Sean McVay

NFL's Sean McVay-Doug Pederson debate needs to end, because there's only one right answer

NFL's Sean McVay-Doug Pederson debate needs to end, because there's only one right answer

Another week, another list to anger Eagles fans.

On Monday, CBS Sports ranked the Top 10 head coaches in the NFL. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson appeared on the list, at No. 9. Rams head coach Sean McVay appeared at No. 6.

Hmm.

The list received a ton of blowback from Eagles fans for putting McVay ahead of Pederson. Even Eagles defensive back Jalen Mills chimed in Tuesday:

The author eventually released a video explaining his thought process:

Wagner-McGough's desire to have the debate be holistic, and not just a "Ringz!" shouting match, is admirable. But it's also misguided. At one point, he argued online that McVay's "body of work" is better than Pederson's, as if a random Week 7 game matters just as much as a playoff game when evaluating head coaching.

More often than not, great coaches win the big games, and good coaches reach them. Until recently, Andy Reid was the exception, not the rule, but now even Big Red has his trophy. And McVay isn't Reid.

Frankly, the debate over whether Pederson or McVay is a better coach isn't much of a debate.

Does McVay have a better winning percentage? Yep, absolutely. But that's where his advantages begin and end.

Pederson holds the head-to-head advantage against McVay. He also holds the Super Bowl advantage against McVay, and against basically the exact same opponent in back-to-back years.

More recently, the Rams showed major regression in 2019, not just in the win column, but all over their offense. Jared Goff often looked lost and had his worst season since his rookie year, despite retaining all of his major pass-catchers and playmakers from the past two seasons. Moving backwards is never a good sign.

The Eagles had a bumpy 2019 season, plauged with injuries across the board on offense, and yet Carson Wentz showed obvious growth, both on paper and from a leadership perspective. The team won high-pressure games down the stretch to reach the playoffs. Winning big games in the face of adversity, particularly with low-quality talent, is a hallmark of good coaching.

And this is all before factoring in Pederson needing to pilot through the end of 2017 and all of 2018 with a question mark at the quarterback position, the most important position in the game. He managed to coax Hall of Fame play out of Nick Foles, an average-at-best quarterback who wasn't even supposed to be playing. Adaptability and maximizing the hand you're dealt: another hallmark of good coaching.

I tried to see both sides of this debate, but I kept coming up short when it came to McVay. He's a fine coach, but Pederson has proven so far to be the more valuable head coach in basically every category.

We'll see what 2020 brings.

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Rams head coach Sean McVay has had Eagles' number

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Rams head coach Sean McVay has had Eagles' number

When Sean McVay left the Redskins to become head coach of the Rams, the Eagles weren't sad to see him go. But while McVay may be out of the NFC East, he presents a pivotal challenge for the Eagles' defense in Week 14.

McVay was the offensive coordinator in Washington for three seasons, a period during which the Redskins posted a 5-1 record against the Eagles. Simply put, they had no answer for McVay's offense, which averaged 29.3 points per game over that span.

That was the Redskins, who never had an offense finish better than 10th in scoring under McVay. On Sunday, the Eagles will be tasked with slowing the No. 1 scoring offense in the NFL — which is tied only with their own.

The Rams' offense is a talented bunch to begin with. Jared Goff is proving worthy of the first overall draft choice last year. Ranked second with 1,502 yards from scrimmage and tied for first with 11 total touchdowns, running back Todd Gurley is a legitimate MVP candidate. The front office added legitimate weapons at wide receiver in Sammy Watkins, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. The offensive line is among the league's most improved units.

It's also been a remarkable turnaround from last season, when the Rams finished dead last in both scoring offense and total yards, with much of the same personnel in place. McVay's impact is real.

You don't need to tell the Eagles that. In Washington, McVay's offenses averaged 427.0 yards per game in six meetings — 284.3 through the air, 141.0 on the ground. To put those numbers in perspective, the Redskins' offense would've been a top-five unit in all three categories if they played the Eagles every week.

Three times, the Eagles surrendered 493 yards or more of total offense to Washington. Twice, the Redskins gained over 200 yards on the ground alone. The Eagles never held Washington to fewer than 23 points, 305 yards of total offense or 84 yards rushing.

Granted, the Eagles weren't exactly a defensive powerhouse between 2014 and 2015, routinely finishing at or near the bottom of the league in most major categories. Even last season, under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, the defense was middle of the pack.

Times have changed. The Eagles have since transformed into one of the best defenses in the NFL. Schwartz's unit ranks third in total yards allowed (293.2), sixth in points per game (17.9), third in takeaways (22), and No. 1 against the run (68.1) in 2017.

Last season, the Redskins averaged 27.0 points, 413.5 total yards and 163.5 yards on the ground with two total turnovers in two tangos with Scwhartz's defense. Things may not come that easy for McVay this time around.

At least the Eagles hope not. Despite having a division title and a playoff spot all but wrapped up, this will be an important test. Though 10-2, the Eagles have beaten only one team with a winning record. Furthermore, home-field advantage and a first-round bye in the postseason are still on the table, and at 9-3, the Rams are one of the teams vying for both. A loss in Los Angeles would make it extremely difficult for the Eagles to secure either.

Yet, solving McVay's offense may also be easier said than done. The Rams are the best offense the Eagles have seen all season, led by a coach who has had their number in years past.

It's going to be a test of where the Eagles stand in the NFC hierarchy and of the progress they've made as a defense. Because if past experience is any indicator, the matchup with McVay is one that looks worrisome.

How Wade Phillips transformed Rams' D Eagles face Sunday

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How Wade Phillips transformed Rams' D Eagles face Sunday

The Rams have one of the top offenses in the NFL (fourth in total yards, seventh in passing) and quarterback Jared Goff has benefited the most from Sean McVay's exit from the NFC East. Goff is really showing why he was the top pick in last year's draft, but I must say, defense has been a major contributor in the Rams' 9-3 record.
 
First-year defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has total control of the defensive side of the ball. In fact, McVay at times doesn't have a clue during the game what the defense is doing, considering he sits and focuses on the offense.
 
It is really crazy to think about how good this defense is because it is in a transition period ... kind of like what Jim Schwartz struggled through last year. 

Last season, when the Rams' defense was pretty good, they ran a 4-3. Phillips, however, likes to run a 3-4 defense. This is a major change to overcome, especially on the defensive line. The D-line has to totally change its mindset. In a 4-3 defense, the D-linemen line up in the gaps and are responsible for one gap, penetrating the offensive line. Converting to a 3-4 defense causes the D-linemen to become two-gap players. They now line up head-up on an offensive lineman and then hold the offensive lineman because they are responsible for both gaps between the O-linemen.
 
Phillips, in order to take advantage of the strengths of his players, turned his 3-4 defense into a hybrid that takes advantage of his two best players, defensive end Robert Quinn and defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Both of these players are great at attacking and penetrating the O-line. This is totally against the conceptual defensive structure of a 3-4 defensive lineman. The Rams slide the DL into gaps and allow them to penetrate.
 
This hybrid 3-4 defense is very effective for the Rams because they now can line their best player up to force matchups. The key matchup in this game will be Donald, their best, against the Eagles' small but solid center Jason Kelce. Donald is listed at 6-1/300 while Kelce is 6-3/280.

The other key matchup is the very quick end Quinn vs. Lane Johnson. All four players will probably be selected to the Pro Bowl this year. 

This Sunday will be a clash of the titans between the Eagles' best O-linemen and the best the Rams have to offer. This is what Sunday NFL Football is all about.