It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody that Doug Pederson will be back in 2021 for a sixth season as head coach of the Eagles.
There was speculation as the Eagles muddled through this miserable season that owner Jeff Lurie might make a change, but word came down via ESPN Saturday that Pederson will return next year.
Why would Lurie keep a coach after such an awful season?
Let’s take a look at some of the possible contributing factors:
1. They play hard: Every time Lurie has fired a coach – Rich Kotite in 1994, Ray Rhodes in 1998, Andy Reid in 2012, Chip Kelly in 2015 – it was easy to tell that the team just wasn’t behind that guy anymore. The effort wasn’t totally there, and when the effort is gone, the coach is gone. That wasn’t the case this year. Even in the 20-point loss to the Cowboys, that was more a case of a team that was decimated by injuries and playing stupid football than a team that wasn’t trying. The only way Lurie was going to fire Pederson is if the team stopped playing hard, and that never happened.
2. Carson and Jalen: Lurie truly looks at Pederson as a quarterback whisperer, and while this year may have been a miserable one for Carson Wentz, Lurie could very well see Pederson as the best candidate to get the former No. 2 overall pick back on track and also as the best candidate to develop Jalen Hurts if he winds up as the starter in 2021. From the outside, it looked like Pederson just didn’t get Carson this year, but I’m not convinced Lurie feels that way. Lurie may be convinced the Eagles need to move forward with Wentz and believes in Pederson’s ability to rehabilitate any quarterback.
3. Injuries: Pederson did not coach well this year, but you have to take the injuries into consideration, and they were truly out of control this year and really over the last three seasons. It would be hard to imagine Lurie firing Pederson after a season when 22 starters or key backups missed a combined 150 games because of injuries. How do you evaluate a head coach when he has literally two starters for all 16 games? You can’t.
4. Pandemic: This is such a bizarre year, and Lurie would be a lot more likely to fire a coach after a four- or five-win season if it had been a conventional season. But the pandemic created a whole array of new challenges for coaches, and while Pederson’s game-day coaching this year left a lot to be desired, his ability to navigate the team through all the protocols and challenges brought on by the virus – no OTAs, no preseason games, virtual meetings and so on – certainly made an impression on Lurie.
5. Super Bowl: It’s as simple as winning the Super Bowl and reaching the playoffs three straight years buys you a lot of equity. Some 33 coaches have won a Super Bowl, and only one was fired within six years of winning it, and there were some extenuating circumstances in that instance. Lurie values stability and consistency, and it’s easy to see him determining that the best candidate to win a Super Bowl for him is the guy who’s already done it.
6. Andy 2005-2007: In 2004, Andy Reid took the Eagles to a Super Bowl, and the next three years the team went 24-24, finished last in the division twice and won a playoff game with a backup quarterback. A lot of people wanted Reid fired, but Lurie stayed the course, and the Eagles went 30-17-1 the next three years, made the playoffs all three seasons and reached their fifth NFC Championship Game in eight years. I’m sure Lurie hasn’t forgotten how he stuck with Reid seven years into his coaching tenure and how it paid off.
7. Jeff and Doug: I just think Lurie likes Pederson, trusts him and wants him around. Any owner wants a coach who speaks his language, who’s honest with him and who he can trust. In the wake of Kelly’s tenure, Lurie has to be skittish about bringing in a new coach who maybe doesn’t get the culture here and never really fits in. That can do a lot of damage in a short time. The known is always a safer bet than the unknown.
8. Doug and Howie: This is an underrated but important part of this whole dynamic. Whoever the head coach is here has to have a solid working relationship with Howie Roseman, and Doug does. I’ll never forget Reid’s words after he was fired following the 2012 season: “Everybody has to be pulling in the same direction.” The relationship among the owner, general manager and head coach – the three most powerful people in any organization – is a tricky one, and if all three respect and trust each other, listen to each other and are pulling in the same direction you at least have a chance, and I think Lurie believes that’s the case.
9. Lurie likes to throw the ball, too: Lurie has made it clear he’s a big fan of innovative, high-octane, pass-first offensive football. It’s why he hired Reid, it’s why he hired Kelly and it’s why he hired Pederson. And it’s why he’ll probably never hire a defensive head coach. The Eagles have thrown the ball more than all but one NFL team since Pederson got here in 2016, and Pederson and Lurie’s pass-first philosophies certainly seem to line up perfectly.
10. Stability: We touched on this earlier, but Lurie is a big believer in organizational stability. The Eagles have had four head coaches in the last 26 seasons. This is Lurie’s 27th year as owner of the Eagles. Team president Don Smolenski is in his 23rd year with the organization. Roseman is in his 21st. Duce Staley is in his 17th. Lurie isn’t one to make changes just for the sake of making changes, and unless he sees a compelling reason to fire a head coach – Kotite, Rhodes and Kelly lost the team, Reid needed a change of scenery – he’s just not going to make a change.
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