Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson put on a coaching clinic in his team’s 41-33 win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.
It’s hard to walk out of a game against Bill Belichick with a claim to having been the better coach on the field, but Pederson’s aggressiveness and tenacity made for one of the best NFL postseason coaching performances we’ve ever seen.
It’s not like Pederson is known for being conservative. But the boldness he displayed against the Patriots Sunday night was something to behold.
Fourth-and-1 at the goal line, in the final seconds of the first half, Pederson calls a timeout. The Eagles lead the Patriots by three points, and would really like to extend that lead to open the second half, especially since New England will get the ball to start it off.
Then Pederson calls a play that will become an instant classic.
Halfback Corey Clement takes the snap directly in the shotgun. He then pitches the ball to tight end Trey Burton, who plants his feet and tosses up a one-yard touchdown pass to…quarterback Nick Foles.
If you missed it in real time, take a look again. Even if you saw it happen with your own eyes, still take another look. Engrave this into your memory, because it’s going to be played at Pederson’s retirement ceremony:
That’s not to say that Pederson’s aggressiveness always pays off. He went for two on the Eagles’ second touchdown of the game in the middle of the second quarter — LeGarrette Blount’s 21-yard run. Foles attempted a pass to Alshon Jeffery for the two-point play, and it failed.
No big deal; the Eagles still led 15-3.
But the play loomed large over the Eagles by the beginning of the fourth quarter, when the Patriots led 33-32.
Pederson didn’t allow the failed two-point conversion to linger in his mind or make him skittish. Instead, he doubled down, going for it on fourth-and-1.
Foles to Zach Ertz. Two yards. Philadelphia kept the drive alive and went on to score a touchdown, once again with Foles finding Ertz.
It’s important to note that Pederson isn’t a gambler for the sake of being a gambler. He knows his numbers support his game plan. The Eagles went for it on fourth down 26 times in the regular season, the second most in the league. Their conversion rate (65 percent) was the best in the league.
Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay won the Coach of the Year award at the NFL Honors ceremony on Saturday night. Perhaps that’s not a surprise.
But this was: Pederson only received one vote.
Let’s look back on what Pederson had to grapple with this season.
He lost his starting quarterback and MVP candidate, Carson Wentz, in Week 14. He lost his starting left tackle, Jason Peters, for the season in Week 7. He lost halfback Darren Sproles (to both a broken arm and a torn ACL) in Week 3. Yet the Eagles still managed to secure the NFC’s No. 1 seed.
And win the Super Bowl.
This isn’t to take anything away from McVay, who certainly earned his Coach of the Year award after taking a 4-12 club in 2016 and turning it into a playoff team.
But someday we’ll look back at this season and find it outrageous that the coach who led his team, after countless adversities, to the first Super Bowl victory in franchise history only received one vote for Coach of the Year.