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USA Today’s NFL Head Coach Rankings Were Not Kind to Doug Pederson

Doug Pederson is a first-year head coach who wasn’t the Philadelphia Eagles’ first, second or maybe even third option. So in a NFL head coaches rankings list, he should be expected to be near the bottom.

That’s exactly where USA Today put him.

The USA Today released their head coaching rankings Wednesday and placed Pederson 30th out of the 32 head coaches. Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Dirk Koetter (31st) and Tennessee Titans’ Mike Mularkey (32nd) ranked lower.

There wasn’t a comment next to Pederson’s name, but Steven Ruiz explained why Pederson was put in the 30 spot when talking about Adam Gase, who came in at No. 28.

We’re lumping all of the first-year coaches together, because no one really knows how they’ll fare as head coaches. Gase goes to the front of the line because of his successful runs in both Denver and Chicago. Ben McAdoo gets credit for turning the Giants into a West Coast outfit, which has revived Eli Manning’s career. Pederson did a fine job running Andy Reid’s offense in Kansas City, but he has yet to establish his own productive offense away from his mentor. Koetter did an excellent job with Jameis Winston last year, but his stints in Jacksonville and Atlanta did not go so well.

Personally, I wasn’t a big fan of the Pederson hiring at all and am still skeptical about him, I’d probably put him at No. 32 on my list. I will say this, however, I LOVE the staff he’s put together.

Like his mentor Andy Reid did in Philly, Pederson has surrounded himself with a deep and talented group of assistant coaches. Six of Reid’s assistants wound up becoming head coaches, but legendary defensive coordinator Jim Johnson was not one of them. The Eagles are hoping that they’ve hit another home run with the hiring of Jim Schwartz as the leader of the defense. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich was the head of San Diego’s offense the past two seasons, while quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo was the Browns offensive coordinator in 2015 and did a great job with Josh McCown. In all, Pederson added seven new coaches and retained seven others, including running backs coach Duce Staley, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, defensive backs coach Cory Undlin and special teams coordinator Dave Fipp.

This is an area where Pederson has Chip Kelly beat handedly. Whether it was a lack of NFL experience which led to an inability of building a lot of relationships or nobody wanting to work with him due to his dictatorship personality, Kelly has built another lackluster staff in San Francisco. He named Jim O’Neil defensive coordinator after Houston’s linebackers coach Mike Vrabel said thanks but no thanks to the defensive coordinator position. O’Neil was the defensive coordinator in Cleveland the past two seasons and the Browns were 29th in points allowed (27.0) in 2015.

Speaking of Kelly, he checked in at No. 11 on the list.

We won’t punish Kelly the Coach for Kelly the General Manager’s decisions. He’s still one of the more innovative offensive coaches in the league and somehow managed to churn out yet another top-15 scoring offense despite all the Eagles’ issues. His 26-21 record is pretty impressive considering who he’s had at the quarterback position.

I’ll say this, I agree that Kelly is a solid head coach and probably hate him a lot less than 99 percent of Philadelphia, but I do have a bone to pick about the Eagles being a top-15 scoring offense. Let’s debunk that myth and compare Pederson’s offense to that of Kelly’s last season.

Kansas City’s offense in 2015 appears appalling when looking at the total offense stat on paper, it ranked 27th. That was after finishing 21st in 2013 and 25th in 2014. The Eagles offense, meanwhile, was 12th in 2015. So that means Kelly’s offense blew Pederson’s out of the water this past year, right?

Not so fast, let’s dig a little deeper.

Kelly’s up-tempo attack inflated the stats and made them look better than they really were, while the Chiefs’ slow and methodical brand of football deflated them. Philadelphia ran the second most plays per game (69.2) compared to Kansas City, which had the second fewest (59.3). The Eagles also had 19 more total drives, leading the NFL with 196 possessions. The NFL average was 180 drives and Kansas City ended with 177.

When looking at per drive stats, it’s actually Pederson’s offense which blew Kelly’s out of the water.

Philadelphia was 22nd in points (1.68), 21st in touchdowns (.194), 29th in field goals (.107), 29th in turnovers (.158) and 23rd in yards per possession (29.86). Kansas City, though, was ninth in points (2.05), 14th in touchdowns (.220), ninth in field goals (.169), second in turnovers (.073) and 19th in yards (30.35) per touch.

That’s pretty impressive considering the Chiefs lost star running back Jamaal Charles for the season in Week 5 due to a torn ACL and their wide receivers were led by Jeremy Maclin and a bunch of outcasts. This was the same team whose wideouts didn’t register a single touchdown in 2014. The Chiefs used deception in the running game and a conservative passing attack to help them become the sixth ranked offense, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings. The Eagles were 20 spots behind at 26.

Here’s the list, what do you guys think?

  1. Bill Belichick (NE)
  2. Pete Carroll (Sea)
  3. Bruce Arians (Arz)
  4. Mike Zimmer (Min)
  5. Sean Payton (NO)
  6. Mike Tomlin (Pit)
  7. John Harbaugh (Bal)
  8. Ron Rivera (Car)
  9. Mike McCarthy (GB)
  10. Andy Reid (KC)
  11. Chip Kelly (SF)
  12. John Fox (Chi)
  13. Bill O’Brien (Hou)
  14. Gary Kubiak (Den)
  15. Todd Bowles (NYJ)
  16. Rex Ryan (Buf)
  17. Jay Gruden (Was)
  18. Hue Jackson (Cle)
  19. Marvin Lewis (Cin)
  20. Chuck Pagano (Ind)
  21. Jason Garrett (Dal)
  22. Jeff Fisher (Stl)
  23. Mike McCoy (SD)
  24. Jack Del Rio (Oak)
  25. Jim Caldwell (Det)
  26. Dan Quinn (Atl)
  27. Gus Bradley (Jax)
  28. Adam Gase (Mia)
  29. Ben McAdoo (NYG)
  30. Doug Pederson (Phi)
  31. Dirk Koetter (TB)
  32. Mike Mularkey (Ten)

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