With the Eagles on the way to their first NFC championship game since 2008 and Doug Pederson regularly named as a leading candidate for NFL Coach of the Year, it appears the team made the right decision in hiring the first-time head coach to replace the fired Chip Kelly.
Of course, not everyone has been on board with the Eagles’ decision to hire Pederson, who had limited coaching experience in the NFL and was criticized for some of his play-calling as the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs under former Eagles head coach Andy Reid.
Among the loudest critics was Michael Lombardi, a former NFL general manager and NFL Network analyst who now works for The Ringer. Lombardi, who once worked for the Eagles under former team president Joe Banner, compared Pederson to former Sixers head coach Roy Rubin, who was fired after just 51 games when his team went 4-47.
“He might be less qualified to coach a team than anyone I’ve ever seen in my 30-plus years in the NFL,” Lombardi said of Pederson in September.
“Everybody knows Pederson isn’t a head coach. He might be less qualified to coach a team than anyone I’ve ever seen,” Lombardi continued. “When will the Eagles admit their mistake? Will they throw away 2017 by stubbornly sticking to the Pederson Principle?”
Since those comments, Lombardi has made regular appearances on SportsRadio 94.1 WIP, where he has conceded that Pederson had exceeded his expectations, but has refused to back away from his critical remarks.
“I’ll make a decision at the end of the year after this is over, after we’ve watched all the games. I have a feeling we’ll see it all come out,” Lombardi said on WIP in November. “You have to admit when you make a mistake. I’ll admit it, but when the time is right. Let’s play out the season, and we’ll see where we are.”
After the Eagles’ 15-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons in an NFC divisional playoff game, Lombardi was finally able to say two important words about his assessment of Pederson: “I’m wrong.”
“Doug Pederson was a lot better than I thought he was going to be in terms of his ability to lead that team,” Pederson said on his GM Street podcast. “All you Philly fans give me this crap about, ‘Give Doug Pederson his due.’ OK, I was wrong.”
Despite the admission, Lombardi didn’t exactly offer a full-fledge apology, nor has he apparently bought fully into Pederson’s ability to coach.
“I think I was wrong in terms of how far I went with Doug. I’m not sure how great of a coach Doug is,” Lombardi said. “But I was wrong in terms of how far I went with it.”
Lombardi isn’t the first pundit to back off his criticism of Pederson, who has gone 20-12 in two seasons coaching the Eagles. ESPN senior writer Ian O’Connor also acknowledged he was wrong when he wrote that Pederson’s hiring felt “like a reach” and ranked him the worst new hire of the 2016 offseason, behind Browns head coach Hue Jackson and since-fired Giants coach Ben McAdoo, who went a combined 2-26 this season (McAdoo was fired after Week 13.)
“Doug’s done a great job,” O’Connor told the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com in November. “I thought [Bill] Belichick to the Patriots in 2000 was a bad idea, so he’s in really good company.”
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Still no word from FS1 host Colin Cowherd, who called Philadelphia the “dumbest sports city in America” and Eagles fans “dopey” because of his claim that they ran Reid out of town after the Eagles’ 4-12 finish in 2012. It’s important to remember Cowherd also thought Eagles fans weren’t “cerebral” enough to appreciate Kelly, who was fired after just shy of three seasons as head coach.