The Points After: Angry Doug Last Resort For Bumbling Birds
Throughout the course of his five-year head coaching career, we've seen different versions of Doug Pederson. There's aggressive Doug, who keeps the offense on the field when others play it safer, and who goes for 2 sometimes based on analytics, sometimes based on gut. There's gosh-golly-gee Doug, who struggles to find the right answers in press conferences and occasionally stumbles over his words. And there's comforting, nurturing (and sometimes naive) Doug, who – bless his heart – publicly defends his embattled players and coaches, only to sometimes discover that upper management had already closed the doors on those very same individuals that he backed. The variations of Doug Pederson are essentially manifestations of the same person; he's generally honest – more than most head coaches – and has never shied from discussing his aggressive tactics. When times are tough, and they've been rigorous each year since 2017, Pederson has stood by his team, supported his walking wounded, and watched as the Eagles validated his calming approach by reversing their misfortunes to rally into the postseason. But 2020 has clearly presented unique challenges and unfamiliar terrain. At 3-5-1, the Eagles aren't just an embattled team hoping for the return of some injured saviors to provide the life preserver on a fleeting season. They're a lost, hapless, dysfunctional assembly with no semblance of an identity. Whatever coaching points are being drilled aren't being heeded, evidenced by the similar pattern of miscues and breakdowns occurring on a weekly basis. This downward-spiraling season has a more ominous feel than from the last two years, which explains why there's a different image being presented from the man most responsible for supplying the tourniquet to this wound. Gosh-gee-golly Doug has suddenly been replaced by angry, defiant Doug, the coach who uses not-so-veiled language code to signal messages to underperforming players and coaches, the sarcastic spin doctor who's clashing with reporters, looking to pick fights even where ones don't exist. Going into the bye, Pederson struck a more serious chord about the team's habitual turnovers while his quarterback danced around the problem, insisting upon staying aggressive even as fumbles and interceptions stockpiled. Pederson then held a Wednesday practice during the bye week, another display that cut against the coach's prior grain of backing off his beleaguered group. And after emerging from the bye with another perplexing effort – a lifeless, 27-17 loss to the Giants – "Angry Doug" resurfaced, chewing his team out in the postgame locker room, according to two team sources. "Angry Doug" stayed true to form Monday during his press conference, dismissing one reporter's inquiry about Jalen Hurts' usage by sardonically remarking that he'd "look into" the reporter's "great idea." Pederson challenged another reporter's question about botched snaps and interrupting a different reporter three times before the question could be asked to openly gush about the reporter's observation that Pederson ran the ball more than usual. "I'm honored," Pederson chortled, before finally letting the reporter finish the question. This isn't Pederson's normal modus operandi, and it's fair to wonder if this presentation is a dog-and-pony show that reveals a foundation cracking at its core, or if Angry Doug is the alternative voice the Eagles need to screech back to Earth. It's often said that even good coaches eventually lose their voice in the locker room, so perhaps this is Pederson's attempt at changing the voice instead of presenting owner Jeffrey Lurie with another reason to change the coach.
What's also clear is that Pederson doesn't view himself as the root of team's struggles. He's not surrendering play calling, he's not second-guessing his play book, and his summaries of what's gone wrong suggest that peers aren't performing to their best abilities. When asked about his play calling against the Giants, Pederson said he felt he was "in rhythm," an interesting characterization given the team's goose egg on nine third-down attempts.
He then, unprompted, brought up the head coach/quarterback relationship, noting it's important that both are on the same page. Wentz didn't turn the ball over for the first time this season but sailed several passes high and completed just 56 percent of his passes. Pederson continued by noting that he always hopes to put players in position to succeed, a remark that seemingly suggested that he leads the horse to water but can't make it drink.
Asked how he could be mad at the team's loss yet satisfied with play calling, Pederson spoke about the week of preparation and "things that go on" that he had to "deal with," noting they could be "practice-related or off-the-field issues and different things..." Pederson then said he's asked himself what he can do to improve, but also has asked, "How can I coach my coaches better?" – another seemingly-veiled implication that the proper weight isn't being pulled by coaches not named Pederson. Angry Doug, brash, defiant and arrogant, is a new phenomenon. It's also the last resort for team that's somehow still clinging to a first-place lead while hanging by its fingernails to avoid plummeting down a destructive cliff.
In A Snap
Alshon Jeffery played 18 snaps against the Giants, finishing without a catch. To make room for him on the active roster, the Eagles made J.J. Arcega-Whiteside inactive for the game. If the Eagles continue to work Jeffery into the offense, Arcega-Whiteside will likely continue to be inactive. If you're scoring at home, that means the Eagles are getting no production from last year's first-round pick (injured left tackle Andre Dillard) and from their second of two second-round picks (Arcega-Whiteside was drafted 57th overall) in 2019, along with very little production from this year's second-round pick (Jalen Hurts) and virtually nothing from third-round pick Davion Taylor, who played three snaps on defense against the Giants. Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the "Inside the Birds" podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com. Listen to the latest Inside The Birds podcast with Adam Caplan and Geoff Mosher: