What can the Eagles teach us about “The Achievement Plateau?”
The Philadelphia Eagles have played two games and won two games. That’s pretty good (#analysis), and it probably means we’re winning the Super Bowl.
Watching last night’s win over the Minnesota Vikings brought me back to this post I had started a while back in 2020 when the Eagles were awful.
At the time, way back in December of 2020, then-Head-Coach-Doug-Pederson started Jalen Hurts at quarterback over their well-paid, franchise player Carson Wentz. The team ran a competent offense, played aggressive defense despite losing personnel to injury after injury, and beat the New Orleans Saints, 24-21.
Part of their success at the time was in simplifying the offense for Hurts. In his post-game press conferences, Coach Pederson said, “We didn’t give him a lot of freedom in this game.”
This idea — narrowing the game plan — worked before for the Eagles. Pederson applied a similar approach in the Eagles 2018 Super Bowl run, when he had to extract the most from another backup quarterback, Nick Foles. He simplified the offense.
It got me thinking: Why simplify an offense for professional athletes who are paid handsomely and have been playing their position for years?
Running an (American) football offense is really complex. It requires a quarterback to internalize a large playbook, with each play containing 11 moving pieces and several options to adjust it at the line of scrimmage. It also requires the quarterback to properly read the defense in front of him, understanding whether they’re poised to blitz, attack the run, or drop back into pass coverage. Lots of variables to consider in a short amount of time leads to a lot of complexity in decision-making — and a lot of opportunities to make mistakes.
It’s not just Pederson who’s taken this approach. Coach Sean McVay, who won last year’s Super Bowl with the LA Rams, often says his offense is designed to give the “illusion of complexity,” while at its core, it’s simple for the players to understand and execute.
Running a classroom, a school, or a school system is no different. Consider the complexities with the current pandemic and the basic decision of whether or not schools should reopen. Leaders are having to compute variables about public health, the engineering of facilities, virology, epidemiology, politics, technology, mental health, and, oh yeah, actual teaching and learning.
In working with new teachers, I always encourage them to simplify their instruction. Create a simple, consistent schedule for your subject and stick to each day. For an ELA teacher, this look like this: 10 minutes of knowledge-building, 30 minutes of shared reading, 20 minutes of writing in response to reading, and
Simplifying one variable or domain allows leaders to focus on the variables that are changing before their eyes. We can control instruction much more than we can control students’ behavior, so why not simplify it?
Coach Pederson ended being fired a few weeks after he debuted Jalen Hurts. Head Coaches, much like principals and superintendents, often take the heat when performance lags.
But both seem to be finding success right now. Pederson has seemingly breathed new life into another struggling, young quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, perhaps by simplifying the offense. And Hurts is thriving under the Eagles’ new head coach, Nick Sirianni, who was notably criticized for saying the following at his introductory press conference: We’re going to…we’re going to know…we’re going to have systems in place that are easier to learn.
Thanks for reading. Have a great week. And “Go Birds.”