Saturday, June 12, 2021

How Doug Pederson Revived The Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles have had a very rich history. Whether it’s Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, or Nick Foles the Eagles have seemingly always had a strong QB to lead them through the fire. And whether it’s been Brian Westbrook or LeSean McCoy in the backfield, the Eagles have always had a strong rushing attack to pair with their aerial game.

From the days of Andy Reid to Chip Kelly the Eagles have been a thorn in the side of NFC East and NFL teams alike, but they could never conquer the final hurdle. Which was winning a Super Bowl, of course.

This held true until a man named Doug Pederson got his hands on this talented, but underperforming roster. But we’ll get to that in a bit.


Andy Reid Era

After a horrifying season where the Eagles went 3-13, the Philadelphia Eagles fired head coach Ray Rhodes and decided to go a new direction. After masterful work with Brett Favre as an assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers, Andy Reid was hired to be the new head coach of the Eagles.

Reid’s tenure in Philly began with a bit of a rocky start with the Eagles going 5-11 behind starting QB Doug Pederson (that’s right). Despite the Eagles spending the 2nd overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft on QB Donovan McNabb, they played Pederson for a majority of the year which in effect lead to the tumultuous season.

The turn of the century marked a new era for the Philadelphia Eagles. After implementing Donovan McNabb as the starting QB, Reid and the Eagles went 11-5, making it all the way to the divisional round before losing to the New York Giants. A successful season in which McNabb finished 2nd in MVP voting.

And from there onwards Andy Reid and the Eagles went on to have tremendous success. In Reid’s 14 years with the Eagles, they had 9 playoff appearances, 6 division titles, 5 NFC conference championship appearances, and 1 Super Bowl appearance.

Reid’s team were fantastic on offense, defense, special teams, everything. All aspects of the Eagles were boasted by the presence of Andy Reid. Reid was a big Xs and Os guy, one of the most creative play callers in the game. He got maximum productivity out of his players, especially from the quarterback position.

Reid became a QB whisper, funneling the best out his QBs year in and year out. After almost a decade of sustained productivity out of Donovan McNabb, Reid revived former star QB Michael Vick’s career on the Eagles.

Reid did a fabulous job with his running backs as well. Brian Westbrook established himself as one of the best running backs in Eagles’ history playing in Andy Reid’s scheme. But as Westbrook faltered, Reid seamlessly integrated LeSean “Shady” McCoy into his offense who ended up being one of the most electric players in the NFL.

Andy Reid quickly rose to the highest ranks of NFL coaches, an absolute mastermind of a coach. The turn of the decade did not provide well for Reid however. After a .500 season in 2011, the Eagles went on to win only 4 games in 2012, the lowest of Reid’s coaching tenure.

After the Eagles disappointing 2012 season, the Eagles made the heartbreaking decision to fire Andy Reid and move in a new direction. The end of an era in Philly.


The Philadelphia Ducks

2013 brought excitement to Eagles and NFL fans alike. Shortly after Andy Reid’s firing, the Eagles decided to hire one of the most highly touted college coaches in the country, Chip Kelly. Kelly was said to be an offensive mastermind for the Oregon Ducks, bringing him would reignite this Philly team.

Despite Kelly’s college success, many analysts doubted whether the “Chip Kelly System” would sustain its success in the NFL. With much better defensive players and schemes, the questions surrounding Kelly’s system were fair. Still, the Eagles found enough promise in Chip Kelly to hire him as their head coach.

And oh boy did they get it right. Chip Kelly had this franchise take a complete 180º in his first year. Kelly led this Eagles squad to 10-6 with a playoff berth. The Eagles were one of the best offenses in the league. Chip Kelly’s scheme dusted NFL defenses as they had no idea how to defend it.

Kelly brought the best out of this offense. Star running back LeSean McCoy had a bounce-back season where he led the NFL in rushing yards with 1607 along with his jaw-dropping 2146 yards from scrimmage and 11 total TDs. Speedster WR DeSean Jackson had his best season, posting career highs across the board with 82 receptions, 1332 yards, and 9 TDs.

There was perhaps no bigger beneficiary than QB Nick Foles. While Michael Vick was hyped up all offseason as a “perfect fit” for Chip Kelly, it was Foles who stole the spotlight. The sophomore QB out of Arizona took over as the starter after an early-season injury to Vick knocked him out.

