It doesn’t sound like Doug Pederson is giving up play calling anytime soon.
The Eagles’ head coach has been under siege after his team lost to the Giants 27-17 on Sunday afternoon coming off the bye week and one main area of criticism has been his play calling.
But on Monday afternoon, Pederson said he doesn’t think that’s the problem.
“I feel good about the plays that have been called,” Pederson said. “I even looked at the game yesterday and felt I was in rhythm. I've always looked at the game through the eyes of the quarterback and how he views it and how he sees it. I think it's important that quarterback and play caller are on the same page that way and Carson [Wentz] and I had those conversations during the week and day before the game and go through a lot of different scenarios and we're prepared that way.
“And look, not every game is going to be perfect. There's going to be mistakes made and there's going to be things that we're going to have to overcome and that's part of our jobs. Nobody's perfect. By no means am I perfect. I'm going to make a decision error, I'm going to make a play calling error, but at the same time, hopefully I can do my job to put the offense in position to be successful.”
There are a lot of things to unpack there, but we’ll start with the notion that Pederson was “in rhythm” as a play caller against the Giants. The Eagles put up 17 points and had just 3 points at halftime.
Sure, the Eagles scored on back-to-back drives to start the second half but those were their only two touchdowns on the day. And the third drive of the second half failed after Pederson tried to shoehorn Jalen Hurts into a second-down play with a predictable run. Earlier this season, I was calling for Hurts but that was because the Eagles needed a spark on offense. To force him into that spot when the regular offense was working didn’t make any sense.
Maybe that’s too micro though. Let’s take a larger scale look at the Eagles’ offense. Sure, there have been injuries, but the Eagles are a bottom-10 scoring offense in the NFL right now. They are averaging just 22.6 points per game and they haven’t topped 30 once all season.
Take a look at points produced by the Eagles during Pederson’s tenure:
The Eagles reached their offensive peak in 2017 but that magical season is clearly the outlier when it comes to this offense. And in 2020, the Eagles have reached a new low for offensive ineptitude.
But at least Pederson felt like he was in a rhythm on Sunday.
The main difference between Pederson in 2017 and now is that he just doesn’t seem to have a good sense of what to call for his players. He talked about being on the same page with Wentz, but does it really look like those two guys are in sync?
The only time the Eagles’ offense ever seems to find that elusive rhythm is when they use an up-tempo offense but that’s a changeup. The Eagles need to find their fastball. Right now, it seems like Pederson doesn’t know how to get his quarterback going and that simply shouldn’t be happening in Year 5. That doesn’t remove Wentz’s blame either; they both need to be better.
Since I’ve been yelling from the rooftops for over a year to get Wentz moving out of the pocket, I’ll let ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky do it for me:
When the Eagles brought in senior offensive assistant Rich Scangarello during the offseason, one of the main reasons was so he could get the most out of Wentz. The Eagles had an Eureka moment when they suddenly realized Wentz was at his best when they got him on the move. And we haven’t seen enough of that.
Sure, the truncated offseason has limited Scangarello’s role and influence this season. It became much harder for him to make significant changes in a virtual setting and he admitted as much. But Pederson doesn’t seem to have answers right now, so maybe some one else does.
And then there was this report from NFL Network’s Mike Silver, who laid out a possible explanation for the offensive struggles the other way.
“There’s a feeling Pederson may be listening to too many voices,” Silver said. “There are a lot of offensive assistant on that staff and Pederson is amenable to their suggestions. The game plan doesn’t necessarily fit together.”
A classic “too many chefs” situation might make some sense. In addition to Scangarello, the Eagles also added Marty Mornhinweg and Andrew Breiner this offseason and promoted Press Taylor.
But ultimately, this thing is on Pederson. He can listen to those guys but it’s still up to him to figure out the game plan and then call the plays on Sunday. Because despite the confidence he might have in his ability in that area, the results haven’t followed.
And it’s his job on the line.