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Mike Lombardi backtracks on Doug Pederson criticism — sort of

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Mike Lombardi backtracks on Doug Pederson criticism — sort of

Having previously stated Doug Pederson is unqualified, former NFL executive Mike Lombardi is finally walking back his criticism of the Eagles’ head coach. Kinda.

It only took a 13-win season and a trip to the NFC Championship game for Lombardi to admit he might’ve been mistaken.

Even now, Lombardi doesn’t sound entirely convinced about Pederson, who’s a strong candidate for Coach of the Year.

Lombardi garnered attention back in September after questioning Pederson’s credibility.

“Everybody knows Pederson isn't a head coach,” Lombardi said during one of his regular NFL podcasts for The Ringer. “He might be less qualified to coach a team than anyone I've seen in my 30-plus years in the NFL.”

The comments grew beyond meaningless banter when Lombardi was tied to Jim Schwartz, and a report stated the Eagles’ defensive coordinator was actively working to undermine Pederson — just days before the start of the regular season.

It all seemed like a bunch of nonsense at the time, and the entire narrative over whether Pederson is the right person for the job hasn’t aged well. So four months and an Eagles win over the Falcons in a divisional playoff game later, Lombardi was finally ready to go back on his podcast and say he was wrong.

Well, sort of.

"I admit, I’m wrong. Okay, Doug Pederson was way better than I thought he was going to be in terms of his ability to lead that team. I think Jim Schwartz is a tremendous defensive coordinator. I think he deserves a lot of credit here. But I thought (Pederson) did a really good job with Nick Foles (Saturday). So all you Philly fans give me all this crap about, ‘Give Doug Pederson his due,’ yeah, okay, I was wrong. He’s a better coach. Now he’s going to have to do it again this week, and we’ll see how that is, but for me, I think when you win a playoff game, and you beat a team that you’re an underdog to, and you beat (Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan), and Nick Foles plays well enough, I think you deserve it. I think I have to admit — hey look, I think I was wrong in terms of how far I went with Doug, I’m not sure how great of a coach Doug is, but I was wrong in terms of how far I went with it."

Lombardi almost immediately praises Schwartz, before going on to say Pederson needs to prove himself again in the conference title game, he still doesn’t know how good Pederson is and the actual problem with his comments was the extent of his criticism, not necessarily that he was critical of Pederson in the first place.

Again, the Eagles won 13 games this season, earning the top playoff seed in the NFC, a postseason bye and home-field advantage throughout the tournament. Then they defeated the reigning conference champion Falcons and are now one victory away from a trip to the Super Bowl. He absolutely should win Coach of the Year. Even last season, Pederson won seven games as a first-year head coach with a rookie quarterback, so the idea he was ever wholly unprepared, as Lombardi suggested, was always a laughable take.

It’s safe to say Pederson has put any and all doubt to rest. There’s no need to qualify that statement or assign credit to somebody else. Pederson is good at his job. That much is a fact.

Look, almost everybody had concerns about Pederson when he was hired in 2016 and coming into this season. Perfectly reasonable. What Lombardi said in September was as preposterous as it was inaccurate, and anything less than saying he was completely, 100 percent incorrect isn’t backtracking nearly enough.

Leather Eagles Super Bowl jacket is amazing, crazy expensive

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NFL Shop

Leather Eagles Super Bowl jacket is amazing, crazy expensive

Philadelphia fans aren't the only ones who can't get their fill of Super Bowl championship memorabilia. The Eagles' players want in on the surfeit of champs gear as well.

Take Beau Allen for example. A true man of the people, Allen tweeted his desire for this absolutely beautiful leather jacket commemorating the Eagles victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

Allen tweeted aloud, wondering why the Birds' players hadn't been issued one of these leather jackets yet?

One guess? They retail for a cool $3,000. Totally worth it. 

You can pick one up right here for a low $2,999.99. It's listed as a "Men's NFL Pro Line by Fanatics Branded Black/Green Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl LII Champions Full-Button Leather Jacket."