Foles was a perfect fit for Chip Kelly throwing for a picture esque 27:2 TD to INT ratio in 10 games. He set the NFL record for TD/INT ratio and was a shade below Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning for the single-season record for passer rating.

The Eagles made the playoffs for the first time since 2010 and despite a tough loss to the New Orleans Saints in the wildcard round, the arrow was pointing up for Chip Kelly and the Eagles alike.

The Chip Kelly System took the NFL by storm. His up-tempo scheme had the defensive lineman with their hands on their hips gasping for air. The Eagles were dead last in time of possession, but that could be attributed to the fact that they ran their plays so quickly. Kelly’s goal was to run a play every 15 seconds.

Most people believe Chip Kelly’s system is solely based on the run, but that simply isn’t true. The Eagles didn’t just line up in the I formation and play power football. Kelly’s Eagles ran the spread offense, they generally had 3 or 4 receivers lined up in an effort to keep defenders out of the box for easier running lanes.

Kelly’s scheme required a mobile QB who was able to run option plays where the QB would hand off the ball to the RB or keep it himself and run. Chip Kelly’s scheme feasted off of defenses getting tired, which made running the ball that much easier. This led to huge numbers in the run game evidenced by the Eagles leading the NFL in rushing yards in 2013.

The Eagles played plenty out of the shotgun and pistol, handing the ball off on draws and sweeps primarily, running east & west rather than north & south. This played perfectly into the hands of RB LeSean McCoy who loved to get out on the edge.

Kelly ran the ball in a plethora of ways, zone runs, power runs, etc. A big aspect of the offense was using these runs to get play action passes down the field. The deep ball was a huge aspect of this offense. Kelly also loved using strictly one tight end. Kelly loved his spread offense and it worked in seemingly worked in every which way.

The very next year Chip Kelly made the stunning decision to release no. 1 WR DeSean Jackson, who just had a career year in Year I under Chip Kelly. Although he was bred to be a star, analysts agreed Jackson was not a real no. 1 WR, he was too small to make contested catches and move the chains when need be. He was best served as a complimentary speedster for another team.

Although a heartbreaking move for Eagles fans, Kelly received the benefit of the doubt getting rid of Jackson in spite of a stellar 1st year. It made more sense considering no. 1 WR Jeremy Maclin was returning after a torn ACL derailed his entire 2013.

2014 was more of the same for the Eagles on offense. Maclin set career highs across the board with his 85-1318-10 season as the alpha receiver for Chip Kelly. LeSean McCoy continued his elite production in the backfield. And despite Nick Foles injury woes, Chip Kelly sustained his offense by (sort of) reviving Mark Sanchez’s career bringing the best out of the memeable QB.

While Philly still sustained success on offense, it was a struggling defense that kept the Eagles at 10-6 which had them barely missing the playoffs that season. The Eagles just needed to tweak a few things on defense and they would be fine, yeaaaah not so much.

2015 spelt absolute chaos for Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles. After Kelly got the rights over all roster decisions, he grew mad with power. Kelly did his best Bill Belichick impression by making all the moves nobody ever thought of, but also ones nobody ever should.

It started with releasing OG Todd Herremans, who excelled as a run blocker in Chip Kelly’s scheme. Next, Kelly decides to cut Trent Cole, one of the best pass rushers in the league. Two moves that made at least some sense given their contract situation and advanced age.

In an effort to shore up a weak secondary, Kelly hands a 6 year $63 million contract to “wannabe” no. 1 corner Byron Maxwell. Maxwell was a big, physical corner who shined in Seattle opposite of shutdown corner Richard Sherman while playing in Pete Carroll’s CB friendly defensive scheme.

After 2 years of elite production from elite RB LeSean McCoy, Kelly decides to ship him off. Absolutely absurd. Kelly traded the star RB for MLB Kiko Alonso, the former defensive rookie of the year in 2013 who was coming off a torn ACL which forced him to miss all of 2014. And not to mention, Alonso played for Kelly in Oregon (hint, hint).

Then to continue the mind-boggling offseason, Kelly hands DeMarco Murray a 5 year $40 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. Although Murray led the league in rushing yards in 2014, he handled a whopping 450 touches and was clearly on the verge of breaking down.

Chip Kelly refused to pay no. 1 WR Jeremy Maclin, letting him escape to Kansas City and reunite with Andy Reid. Kelly decided to implement “wannabe” no. 1 WR Jordan Matthews as the alpha receiver in his offense.

