Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson allows two voices in his headset during games that perhaps aren’t in the ears of many of his colleagues.
It’s not the devil and angel sitting on his shoulders. It’s two of his “analytics guys”: Dartmouth graduate Ryan Paganetti and director of football compliance Jon Ferrari, according to an ESPN article.
Many fans and analysts lauded Pederson for his play calling and willingness to take risks on fourth downs on the Eagles’ path to winning Super Bowl LII.
It turns out Pederson’s decisions weren’t so much about his gut feelings as it was playing the percentages — and knowing the chances of converting in given situations.
That’s what Paganetti and Ferrari helped him with during games.
“What’s amazing about it is I can ask or want to do a study on something and I’ve got 5-10 years of data. I can get a quick answer and an accurate answer,” Pederson said on the podcast “NFL: Game Theory and Money.” “It’s deciphering what I want to use and what helps us win football games on Sundays and helps us win the Super Bowl.”
It’s fair to wonder that given Pederson’s success if others around the league might try to imitate him — and whether new Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, the former Eagles quarterback coach, might try to bring some of that analytical approach to his play calling. The Eagles went for it on fourth down 26 times during the regular season, the second-highest amount in the league, and they converted 17 times (65.4 percent, the third-highest efficiency), according to Sportradar, a statistical data firm.
The Eagles also went for it twice on fourth down during the Super Bowl. One time was late in the first half near the goal line on the trick play that ended with a receiving touchdown for quarterback Nick Foles.
If DeFilippo is anything like his former boss, expect the Vikings to be a little more aggressive next season in those situations — or at least maybe DeFilippo will convince coach Mike Zimmer to go for it more often. The Vikings were last in the league in fourth-down attempts (seven) and converted just one — a C.J. Ham fourth-and-1 conversion on a drive during the 24-7 victory over the Rams in Week 11.
That kind of conservative approach might be because the Vikings had a dominant defense. But the Eagles eschewed conservatism, and despite having a good defense, they still went for it regularly on calculated gambles.
“We’ve lived with television commentators and reporters and whatever for 20, 30, 40 years, who always kind of adopted what I would call a very conservative approach to those decisions,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said, according to ESPN. “When you do the math, you really want to try to be a lot more aggressive than the public would normally anticipate. So I think the smarter teams do it that way.”
Perhaps DeFilippo will bring that aggressive mind-set to his new team.