The Philadelphia Eagles moved on from Doug Pederson, while Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is desperate to get out.
Welcome to the Wild Card edition of C’mon, Coach! This week, we’ll be discussing why:
- Doug Pederson’s Ring of Protection could not save him;Deshaun Watson has good reason to be hopping mad at the Houston Texans;Real tough-guys don’t punt on 4th-and-short in the playoffs;
and much more!
When you’ve dug yourself into a hole, quit Doug-ing.
Doug Pederson did not lose his head coaching job because the Eagles were awful in 2020. He did not lose it because Carson Wentz crashed his career into an iceberg, or because Pederson unapologetically tanked in Week 17, or because he lied about tanking, or because veterans were outraged about tanking.
Pederson lost his job because he assumed his job was safe.
Pederson possessed an Immunity Token. Super Bowl winners, like reality show contestants who successfully whipped up a delicious dessert out of smoked salmon and refried rutabagas in a past episode, all get a get-out-of-jail-free card excusing them for one disastrous season.
When Pederson met with Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, he assumed he could cash in his token and then go about his business without consequences. Pederson acted as though he didn’t need to answer for the Eagles 4-11-1 record, Wentz’s disintegration or the tanking fiasco.
Pederson didn’t take into account Lurie might be furious after the Eagles organization was dragged across the national media for a solid week. He must have forgotten locker-room grumbling was what led to Chip Kelly’s quick dismissal in 2015.
Per the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeff McLane, Pederson’s plan for replacing retired defensive coordinator Jeff Schwartz and departing offensive assistant Rick Scangarello was to simply promote his loyalists from within, with quarterbacks coach Press Taylor moving up to offensive coordinator.
Imagine thinking that Wentz’s position coach deserved a promotion after this season. But of course, Pederson wouldn’t really be rewarding Taylor, but merely consolidating power instead of bringing in outsiders who could help fix the Eagles problems (and challenge Pederson’s authority).
Pederson probably could have kept his job by agreeing to hire some play-calling wunderkind, quarterback whisperer or big-name defensive coordinator. Instead, Pederson looked at a furious owner, aging roster, hostile locker room, and $128-million feelings factory of a franchise quarterback and said, “You know what we need to do here? STAY THE COURSE.”
That’s not the answer Lurie wanted to hear. Pederson may have known that. There has been speculation in Philly for months that Pederson wanted out, anyway. If so, he picked a heck of a way to go. It takes even the orneriest coaches months to lose as much credibility and esteem as Pederson lost from halftime of Week 17 through Monday afternoon. He basically burned through a one-year immunity token in eight days.
Philadelphia’s head coaching job is now the second-worst opportunity in the NFL. The Eagles enter the offseason over $50 million above the 2021 salary cap.
The Wentz-Hurts controversy is a task for a team of middle school guidance counselors and bomb defusal robots. Lurie, once one of the NFL’s most easy-going owners, has developed a heavy-handed reputation. General manager Howie Roseman still exerts personnel control. The roster is full of guys with Super Bowl rings and bloated contracts who are probably not eager to get with a whole new program. The Eagles are an expensive mess with unrealistic expectations.
And yet, you read that disclaimer in the last paragraph correctly, the Eagles job is only the second worst in the NFL. If you don’t know which franchise is worst, well, then you don’t know Jack.
Save Deshaun Watson
Will someone please do something about the Houston Texans?
Lure Jack Easterby out of the building and into a humane possum trap with a copy of Bible Paraphrases for Winnerz!!! on the end of a fishing line. Invoke the NFL’s 25th Amendment. Grab owner Cal McNair by the lapels of his monogrammed silk pajamas and shake him until he comes to his senses. (If it takes a really long time, that’s OK).
For Deshaun Watson’s sake, for the love of the game, somebody please do something! Anything!
The Texans hired former Patriots executive Nick Casario last week as their new general manager. Superficially, it’s a solid move, even if it merely transforms the Texans from a regional Patriots tribute band into an officially-licensed regional Patriots tribute band.
But McNair and his Svengali-like life coach/BFF/parasitic codependent Easterby managed to alienate Watson, monkey-wrench their head coaching search and sow distrust about their intentions due to the way they orchestrated this superficially innocuous hire.
