Has Doug Pederson Set Expectations too High?
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - While talking with a former NFL executive recently, the topic of how to build a team today's environment came up.
"Obviously it starts at quarterback," the former decision maker told 973espn.com. "Then you build up both lines and the corner positions. You can fill in everything else from there."
In the case of the Eagles, ProFootballFocus.com recently rated Doug Pederson's offensive line as the best in all of football while USA Today ranked the defensive line at No. 3 in the NFL and any objective assessment is going to have both in the top five of what is a 32-team league.
So you can check off two boxes and move on from there where Philadelphia expects vast improvement from second-year quarterback Carson Wentz this season and believes it may have the next incarnation of Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown with rookies Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas.
The talent level of this team has drastically improved since Jeffrey Lurie rebooted the organization and went away from Chip Kelly and back to Howie Roseman, something Pederson alluded to in a wide-ranging interview with reporters after the team's mandatory minicamp last month.
"I look back at my time in Green Bay as a player when we were making those playoff runs and those Super Bowl runs there, and do we have as much talent on this team than we did then? We probably have more talent, right?” Pederson asked rhetorically.
That Green Bay team Pederson was a part of went to the playoffs in six consecutive seasons from 1993 to 1998, a run that included back-to-back trips to the Super Bowl and a Lombardi Trophy with two Hall of Famers defining both sides of the ball, quarterback Brett Favre and defensive end Reggie White.
Elevating expectations to that degree can often be a good thing but placing the bar at a level where Wentz needs to be Favre, Fletcher Cox or Brandon Graham has to be the "Minister of Defense" and Pederson himself has to live up to Mike Holmgren's reputation seems pie-in-the-sky.
And more so, if the Eagles' don't start a Packer-line run, who gets the blame?
“There has to be a combination of blending all of this talent with a coaching staff, with all of my ideas and philosophy to bring that together, with the egos aside.” Pederson assessed.
Perhaps realizing the toothpaste was out of the tube, the coach then retreated back to a more comfortable and realistic path, the idea of compartmentalization.
“Focus on winning the game in front of us," Pederson said. "I’m a big believer that if you do that, then you look back at the end of the season, and you’re probably going to be where you want to be.”
The Eagles have some nice pieces and some others that need to continue to develop. Allowing them to do exactly that without conjuring up the yardsticks of Favre and White is probably the prudent path forward.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen