Doug Pederson Addresses ‘Surrendering’ Eagles’ Play-Calling Duties

Doug Pederson

Getty Eagles head coach Doug Pederson wants another Super Bowl parade.

The biggest gripe with Doug Pederson has been his questionable play-calling. Weird calls. Bizarre decisions.

The Eagles head coach has, perhaps stubbornly, refused to open up the playbook and air it out down the field. His gameplans have been vanilla, conservative to the point of boring with check-downs and short passes. Pederson assembled a collaborative coaching staff this offseason with the intention of getting “more cooks in the kitchen” and drawing on a room full of Elon Musks. Innovators.

He’d call the plays on gameday but be open to input. It hasn’t played out that way, not to outsiders looking in. When Pederson was asked if he’d be open to surrendering the play-calling duties to someone else, he refused to even entertain the idea.

“No. I haven’t. I love doing it. It’s the exciting part for me,” Pederson said. “I get to see the game, obviously, differently as a quarterback and see it kind of through their eyes and through the offense’s eyes, and I haven’t thought about that at all.”

Giving up the play-calling duties is something Pederson’s mentor, Andy Reid, often struggled with during his tenure in Philly. He did so begrudgingly twice — once to Marty Mornhinweg, another time to Brad Childress — when the team was mired in a losing streak. Reid has also been forced to do it in Kansas City, most notably by handing off the responsibility to Pederson.

Sometimes, losing control and taking a step back allows you to see the bigger picture. On Monday, Pederson was asked specifically how he can help Carson Wentz improve after five years in the league. His answer, well, it seems to apply to both his struggling quarterback as well as his tired coaching style.

“I think you’re always learning. I think you’re always growing. I don’t think anybody gets to the point where they’ve got things completely mastered, so to speak,” Pederson said. “Even some of the top quarterbacks would say that, and they’re constantly, I think, getting better. And if you’re not striving to get better, I think you’re going the other way. And we have to make sure that we’re going in the right direction.”

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Pederson Talks About ‘Simplifying’ the Offense

Pederson has pinned a lot of blame for the offense’s struggles this year on outside obstacles, things like injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic. Maybe it’s time for him to take some ownership for the 10th-worst offense in the NFL, statistically speaking. Get creative, think outside the box.

“We have to find ways now to utilize the guys we have as we talked about earlier, creative ways to get these guys open,” Pederson said, “and whether we do that by formations, we do that by motions. We have to continue to coach our young players.”

Yes, you can mention rookies and pinpoint all the tough injuries as he did. It’s not untrue. But Pederson’s constant refusal to let Carson Wentz move around the pocket and make those off-script throws has limited the offense’s full potential. Wentz was a magician during his 2017 MVP campaign and even though he’s not the same quarterback from three years ago — everyone can see something’s wrong — it’s worth a shot.

“We’re leaving touchdowns on the field offensively, and we’re just not executing,” Pederson said. “And those are things that we’re going to really look hard at this week, and if we have to simplify, we’ll simplify. If we have to go up-tempo, we’ll go up-tempo, things that have been successful in the past.”

Put Wentz in more up-tempo and hurry-up situations, let him create on the run. Wentz showed he can use his legs in Week 3 when he busted loose on a 24-yard scramble. He finished with six rushes for 65 yards, plus a rushing touchdown to tie the game. There’s a way to balance all of it without heaping too much pressure on the franchise quarterback. That’s what head coaches get paid to figure out.

“I don’t want to feel like Carson has to put the weight on his shoulders and carry the entire football team,” Pederson said. “One of the things probably that we can rely on maybe a little bit more with Carson is his ability to escape the pocket. Those big plays yesterday came on just that, his ability to extend plays. And we’ve encouraged him to do that.”

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