McNair and Easterby hired Casario after telling Watson he would have input into the coaching and general manager searches and then forgetting about it. Watson reportedly wanted the team to interview Eric Bieniemy, but the Texans are just about the only team on the coaching carousel that didn’t bother setting up even a token interview.
Meanwhile, there were rumors (and strong dismissals of those rumors by some insiders) that the Texans planned to offer their head coaching job to Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who is like Bill O’Brien crossed with a rabid mongoose, but with less offensive creativity.
Finally, Adam Schefter reported the Texans nearly hired Pittsburgh Steelers executive Omar Khan instead of Casario, but Easterby quickly activated the Mind Stone on his Loki quarterstaff and brought McNair back to heel.
Every report coming out of Texans headquarters is worse than the last; by the time C’mon Coach goes to press, insiders may be reporting Easterby is greeting head-coaching candidates while seated on a throne of skulls and demanding they start interviews by drinking from his Goblet of Obedience.
At any rate, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reported that Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus declined an interview with the Texans, and multiple reports indicate that Watson is furious and would be open to a trade. The Texans, in other words, now make the New York Jets look like a football utopia.
To be clear about what is happening: Easterby knew the heat was on when the media began shining a light on his Svengali-like power within the Texans organization.
So Easterby set off some smoke pellets by hiring headhunting agencies and roping in trusted names like Tony Dungy (and Watson) to create the illusion of transparency. He then gave Casario $6 million per year, and at least made overtures toward McDaniels in order to pack the org chart with sympathizers who remember Easterby as the guy who gave rah-rah sermons and helped the Patriots through that, er, delicate situation a few years ago.
That will allow Easterby to bide his time as Vice President of Keeping S**t Real while whispering in McNair’s ear for a few years. McNair doesn’t see what is happening because, like all of the NFL’s pampered-heir owners, he is certain that inheriting a football team made him a genius on par with Bill Parcells.
And if you can’t spot a very shady sociopolitical undercurrent to the whole Watson/Bieniemy/Khan situation, then you must be going out of your way to not look at it.
So the Texans are now being run by a weaksauce version of Robert Mitchum’s shady preacher from Night of the Hunter, the whole NFL knows it, and Watson must now either try to force a trade or risk his career and health playing for a team run by problematic ninnies.
Either way, the Texans are doomed to stink like summer garbage until someone performs either a leveraged takeover or an exorcism. And sadly, neither of those things are likely to happen.
Punt and Get Punted
There was a surprising amount of terrible coaching in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, and most of it involved teams playing it way too safe when they had a chance to win. Here’s C’mon Coach’s top five worst ultra-conservative coaching decisions from this weekend’s action.
Number 5: Matt Nagy Runs Out the Clock. The Chicago Bears got the ball at their own 18-yard line with 1:49 to play in the second quarter and two timeouts left with the New Orleans Saints leading 7-3. Nagy chose to hand off three times and punt rather than letting Trubisky do anything risky like attempt a forward pass.
On the one hand, it’s understandable to ask Trubisky to do as little as possible. On the other hand, even John Wolford would probably have at least been given a chance to pick up a first down and see what happens. Furthermore, if Nagy distrusted Trubisky that much, Mister Playoff Glitter Unicorn Nick Foles was standing on the sideline.
Number 4: Mike Vrabel Punts, Part I. The Tennessee Titans punted on 4th-and-2 from their own 46-yard line early in the third quarter with the Ravens leading 17-10. This was a bad decision, but not a catastrophic one: Brett Kern’s punt pinned the Ravens at the 7-yard line, and the Titans quickly got the ball back.
Number 3: Brian Daboll Interviews Poorly. Magma-hot head coaching candidate Daboll made several head-scratching play calls for the Buffalo Bills offense on Saturday. In one second quarter sequence deep in Bills territory, Daboll sent running back Zach Moss between the tackles three straight times: the first run gained eight yards, but the next two were stuffed. Daboll should let Josh Allen attempt at least one 80-yard pass during that sequence.
Daboll later tried to overcompensate for his timid play calls, shifting into Let ‘er Rip mode with the Bills nursing a three-point lead late in the fourth quarter. Several incomplete passes stopped the clock, and the brief return of Evil Fumbly-Stumbly Allen almost resulted in a catastrophe.
Daboll will soon be introduced to some team’s local media as an offensive innovator and semi-magical quarterback whisperer.
