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