Doug Pederson's 10 worst coaching decisions of 2020 Eagles season

Reuben Frank
·6 min read

Pederson's 10 worst coaching decisions of 2020 originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Play-calling? Clock management? In-game decisions? Run-pass ratio?

You name it, Doug Pederson has botched it.

From 2016 through 2019, Pederson established himself as one of the brightest and most successful coaches in the NFL. 

And you can't take away the Super Bowl, three straight playoff appearances and the eighth-most wins in the NFL since 2017.

This year? Pederson has struggled. Nearly every week, Pederson has made at least one questionable decision, several of which damaged the Eagles' chances of winning.

As we sit here at the bye week, let’s take a chronological look at Pederson’s 10 worst decisions of 2020 (so far).

Week 1, Washington

It’s one thing to blow a 17-0 lead against a terrible team. It’s another to do it without trying to slow down the game by running the football. The Eagles finished the 27-17 opening-day loss with a 51-16 pass-run ratio. In the second half, as the lead dwindled, Pederson called 26 pass plays and nine run plays.

The Eagles that day became only the second team in NFL history to blow a 10-point halftime lead and lose by at least 10 points while throwing 50 times and running 17 or fewer times. The other was the 1983 Chiefs against Washington. 

Week 2, Rams

The Eagles trailed 24-19 early in the fourth quarter and faced a 4th-and-8 on the Rams’ 15-yard line when Jake Elliott made a 33-yard field goal to close the gap to 24-22. But when Rams safety Nick Scott jumped offside during the field goal, Pederson had the option of taking the points or a 4th-and-3 on the 10-yard line and a legit shot at a touchdown that would give the Eagles the lead. It was already a rough day for the defense, which had allowed four scoring drives, including three TD drives. A field goal wouldn’t give the Eagles the lead and would force the defense to do something it hadn’t done all day — stop the Rams from scoring to preserve the lead.

But Pederson, generally so aggressive on 4th down, declined the penalty and took the points and the Eagles never recovered. The Rams drove 68 yards in two plays to take a 31-19 lead and quickly scored again on their way to a 38-19 win.

Week 3, Bengals

We’ve been through this one a lot. Essentially, the Eagles lined up for a potential game-winning Elliott 59-yard field goal with 19 seconds left in overtime. But a Matt Pryor false start left the Eagles out of even Elliott’s field goal range and with a 4th-and-12 from the Bengals’ 46-yard line. But instead of letting Carson Wentz try to win the game with a 12-yard completion, a spike to stop the clock and then a reasonable Elliott field goal attempt, he guaranteed a tie by punting (after a delay of game) while removing any chance the Eagles had to win.

Even if the Eagles failed to get the first down, the Bengals would have been on their own 46-yard line with no timeouts and maybe seven or eight seconds left. Either way, the Eagles tie at worst. But if they go for it, they have a shot at winning.

Week 5, Steelers

The Eagles trailed 31-29 with 3:23 left in Pittsburgh and faced a 4th-and-5 on the Steelers’ 39-yard line. Once again, Pederson declined to put the fate of the Eagles in the hands of the team’s $100 million quarterback, instead sending Elliott out for a 57-yard field goal. In Steelers history at all their home stadiums, opposing kickers are 0 for 10 from 54 yards and out. Elliott missed badly and three plays later the Steelers scored to make it 38-29.

Week 6, Ravens

The Eagles got the ball back trailing 30-22 — that’s an eight-point deficit — with 3:11 left in the fourth quarter. Five plays later, on the first snap after the two-minute warning, Wentz scored to trim the Ravens' lead to two at 30-28. But even though the Eagles had trailed by eight the entire drive, they didn’t have a two-point conversion play ready.

They broke the huddle late, there was obvious miscommunication as the play clock ran down, and when they finally got around to snapping the ball — the biggest play of the game — it was a botched read option with Wentz and backup running back Boston Scott both kind of clutching for the ball. The play never had a shot, and one-time Eagle L.J. Fort stuffed Scott several yards shy of the end zone.

Weeks 5 & 6

A recurring issue this year has been Pederson abandoning the running game, but in the back-to-back losses to AFC North teams, the Eagles ran 97 pass plays and 23 running plays. And both were close for most of the game. Against Pittsburgh, Miles Sanders got four second-half carries and the Eagles finished with a 44-12 ratio, and in the Ravens game the ratio was 53-11, including 33-4 in the second half. Sanders did get hurt in the Ravens game, but Scott got only two carries in his absence. 

Week 7, Giants

This is an all-timer. The Eagles, trailing 14-10 early in the fourth quarter, had a 4th-and-goal on the Giants’ 3-yard line. What did Pederson come up with for the biggest snap of the game in a crucial NFC East battle? A play in the end zone for recently signed tight end Hakeem Butler, who not only had never caught an NFL pass, he had never played an NFL snap.

The Eagles wound up winning, but that play failed miserably. Butler was released nine days later.

Week 8, Cowboys

Take your pick of plays from the Dallas game. The first was Pederson’s decision to go for it on a 4th-and-3 from the Cowboys’ 44-yard line up 7-3 in the second quarter against a team with a rookie seventh-round pick making his first (and possibly last) NFL start. With the No. 1 punter in NFL history on your sideline. That’s where you punt the Cowboys deep and force Ben DiNucci to drive the length of the field. Which he obviously can’t do. Instead, Wentz got sacked and fumbled, and the Cowboys got a field goal after driving 15 yards.

Week 8, Cowboys

The Eagles led 7-6 midway through the second quarter and had a 3rd-and-6 on the Dallas 45-yard line. But instead of just running the offense and trying to pick up the first down, Pederson called some sort of bizarre gadget play that ended up with college quarterback Greg Ward — who hasn’t thrown a pass since Houston beat San Diego State in the 2016 Las Vegas Bowl — looking to pass but ultimately scrambling four yards short of the first down. 

Week 8, Cowboys

The Eagles still led 7-6 later in the second quarter and faced a 4th-and-1, again on the Dallas 44. This time Pederson correctly opted to go for it. But instead of letting Wentz bull his way for the first down — he’s 36 for 42 on 3rd- and 4th-and-1 in his career — he called for a mid-range out to Travis Fulgham that fell incomplete. 

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