Doug Pederson Explains Why He Feels Eagles Are Headed In The Right Direction

The Eagles' head coach is taking a look at the big picture.

Doug Pederson. (Jeff Fusco)

Doug Pederson. (Jeff Fusco)

Despite suffering a 27-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Monday night, Doug Pederson remained optimistic about his team’s outlook during his post-game press conference. The rookie head coach said he believes the Eagles are still headed in the ‘right direction’ despite sporting a 2-6 record in their last eight games.

“Look at the effort,” said Pederson. “I think you might look at wins and losses. I got to look at the potential of the football team and the guys that we have. Are we there yet? No. Are we heading in the right direction? Yes. Again, it may not show up right now in wins and losses, but I see that potential. I see that there is no quit in this team. Everybody’s fighting to the end. That’s a sign that things are heading the right direction.”

On Monday, Pederson was asked about his ‘right direction’ comments yet again. Why has effort suddenly become the standard of the team’s progress when the Eagles have been in playoff contention all season?

“I just think that … we’ve given ourselves opportunities,” started Pederson in a lengthy response. “If we just make a few more plays, just a couple, one or two more plays, the outcomes are different, and we’re not talking about this right now.

“Yes, I’ll admit, we’re playing with some young guys on offense. These young guys are getting valuable, valuable reps. We had [Halapoulivaati Vaitai] in there for awhile. Now Isaac [Seumalo] is in there. And Wendell [Smallwood], and Carson [Wentz], and these guys, the youth at receiver that are getting valuable reps.”

“Yes, I agree, it may not show on the scoreboard, and it may not show in the wins and losses. I get that. We’re in this business to win games. That’s why we’re here.”

“At the same time, I look at the process. I look at the plan. I use those words because those are words that we use around here, because there is a plan. And there is a process. And you know, you build your team through the draft. You pick up a couple good free agents through the offseason. You continue to work. You watch these young kids develop and turn into ball players and you see the potential.And that’s why when I say that, that’s what I see with these guys.”

“I look at how Seattle has built their team. I look at how the Raiders have built their team. I look at the plan that’s been in place for a lot of teams around the National Football League that are having success in their third, fourth, seventh years.”

“And that’s the direction that we’re heading in. That’s why when I say those comments like that, that’s what I see. I see us three, four years down the road. I see us seven, eight years down the road having consistency that way. And winning more of these games than not.”

Heading into this season, the outside expectations for the Eagles weren’t very high. Philadelphia was coming off a disappointing 7-9 campaign in 2015. Chip Kelly was fired and replaced by Pederson, who was hardly an exciting or overly inspiring hire. Howie Roseman was reinstated as de facto general manager and he made a number of changes to Philadelphia’s roster, including maneuvering to get in position to select Wentz.

The Eagles showed some signs of rebuilding, but it also seemed like they wanted to be competitive in the short-term. That’s what the re-signing of Sam Bradford signaled. Bradford played well in the preseason but then got traded just a week before Week 1 kicked off. Expectations changed because Wentz, a rookie who wasn’t even scheduled to play all year and missed nearly all of preseason due to injury, became the starter.

And then the 3-0 start happened. The Eagles blew out the Steelers, who were seen as a Super Bowl favorite, as Wentz got off to an historically great start to his career. Expectations were adjusted yet again.

But the Eagles weren’t able to sustain their early season success, and now here they sit at 5-6. Pederson isn’t necessarily wrong when he says the team is a few plays away from having a better record. Metrics have indicated the Eagles are better than their record indicates for most of the year. Heading into Week 12, the Birds ranked third in point differential and second in DVOA. The Eagles have had a tough schedule and they’ve lost a lot of close games.

It’s clear that the Eagles are not an elite NFL team, though. They painfully lack talent on the offensive side of the ball. Jim Schwartz’s defense has played well at times this year but it sure didn’t come up big when it mattered a lot in Philadelphia’s loss to the Packers.

The Eagles can’t fix their talent issues right now. Changes will have to be made in the offseason. In the meantime, the Eagles still have five games left, and there’s still a chance they can make the playoffs, though it won’t be easy.

Playoffs or not, Pederson expects to ‘find out a lot about his football team’ in the final games of the 2016 season.

“You just find out who’s going to put forth the effort,” he said. “Who’s going to, sort of, ‘man up’ as they say, and take pride in their jobs and their profession. That’s coaches and players. And listen, that’s not a threat or anything like that.”

“Because that’s what happens. Teams in our situation right now, maybe you’re still on the edge of getting where you want to be at the end of the season, you can kind of go the other way. And it’s not to put any added pressure on anybody, but at the same time I don’t want people to just start tanking it in the last half, the last month of the season. Then you jeopardize injury, you jeopardize injury of another teammate.”

“We all have pride in this and we still want to compete and go out and win football games. That was the message and the challenge to the guys.”

Seeing the Eagles finish the year on a strong note would give more credence to Pederson’s idea that the team is heading in the right direction than if they completely collapse. Given the Eagles’ recent struggles, though, the optimism is dwindling.

EAGLES INJURY UPDATE

Pederson said Ryan Mathews (knee) is day-to-day. Jordan Matthews left the Eagles-Packers game with a right ankle sprain but his x-rays came back negative and he’s expected to play this week against the Bengals.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) is still week-to-week. Brandon Brooks (illness) tweeted he was released from the hospital on Tuesday morning and Pederson confirmed he’s fine. Marcus Smith suffered a left shoulder contusion but should be OK to play.


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