Once a week, Doug Pederson joins Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman for a meeting of the power people atop the Eagles' organization - even if, relatively speaking within the franchise's hierarchy, Pederson has a center cubicle without a view. These meetings, per Pederson's description, are unfailingly positive for the rookie head coach, from the first handshake to the closing hey-let's-get-those-Bengals-this-week. In fact, he said Monday that Lurie and Roseman already had reassured him that, even though the Eagles are 5-7 and have lost three consecutive games by lopsided scores and the sheen of Carson Wentz's early brilliance has dulled, his job was secure beyond this season.
"It's been one hundred percent support on everything," Pederson said Monday, less than 24 hours after his team supported the Bengals throughout their 32-14 victory.
Still, one aspect of the meetings remains a mystery. Neither Lurie nor Roseman - again, according to Pederson - has articulated to him the standard by which they would judge his performance this season a success. Is there a win total that perhaps the team has already reached? Did Pederson merely have to create a general, intangible sense that putting him in charge of Wentz's development was the right thing to do? Did he have to make sure Paul Turner caught at least one pass? They've apparently given him no such mark to hit.
Really, Doug? They haven't said anything?
"They have not," he said.
This open-ended approach to Pederson's future, if nothing else, seems to have emboldened him over the last couple of weeks, freeing him to speak his mind in a manner invoking only the most accomplished of NFL coaches. Last week, he made it clear that the Eagles' ugly Monday night loss to the Packers had turned his focus to next season. Then, on Monday, he dared to suggest that "not everybody" on the Eagles' roster had played hard during that uglier loss in Cincinnati. That acknowledgement would be a career death knell for just about any other coach whose team had lost seven of its previous nine games, as Pederson's has. But if you've been assured that you won't be fired, you can admit without repercussion that some of your players are not giving full effort. You can be, or pretend to be, Bill Belichick or Pete Carroll. You can be 10 feet tall and bulletproof, at least for a little while.
The question remains, though: How much time will Pederson have to strut? The notion that he ought to be fired after this season, even if the Eagles lose out and finish 5-11, is fairly ludicrous. For one thing, it's difficult to imagine that Lurie, after hiring two head coaches during his first 19 years of ownership, would opt to replace Pederson with the franchise's third head coach in three years. For another, if it was rash for Lurie to fire Chip Kelly less than a year after giving him control over player-personnel matters, it would be reckless to give up on Pederson after one season. Coaches can grow and evolve and learn on the job, too, just as young quarterbacks can. Pederson has had his fine moments and stretches, and the Eagles have so much invested in Wentz - and in Pederson's ability to coax greatness from him - that to restart the process now would be shortsighted.
"I just don't think personally you can base a guy's career on one season," Pederson said. "You've got to give it time to develop. We've got a rookie quarterback. We've got to have time to develop this quarterback. It just doesn't happen overnight."
No, it doesn't. Then again, learning the ins and outs of player development and acquisition doesn't happen overnight, either, and that didn't stop Lurie from handing full power to Kelly only to send him packing with one week left in the 2015 season.
If Lurie were holding Pederson to a similar standard as he did Kelly, if an Eagles team's steady deterioration in discipline and alacrity were enough to get Lurie considering a coaching change, then Pederson would indeed be coaching for his job over these next four weeks. But Pederson is an agreeable fellow who apparently doesn't mind working with Roseman, hasn't tried to wrest power away from Roseman, and has shown no overt indication that he will. So it's easier for Lurie and Roseman to keep him around.
What criteria they'll use to determine how long to keep him around is another matter entirely and anybody's guess. There hasn't been much forethought out of the Eagles' front office of late. An apparent commitment to Kelly, a change, an apparent short-term and possible longer-term commitment to Sam Bradford at quarterback, a change, a season of competing, a season of rebuilding, a season of looking ahead to next season - all this upheaval within the last 24 months. Stability, even just for stability's sake, has some appeal and merit, which works to Pederson's advantage. But the way things have gone for this franchise in recent years, there's no telling when he might not feel so confident in his future, or why.
"I've got to make sure that I'm doing it right and I'm holding myself accountable," Pederson said. "As you mentioned earlier with Jeffrey and Howie, if they're holding me accountable and all that, that's where it starts."
Yes. Yes, it does.