Doug Pederson Really Is the Worst Head Coach in the NFL
Two weeks ago, former NFL GM Mike Lombardi said that Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, "might be less qualified to coach a team than anyone I've ever seen in my 30-plus years in the NFL."
I am here to say that I wholeheartedly agree with Mike Lombardi's assessment of Pederson.
I know this will bring out all the blind loyalist Eagles fans, who will claim that I'm "not a real fan", but honestly, how can you disagree with what Lombardi said. Anybody who has watched Pederson coach 18 games in the NFL now has to admit he is the worst coach in the entire NFL. And it's not even close.
Pederson just got out-coached by a man who I have repeatedly stated is the worst game-day coach in the history of the NFL; Andy Reid. Oh sure, Reid has racked up a lot of regular season wins in the NFL, but he's got so many playoff chokes now that he's going to make people forget about Donovan McNabb's choking in the playoffs. What's that Donnie? You didn't actually throw up on the field during Super Bowl XXXIX? Sure. Anyway, back to Pederson.
Pederson was literally the team's fourth choice as Eagles coach, when he was hired before the 2016 season. He was simply the only coach who would take a job in the NFL working for Eagles GM (that's what he is, so I'm not using his actual title) Howie Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie. No other team ever even interviewed Pederson for a coaching vacancy. His "qualifications" consisted of being an offensive coordinator for Reid and getting to call the plays for the second half of games over the second half of last season. Oh, and he was a head coach of a high school team too. If that doesn't scream, the Next Bill Belichick, I don't know what does, right? Bueller? Bueller?
So, there is no question that Lombardi was right in questioning Pederson's unbelievably limited credentials. Pederson was hired because Lurie wanted another Reid after the entire Chip Kelly debacle, so he got Andy Reid Lite (figuratively and literally). The problem is, Pederson has all of Reid's faults and none of his actual NFL coaching experience. Let's examine his track record, shall we?
Pederson had a rookie quarterback from a small college in Carson Wentz, who found out he was starting Week 1, eight days before last season started. Any reasonable coach would try to protect his QB with a weekly game-plan that includes lots of running plays, to ease the burden on his young QB. Not Pederson. Last season, Wentz attempted the most passes in Eagles franchise history (607) and set the all-time NFL record for completions by a rookie QB (379). Neither of those stats are a good thing, especially when you consider that Wentz only attempted 612 passes and completed 392 of them in his entire four year college career.
Just in case anyone thinks that Pederson should be given a break on that egregious error because he was a rookie himself, needs to check out the stats from this season so far.
I understand that everything Pederson knows about coaching in the NFL, he learned from his passaholic mentor, Andy Reid, but he's managed to make even Reid seem like a 3-yards-in-a-cloud-of-dust play-caller. On Sunday, against the Kansas City Chiefs and Reid, Pederson called 56 pass plays and only 13 running plays. (Note: Wentz attempted 46 passes, but he scrambled 4 times and was sacked 6 times on 10 other called passing plays) This was a game where the Eagles never trailed by more than one score until there was about 3 minutes left in the game. Heck, the game was actually tied in the fourth quarter. So any excuses that the Eagles were forced to throw constantly to catch up is completely false. No, Pederson is just a bad coach.
In two games this season, Pederson has called 97 passing plays and only 33 running plays. Wentz's 85 passing attempts are third in the NFL behind only a couple of guys named Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Letting a couple of sure-fire Hall of Famers throw the ball all over the field, while they are in the prime of their careers, is one thing, but letting a still-developing second-year QB do it is borderline criminal. At the very least it's downright stupid. Oh and those 85 pass attempts, projected out over a full season, would break the all-time number of pass attempts in an NFL season. Again, not what you want a relatively inexperienced second-year QB doing.
Calling pass plays on almost every down makes life pretty easy on defenses. There is nothing a defense likes better than hunting quarterbacks. And when a team completely abandons the run, like Pederson has shown the propensity to do throughout his short head coaching career, those pass rushers start to drool. It's much easier to get to the QB when you don't have to worry about defending the run. In essence, Pederson is making life easier for opposing defenses and much harder on his own QB. That's not exactly a recipe for success.
Pederson talked about the need to have a run-pass balance on offense before the season. He was asked about it repeatedly because I'm not the only one who noticed that Pederson called too many pass plays last season. After the Chiefs loss, he said he needs to (God help us) "do a better job" of having more balance in future games. Unfortunately, that won't happen. Just like Reid, Pederson will commit to the run against the Giants next week and then by the time they hit the second quarter against the Chargers in Week 4, Pederson will be back to completely ignoring the running game. I guarantee it. Pederson might have what Lurie called "Emotional intelligence", but he sure doesn't seem to have any coaching intelligence.
Now, I'm not completely ignoring the fact that the Eagles running backs are not very good at, you know, running with the football. And I can't ignore the fact that the Eagles offensive line appears to have been vastly overrated coming into this season. But that doesn't mean you don't at least try to run the ball to keep the defense guessing. Only calling 13 running plays in a game that was not out of reach until the very end simply doesn't make much sense. And doing so against a team with a pass rush as good as the Chiefs is just plain dumb.
I know LeGarrette Blount didn't look good against the Redskins in Week 1, but how does a guy who rushed for over 1,000 yards and led the NFL with 18 rushing TDs last season not get a single carry against the Chiefs? I understand that Pederson has zero say in personnel and that Roseman has done a poor job in finding a competent RB, other than the diminutive Darren Sproles, but you have to use what you have available on your roster. I understand that Pederson believed that the shiftier Sproles was a better option against the Chiefs defense. I don't even disagree with that. But you at least have to give your bruising between-the-tackles RB a couple of shots at attacking a defense.
If you want to say the running game isn't working because the offensive line isn't opening up any holes, then I'll counter that by saying that they aren't doing a very good job of protecting Wentz when he goes back to pass either. Wentz has been running for his life in both games so far this season. That should make it even more obvious that Pederson needs to call more running plays. Wentz has been sacked 8 times in 2 games and he's escaped at least a dozen other possible sacks with his athletic ability. Honestly, this is no way to treat the future of your franchise. You should try to protect your future, not expose him to the most possible harm on every single play. (Remember Wentz as a lead blocker on one run last year and Pederson defending his decision to call such a play?)
Is Doug Pederson the Worst Head Coach in the NFL?
I know I will hear complaints about nitpicking on Pederson. The Eagles are 1-1 and appear to be a team going in the right direction. They also have a legitimate chance in a suddenly ordinary looking NFC East this season. But they won't win anything if Pederson gets Wentz hurt. That also doesn't mean their head coach won't cost them at least a game or two this season. Heck, I would contend that he may have cost them the Chiefs game already. And there is no disputing his complete lack of coaching experience cost the team a game or two last year. The flashbacks to Reid's last few years is giving me nightmares.
Pederson simply looks overmatched on the sideline each and every week he masquerades as an NFL head coach. I mean, the man just got out-coached by Andy Reid on Sunday. There just isn't a bigger indictment of a head coach than that.