Doug Pederson’s press conference was humming along as expected on Monday morning, the day after the team’s 32-14 loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati.
Like he did minutes after the game, Pederson again expressed the idea that the Eagles didn’t lose for lack of effort.
“I didn’t see any quit in the guys,” he said several different ways throughout the 19-minute session with reporters.
The effort’s there. There’s no quit.
Those are the types of responses we’ve become accustomed to hearing from Pederson over the last couple of weeks after embarrassing losses. And it looked like that was how Monday was going to end, with that same message being repeated ad nauseum.
Until Pederson made a shocking admission.
Could he honestly say every one of his players played hard against Cincinnati?
“Not everybody,” he said. “Not everybody, and that's the accountability that I talk about. You know, I hold coaches accountable for that. I hold myself accountable for that because it all starts with me and I pride myself each week to make sure the guys are ready to go.
“But at the same time, it comes down to a mentality by each individual player. You know, this is a business where we have to be ready to go every single weekend because every team in the league -- I mean, there's some teams that are better than others, obviously -- but for the most part, anything can happen each weekend.”
Not everybody. The admission of that fact is far more shocking than the reality. Fans who watched Sunday’s game will probably be able to pinpoint several plays where one or more Eagles might not have given full effort.
But for a first-year head coach to come out and admit it in public is rare. Perhaps Pederson felt emboldened to say something because he’s been assured of his status within the organization (see story). On Monday, he said he “for sure” thinks his job is secure after this season based on reassurance from Jeff Lurie and Howie Roseman.
While Pederson said it publicly, the conversation between him and his players about accountability will continue. It’s seems unlikely Pederson will take it a step further by cutting or benching players, but his team will definitely hear the message its head coach put out on Monday.
While Pederson commented that “not everybody” played hard, it seems like he’s convinced that portion of the team is the minority. Overall, he’s still convinced that guys are buying in. The reason he gave was the feedback he’s been getting back from his leadership council (a group of veteran leaders he has depended on throughout the season).
Earlier in the press conference, Pederson was asked about one play in particular, when Zach Ertz failed to block Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict as Carson Wentz scrambled for a 10-yard gain in the first quarter. The video shows Ertz making an effort to avoid the linebacker.
“Looking at the tape and watching where Carson was scrambling of course he was heading toward out of bounds and I think he just pulled off at that point,” Pederson said. “That’s all I can say. But I’m definitely going to ask him why.”
With a 5-7 record, the Eagles’ playoff chances are all but completely gone, so the last quarter of the season will be about effort, pride and finding out who wants to be back on the team in 2017.
To end his press conference, Pederson was asked if this Eagles team needs to be “loved up” or if it’s time for some tough love.
“I think it's both. I think it's both,” he said. “I think there's a level of that tough love. There's got to be that accountability that I was talking about. You know, I implore and I challenge the leaders of the football team to stand up and really not only hold themselves [accountable] but the rest of the team. Listen, it's not a panic move or anything like that, but just, ‘Hey, let's just make sure we're doing things right.’ Everybody just do things right, do their jobs, do their assignments, you know, and good things are going to happen.
“Obviously, again, it starts with me, and I've got to make sure that I'm doing it right and I'm holding myself accountable, and as you mentioned earlier with Jeffrey and Howie, if they're holding me accountable and all that, that's where it starts, and then I relay that message to the assistants and on to the team.”