Until the Eagles made the long overdue decision to put Jalen Hurts on the field and Carson Wentz on the bench, Philly fans, and seemingly Jeffrey Lurie, were getting ready to close the book on Doug Pederson’s Eagles tenure. Throughout the season he had shown an unwillingness to adapt to circumstances, a stubbornness in his play-calling and decision making, and frankly, at least a little bit of indifference.
Now that Hurts has provided the “spark” Doug had hoped he would, the offense looks invigorated and the play-calling all of the sudden seems clever and creative. A lot has been made over the past couple of weeks about Doug’s record with Wentz (35-33-1) and without him (12-3 now in meaningful games).
This suggests one of two things: Either Carson Wentz is consistently worse than his backup quarterback, or Doug and Carson simply can’t work together. Either situation is an absolute disaster for Pederson.
When he was hired as a relatively unknown and at the time inexperienced coach in the NFL, Pederson made it clear that he was “married to” his second overall pick in Wentz. Despite his overwhelming success when in the ear of other quarterbacks, he was correct in that statement in 2016, and Wentz’s fall from grace is as big an indictment on Doug as it is on Wentz himself.
While it’s easy to look at these last two weeks and think to yourself that Doug and Jalen Hurts will be different and that they can compliment each other better than Doug and Carson ever could, we have to ask ourselves if we trust Doug to get the most out of Hurts on a day to day basis while also developing his skillset on a year to year basis.
Carson Wentz at certain points in his career looked as talented and dedicated as any quarterback in the league. It’s very likely given the history of quarterback draft position that Hurts never reaches the heights Wentz did and that he is not as gifted. While I’m ecstatic with what we’ve seen from him thus far, developing Hurts into a top-10 QB for the considerable future will be harder than doing the same for a second overall draft selection.
As Doug said to 49ers GM John Lynch before a game in Wentz’s only truly elite season, Carson is (was) a pro. He lauded his preparation and football IQ and bragged that the Eagles were lucky to have him in the building, but he added a stipulation: “as long as we don’t screw him up, right?”
Well, Carson got screwed up in a way that nobody could have predicted and his fall from grace has been borderline unprecedented. There is nothing more crucial to the success of a football team than quarterback play that can be relied upon. It doesn’t have to be elite play, but each and every week NFL teams need to take the field knowing their quarterback will at least put them in a position to win a ball-game.
Too many times this year, Carson’s play has borderline singlehandedly cost this team the chance to win games, and equally as many times, Doug has been either unable or unwilling to adjust his game-plan to work around his quarterback’s many flaws and make his life any easier.
What we’ve seen from Jalen Hurts in his 5 halves of NFL football is promising, but I am completely unwilling to give Doug Pederson the opportunity to groom him given what he and admittedly the rest of this organization did to Wentz.
Doug is only one piece of the puzzle that explains Carson’s collapse. The front office has done an abysmal job of building a team around him and everyone on the personnel side of things should be let go too. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem Jeffrey Lurie will be willing to part with Howie Roseman just yet, despite, in my mind, several fireable offenses over the past 18 months.
Regardless of anything else that has happened in Doug’s tenure, his job description included Carson Wentz. It was his responsibility to get everything he could out of the young quarterback and in doing so position the team for a decade plus of success.
He has woefully failed in that task, and he can’t be allowed a second-chance in Hurts. Developing a young quarterback is a tall order for any head coach, made even taller by Hurts’s particular skillset and flaws as a player. Whoever is in charge of Jalen Hurts’s development has to have a track record of producing good to great NFL quarterbacks. Doug on the other hand has a track record of turning good quarterbacks into barely even NFL starters.
Doug seems to have great command of a locker room, he wins crucial games constantly, and his boldness and decision making in the past led to the greatest moment in Eagles franchise history. As someone whose dying words may very well be “go for it, coward” I came into this season one of the biggest Doug fans on the planet.
That said, this season he has made at best some questionable decisions on fourth down, he was unable to adjust his play-calling at all for the strengths and weaknesses of his quarterback, and his choice to not play Travis Fulgham more down the stretch drives me absolutely mental every second of every day.
Every coach perhaps barring Bill Belichick has legitimate flaws that can cost teams games. Doug has proven himself over his five years to be at the very least competent. The problem is that the challenge he now faces is a difficult one and one that he has already miserably failed in the past.
The single quickest way for the Eagles to get back to competing at a high level is either Carson returning to his 2017 form which seems highly unlikely, or Jalen Hurts becoming a top 12 or so quarterback. The bottom line is that despite all the things Doug does well, and there are several, I simply can’t entrust another young quarterback into his hands for the long-term future.
If the Eagles are going to give Jalen Hurts a shot to be their franchise quarterback as I believe they will, they owe it to him to give him a head coach and a supporting staff that has had success developing up-and-coming flawed quarterbacks into stars in the past. Doug Pederson has quite literally done the opposite and the stakes are too high to allow him to fail again.