And then the most shocking move came. Nick Foles excelled in Chip Kelly’s scheme and Kelly decides to trade him away to the St. Louis Rams for former no. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford. Bradford flashed promise his first few years in the league, but was oft-injured and never put together consistent stats. NFL fans were stunned.

But even with the most irregular of offseasons, Chip Kelly earned the benefit of the doubt (I guess?).

Sufficeth to say, the 2015 Eagles was a dumpster fire. The Eagles went 7-9 with none of Chip Kelly’s moves paying dividends. Everyone he acquired struggled. LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin went on to have fantastic seasons. Chip Kelly managed to piss everyone off.

So after week 16 of the regular season, the Eagles fired Chip Kelly without even letting him finish out the season, a statement from Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie.


Year I Under Doug Pederson

After being hired as the offensive quality control coach for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009, Doug Pederson was promoted to quarterbacks coach in 2011. When Andy Reid was fired in 2012 and joined the KC Chiefs in 2013, Doug Pederson followed Reid to KC where Pederson was named the offensive coordinator for the Chiefs.

After a few successful years in KC, Pederson circled back Philly in 2016 when he was named the head coach of the Eagles replacing Chip Kelly.

Soon after that GM Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson began to clean up Chip Kelly’s mistakes. Roseman traded away DeMarco Murray, Kiko Alonso, and Byron Maxwell. All players that were overpaid and underperforming.

Howie Roseman made a bold decision to give up a myriad of picks to trade for the no. 2 overall and swoop up QB Carson Wentz, the relatively unknown commodity out of North Dakota State.

Then right before the season began, Roseman opportunistically traded away bust QB Sam Bradford for a 1st round pick to an over-anxious Minnesota Vikings who had just lost Teddy Bridgewater to a season-ending injury.

With a renovated roster under their belt, the Eagles kicked off the 2016 season. With Sam Bradford shipped off to Minnesota, the Eagles were primed with Carson Wentz at the helm and a complete overhaul on offense.

The Eagles started off hot. With Wentz at the forefront, Philly started the season 3-0, one of the pleasant surprises of the league. But after a strong beginning, it spiraled downward from there. As the Eagles struggled on both sides of the ball they went 4-9 to end the season skidding to a division-worst 7-9 on the year.

While Wentz showed promise at times, his uneven season had him at a 14:12 TD to INT ratio. But looking back at the season, there were many things to blame for this puzzling season.

I’ll be honest, I was not a fan of Doug Pederson his first year. Coming from Kansas City, Pederson tailored an offense as if he still had ultra-conservative Alex Smith throwing the ball. Screens, short throws, hitches were all a heavy part of this offense with Pederson rarely dialing up the deep ball.

Taking a second look, you see the real problem with the Eagles. Carson Wentz is a big, mobile QB who has a fantastic arm and makes great decisions. He was consistently under pressure with a subpar offensive line. The same offensive line provided a weak run game for Wentz to play off of.

The Eagles’ receivers struggled. They couldn’t gain separation, dropped passes, failed to get open. Wentz made a plethora of tough passes, hitting tight windows that very few QBs could, but a weak supporting cast and offensive line doomed him. Pederson did his best with play calling, but a lack of weapons crippled this offense.

This was a perfect example of how Wentz’s receivers let him down in 2018. On 3rd & 5 the Eagles are just looking to pick up a 1st down and move the chains. Pederson dials up a perfect curl route near the sticks for Dorial Green-Beckham. Wentz sees that CB Xavier Rhodes turned his back and throws a perfect back shoulder pass to Green-Beckham.

Green-Beckham shows a lack of awareness on this play. He turns around not expecting the ball, puts up his hands late, and the ball simply bounces off his hands. The back shoulder is the toughest throw in the NFL as it requires perfect chemistry between QB-receiver. The Eagles’ receivers messed up on several catches just like this one throughout the season.

Here you see RB Darren Sproles running a flat route as he matches up on a Vikings linebacker. This is a matchup Sproles will win 10 out of 10 times. If Sproles catches the ball, it’s almost certainly a 1st down on the catch and run. In this play, Sproles has a step on the Vikings defender and Wentz hits him perfectly in stride, but Sproles simply drops the ball. A theme far too common for the Eagles in 2016.