You'll be happy to know it's an officially licensed NFL product and is made in the USA. Just like Beau.

Joel Embiid belongs among the very best

Joel Embiid belongs among the very best

You can't really fake it at an All-Star Game, especially one where people are actually trying. There's no lucking your way into a couple open shots and a couple generous foul calls and all of a sudden rolling your way to a 30-plus-point game; there's no isolating one defensive mismatch and exploiting it to make yourself look like '01 Shaq. Generally speaking, an All-Star Game shakes out as it should: The best shine the brightest, and those who aren't ready yet fade into the periphery with extra motivation to step things up for next year. 

And that's why it's so awesome that Joel Embiid, a mere 75 games into his NBA career, unquestionably belonged on the biggest stage with the biggest names last night. Playing for Stephen Curry's squad, JoJo posted 19 points on 8-13 shooting, with eight rebounds and two blocks, and a +5 rating for the night — the only positive plus/minus for the Steph starters. 

Out of context, those numbers may not sound particularly impressive for an All-Star outing, considering the final score of 2017's game was 192-182. But thanks to increased financial and personal motivation in this year's game, the competition was ratcheted up, and though the final score was still a robust 148-145 — Team LeBron emerging victorious — no one player really went off in this one, with Team Stephen being led in scoring by DeMar DeRozan and Damian Lillard (21 each). Consider that JoJo's 19 outpaced both teammates James Harden (12 points on 5-19 FG) and Curry himself (13 on 4-14 FG) — only two of the greatest scorers in NBA history. 

And what's more, down the stretch it was Embiid who seemed most ready to rise to the moment. With minutes remaining and his team up one, Embiid posted up LeBron James — LeBron James!! — for an easy bucket, and with the score tied and under a minute left, he got stuck isolated on the perimeter against Paul George, and still ended up blocking George's shot to win the possession back for his team. Had his squad been able to hang on in this one, he would've been able to mount a fairly compelling case for MVP, which would've made him the first player since at least the 20th century to win top honors in his first All-Star appearance. 

Of course, it didn't happen that way, and Team Stephen coach Mike D'Antoni might get most of the blame as to why. With his squad up one and Team LeBron inbounding out of a timeout, D'Antoni opted for some incomprehensible reason to bench Embiid, his best defensive player — which, somewhat unsurprisingly, resulted in LeBron scoring quickly and easily at the basket to go up one, and then DeMar DeRozan throwing the ball away at the other end. Embiid entered for the final possession, with his team needing a three to tie, and he had a chance to hoist one, but understandably passed to Curry, who drove his way into traffic and ended up not even getting a shot off. Team LeBron won, and James took home his third MVP. 

Frustrating finish, but it can't ruin what came before: Joel Embiid squaring off against the best the NBA has to offer, and proving himself a factor. (Also nailed a three and then blocked a Russell Westbrook drive at the other end, btw, so that beautiful random feud lives on.) He got as good as he gave — LeBron drilled a triple in his face immediately after JoJo took him down low — but he was in the mix, and a crucial part of his team's successes and failures. It should be the first of many such All-Star starring roles for Embiid, and hopefully the last for some time that doesn't also include him being flanked by Process Truster in Arms Ben Simmons. 

But even if it isn't — even if nothing good ever happens again with Joel, and we look back at this All-Star Game 25 years from now as the high point of this career — it still would have all been worth it. It was worth it when the team went 10-5 two Januarys ago. It was maybe worth it when Embiid gave his first-ever post-game interview following a Sixers win. 

That's what people will never understand about The Process, and that's what makes nights like this so gratifying. Franchises go decades, entire generations, without getting a moment to feel this way about one of their players, and even getting the chance to feel it about one of ours is worth seasons of sacrifice. JoJo lives, and somewhere in the bowels of the Staples Center last night, Our Once and Always Dark Lord Sam Hinkie had to be there and be smiling. Hope he enjoyed the Fergie national anthem as much as I did, as well.