He’s timid these days, grateful to just be in the game, happy to salvage a tie.
It’s sad, but it’s understandable.
You can’t play to win with a team built to lose.
No longer is Doug Pederson the coach who called the fourth-and-goal Philly Special -- in the Super Bowl, with the lead, just before halftime, with his backup quarterback in the game, against the greatest football coach of the era.
This Doug Pederson didn’t go for two points at the end of the fourth quarter Sunday, welcoming overtime, then punted to preserve a tie. For an 0-2 team. A tie.
It might be the right play, but nobody builds you a statue for a punt.
Both of these decisions were irrefutably correct -- he had the better team in overtime, and a tie might mean a playoff berth in the NFC Least -- but neither are the decision the Real Doug Pederson would have made.
Has Doug Pederson lost the team?
The team has lost Doug Pederson.
He has no faith in his players. No confidence. And why should he?
His $128 million quarterback, Carson Wentz, has a 63.9 passer rating and six interceptions, both worst in the NFL, and all of them were his fault. Wentz also has fumbled three times, which is tied for second-worst, and he lost one of them, for seven turnovers in three games. On a team with a defense that starts Nate Gerry and Jalen Mills and counts on JJ Arcega-Whiteside to catch passes, Wentz is -- grading on the payroll curve -- the team’s worst player.
Pederson could not trust Wentz to make it on fourth-and-12 with 19 seconds to play in overtime near midfield, because if Wentz failed then the Bengals had a decent chance to quickly reach field-goal range and win. Pederson could not trust his mobile, 27-year-old, 6-foot-5, 250-pound quarterback to make a two-point conversion with the team trailing by one point with 21 seconds to play in regulation.
Pederson cannot even trust Wentz to execute the entire playbook.
In Year 5.
“We’ll take a look at the game plans and make sure there’s not a lot of maybe moving parts or things that from a quarterback’s perspective that he has to get us in and out of," Pederson said. He’ll incorporate plays “where you don’t have to think about a lot of things, and just somehow help him to free up his mind.”
Pederson’s left tackle, 38-year-old Jason Peters, and his star running back, Miles Sanders, got tired in the second half, so Pederson took them out. They got tired. In a must-win NFL game, of football, played by grown men, for millions of dollars. Tired, in Week 3.
Pederson hopes to use a hurry-up offense to help Wentz function without thinking (which seems to be the current problem, but whatever), but Pederson can’t use a hurry-up offense if his chubby left tackle needs oxygen between plays.
Pederson can’t trust his defense, either, but you can’t blame him. That defense surrendered 27 points in the last 31 minutes of the season opener to Washington, which is 44% of all the points scored by Washington in its three games. It has forced one turnover in 12 quarters. It is as toothless as Joel Embiid’s baby boy, Arthur.
If you want to gauge the depths of Doug’s despair, consider that this Doug Pederson admitted Monday that he shouldn’t have punted Sunday. The old Doug Pederson -- Real Doug Pederson -- never would have admitted that he should have kept his offense. Real Doug Pederson would’ve assigned a half dozen of his analytics minions to produce an algorithm that proves teams playing at home in September average 0.64 points more when they punt in that situation, as long as the temperature is above 70 degrees.
Where is that Doug Pederson?
He’s looking for a team he can believe in.