Ped­er­son win­ning the locker room

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - Bob Grotz Colum­nist

What Ea­gles head coach Doug Ped­er­son man­ages bet­ter than any­thing, in­clud­ing fourth down de­ci­sions, is his locker room.

In a weird sort of way what the jour­ney­man quar­ter­back couldn’t do on the field in 10 NFL sea­sons helps him to re­late to, and su­per­vise the many and var­ied char­ac­ters who make up his 53-man ros­ter.

The way he han­dled the Sam Brad­ford sit­u­a­tion was sur­gi­cal.

It’s still hard to be­lieve Ped­er­son averted a quar­ter­back con­tro­versy al­most from the get go when the Ea­gles traded up to the sec­ond over­all pick, said they would use it on a quar­ter­back, and re­mained calm while prima donna passer Brad­ford bolted town, de­mand­ing a trade. That was ugly as al­leged su­per agent Tom Con­don threw his con­sid­er­able rear end around try­ing to burn all of his client’s bridges to the Ea­gles, who would in turn give him away or put him on the streets be­fore the draft.

It didn’t hap­pen. At least not right away.

Ped­er­son wel­comed Brad­ford back with open arms. The penalty for de­mand­ing a trade was spend­ing a few days run­ning with the third team of­fense be­hind Chase Daniel and Carson Wentz.

The play-me-or-trade-me episode seemed to make Brad­ford tougher, at least in the minds of his team­mates.

Even­tu­ally Ped­er­son praised Brad­ford all the way out the door, the Ea­gles un­ex­pect­edly find­ing them­selves in po­si­tion to not only honor the re­quest of Sammy, but ship him to the Vik­ings for a first-round draft pick.

That was Ped­er­son’s finest work. It was the ul­ti­mate win-win.

The Ea­gles were able to get rid of what even­tu­ally would have been grum­bling about what al­most cer­tainly would have been av­er­age per­for­mance and di­rec­tion with Brad­ford, based on the av­er­age sur­round­ing cast of skills play­ers, and the or­di­nary of­fen­sive line.

More­over, the trade ac­cel­er­ated the growth of Wentz, for­mally mak­ing the Ea­gles his team. It also en­abled the player per­son­nel peo­ple to get to work search­ing for the right play­ers to sur­round him with.

You can ar­gue that Ped­er­son kept off-the-field episodes in­volv­ing Nel­son Agholor, Nigel Brad­ham and Josh Huff from killing the sea­son. Those gents ex­posed them­selves and the Eagle brand to un­flat­ter­ing head­lines with be­hav­ior that wasn’t in the best in­ter­ests of the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Agholor and Brad­ham sur­vived. There was too much dam­age con­trol with Huff, who was ar­rested on the Walt Whit­man Bridge al­legedly with weed, an un­reg­is­tered 9 mm pis­tol and hol­low point bul­lets.

The fol­low­ing day Huff punched a one-way ticket out of town with the la­ment, “What pro­fes­sional ath­lete don’t have a gun?”

Truth be told, Ped­er­son wasn’t com­fort­able pre­tend­ing that Huff, like Brad­ham, might stick around un­til the le­gal is­sues were re­solved.

The Ea­gles felt the af­ter­shock from the Huff busi­ness, as they were beaten by the pedes­trian New York Giants on the en­su­ing Sun­day at MetLife Stadium. Had they got­ten rid of Huff right away, which was an in­ter­nal rec­om­men­da­tion, it would have been one less day of dis­trac­tions.

In­stead just three days be­fore the game, the play­ers found them­selves in a me­dia feed­ing frenzy stoked by the re­lease of Huff.

Ped­er­son saved his locker room. Ul­ti­mately that game could wind up cost­ing him a play­off berth.

All of that leads us to the present and Agholor … again. Pro foot­ball is over­whelm­ing the wide re­ceiver, who might need noth­ing more than to grow a thicker skin and stop blam­ing re­porters who are do­ing their jobs by point­ing out how he’s not do­ing his.

Agholor comes off as your clas­sic “vic­tim” player. Ev­ery­thing seems to hap­pen to him, more so than the play­ers around him. When he’s go­ing well, he en­joys the ac­co­lades. When he’s not he can be ornery.

Agholor had a melt­down Sun­day af­ter his il­le­gal for­ma­tion penalty wiped out an Ea­gles touch­down that would have pro­vided a lead but in­stead swung the mo­men­tum to the Sea­hawks, who rolled to a 26-15 vic­tory.

The day af­ter Agholor went pub­lic, it spurred haters tired of his dropped passes and in­ef­fec­tive­ness to pro­duce a GoFundMe page that since has come down.

In­stead of re­leas­ing Agholor, Ped­er­son gra­ciously pro­vided him with an “out” by pro­mot­ing wide re­ceiver Paul Turner to the 53-man ros­ter and de­lay­ing any lineup changes at least un­til he had a talk with Agholor.

Bar­ring an in­jury, con­sider the bench­ing a done deal. It might not last for just a week.

If the Ea­gles (5-5) scratch Agholor the rest of the sea­son, his trade value next spring might ac­tu­ally in­crease slightly. It’s at rock bot­tom now. If the Ea­gles were able to con­vince the Ti­tans that Den­nis Kelly was worth Do­rial Green-Beck­ham, they should be able to sell Agholor as a first-round tal­ent who didn’t fit the sys­tem and needs a change of scenery.

Ped­er­son wasn’t much of a quar­ter­back man­ag­ing games on the NFL level. If he sal­vages some com­pen­sa­tion while fi­ness­ing Agholor out the door, it’s just an­other ex­am­ple of his ge­nius work­ing the locker room.

JOHN FROSCHAUER — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Doug Ped­er­son talks with Pete Car­roll prior to Sun­day’s game at Seat­tle. Ped­er­son has ex­pertly nav­i­gated a cou­ple of di­vi­sive locker room is­sues.

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