There was a moment early in Thursday night's game against the Falcons that I just can't seem to shake.
The Falcons were facing a 4th-and-1 from the Eagles' 1-yard line. After his third-down pass fell incomplete, Matt Ryan began walking toward the sideline. Eventually, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn told him to stay on the field for fourth down.
No, the Falcons didn't get in the end zone, but it was absolutely the right call to go for it. And then I thought about Nick Foles and Carson Wentz. No way they start walking off the field.
They would know Doug Pederson was going for it.
In his third year as an NFL head coach, Pederson has established himself as one of the most aggressive coaches in the NFL. Whether he's going for it on fourth down instead of punting or kicking a field goal or dialing up plays like the Philly Special or Philly Philly, Pederson keeps the gas pedal to the floor.
The realization I came to Thursday night is that Pederson seems so aggressive because a lot of the NFL is still living in 1985. So conservative. The rest of the league is stuck in the past and Pederson is living in the future.
I just think conventional wisdom in the NFL — and in football in general — is outdated.
So I asked Pederson about that:
"I don't know about outdated, but I just know that — I know what works for our football team. I know what works for the personality of our guys. I know who I am as a coach and what I want to get done and accomplished. But I feel like those situations that are well thought out and calculated give us an advantage, give us — if we execute properly and make the fourth down or the Philly Philly play, it just gives us another set of downs and ultimately a chance to score.
"I try not to do things as conventional at times, but at the same time, I want to make sure that I'm doing the best for the football team and giving us a chance to succeed."
The brilliance of Pederson is that he's not afraid to fail. At times, he will. It's inevitable. There will be plays when his team doesn't execute on fourth down or he makes a questionable play call. There will be times a gadget play doesn't work. There will be times when we're going to look back and think Pederson probably should have been a little more conventional. But the Eagles are better off with him breaking conventions.
A lot of Pederson's decisions are based on analytics. The Eagles, over the past few years, have made a concerted effort to at least collect any data that could be useful to them. Unlike some baseball teams, though, the Eagles don't seem beholden to the numbers but use them to make wise decisions, decisions that sometimes buck the trend.
The beauty of Pederson is that he's found a perfect blend of using data and his gut. Because calling a play like Philly Philly is about more than calling a play he thought would work. It was about calling a play that would bring some life back into his team and into the building. Numbers don't account for that. Emotional intelligence (I know, I know) does.
The one example that still stands out is what Jacksonville did against the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. Doug Marrone sat on a 14-10 lead to go into halftime even though they had enough time to put together a drive and get some more points. In his book, Pederson said he was screaming at his TV and would never do that.
He wouldn't. A lot of the outdated NFL would.
That's why Pederson's aggressive nature stands out so much.