I Want Marvin Lewis To Be Like Doug Pederson.

posted by Mo Egger, ESPN1530 - 

As I type this, all hell is probably breaking out in Philadelphia. The Eagles are Super Bowl champions, vanquishing a Patriots team that was both outplayed and outcoached.

Philly's offense kept New England's defense on its heels all night, continually converting on third down and building just enough of a lead to withstand the inevitable Patriots onslaught that ended when they finally got to Tom Brady in time to force a fumble.

Nick Foles was a deserving MVP, and a number of his teammates added to his heroics with big moments of their own, including some that made us revisit the exhausting debate about what is and isn't a catch.

But the star of the night was Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson.

Pederson guided his team to wins in three games they weren't favored to win, and he did it without his MVP-candidate starting quarterback. As much as the underdog angle was overplayed in the buildup to the Super Bowl - the Eagles were, after all the NFC's top seed - what Pederson did will go down as one of the best postseason coaching performances the league has seen.

The best moment of that coaching performance came with 34 seconds left in the first half of the Super Bowl.

The Eagles led 15-12 and stared at a fourth and goal from the Patriots' one yard-line.  Attempting a short field goal would've made perfect sense - take the points, you know - but going for it and attempting to score a touchdown made at least some sense too.  New England was going to get the ball back with a timeout AND they were going to receive the second half kickoff, meaning it'd be a while before the Eagles touched the ball again, and Brady had started to heat up, meaning that if they went by by six, there was a decent chance that the next time Pederson's offense took the field, his team would be trailing. You don't dethrone the defending champs by running Jake Elliott out there all night, you know?

Pederson, of course, went for it. His decision-making justified by perfect execution of a trick play, with Nick Foles catching a touchdown pass from Trey Burton to make the score 22-12, Green.

I loved the call.

I watched the game and I'm writing this blog from the standpoint of a Bengals fan whose biggest gripe against his team's head coach is that he coaches scared. Marvin Lewis, I've often believed, coaches on Sundays worried about the questions he'll get on Mondays. There's a reason why his end-of-half management is so shaky, and I don't think it's because he's dumb. One example comes to mind, which I wrote about after after a Bengals loss to the Giants in 2016....

Last night before halftime, we saw the Bengals again kinda/sorta try to do something productive, but not really.  They ran some plays and gained some yards, but they weren't exactly going for it, instead they pussyfooted around like a guy at the lunch counter who can't decided between the tuna on toast and the BLT on wheat. You couldn't say they were playing it safe, yet you surely couldn't accuse them of going balls to the wall either.  They were in the middle, neither aggressive or passive, which to me reflects either the coach's struggles with basic math or his fear of getting it wrong.

Marvin is either dumb or afraid, and I don't think he's dumb.

Do we run plays or do we take a knee?  Do we throw downfield or keep the ball on the ground and play it safe?  Do we go for the gusto or do we cut our losses? The Bengals always seem to be wrestling with these kinds of things, and the results usually don't yield much in the way of points. 

Last night was a prime example. The Bengals took over at their own 20 yard line after Giants touchdown, with 1:17 left on the clock and a timeout at their disposal.  With the playmakers they have, in a game that was likely to be close, it would've made sense for the Bengals to force things a little bit, and try for at least a reasonably close field goal try. Instead, they casually ran a few plays, starting with a two-yard Giovani Bernard run, and continuing with some short and intermediate passes that resulted in a desperate, and ultimately, unsuccessful Hail Mary attempt.  The Bengals went into the locker room down by four, and while they would ultimately take a six point lead, you could be excused if, as the game slipped away, you started to wonder how the game would've played out had the Bengals been a little more urgent at the end of the first half.

You know, if Marvin Lewis hadn't been afraid.

There are two types of NFL coaches.  There are the handful who are secure enough with themselves and with their jobs to be willing to do things that will be second-guessed, and that ultimately may not work. Maybe some of them have teams that are good enough to help overcome shaky decision-making, maybe some have built up enough equity to be wrong on occasion, and maybe some simply don't care what anyone thinks about the way they do things and the thinking that goes into what they decide.

Then there's coaches like Marvin, who actually represents the majority of the men who hold the same position. They coach on Sunday worried about the questions they'll get on Monday.  They fret over what will happen if what they decide blows up in their faces.  They have teams that often seem as if they're being told what to do by different people that have competing agenda.

Back to Super Bowl 52, when Doug Pederson said "eff it" and kept his offense on the field, knowing but not caring that he was subjecting himself to a billion questions about the decision after the game, and possibly deep into the offseason.  He didn't care that he'd have a microphone and a camera stuck in his face before halftime with the entire world demanding an explanation for his decision.  He didn't care that the play and the decision might blow up in his and his team's face. He didn't give a second thought about what would be said, written, tweeted, or asked about his call.  He made his decision.

That it worked isn't even relevant to me.  

He made another key call much later in the game, choosing to go for it on the fourth and one from midfield with just under six minutes to go.  Again, his players rewarded the decision-making by converting and later scoring the go-ahead touchdown.  This seemed like the correct call in real time, because failing would've meant that worse-case his team would've gotten the ball back down by just eight with at least a little time remaining to respond. Still though, he put himself in the crosshairs of second-guessers and made what you could consider the "less safe" call.

Pederson's decisions worked and his team won, meaning he'll be hailed as being "gutsy" for "having confidence in his team."  Those who say and write those things will be accurate in their analysis.  

But what I loved about what Pederson did is that it was done without any regard to the people talking and writing about his decision.

I hope Marvin was paying attention.

Mo Egger

Mo Egger

Mo Egger delivers his unique take on sports on Cincinnati's ESPN 1530! Read more

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