Friday, January 15, 2016

The Doug Pederson Hire: The Fix Was In

The coach as a young failure
There are times in one's life, as someone who consumes the NFL product, when you wonder what the point of the rules are.

Playoff teams, we are told, can not have their staff hires announced while they are in the playoffs. But what can happen? Well, sources can leak it, which is what appears to be going on here. So, well, OK then. The Eagles have no coach, but they've finished their interviews, and they know who they are going to hire. That guy. Over there. We'll just point at him, kind of, and nod when you say his name, but not say his name ourselves. Because We Follow The Rules.

Pederson is regarded with considerable skepticism by the fan base. He's never been a head coach before. He's been Andy Reid's pet since being brought in as a wholly inadequate stopgap QB before Donovan McNabb got the keys as a rookie. For years, he's been Reid's assistant, and has taken over offensive play calling for the Chiefs this year. So he was in the building from 2009 to 2012, with time spent as the offensive quality control coordinator and QB coach. He worked with Michael Vick, Vince Young and Nick Foles, and also worked with McNabb and Kevin Kolb before getting the QB coach gig.

From that history, we have developed a sense of who Pederson is. Especially when you combine this with the hallmarks of the Chiefs offense. Short throws, West Coast concepts, over-reliance on passing, rudimentary concepts, and basically, Jeff Lurie trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube and re-hire a younger, slimmer and less run-down Andy Reid. The only thing keeping many from open revolt is (a) even late era Reid seems good compared to Nero Kelly's end, and (b) the coaching candidates this year was just a festival of meh.

To which, the following points.

1) Why did this have to happen so fast?

The draft isn't for months, and summer camp, a while past that. You mean to tell me that the NFL season is so 24/7/365 that having a guy in the office for an extra week in January is going to manifest in wins and losses later?

2) Why did the search have to exclude, well, the other seven playoff teams?

I'm not saying that Josh McDaniels from New England or Sean McDermott from Carolina are going to be better head coaches. If we all knew what made for a good head coach, this entire enterprise wouldn't seem so pointless. But what I am wondering is...

3) Was this really an open position?

Tom Coughlin withdrew his name from consideration, probably because he sensed that the fix was in and wanted to make it look like it was his call, not the team's. Hue Jackson never comes to town, and the club let Adam Gase leave after his interview. Sources peed all over poor Duce Staley as Rooney Rule tokenism, not that any ex-RB ever becomes a head coach. Pat Shurmur is probably a courtesy interview only, because he was your interim guy. He may or may not keep an OC gig, depending on whether Pederson and the front office decide to buy in on QB Sam Bradford. (If Pederson is truly looking for another Alex Smith, maybe not; Bradford isn't terribly mobile, as we've noted. I'm not sure there's another Smith type on the market, not because Smith is all that special, but because QBs are just impossible to seemingly staff right now. Anyway.)

Finally, this. If Lurie's takeaway from the Kelly debacle is that he was wrong to go all-in, then the damage that's been done by the fraud isn't just going to extend to the 2-3 year window of most NFL dumpster fires. Instead, it's going to be with the club until the man goes off to that great windmill in the sky.

Reid got to be the best coach in franchise history by coinciding his time with DC Jim Johnson, and running roughshod over a down period in the NFC. Once Johnson started to fade and the NFC picked up with more contenders than just the occasional NFC South team that got hot at the right time, the club leveled off to NFC lEast pretender, with no playoff wins during the Obama Administration. Whether that was a matter of Johnson's passing, Reid losing his joie de vie following his family tragedies, or just what happens when QB1 gets hurt and the defense never replaces S Brian Dawkins, it's all pretty much water under the bridge. The point is that Lurie had the success that he had going all-in with Reid, just as he had some success in the first half of all-in with Kelly.

Success in the NFL doesn't come with iron clad rules. You don't have to have a Magic Dictator Strongman, a la Bill Belichick. You don't have to have Super Savvy GM, a la Ozzie Newsom, or hire the perfect retread coach, as with Seattle and Pete Carroll, or Arizona with Bruce Arians. Even my preferred method, which is to go hard with no life young guy a la Mike Tomlin, has its limits, because plenty of those guys don't do squat, either.

What is true with all winning hires is that the team commits to the coach's vision, if not his ideas on drafting, trades and free agency. Half-measures, making sure everyone gets along with Lurie's pet Howie, and a premium being put on everyone being super nice to each other... is just throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Kelly not making nice with the Philly media was his only endearing quality, honestly.

So, welcome, Doug Pederson. My deepest hope is that the fact that no one's very thrilled to have you here means you'll work out great, since everyone was fully bought into Kelly, and you are the ultimate Not Kelly. I'm sure that we can all get behind fewer turnovers and putting the defense in a better position to succeed.

But if the ceiling is now 10 wins and an easy playoff out with Game Manager QB making vanilla throws in a very established offensive philosophy that has been run in the NFL for decades, while everyone feels good about how professional everything is now, and how everyone likes each other?

Well... you wouldn't happen to know someone who can convince Lurie to sell the club, would you? Since he's only got two settings, and both of them go nowhere?

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