On 3rd & 2, Pederson dials up the perfect play. Lining up in a heavy I formation, the Eagles place 3 tight ends on the field getting the Vikings to think run. The Eagles run a play action pass and the Vikings sell out for the run. Trey Burton slips across the formation and flashes wide open for Carson Wentz to hit him on the bootleg. And like a perfect script, Burton drops the pass for the would be 1st down. Drops like this on crucial plays made it hard to sustain drives.

Here we see the brilliance of Carson Wentz. A bad snap by the center places the ball in an undesirable location which leads to a botched snap where Wentz fumbles the ball. But instead of panicking Wentz picks up the ball and extends the play. He starts running to his right before seeing a wide open Darren Sproles flash open. Wentz, who is excellent at throwing on the run, hits Sproles on the numbers who runs for a 19 yard gain. Wentz shows off what he brought to this offense, a hard-nosed player who could make something out of nothing.

Carson Wentz had his share of mistakes in the season, several bad passes into double, triple teams were no one’s fault but himself. But all in all, a weak run game, offensive line, and supporting cast drowned Wentz’s chance of success his rookie year as well as Doug Pederson’s chances of proving himself.


Pure Domination

As 2017 came about, the Eagles knew something needed to change. It started with Alshon Jeffery. Philly handed the former Chicago star WR a substantial 1 year $14 million contract to be their no. 1 WR. The Eagles then signed speedster Torrey Smith to a 3 year $15 million contract to bookend Jeffery. Together Jeffery, Smith, and former 1st round pick Nelson Agholor were to form a strong trio at WR.

Sufficeth to say, 2017 was a major success. Now with a strong supporting cast, Wentz had an MVP caliber season throwing 3296 yards with 33 TDs to only 7 INTs in only 13 games. Zach Ertz developed into one of the best tight ends in the NFL and WR Nelson Agholor took a big step forward.

The Eagles boasted the best offensive line in the NFL. Jason Peters and Lane Johnson formed the best tackle tandem in the NFL with Jason Kelce rating as one of the best centers in the country. RG Brandon Brooks was top 5 at his position and LG Stefen Wisniewski had a solid season.

The Eagles ran an RBBC with great success. Whether it was LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, or Wendell Smallwood, the Eagles ran the ball with immense success. 2017 had the Eagles 3rd in rushing yards.

With a fully loaded offense, the question marks were on the defensive side of the ball. But the Eagles extinguished those doubts quickly. Philly had the best and deepest front seven in the NFL that featured Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Nigel Bradham, and many more studs.

The Eagles allowed the least rushing yards in the NFL, they won the battles in the trenches. While they gave up more yards than desired through the air, the Eagles were the 4th best scoring defense in 2017.

The Eagles went 11-2 in their first 13 games with Carson Wentz playing on cloud nine. Then devastation occurred when Wentz went down with a torn ACL against the LA Rams in week 14. While it certainly hurt their Super Bowl chances, an elite offensive line, weapons, run game, and defense was sure to keep the Eagles afloat as a legitimate SB contender.

Foles struggled mightily to end the season, but Doug Pederson prevails. Nick Foles went on to have a marvelous post season. He threw for 971 yards with 6 TDs to only 1 INT across 3 games. A fantastic run that ended with a Super Bowl victory for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Pederson certainly had his impact on this well-rounded team. Pederson’s offensive scheme allowed for this team to excel, especially the QBs. One of Pederson’s biggest aspects for his offense is the RPOs (Run Pass Option). Giving his QB the freedom to make the decision of either running the ball or passing gives serious versatility to the QB.

Doug Pederson led his team to a Super Bowl. Despite losing one of the best QBs in the game, Pederson was able to score a championship behind one of the most talented and deepest rosters in the NFL.

2018 and Beyond

With almost an identical roster from the year before, Eagles are set up as Super Bowl contenders once again in 2018. With Carson Wentz still not healthy, Nick Foles has been starting for the Eagles. With Foles’ struggles, Wentz can’t come back any faster.

With the Eagles still holding onto the league’s best offensive line, an elite defense, and a strong receiving corps the sky’s the ceiling for this team. Doug Pederson has already established himself as one of the brightest minds in coaching. With Carson Wentz returning and Doug Pederson coaching, this Eagles’ team has just as a good a chance as anyone to take home another Lombardi trophy.

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