I guess it was inevitable that after the Eagles lost 48-7 to the Saints and fell to 4-6, the popular thing for football analysts to declare was that Doug Pederson had lost the team.
That his voice was no longer being heard. His message no longer getting through.
It was an understandable assumption. That was an ugly loss, and it was the Eagles' fourth loss in their last six games.
The reality is that sometimes blowout losses are just that. Nothing more. Just one team playing really, really well and the other team playing really, really poorly. They’re not always a referendum on the job the head coach is doing or a statement on the state of the franchise.
But you do learn a lot from how teams respond to adversity. And if there’s one thing these wins over the Giants and Redskins have shown us, it’s that Pederson hasn’t lost the locker room and hasn’t lost his team.
Whether the Eagles at 6-6 and coming off wins over two lowly teams are really ready to contend for a playoff berth we won’t know until Sunday evening, after the Dallas game.
But the Eagles team we saw beat the Giants and the Redskins coming off that embarrassment in New Orleans was a team that never stopped fighting, never stopped showing pride, never stopped believing in itself or its coach.
You don't bounce back from that kind of a nightmare if your coach's message isn't getting through.
Think about it.
After Saquon Barkley’s 51-yard touchdown run four minutes before halftime two weeks ago, the Eagles trailed the Giants 19-3 in their own stadium and were facing their fourth straight home loss, fifth loss in seven games and essentially the end of their season.
We all heard the boos raining down at the Linc, and the Eagles deserved every one of them.
If this were a team that had quit on its coach, we would have seen it right there. The Eagles would have quit. It would have been easy.
But something happened.
Josh Adams ran five yards, Carson Wentz hit Zach Ertz for 24 yards and Alshon Jeffery for nine yards and all of a sudden the Eagles were driving. Then Wentz threw a TD pass to Ertz and Malcolm Jenkins picked off Eli Manning and those boos turned to cheers as the Eagles ran into the locker room at halftime.
The Eagles then outscored the Giants 14-3 in the second half and beat the Redskins 28-13, which means since Barkley’s TD, they’ve scored 49 points and allowed 16.
Does that sound like a team that quit on its coach?
Of course not.
One of the special things about the 2017 Super Bowl season was the way Pederson connected with his players. He listened to them and responded to them and treated them like adults. They paid him back by playing hard every minute of those 19 games.
Without that bond, without that connection between coach and player, there is no Super Bowl LII. There is no parade.
And that doesn’t just disappear. That sort of relationship doesn’t just evaporate because of a few losses. If anything, that’s when that mutual respect is needed the most.
Pederson hasn’t had a particularly good year as a play caller, but his voice still resonates as strong as ever with his guys.
The dynamic changes a little every year as players come and go, but anybody who’s really paying attention knows that Pederson’s relationship with the players is really the glue that holds this team together.
When things are going well and when they’re not going so well.
Seasons come and go, players come and go, but the elements that made Pederson such an outstanding coach last year haven’t gone anywhere.
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