During his introductory press conference as the new head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday, former Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson finally revealed exactly how much playcalling influence he had in Kansas City.
Pederson said that starting with the Pittsburgh game on Oct. 25, Chiefs coach Andy Reid allowed him to call the second half of every game for the duration of the season.
The Chiefs, who were 1-5 before the Pittsburgh game, of course went on to beat the Steelers and win a franchise-record 11 straight games and win their first playoff game in 22 years.
“I was able to call plays, really, since the Pittsburgh game,” Pederson said. “Coach Reid and I had a great understanding, a great feel for the game. He allowed me to call the second half of every football game from that Steeler game on.”
In early December, Reid revealed that at some point in the season, he partially ceded playcalling duties to Pederson, who noted at the time that it only happens “occasionally.”
“It’s not very often, but there’s been times this year that he’s allowed me to do that,” Pederson said Dec. 10. “And I know that with him, too, it’s a way to kind of view the game without having to call the play for a series or two, and then he gets right back on it. But he’s one of the best play callers in the National Football League, and he’s not in slumps very often.”
At the time, Pederson also said he might call plays when the offense was in need of a “change up.”
“If you get into the course of the game and you feel like maybe the defensive coordinator has a beat on you, that you just change up,” Pederson said. “Whether you’re moving the ball or not and you get it from a different set of eyes, and he’s given the faith and trust in me to do that, and we get a lot of input throughout the game anyway, and it’s just sometimes a change of pace for a defensive coordinator.”
Prior to that, Pederson often served as a valued offensive consultant for Reid, who was itching to get back to calling plays when he joined the Chiefs in 2013 after giving up those duties for several years toward the end of his tenure in Philadelphia.
“Between series on the sideline or from the guys upstairs, there’s dialogue going on that certain plays can kind of get lost on your play sheet and you’re reminded that, ‘Hey, this might be pretty good in this situation,’ ” Pederson said. “And a lot of it, too, is predicated on how the defense is playing at that particular time and how they’re scheming you up in certain personnel groups and formations. And then we get ideas and suggestions and put another series together for the next drive.”
But Pederson’s offensive role with the Chiefs obviously grew, so much so that during his news conference with the Philadelphia media, he mentioned that he called the entire second half of the Chiefs’ 27-20 divisional round loss to the New England Patriots.
That, of course, led to a follow-up question about why the Chiefs’ controversial final drive — when they got the ball to the Patriots’ 1-yard line with approximately three minutes left and used nearly 1 1/2 minutes of game time before punching it in — took so long.
“It took us time because No. 1, we did not want to give Tom Brady the ball back,” Pederson said. “We knew we were going to score, we knew we had timeouts and time. We were also limited with the number of receivers (we had) — Jeremy Maclin was out of the game at the time, and we were down numbers.
“We felt like, at that point, (it was best) not to give the ball back to Tom Brady. We still had timeouts and time, even with the onside kick, to put ourselves in position to tie the football game.”
After the Chiefs scored to cut the deficit to 27-20, Brady got the ball back with 1:13 left and guided the Patriots to a first down that allowed them to run out the clock.
Regardless, as the new head coach of the Eagles, Pederson now has an opportunity to call plays full time — something he said he plans on doing, despite his reported offensive coordinator hire of Frank Reich, who served in the same role with the San Diego Chargers in 2014 and 2015.
And if Pederson wants to fully adapt the Reid model of offensive coaching, he might also choose to run the daily meetings where new offensive plays are installed, something Reid does in the mold of coaching legends Bill Walsh and Mike Holmgren.
“It’s a grind,” Pederson once said, when asked to describe what it’s been like for Reid to call plays as a head coach. “But you have to love the process. And if you don’t, then you’re in the wrong business.”