McMullen: Pederson more qualified than most
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Even in the world filled with hot takes, former NFL general manager Mike Lombardi leveled a doozy at Doug Pederson.
Lombardi, now an analyst for The Ringer and a regular around Philadelphia-media circles in between his stints around the NFL, called the Eagles head coach the least qualified one he's seen over the last 30 years.
“My beloved 76ers once hired a guy by the name of Roy Rubin from Long Island University," Lombardi began, "poor Roy. He finished 4-47 before the Sixers canned him. 4-47 -- Years later, Fred Carter said ‘Letting Rubin coach was like letting a teenager run a big corporation.’"
Then came the pivot from that toward Pederson even if the Philadelphia mentor went 7-9 during his first season with a rookie quarterback [Carson Wentz] who was supposed to be third-string until eight days before the regular season and on top of that had nary a preseason after breaking a rib in the exhibitioner opener.
"Now, everybody knows Pederson isn’t a head coach," Lombardi claimed. "He might be less qualified to coach a team than anyone I’ve ever seen in my 30-plus years in the NFL."
This being Philadelphia, Pederson was asked about the rebuke at his Monday press conference.
“I haven’t seen the article," he claimed. "I’m not sure what you’re talking about. So I don’t pay attention to that."
He then did offer a bit of a defense.
"I mean, listen. I’m confident in what I do," the coach claimed. "[Lombardi's] not in the building. I coach our coaches and coach our players. I think if you ask any one of our players or their assistant coaches, I think they would maybe say something a little bit different. I have not read the article. So I can’t respond to it.”
When told of what Lombardi actually said, Pederson countered: "Somebody here —- Mr. [Jeffrey] Lurie, Howie [Roseman], the guys — thought I was qualified. So, in my opinion, that’s good enough for me. Again, this organization is behind me 100 percent. Again, I think you could ask the guys in the locker room. That’s my concern. That’s my focus.”
Nick Foles is one guy in the locker room who defended his coach.
"I think that's a ridiculous statement from a former GM to make about someone," the backup QB said. "Especially someone like Doug. Coach Pederson has always been an outstanding coach. He was personally my quarterback coach. At that time, we all knew that he was going to eventually be a head coach. It was just a matter of time and continuing to grow and develop under coach [Andy] Reid."
Lombardi's spin was a stunning rebuke but it falls apart using even a modicum of common sense.
Take Sean McVay, the youngest coach in NFL history after being hired by the Los Angles Rams at the tender age of 31 this offseason or Adam Gase, who got the big chair in Miami last year and probably could have had it in Philadelphia when he was 38. Both are regarded as offensive wunderkinds by many around this league.
Conversely, at the age of 36 Pederson hadn't even started his coaching career for a pretty good reason, he was finishing up a 13-year NFL career, time spent learning under names like Shula, Marino, Holmgren, Favre and yes, even Reid.
And let's be clear, Pederson didn't spend over a decade in the NFL because of his skill set, which was as ordinary as it gets. He stuck around because he always knew the system front to back and was considered like an extra coach on the field who could run the entire offense without skipping a beat.
When Reid got to Philadelphia in 1999 he chose Pederson to teach and mentor the face of the franchise, Donovan McNabb, for a reason.
Only in sports is actually engaing in the profession not counted toward experience when discussing coaches.
Over in the NBA Derek Fisher experienced similar blowback when he was tabbed as the New York Knicks coach in 2014. The media excoriated the decision claiming Fisher has no experience despite just watching him finish an 18-year career in which he was the floor leader of some of the best teams of the generation.
They say those who can't do teach and sometimes "they" are wrong.
"I think he's on the right track," Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said when asked about his coach. "He knows and understands that this is a player's league and so a lot of ownership, a lot of the responsibility of wins and losses around here fall on the players.
"He's willing to allow us to have input. ...Those are the things in my experience make really good coaches. I think he is off to a good start."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen