Doug Pederson isn’t ready to make big Eagles changes. Does the head coach know how to fix this mess?
The coach said he thinks remaining in contention will help his team cut through its frustration and start to show some consistency.
Doug Pederson was “pissed off” for his morning appearance on WIP-FM, more jovial but also a tad sarcastic during his day-after news conference about 4 1/2 hours later.
The upshot, however, was that the Eagles coach was not in the mood to make big changes Monday in the wake of Sunday’s 27-17 loss at the New York Giants – changes such as letting someone else call plays for his 3-5-1 team, which has trailed by double digits in six of its nine games.
“I don’t want to get in a situation where it becomes a knee-jerk reaction for me or for the team,” Pederson said during his session with reporters. “I have to sit back and I do have to evaluate everything.
"Listen, we’re still sitting here in a really good place in the NFC East. I know it doesn’t look pretty. We understand that. But there’s still a lot of ball ahead of us, and there’s still I think a great opportunity for this football team moving forward.”
Pederson indicated that he thinks that opportunity – the team still clings to first place in the NFL’s worst division – will help motivate players to do better.
“I’ll take a look at things, and if there’s a chance to make a personnel change, or whatever it might be, I’ll take a look at that, but I just don’t want to make a change to change, right? There’s got to be a reason for the change.”
Pederson said he wants to avoid finger-pointing, keep everyone pulling together.
During his radio appearance – in which Pederson emphasized how angry he and his players were with the loss -- Pederson mentioned play-calling as one source of frustration. Asked about that during his news conference, he struck a different tone.
“I feel good about the plays that have been called. I even looked at the game [Sunday] and felt I was in rhythm,” Pederson said. "I’ve always looked at the game through the eyes of the quarterback, and how he views it, and how he sees it. I think it’s important that quarterback and play-caller are on the same page that way, and Carson [Wentz] and I had those conversations during the week and the day before the game, and [went] through a lot of different scenarios.
“And look, not every game is going to be perfect. There’s going to be mistakes made, and there’s going to be things that we’re going to have to overcome, and that’s part of our jobs. Nobody’s perfect. By no means am I perfect. I’m going to make a decision error, I’m going to make a play-calling error. But at the same time, hopefully I can do my job to put the offense in position to be successful.”
Pederson said he was mostly frustrated with how his team came out of the bye, falling behind, 14-3, early in the second quarter and carrying that deficit into halftime.
“There’s things that go on that as a head coach, you have to deal with, and a lot of them could be practice-related or off-the-field issues and different things, and even in my own preparation. … that’s where I get a little frustrated and a little upset, and what can I do better during the week? How can I coach a little bit better? How can I coach my coaches better? Those are all things that I look at, and I can definitely do a better job there.”
Wentz again was inaccurate Sunday, more early in the game than later. His offensive line, featuring its eighth starting grouping in nine games, was a distracting jumble, and his tight ends were the only receivers who got open consistently.
Wentz never got the ball in better field position than the Eagles' 25, and six times, the Eagles took over inside their 20. They managed first downs on nine of 10 possessions – suffering only one three-and-out – but they scored just two touchdowns and a field goal, despite not turning the ball over.
They had a nine-play drive that ended with a punt from midfield. Pederson said the Giants' zone makes opponents walk the ball down the field and is geared toward taking away big passing plays.
Past the midpoint of the season now, does the offense work only in fits and starts because of Wentz? Because of the offensive line? Or is there a deeper problem?
Fans thought Pederson could have run the ball more against the Giants, since both Eagles touchdowns were scored on the ground, and the team gained 156 yards on 23 carries, 6.8 yards per carry. But when you’re trailing and time becomes a factor, running tends to vanish. The Eagles tried three fourth-quarter runs, gaining 3 yards.
As ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky noted, they didn’t try to get Wentz out of the pocket until midway through the third quarter, when Wentz completed two of his best passes of the day, on the run. Then they didn’t do that again.
Wentz was 6-for-6 passing on the back-to-back touchdown drives in the third quarter, after not completing any of his final four passes of the second quarter. The fourth-quarter drive that ended with the forced, broken-up pass to Jalen Reagor started with three successive completions, and ended with three successive incompletions.
Does the answer to finding a steady offensive rhythm lie in analyzing why those streaks happened? And can Pederson do that effectively?
Pederson didn’t engender a lot of confidence in his acuity when, during his radio appearance, host Angelo Cataldi asked the coach a question about the use of Jalen Hurts, and Pederson’s reply indicated he thought he’d been asked about Reagor.
But Pederson did face a situation just as dire last year, when the Eagles limped out of a shocking loss at Miami with a 5-7 record. They won their next four and made the playoffs.
“There’s a lot of pride, listen, a lot of pride in that locker room, coaches and players, and we’ll get it fixed,” Pederson said during his presser. “It’s definitely been a work in progress. We are slowly getting some guys back healthy, which has been an issue for us the first half of the season, and I think that’s a positive, too, that we can lean on.”