What seemed like the most draining and tedious head coaching search in history is finally finished. According to Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News, the new head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles will be Doug Pederson.
Pederson, 47, can’t officially be announced as the team’s newest head coach because his current team, the Kansas City Chiefs, are still alive in the NFL playoffs. When they’re eliminated, and there’s probably greater than a 50 percent chance that they lose to the New England Patriots on Saturday, the Eagles can confirm the Pederson news.
There’s a lot we’ll still learn about the Eagles, Pederson and the recently-finished head coaching search. Below are five thoughts I have on the search, Pederson and the future of the Eagles.
1 – The Eagles settled for Doug Pederson out of desperation.
A wild 24 hours saw the Eagles miss out on both Ben McAdoo and Tom Coughlin before finally hiring Doug Pederson. Previously, the Eagles had been linked to Adam Gase, who was hired by Miami. They also expressed interest in Sean Payton and John Harbaugh, although ultimately neither was available. We’ll never know the exact list for the Eagles’ head coach options, but it’s really hard to believe that the Eagles had Pederson at the top of their list. If they did, for example, they wouldn’t have reportedly offered the position to McAdoo or Coughlin. It’s also worth mentioning that not one other team in the NFL had Pederson interview as a head coach. The Eagles were essentially competing with nobody for Pederson. They waited to hire him until they had lost out on their top four, five, six, or fifty options.
2 – Jeffrey Lurie clearly hopes he has the next Andy Reid with Doug Pederson.
At this point, you have to wonder if Jeffrey Lurie wishes he could undo firing Andy Reid. The longest-tenured head coach in Eagles history has three straight winning seasons, plus two postseason berths, with the Kansas City Chiefs, while the Eagles are already on their second head coach since the end of the Reid era. In Reid, Lurie brought in an underqualified candidate, a quarterbacks coach in Green Bay who earned a reputation as one of the brighter offensive minds in the NFL. But Reid, just 41 when he was hired, had never even been a coordinator, making him a very risky candidate. That hiring worked out pretty well, as the Eagles reached the playoffs nine times in 14 seasons before the all-time winningest coach in team history was fired. Whether Pederson can duplicate Reid’s magic remains to be seen, but like Reid, nobody is screaming in excitement at his hiring.
3 – Doug Pederson’s resume is very underqualified for a head coach.
Just seven years ago, Doug Pederson was finishing up his fourth season as a high school coach at Calvary Baptist Academy, a private Christian high school in West Virginia. He earned a spot with the Eagles before the 2009 season as Andy Reid’s offensive quality control coach, typically the position at the bottom of the coaching totem pole. Within two years, Pederson was named the quarterbacks coach, a position he served in 2011 and 2012. He then followed Andy Reid to Kansas City before the 2013 season, where he’s spent the last three seasons as the offensive coordinator. He also hasn’t served as the primary play caller. It’s worth noting that he has called plays at times, but overall he has a very uninspiring resume. One of the big reasons for Pederson’s lack of NFL coaching experience, of course, is the 12 years he spent playing in the league (from 1993 to 2004), although it’s very interesting to me that it wasn’t until his fifth year as a coach that he jumped past the high school level. Reports also surfaced that Reid was really pushing for the Eagles to hire Pederson as their head coach, which makes me wonder how good of a coach Pederson really is if Reid was willing to part with him so easily.
4 – Pederson’s speciality is quarterbacks.
The easiest way to win a Super Bowl in the NFL is developing a franchise quarterback. The Eagles may or may not have one, and if they think they do, they’re going to have to run the risk of handing out a nine-figure salary that could guarantee Sam Bradford at least three or four seasons as the starter. Whether Bradford stays or goes, Pederson will need to help the Eagles find a franchise quarterback, which they’ve been lacking since Donovan McNabb was traded following the 2009 season. A journeyman NFL quarterback for 12 seasons, Pederson learned behind the likes of Dan Marino and Brett Favre. In the NFL, he’s helped to maximize the skillset of Alex Smith, also a former number one overall pick who failed to impress during his first six seasons – like Bradford. Now Smith is an efficient, if unspectacular quarterback, a top-15 talent who, with the right talent around him and a strong defense, just might be able to lead a team to a Super Bowl title.
5 – Quarterback for next season, and beyond, still a complete unknown.
At this point, the odds for the Eagles bringing back Sam Bradford have to be lower than they were a week ago. After all, Chip Kelly is now in San Francisco and one NFL expert has already suggested the possibility of Kelly cutting Kaepernick and bringing in Bradford. A team like Houston could view itself as just a quarterback away from competing for a Super Bowl, while a team like Cleveland could roll with the veteran and use its number two overall pick on the best available player in the draft. Rookie head coaches like bringing in or drafting their own quarterback. Look at some of the recent success stories from around the league: Atlanta with Mike Smith and Matt Ryan in 2008, Baltimore with John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco in 2012, and Indianapolis with Chuck Pagano and Andrew Luck in 2012. Pederson won’t be the general manager but he’ll likely at least have some say in whether the Eagles commit a nine-figure salary to an average, at best, quarterback who he has never worked with. If the Eagles did move on from Bradford, they could look to sign veteran free-agent Chase Daniel, who spent the previous three years learning under Pederson in Kansas City, or they could attempt to swing a trade for a player like Aaron Murray, the fifth-round draft pick by the Chiefs in 2014 who has yet to play a snap in the NFL. Or the Eagles could do what Andy Reid did in 1999, when he had, in a twist of irony, Doug Pederson start nine games before rookie Donovan McNabb took over in November. The Eagles could also use Mark Sanchez as the brief veteran stop gap for a possible rookie like Jared Goff or Carson Wentz.