I expected a fair amount of rough moments, bumps and bruises as the first-time head coach feels his way through the league and gets a sense of what works and what doesn’t work.
However, over the last month Pederson has shown some red flags that go beyond simple rookie coach mistakes. Philosophically, Doug has shown some disturbing traits that have brought some legitimate questions about whether or not he’s truly cut out for this role.
Let’s start with Pederson’s gameday management.
In the Washington game, Pederson never adjusted for struggling rookie right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, leaving an overwhelmed Big V on his own to deal with talented pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan.
Against the Cowboys, Pederson’s decisions to punt instead of kicking a field goal, give the ball to rookie Wendell Smallwood for the first time in the fourth quarter (leading to a game-changing fumble), and bizarre play calls that killed drives were all well-documented.
And in the latest loss to the Giants, Pederson called one of the worst games I’ve ever seen. From the terrible designed runs for Carson Wentz (including an atrocious call on fourth down to kill a drive and take points off of the board), to wasting a second-half timeout on a challenge he had no chance to win, it was a truly horrendous performance, rookie coach or not.
These gameday gaffes have played direct roles in the Eagles losing these one-score games, but even more troubling is how little Pederson seems to be willing to adjust his offense and give other players opportunities.
The running back situation is the most baffling. I can understand Pederson wanting to go away from Ryan Mathews, an average player at best who fumbled his way out of the starting role. But running Sproles as a featured back is not an answer, and its going to run the undersized back into the ground.
Kenjon Barner and Wendell Smallwood have both been very effective in their limited opportunities. Barner has been averaging 5.2 yards a carry, and yet Pederson seems uninterested in giving him a longer look at an expanded role.
This line of thinking literally makes no sense.
Another puzzling situation is Bryce Treggs. The Eagles have badly lacked a downfield threat all season. Treggs possessed that skillset that could have given them that threat, but he was made inactive by Pederson all year long until Josh Huff was released. If Huff hadn’t gotten himself cut, Treggs would still be an unknown, while failures like Nelson Agholor would continue to be trotted out there week to week.
What’s even worse is listening to Pederson’s press conferences, where he all but confirms that there are some serious flaws in his line of thinking. Pederson defended his playcalling, and pointed to the execution as the issue.
Does that sound disturbingly familiar?
It’s the same nonsense that Chip Kelly would spew in his news conferences, always defending his gimmick offense while constantly pointing to execution as the issue. While Pederson is much more of a player’s coach than Kelly will ever be, that’s not going to fly with the players in the locker room for long, especially if the team keeps losing.
Even more confusing is that Pederson actually doubled down on his approach that Sproles be the top running back, announcing that he’s officially in that role until further notice. It’s just ridiculous to me that the thought of increasing Barner or Smallwood’s touches isn’t in the picture at this time.
I’ve seen a number of good things from Pederson this year, but a lot of what’s gone on in the last month has been troubling. There’s still a lot of football to be played, and hopefully these issues truly are just rookie mistakes. But the red flags on display so far are certainly worth keeping an eye on.
Follow Denny Basens on Twitter, @DennyBasens