Eagles Coach Doug Pederson
In early December 1961, St. Louis head coach Pop Ivy resigned after leading the Cardinals to a mediocre 5-7 record. He told the press if a coach does not achieve “the desired results” with the team, it’s best that “a change be made.” But reports soon emerged that he was feuding with owner Walter Wolfner and wanted out.
Rather than anointing one assistant to serve as an interim boss for the final two games of the season, Wolfner gave the job to three aides: the imminently forgettable troika of Chuck Drulis, Ray Prochaska and Ray Willsey. They led the Cards to victories in the final contests, over Dallas and Pittsburgh, and have the distinction of owning the best winning percentage in NFL history.
Next Monday in Chicago, first-year Eagles coach Doug Pederson will have a chance to join those three if the Birds can dump the Bears. After Sunday’s 29-13 dismantling of a truly fetid Clowns team that may not win a game this year, Pederson’s team is atop the NFC East standings and smiling broadly. More importantly, Pederson looked perfectly qualified to lead the Eagles, despite having no head coaching experience and not being the first or second (or, if you believe some reports, third) choice to lead the team after the extraction of Chip Kelly.
The Big Story from the win over Cleveland was Carson Wentz’s performance, which hardly looked rookie-like. Granted, the Browns might have trouble winning the PIAA state title. But Wentz’s passing numbers (22-of-37, 278 yards, 2 TD, 0 int.) were impressive, as was his control of the game. He changed formations, protections and plays at the line, seemed completely in command of the offense and made a variety of throws that actually helped the team’s shaky receiving crew look good.
Heading into the game, it was impossible to have any kind of educated opinion on what kind of coach Pederson would be. And though one contest is hardly a worthy sample to develop an assessment on anything in sports, Eagles fans can feel a lot more confident that Pederson has control of the proceedings. Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the afternoon—besides seeing Wentz lead a TD drive on his first series under center—was watching real NFL football after the few years of college mumbo-jumbo perpetrated by Kelly. The Eagles used actual professional formations, ran the football between the tackles and appeared to give a real hoot about the defense.
It wasn’t a perfect effort, since the Browns averaged 5.7 yards/carry on the ground. But the Birds forced two turnovers, chased Robert Griffin III all over the yard and played the kind of steady football necessary to defeat a lesser team.
It’s too early to figure out how the Birds will do in Chicago next Monday, although the Bears continued their recent bumbling by losing in Houston, a performance marked by another ordinary passing day by overpaid Jay Cutler, who completed just 55 percent of his throws. The Bears will have some real film on Wentz and Pederson, which should help them prepare—but Chicago isn’t very good, either.
As Pederson spends eight days enjoying his perfect coaching record, Eagles fans should have a sense of relief—and growing confidence—that the new coach has a handle on the situation. Fifteen games remain, and a lot can happen—potentially much of it bad. But with Pederson on the cusp of history, it’s a time for Eagles fans to smile.
For a change.
EL HOMBRE SEZ: Reports surfaced this week that the Phillies will invest some money in veteran bats this off-season in an attempt to boost the lineup. They’d better. With Ryan Howard’s gruesome contract’s coming off the books (save a $10 million going-away present), and the annual $250 million in Comcast payments coming, there’s no pecuniary excuse for not spending some dough to improve a limp lineup. Since the Phils didn’t call up prospect J.P. Crawford and Nick Williams, there’s reason to believe they might not possess the kind of big bats needed to boost production next year. It makes sense to let young pitching arms develop, but it’s time to find some real hitters.