Whenever El Hombre meets new people during his travels and the talk turns to sports, there’s only one question they want to know, other than whether Ben Simmons really is Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Colin Hay all rolled into one: What kind of a coach is Doug Pederson going to be?
It’s a good question, and one that has about as clear an answer as what the next crazy twist will be in the presidential election. (A hunch: Millions of Americans stage a wildcat strike to demand that the election take place on Aug. 8, so they don’t have to withstand three-plus months of campaigning.)
There is one large indication about what Pederson might be like. As some veteran coaching analysts like to say, he has “fallen out of the Andy Reid coaching tree.” That means he will favor a West Coast offensive attack, refuse to assign any public blame to a player, and remind everyone that he “has to do a better job” any time things don’t go perfectly right.
Other than that, we don’t have a lot of data to lead us in any direction, which is why the start of training camp this week is so welcome. Other than rescuing the area from its recent obsession with summer-league basketball, which has as much impact on what will happen during the next NBA season as second-grade math does on whether someone will become an accountant, the start of football practice allows us to learn more about what Pederson will be able to do with a truly flawed Eagles team.
Pederson has promised a more physical camp than what the team experienced during the past three seasons, when Maximum Leader decreed that speed was the most important thing in the world. Mistakes will be corrected on the field. The neighbors won’t have to worry about that loud rock music disturbing their days. And Chase Daniel might be the most important player on the team.
While many of the media and fans are obsessed with whether rookie QB Carson Wentz will be prepared adequately to play this season and if he will receive the same amount of reps as will presumptive starter, the apparently psychologically healed Sam Bradford, Daniel has spent the off-season as the quiet understudy, his head brimming with the vagaries of Pederson’s offense. His job, provided Bradford’s body doesn’t prove this season to be as fragile as his ego in the weeks following draft day, is to stand at the ready on game days and download his knowledge into Wentz’s hard drive the rest of the time.
Wentz is not ready to be a starter on a team that hopes to contend for a division title, and that’s no indictment of his talent. Last year’s top two picks, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, went a combined 9-23 as rookie starters. Asking Wentz to lead the Eagles to the NFC East title is ridiculous. Despite his several shortcomings, Bradford is far more prepared for that job, although that doesn’t guarantee he will succeed.
Wentz should fill the role of the third quarterback willingly, and that’s where his relationship with Daniel will come in. Since Daniel knows the offense, he is a natural to be Bradford’s backup. He lacks the talent of the first-stringer, but he knows what to do on every play. And his presence over the next couple seasons will be a perfect thing for Wentz, who can learn how to play QB in the NFL and in Pederson’s system from someone who did the same thing in Kansas City.
The next several weeks will be quite interesting, as Eagles fans learn about Pederson’s style and Wentz’s role. Both will reveal themselves slowly, and fans should be careful not to be too quick to judge either of them. Football practice has begun, but we’re still a long way from the start of the season. Or the Wentz era.
EL HOMBRE SEZ: It doesn’t matter whether Phillies brass and ownership projects the team to be in contention next season or the year after. It’s time to upgrade the outfield situation. The Cody Asche/Tyler Goeddel/Peter Bourjos triumvirate might not lift a triple-A team into the playoffs. As soon as Arron Altherr completes his rehab assignment, he needs to be in the starting lineup. And if Nick Williams can prove he’ll hustle every day, it’s time for him to get a spot on the big roster. Asche, Goeddel and Bourjos have combined for a meager 12 HR and 53 RBI—a pedestrian season for one player, much less three. It’s time for a change.