Excellent summary of how the Eagles won in part by a coaching staff that made decisions based on a careful evaluation of evidence rather than uncritical acceptance of old-school bullshit:
The Eagles outpunched the Patriots in Super Bowl 52, with Nick Foles somehow keeping pace with Tom Brady even with Brady performing at the top of his game. The Eagles fused their play-calling, play design, and use of personnel packages into an attack so modern, so devastating it humbled Bill Belichick on the game’s biggest stage—with a backup quarterback. But don’t overlook Doug Pederson’s willingness to say fuck-all to customary NFL risk aversion. That’s what’s at the root of the Eagles’ first championship in 57 years.
The New York Times on Friday published a prescient story about Pederson’s preference for flouting convention. In a nutshell, Pederson spent the entire season optimizing the value of a given situation because he isn’t afraid to use predictive analysis in his decision-making. And he didn’t shirk from this during the Super Bowl.
After watching the Jaguars similarly toy with the Patriots with a play-action-heavy scheme in the AFC championship game, only to turtle in the fourth quarter, it was refreshing to watch Pederson and the Eagles continue to be so aggressive right up until the end. It’s a big reason why they’re the champs.
To make a point that Paul has made more than once, we generally frame Pederson’s decision-making as a bold gamble — and in the context of NFL conventional wisdom it is. But he was very clearly playing the percentages. The generic situational data showed the two key 4th down gambles as clearly correct, and given the specific situation — very good offense going up against a bad defense not playing its second-best corner for no obvious reason (we’ll get to that in the next post) and an opposition offense that was scoring at will — the decisions were even more obviously correct. Collinsworth’s incredulous reaction about Pederson making what should have been the very obvious decision of not settling for field goals against Tom Brady says a lot about why so many coaches wouldn’t have done what Pederson did.
Which isn’t to deny enormous credit to Foles and the rest of the Eagles offense. If the plays aren’t executed, Pederson would be getting a lot of erroneous criticism today. And while I think Marrone deserves a lot of the criticism he’s gotten for junking an offense that was working and installing Mike Mularkey’s playbook instead, while Bortles and Foles have a lot in common (good arms, surprisingly mobile, erratic decision-makers, very inconsistent), one key difference is that Bortles throws a lot more picks. Perderson could be a lot more comfortable letting ‘er rip. The Eagles offense played superbly. But Tom Brady had one of his very greatest games, and without a coach that improved his team’s chances rather than damaging them as so many coaches would have it wouldn’t have mattered. Some teams won’t take the obvious lesson, but organizations that are serious can pick up a lot of money lying on the table. One reason that Belichick has been so successful is that teams are oddly reluctant to imitate the greatest coach of his generation, and would rather generate positive feedback on local talk radio than win.