Eagles

Doug Pederson's struggles at heart of disappointing season

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Doug Pederson's struggles at heart of disappointing season

It’s easy to dismiss this year as a Super Bowl letdown or Super Bowl hangover, whatever you want to call it.

Short offseason … injuries … coaching changes … it was inevitable.

All Super Bowl champs go through the same challenges a year later. They lose good coaches. They're faced with a much shorter offseason. They hit the banquet circuit and write books. They have the proverbial bulls-eye on their back the next fall.

But most Super Bowl teams don’t do this. 

The reality is that the 2018 season has become one of the most disappointing seasons in recent Eagles history because Super Bowl teams a year later rarely — very rarely — struggle the way the Eagles have struggled.

This year should have been about getting back in the playoffs and making another deep run. Not scuffling just to try to get back to .500, getting swept by the Cowboys and being unable to find any offensive consistency.

Since the NFL’s current playoff system went into effect in 1990, only nine Super Bowl champions have failed to reach the playoffs the next season, and only two have had a losing record — the 1998 Broncos and the 2002 Buccaneers.

Two in almost three decades.

Since the inception of the Super Bowl back in 1966, the average Super Bowl team a year later has had a .709 winning percentage, and the win totals have varied because of shorter seasons until 1977 and two strike seasons, but .709 in today’s NFL means roughly 11½ wins.

That’s what the typical Super Bowl team does a year later. Wins 11 or 12 games. Goes to the playoffs. Makes a run. Continues the momentum.

All of which really adds some clarity and perspective to just how disappointing this mess of a 2018 season is.

The Eagles are 6-7. Unless they win their last three games, they’ll be only 10th Super Bowl champion in half a century of Super Bowls not to register a winning record the next year.

If they lose two of their last three, which is certainly a possibility considering they face the 11-2 Rams and 9-4 Texans next, they’ll be only the third Super Bowl champ in the last 30 years to finish with a losing record.

And the first two were the 1999 Broncos — in the first year after John Elway retired — and the 2003 Buccaneers, who haven’t won a playoff game since their 2002 Super Bowl title.

It wasn't supposed to be like this.

If you win a Super Bowl, you’re an elite team with elite players and elite coaches and you don’t find yourself sitting 6-7 and searching for answers with three weeks to go.

And there’s no one easy reason the Eagles find themselves likely to go down as one of the bigger disappointments among Super Bowl champions throughout history.

Carson Wentz is clearly not all the way back physically. The injuries that have decimated the defense can’t be ignored. The losses of Frank Reich and John DeFilippo hurt a lot.

But ultimately it all goes back to Doug Pederson.

He’s just been a bad coach this year.

That magical concoction of aggressiveness, confidence, swagger, and daring has disappeared. The magic play-calling touch is gone. The ability to brilliantly utilize all the Eagles’ offensive personnel has evaporated.

The Eagles consistently found ways last year to take over games because Pederson had this uncanny instinct for finding ways to apply tremendous pressure on opposing defenses with his creativity and innovation.

What happened to that? It’s just gone. When’s the last time an Eagles’ play call wowed you? Or caught an opposing defense completely off-guard?

A year later, Pederson's offense looks predictable, uninspired and conventional.

Stale.

This team week after week is unprepared and out of sorts for the first quarter or first half.

This is all on Pederson.

Now, Pederson's not going anywhere. Not for a while.

Super Bowl LII earned him at least a couple more years to get this thing going again. But I do expect changes on the coaching staff, and offensive coordinator Mike Groh is an obvious candidate.

But what really has to change is Pederson. He has to rediscover that magical touch that carried the Eagles last year or next year won’t be any better.

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Eagles vs. Patriots live: Highlights and analysis from NFL Week 11 game

Eagles vs. Patriots live: Highlights and analysis from NFL Week 11 game

8:41 a.m.: Good morning, everyone! The Eagles have an unusual 4:25 p.m. start today, so we have a little bit of waiting on our hands. 

The big news as you was up this morning is that Jordan Howard (shoulder) will reportedly be out for this game. He has a stinger and hasn't yet been cleared for contact. That means Miles Sanders, Boston Scott and recently signed Jay Ajayi will have to carry the load.

As you wait for kickoff today, here are five matchups to watch in Eagles-Patriots.

At least we have Cowboys-Lions to watch at 1 p.m. 

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Report: Jordan Howard expected to miss Eagles-Patriots Week 11 game with injury

Report: Jordan Howard expected to miss Eagles-Patriots Week 11 game with injury

Eagles leading rusher Jordan Howard is not expected to play Sunday as he deals with a shoulder injury, according to a report by ESPN's Adam Schefter.

The Eagles have officially listed Howard as questionable for the team's Super Bowl rematch Sunday afternoon against the Patriots at the Linc.

Howard suffered a stinger in the Eagles’ win on Nov. 3 against the Bears, his former team.

That means Jay Ajayi, who the Eagles re-signed on Friday, should be active for the first time in over a year and will likely have a role.

Howard, in his first year with the Eagles, has 525 rushing yards, a 4.4 average and seven touchdowns, including one receiving. 

Since Week 4, Howard has been the 13th-leading rusher in the NFL, averaging 71 yards per game and 4.5 yards per carry.

Howard was limited in practice during the week and head coach Doug Pederson said Friday he had not been cleared for contact, which left him with a remote chance to be active on Sunday.

Howard has never missed a game because of injury. He didn’t play in the Bears' 2016 opener against the Texans — opening day of his rookie year — but he did dress for the game and was active, he just didn’t get onto the field.

Since then, he’s played in 57 of a possible 57 games.

Howard has the second-most rushing yards in the NFL since 2016 behind only Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys.

The Eagles are already down two running backs. Super Bowl hero Corey Clement is on Injured Reserve with a shoulder injury and Darren Sproles joined him on Injured Reserve this week with a season-ending quad injury.

The Eagles will go into Sunday with Miles Sanders, Ajayi and Boston Scott. They also have a rookie, De’Angelo Henderson, on the practice squad.

Sanders, after a slow start, is averaging 4.4 yards per carry on 76 for 336 and has 22 catches for 305 yards.

Ajayi, acquired by the Eagles from the Dolphins midway through the 2017 Super Bowl season, hasn’t played since injuring his knee in a game against the Vikings on Oct. 7 of last year.

Ajayi has battled knee injuries most of his career but his 4.5 career average is fifth best in the NFL since 2015 among running backs with at least 500 carries.

Scott has 16 carries for 68 yards, a 4.3 average in limited duty.

The Eagles have averaged 141 rushing yards in their last six games. The Patriots are allowing an NFL-worst 5.6 yards per carry over their last six games.

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