It's going to be a crowded Eagles sideline in Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
Doug Pederson, exasperated, on Monday invited any member of the press corps who wishes to question his play-calling, his scheme or the team's defensive strategies to stand on the sideline with him and his staff. He said we could actually participate in calling plays within a 40-second window (I'm calling the flea-flicker when it's my turn, and we'll always go for two).
How did this come about? Simple. On Monday, Pederson was repeatedly asked if his 3-4 team passed too much and blitzed too little during the Eagles' epic meltdown against the Panthers the previous afternoon.
So, Pederson melted down a little himself.
"You're getting into game-plan stuff. You're getting into scheme," Pederson said, oozing condescension. "You guys aren't in there watching the tape like we are for 18 hours a day and putting game plans together. It's easy to sit in a press box and say, 'They should run the ball.' Come down and stand on the sideline with me and make decisions. 'I should run it here,' 'I should pass it here,' 'Let's throw a screen here,' 'Let's get the quarterback out of the pocket right here.' 'No, there's 15 seconds left on the clock.'
"Until you're down there with me on the sideline making in-game decisions, then I guess you can ask all you want."
You've got yourself a deal.
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What choice do we have? Our entire job entails questioning the motives and actions of coaches and players. This will be perilous, to be sure, but such are the sacrifices of professionals like us. It can be cold on the sideline. You have to stand for the whole game, not just for the anthem. You might get run over. In all, though, it's a wonderful opportunity, assuming you get a piece of the postgame spread.
It also raises plenty of other questions.
Do we get a hoodie like all the other coaches?
Do we get a headset?
Do we get to keep the headset?
Bigger picture: How will the league respond to Pederson's invitation? Will we have to sign a waiver? Is it a standing invitation, or does it apply only to the Eagles' upcoming game against Jacksonville in London? Because not every writer (me) is making the trip.
No matter what the parameters, it's satisfying to see that somebody finally recognizes our value. Never mind that many of us can't tell a bubble screen from bubble gum; we nonetheless consider ourselves equipped to advise him and his 18-hour-a-day assistants on real-time decisions that have real consequences.
And: Kudos to the Eagles. This is the sort of bold, out-of the box move that new-age, cutting-edge franchises are making all over the map. Really. The Clippers just hired a guy from Sports Illustrated and the Brewers scooped up a writer from The Athletic. Really. Considering the Eagles' copycat culture, such an invitation was inevitable. The scope seems ambitious — inviting all of us — but, as the British say, in for a penny, in for a pound.
The degree of petulance from Pederson on Monday was stunning, but then, these are trying times. He told his players that the "pressure is off" so they would stop trying to play perfect football; so they would play looser, but the pressure isn't off. There's so much pressure right now that Pederson seems to be having trouble with the definition of the words "on" and "off."
Which is understandable. When you're the defending Super Bowl champions, and you can't hold a lead because both your offense and defense choke in the fourth quarter — for the second time in five games — well, that would test the patience of Job. Monday, Peterson failed that test.
Pederson noted that the two best players on the field, Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly, played brilliantly in the fourth quarter. Pederson also admitted the huge blocks of angry flesh at defensive tackle deterred him from running more.
"Let me ask you to block 700-pound men sometimes," he offered.
No, thanks. We'll coach. Like you.
A lot of what he said was nonsense, such as his contention that the Philadelphia media doesn't criticize successful teams:
"When you win games, we're not talking about this stuff because winning cures everything, right? Well, we're not winning, so everything is exposed."
Seriously? I'm pretty sure I still have Mike Schmidt's number. They can discuss literary agony.
Pederson also recited the old one-play-away refrain:
"Listen, I have so much confidence in this football team, you don't understand. It's coming down to two, three plays and we're sitting here at 5-2, instead of 3-4."
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If that sounds familiar, that's because Pederson said the same thing in 2016, as his team spiraled from a 4-2 start to a 7-9 finish. To be fair, he was right then, and he's right now. So what? One or two plays each game is the difference between champs and chumps.
With the exception of a preseason brouhaha concerning Carson Wentz's rehabilitation schedule, Pederson has been a thoughtful, insightful interview subject, even in defeat. But Dougie wasn't very fresh Monday. Clearly exhausted, and possibly rattled from his weekly appearance on WIP's morning show, where he was treated unkindly, Pederson approached the dais at noon for 15 minutes and 12 seconds of Monday Morning Quarterbacking at its finest:
Did you run too little in the fourth quarter? No. Did you run too much at the end of the second quarter? No. Should Jim Schwartz blitz more? Maybe.
How are YOU handling the pressure?
"From you guys? Great!"
Not if you're inviting us to help with the play-calling, you're not.
But an invitation's an invitation. I, for one, am RSVPing "Yes."
I need a new headset.
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