Hayes: Pederson right to admit he was wrong

Eagles Football
Eagles coach Doug Pederson tells the media on Wednesday that he was wrong to challenge a 2-yard pass against the Packers.

WAIT, WHAT?

It was a record-scratch, music-stop statement, and it sucked the air from the room.

Doug Pederson, NFL head football coach, had betrayed the credo of his pigheaded brethren: He admitted a mistake.

Pederson belongs to an exclusive fraternity that includes Pete "Ignore Marshawn Lynch" Carroll and Andy "Slow-Play" Reid. It is a closed set of flawed, stubborn men who share little besides a motto:

"Never Admit You Were Wrong."

Well, Pederson admitted he was wrong when he used a challenge.

"That would be a challenge that I would (take back)," Pederson said. "I would probably hang on to that and keep it for a situation (later) . . . in the game."

Yes, it took three days after the loss to the Packers, but, finally, Pederson finally admitted he was wrong.

This is a Come to Jesus moment. It is utterly apocalyptic: Lions are laying down with lambs, leopards are nuzzling goats and, somewhere, a Michigan fan is telling a Buckeye that J.T. Barrett made it on fourth down.

The situation: The Packers had the ball and a 17-13 lead with 2 minutes, 9 seconds left in the third quarter. On first-and-10 from the Eagles' 39, Jared Cook dropped a 2-yard pass, but officials ruled it a completion. Pederson had one challenge remaining. If he used it he would be out of challenges, even if he won the challenge. Incredibly, indefensibly, he used it.

He won. So what.

Pederson turned second-and-8 into second-and-10 (the Packers picked up the first down). The cost: Pederson left himself without a challenge for the fourth quarter of a close game.

Predictably, on the first day, Pederson defended his decision.

Startlingly, on the third day, Pederson abandoned that defense.

"It was a 2-yard gain," Pederson said, acknowledging that his brain short-circuited when, in the moment, he thought: " 'Hey, let's go second-and-10 over second-and-8, try to keep them back a little bit. Two more yards!' I was trying to play all that in my head at the same time."

To review: A sitting NFL coach called his absurd decision absurd.

The four horsemen of the apocalypse should be riding in any time now.

"Doug's an honest guy," said center Jason Kelce. "He's like that with us. So was Andy."

Perhaps, but admitting fault in a meeting room is different from accepting blame at a press conference.

Planet Earth sees this happen as often as it sees Halley's comet coincide with a total solar eclipse. You've got a better chance of being struck by lightning, while committing voter fraud, on Venus.

For the Eagles, especially, this is a seismic shift. Their last two head coaches bore specific culpability every time the sun rose in the West. Cap'n Andy admitted mistakes as often as he refused cheesesteaks. Chip Kelly once admitted that he didn't know a rule, but quickly said other coaches were just as ignorant (they aren't).

Pederson knew all the rules concerning challenges. He just choked. It wound up not mattering one little bit, but he choked.

The bad challenge was the latest in a series of Pederson's questionable decisions, most of which concern play-calling and fourth-down gambles. These are the sorts of decisions that inexperienced, aggressive coaches tend to make; once, or maybe twice. If they make them too many times they quickly become inexperienced, aggressive former coaches.

The admission reveals a lot about Pederson's character, his humility and his willingness to learn. It might indicate that Pederson won't make the same mistakes: He won't gamble and take points off the board on the road; he won't call plays unsuitable for his available personnel.

The admission lends credence to other contentions from Personson that were hard to digest.

Did he really agree with releasing Josh Huff and benching stage-frightened Nelson Agholor? Did he really think Carson Wentz was ready when the Birds traded Sam Bradford? Does he really think he made the right decisions and called the right plays on recent fourth-down failures?

Apparently, yes.

Frankly, had Pederson continued to defend the challenge against the Packers it would have further called into question his suitability as a coach. This admission earned him some equity.

Certainly, an inconsequential challenge does not compare with Carroll's historically foolish decision to ignore Lynch, the best power-runner in the game, and call a pass play on second down from the 1-yard line; the pass was intercepted. It isn't nearly as confounding as Reid's decision to plod downfield with 5 minutes to play, needing two scores. (Both of those strategic blunders resulted in Super Bowl wins for Patriots, which, frankly, makes them all the more galling.)

Critically, the challenge decision underscores Pederson's inexperience. He has only had this responsibility once, and then as the head coach of a high-school team. He will make other mistakes, too.

Optimistically, however, the admission underscores Pederson's capacity for self-evaluation, reflection and, hopefully, correction.

Reid lacked that capacity, and, as a result, he suffers the stigma of being an atrocious game-manager fated to late-game catastrophes.

Kelly lacked that capacity, which led to a mutiny in Philadelphia last season and his abrupt, in-season firing.

Pederson, at least, seems willing to learn.


hayesm@phillynews.com

@inkstainedretch Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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