Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Smallwood: Eagles' season no laughing matter

DOUG PEDERSON knew immediately that his attempt at levity had not gone well. At Wednesday's news conference, a reporter began a question with the notion that the Eagles were still technically in the NFC playoff picture.

DOUG PEDERSON knew immediately that his attempt at levity had not gone well.

At Wednesday's news conference, a reporter began a question with the notion that the Eagles were still technically in the NFC playoff picture.

"Isn't that a great thing," Pederson said with a smile.

His comment went over like a bad joke in a comedy club and received a similar reaction.

"I can't feel it from you guys, though," Pederson said to the stone-faced media. "I just don't feel it yet."

Those statements actually drew a few chuckles from the audience.

There's too much tension around the Eagles these days to find anything funny.

Pederson's attempt to rally the troops for a playoff push failed miserably Sunday in Cincinnati and now, with four games remaining, there is no telling how ugly things could get at NovaCare.

You have young players struggling to find their roles and veterans not enamored with the thought that this is an early audition for the oncoming rebuild.

This collapse has been best-reflected in the declining production on rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. As the Eagles' play plunged, Wentz has gone from the talk of the NFL to a rookie quarterback.

With the next three opponents - Washington, Baltimore and the New York Giants - all in the midst of legitimate playoff pushes, Wentz will be under even more pressure to perform against an ever-changing list of challenges.

Instead of Doug Pederson the rookie head coach, what Wentz needs to navigate these final four weeks is a little more of Doug Pederson the former NFL quarterback.

Although primarily a career backup, Pederson played 10 season in the NFL. He was on a Green Bay team that won a Super Bowl in January 1997 and an Eagles team that went 5-11 in 1999.

Wentz also will be able to look to offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who 13 seasons in the league as a quarterback.

"I think the experience can help everybody in these last four weeks, not just the quarterback position," Pederson said. "But obviously, with our backgrounds, we can definitely help Carson and continue to coach.

"But I think, too, Frank's been on some great teams, I've been on great teams in the past, and how we practice, how our work ethic is during this last four weeks of the season become very important, and we can lean on these experiences with our guys."

It's already assumed that these final weeks will be a referendum on Pederson as the Eagles coach going forward, but one of his listed strengths is that of being a former player.

There are few situations that Pederson has not experienced as a player, including the current swoon in which the Eagles have fallen.

While with Miami in 1993, the Dolphins were 9-2 on Thanksgiving Day, but quarterback Scott Mitchell, who had taken over for Dan Marino after Game 5, was lost to injury in Game 11 against the Eagles.

The Dolphins were left in the hands of aging veteran Steve DeBerg and a young Pederson, who was in his first full season on an NFL roster.

Miami lost its final five games and missed the playoffs.

In his lone season as the Eagles quarterback, the Birds had two four-game losing streaks and a three-game one.

In 2000 with Cleveland, Pederson took over after second-year quarterback Tim Couch broke his thumb after the seventh game.

The Browns won one of their final nine games.

Pederson said he has used those experiences as a teaching tool for Wentz.

"Obviously, I was a part of - and I mentioned this to the guys - I was part of two teams," Pederson said. "In Cleveland, we were 3-13, and then Philadelphia, my first year, being 5-11.

"Just kind of leaning back on those experiences and how we fought through. How we fought through adversity. How people try to divide the team or say negative things about players or whatever.

"We just kind of kept that thing nice and tight. So those are things that I can lean back, when you talk about the experience factor."

No athlete wants to lose, but losing inevitably will happen. Learning to overcome adversity will go a long way toward helping Wentz develop into the franchise quarterback the Eagles envision him as.

"I lean back on those experiences to relay to Carson how we went about our business during those following weeks to come and kept that team together," Pederson said. "We had great leadership on the team like we do now.

"With (Wentz), it's just a matter of keeping him grounded, keeping him levelheaded. He's a leader of this football team, and he doesn't have to do it all himself. That's the beauty of it. There are 10 other guys on offense, and 11 on defense, and special teams that have a big part in this whole process."