‘Unorthodox’ or not, Pederson Strives to Make Players Better
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Unorthodox is defined as something that is contrary to what is usual, traditional, or accepted and its the adjective Frank Reich pulled out earlier this week when he was asked to describe his boss' play-calling abilities.
"What I've learned about [Doug Pederson] and through watching him call plays is probably a little bit more unorthodox at times in a good way – calling two screens back-to-back, for instance, the other day," the offensive coordinator said. "Some of the stuff, there's other examples that I don't even want to get into just for competitive advantage reasons, but there's other things that he's called that at the time I thought, that's unique, I'm not sure that would have hit my brain like that, and many times those things have worked out."
The two consecutive screens came in the Eagles' 15-10 divisional-round win over the Atlanta Falcons, the first a nondescript 3-yard gain to Jay Ajayi before going to well again, resulting in a 32-yard gallop by Ajayi thanks to a spring block by All-Pro center Jason Kelce as well as a two-for-one from left guard Stefen Wisniewski.
"Back to back? There you go," an upbeat Pederson said. "Sometimes you can catch a group off guard when they don't expect two screens back to back."
In a league where exotic schemes are the norm, the common-sense option of doing something until it's stopped is considered unorthodox. Pederson says it just about feel.
"I don't think I go in there consciously saying, ‘I'm going to be unorthodox,’" the coach explained. "I think you either have it or you don't."
The Eagles' offense is one of the more varied in the sport, a goal accomplished by multiple formations and sprinkling spread concepts like the jet sweep and run-pass options (or RPOs) into the traditional West-Coast formula.
"Some of it is very creative and unique and great to our game, obviously," Pederson said when asked about the spread offense ex-Eagles coach Chip Kelly brought to the league. "It takes into consideration that you don't have to block everybody, RPOs for instance. It was all a new world for me. Kansas City was the first time I was exposed to it through [Chiefs QB] Alex Smith when he came from San Francisco where he did it. So I think it's something that's innovative, it's new, it's fun for the guys, but at the same time, I want to make sure that it fits us and fits our personality on offense."
But is the offense really that unorthodox?
"Listen, if you just look at what I've done in two years, you'd probably call me unorthodox with some of the decisions I've made on fourth downs and going for it, two-point conversions, things like that," the coach admitted. "And I've told you guys this before that sometimes you just don't do the norm, just don't do what everybody expects you to do and sometimes that can help you."
You can use any adjective, however, and the ultimate goal remains the same.
"I'm calculated about [calling plays] but at the same time, I'm going to make sure that I'm putting our guys in a good position," Pederson said.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen