Depending on perspective, Doug Pederson’s firing by the Eagles was either shocking or but a logical offshoot of a lost season. Around this time three years ago, he stood on top of the National Football League; he was hailed as a progressive head coach who bested the vaunted Patriots, featuring all-time-great bench tactician Bill Belichick, in the Super Bowl. Now, he’s a declared has-been who supposedly performed so badly as to tarnish the franchise’s singular accomplishment. To his critics, he didn’t simply run his charges down to the ground in the league’s worst division; he did so in a manner that embarrassed all and sundry.
To be sure, the Eagles’ 2020 campaign gave the naysayers plenty of ammunition. Pederson presided over an offense that was its own worst enemy; erstwhile cornerstone Carson Wentz got demoted under controversial circumstances, with the development souring relations to the point where he wants out. Meanwhile, replacement Jalen Hurts wasn’t much better, and, in Week 17, ceded the spotlight to third-string Nate Sudfeld — ostensibly to ensure a loss for draft position. The turn of events preceded a meeting with owner Jeffrey Lurie, who then decided enough was enough.
Perhaps, Pederson would have done things differently, had he known he was making his valedictory. At the very least, he would have been more concerned with the immediate outcome in the Eagles’ set-to against the Washington Football Team. He wouldn’t have made the apparent one-step-back-and-then-two-steps-forward move that earned the ire of purists, not to mention bitter Giants fans. In this regard, the Jets’ experience may well have been instructive; with an inspired Adam Gase bent on giving principals the middle finger on the way out, they notched an unlikely victory against the Rams and, in the process, lost their hold on the top draft pick. Never mind that Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is a certified generational talent for whose absolute tanking is justified.
And so the Eagles find themselves at a crossroads. They have sideline positions to fill, crucial rotation spots to secure, and a future to ponder — all while well over the salary cap. The missteps notwithstanding, Pederson could have presented a semblance of stability in transition. Instead, they’ll be crafting strategy under a storm cloud and making hires with great — and certainly unrealistic — expectations. Winning is hard, but losing this way should have been harder.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.