Number 2: Brian Schottenfailure. The entire Seattle Seahawks game plan against the Los Angeles Rams was a travesty that would result in Brian Schottenheimer getting demoted to community college assistant tight ends coach if not for his famous last name. But let’s just focus on his most egregious coaching sequence of the evening.
EDITOR’S UPDATE: He was fired? He was fired. Stunning development out of Seattle.
The Seahawks faced 1st-and-25 after a pair of penalties trailing 20-13 late in the third quarter. Schottenheimer called for a Chris Carson plunge up the middle on first down. (Heavy sigh). Schottenheimer then dialed up the ever-so-clever double screen on 2nd-and-24; unfortunately, the Rams saw every screen coming a mile away (see: Darious Williams’ pick-6 earlier in the game), so Russell Wilson was forced to toss the ball to the ground.
Do you think Schottenheimer allowed his Hall of Fame quarterback to chuck one deep to wide receiver/Marvel character DK Metcalf or clutch-catch specialist Tyler Lockett on 3rd-and-24? Nah. a (nearly intercepted) quick pass to tight end Jacob Hollister in heavy traffic followed by a punt would be much more on-brand.
Pete Carroll also ordered some dubious punts in the loss to the Rams. But with Schottenheimer calling the offensive plays, can you really blame him?
Number 1: Mike Vrabel Punts, Part II. The Titans punted on 4th-and-2 from the Ravens 40-yard line when trailing 17-13 midway through the fourth quarter. The first punt was questionable, this one was inexcusable: the Titans were closer to scoring position, and their situation was more critical.
The Ravens drove for a field goal while eating nearly six minutes of play clock, essentially creating a one-score, one-possession game. Marcus Peters intercepted Ryan Tannehill on the final drive, and the rest is history.
Superior-Tier Unquantifiably Terrible Decision of the Weekend: Mike Tomlin ordered the Pittsburgh Steelers to punt on 4th-and-1 from the Steelers 46-yard line at the start of the fourth quarter while trailing 35-23 but mounting an impressive comeback.
And the Steelers punted in the most deliberate and shameless way possible: lining up for the punt, motioning some guys around to try to lure the Browns offsides, then taking a delay of game penalty to eliminate any hope that they might change their mind and go for it.
OK, maybe we should give old-fashioned defense-oriented tough-guy coaches like Tomlin (and Vrabel) the benefit of the doubt when they punt. They should not, however, get benefit of the doubt when they leave linebackers isolated against wide receivers in coverage in critical game situations.
Check out the great Darius Butler’s breakdown of a mistake the Steelers defense has been making in coverage for years. The Steelers’ record may have been great this season, but Sunday’s loss proved that their coaching leaves a lot to be desired.
Coaching Carousel Quick Hitters
Around and around and around the coaching carousel goes. Where it stops, only Schefter knows.
Cowboys fire defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. Nolan deserved it, of course: his defenders suffered multiple miscommunications on what looked like elementary assignments this season while taking on blocks and tackling as if they didn’t want to get their jerseys rumpled. But Nolan’s quick axe is an alarming sign for head coach Mike McCarthy, whose reputation alone should have bought him more than one year before it was time to start sacrificing assistants.
Cowboys replace Nolan with Dan Quinn. Ah, so the plan is to improve by becoming more like the Falcons defense. Brilliant!
Dolphins offensive coordinator Chan Gailey resigns. Gailey has made a career of taking over offenses ranked 30th-32nd in the NFL in yards and points and catapulting them all the way up to about 25th. Lack of coaching continuity could slow Tua Tagovailoa’s development. Getting bundled into a trade to the Texans for Deshaun Watson could flat-out reverse it.
Former Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis meets with Lions, Jets. C’mon Coach likes this move. Lewis was one of those head coaches who was so successful that he stuck around until all the message board GMs were convinced he was a moron. (C’mon Coach is headquartered in Greater Philly and remembers what folks thought of Andy Reid about 10 years ago).
Lewis assembled am impressive staff in Cincy (Mike Zimmer, Jay Gruden, Vance Joseph, and yes, Hue Jackson) and is capable of building the kind of foundation that gets a bad franchise into Wild Card contention. Wild Card contention would look pretty darned good for the Lions and Jets right now.
Pete Carroll says offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will keep his job because the 2020 Seahawks “scored more points than any team in the history of the franchise.” That will work out well if Russell Wilson ever has to win a shootout against Jim Zorn.