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McLane: Pederson's a mouthpiece for those who call shots

Asking for Doug Pederson to answer for a defense he neither constructed nor helms is like asking the Queen of England to answer for Brexit.

Asking for Doug Pederson to answer for a defense he neither constructed nor helms is like asking the Queen of England to answer for Brexit.

But he's the Eagles' head coach - the figurehead for Jeffrey Lurie's clandestine construction of his front office and coaching staff - and those are sometimes the breaks.

Pederson got grilled on the ineffectiveness of the Eagles' high-priced defensive line against Aaron Rodgers in Monday night's 27-13 loss to the Packers, and as he went about defending Fletcher Cox and company, he resorted to a last-defense cliché that coaches or players often use to deflect outside criticism.

"Should your quarterback hit an open receiver? Yeah. Should a receiver catch the football? Yeah. We get paid to do that," Pederson said Tuesday. "If you've never played that position or played this level of football, I think it's easy to speculate and see what's going on."

This wasn't Chip Kelly haughtiness, but Pederson was clearly on the offensive here, as he was several times during a taut news conference. There's no way he believes that playing in the NFL is the only way you could understand football at this level; otherwise, he wouldn't take orders from Howie Roseman and Jim Schwartz.

Or is it too "talk radio" to suggest that maybe Pederson's response was a subtle dig at the Eagles' executive vice president of football operations and his defensive coordinator? Probably. OK, definitely.

But it's worth noting that while Pederson has to stand up four times a week and take the bullets - three times before Schwartz is league-mandated to talk - the coach given autonomy over the defense skirts accountability after games along with the man with about as much power as any NFL executive, who talks during the season only when it serves him.

Schwartz isn't required to answer questions, but he's the first Eagles defensive coordinator to not talk after games since as far back as anyone can remember.

"I'll stand up here and take the heat," Pederson said. "I'll take the good, the bad, the ugly, the indifferent. One way or the other, it's no difference to me. I've got to do that. It's what I signed up for."

What else would you expect someone who went from quality control coach to head coach in six years and wasn't interviewed for the top job by any other team to say? Pederson also thinks that Lurie is the best owner in the NFL (without a Super Bowl) and Roseman is the best GM in the NFL (without a playoff victory), in case you were wondering.

Lurie and Roseman, of course, want to win. But they also want to avoid confrontation or a foil who may rock the boat. Kelly isn't the best example to make this point - because he was a social ignoramus - but the consequence of his ousting is a front office and coaching structure that has Roseman unimpeded at the top.

Kelly had final say over the 53-man roster. Pederson does not, which means Roseman is either making every in-season personnel decision or at the least has a significant voice in the room. The handling of Josh Huff's release suggests it is the former. And some of the peculiar active/inactive choices, such as the decision to bench Nelson Agholor against the Packers, warrant inquiry into Roseman's role on game day.

GMs often like to say that the toughest part of their workweek is during the games because that is when they completely hand over the reins to the coaching staff. If Pederson is making all the important offensive and game-management calls, then that is where his performance can be incontestably judged.

And there has been a mounting pile of evidence that he's lacking in situational coaching. His mind-boggling use of his last challenge on a first down, 2-yard catch in the third quarter was just the latest head-scratcher.

At least he takes responsibility for his decisions. Schwartz made it clear from the first preseason game that he wasn't going to field questions after games, unlike other Eagles defensive coordinators who worked under offensive-minded head coaches, like Jim Johnson, Sean McDermott, Juan Castillo, and Bill Davis did for the last two decades.

But Pederson wasn't the one who kept throwing cornerback Leodis McKelvin onto the field even though Rodgers kept picking at his soft coverage. He wasn't the one who schemed up a defense that couldn't get off the field for a whopping 10 of 14 third downs. He wasn't the one who maybe needed to tell his defensive linemen to get their hands up to combat the quick-tossing quarterback.

Pederson also wasn't the one who insisted that Roseman sign four of his former defensive players, only one of whom is contributing. He's not the one who runs a scheme that revolves around the effectiveness of the defensive line and thus needed to eat up a large chunk of the salary cap.

But it was Pederson, not Schwartz, who was left to answer for a front four that has generated only six sacks over the last five games. And the coach, as he has done for almost every struggling position/player this season, was not disparaging.

If there's one player Pederson has been critical of this season, it's been Carson Wentz. That may stem from having played quarterback - in the NFL, for those that may not have been paying attention - but could it also be because it's the one area in which he has complete autonomy?

Maybe Lurie, who hasn't publicly spoken since March, could answer.