McMullen: Having Doug Pederson is Still a Positive for Eagles
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - There have been two extremes with Doug Pederson -- the innovative, Super Bowl-winning coach who is a step ahead of almost all of his peers or the overmatched clod Mike Lombardi once described as the least prepared NFL mentor in years.
As with most things in life the truth ties in between the two extremes. Think of it like politics where the wingnuts on both sides of the aisle scream and make the most noise while trying to rationalize irrational beliefs versus the pragmatic in the center who try to navigate the day in the best way they can.
On that sliding scale Eagles fans can rest assured that Pederson is at least closer to the Super Bowl genius than Lombardi's strawman, however.
Pederson flashed that on Monday with the chum in bloodied water after the "Fearless" coach played it safe in North Texas and watched his gassed defense fall to the Cowboys in overtime, a setback that nearly crippled the franchise's playoff hopes this season at least for about 24 hours when the Minnesota Vikings' ineptitude carved out another potential path.
Pederson wasn't a shrinking violet against Dallas. In fact, he had the same thought many had after the Eagles were in position to take the lead with a two-point conversion: a defense that was leaking oil. His thought process was a little more layered, however, after Carson Wentz found Darren Sproles for a 6-yard score with 1:39 left in regulation.
"I can't just look at one situation. I have to look at the entire pie," Pederson explained.
So why try to tie it with Jake Elliott, who already missed one PAT, instead of riding the momentum to a potential one-point lead?
"I got a report on this. I can't off the top of my head think of exactly the numbers, but everything was in favor of going for one," the coach said. "We had the discussion on the field during the penalty timeout, so to speak, to make that decision. And with Dallas having a minute and 39 seconds I think left with two timeouts, it changes. Follow me here, okay? Two situations. [The first is] go for two. Obviously, you make the two-point conversion and you're up one, right? Dallas has two timeouts and every down available to stay on the field and kick the game-winning field goal, right? Obviously, if we don't make it, chances are game is probably over, right?
"[The second situation is] we kick it, we tie. Now Dallas still has two timeouts. Now, they're not as likely to go for it on fourth down, right? There is a chance now fourth-and-8 that they say, “You know what? We're going to punt the football.” We only have one timeout at the time with maybe no time left and you're still playing for overtime."
In simpler terms, if Dallas is losing it has to use all four downs against that same gassed defense, increasing the odds of scoring versus a third-down stop getting the Eagles to overtime and a coin toss that has a 50/50 chance of going in a positive direction and putting the game in the hands of the Eagles offense.
The opposite occurred of course and the Cowboys went on a clock-siphoning walk-off drive to win it with had the second-guessers out, some who tried to equate it to a previous third-quarter situation in Carolina last season.
"We can spin this thing a hundred different ways. I mean, I don't know. I still stand by my decision," Pederson said. "... In those situations, end-of-game situations, are different than third-quarter situations. They are totally different. So we played the percentages at the end of the game, right? And quite frankly, gave us the best chance of winning that game."
Sometimes in sports you make the right decision and you get the wrong outcome and sometimes you make the wrong decision and you get a positive result. That's hard for many people to wrap their heads around but over a larger sample size, the good decisions are always going to win out.
Generally, Pederson makes thoughtful decisions and that's half the battle, something Eagles fans should take comfort in.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen