The Eagles started their season in exciting fashion as the team stormed to a 29-10 win over the Cleveland Browns. Naturally, the praise, spotlight and hype all fell on the shoulders of the first Eagles rookie QB to start the regular season since 1939, Carson Wentz. But the real unsung hero here..was a man making a debut of a different kind, Doug Pederson.
Pederson’s first offseason as a Head Coach was a tough one. In the space of a few months, the Eagles had, among other things:
- Traded up to draft their next franchise quarterback before dealing with an understandably unhappy Sam Bradford.
- To negotiate a ground-breaking extension for Fletcher Cox.
- A controversial sexual abuse allegation filed against Nelson Agholor.
- Their franchise right tackle potentially dealing with a ten game suspension.
- Reinvented their WR corps, releasing the recently signed Reuben Randle and Chris Givens in favor of younger guys with higher upsides, who potentially lacked experience or success of the aforementioned.
- Traded their starting quarterback to Minnesota just eight days before the start of the regular season.
That’s more than enough to potentially divide a locker room that was coming off of a troubled end to 2015. But under Pederson’s leadership, the Eagles rallied to a 4-0 preseason record and started the regular season with a win.
If you compare the Eagles win over the Browns to Chip Kelly’s first win as an NFL Head Coach and the week that followed, they’re two extremely contrasting scenarios. The media were quick to praise Chip’s coaching, Chip’s Offense, Chip’s team back in 2013, but this week the praise has all fallen to Carson Wentz..a somewhat coincidental scenario that shows the sheer difference in coaching styles.
Chip Kelly was the heart and soul of Chip Kelly’s team. The players..are the heart and soul of Doug’s, and are treated as such. As a former player, Pederson understands the stress, the emotions and the intensity of the regular season and what his team will have to go through..and it’s reflected in his coaching.
“Even if I wouldn’t have known him in Kansas City, I think it’s very apparent that he used to play the game,” Chase Daniel told ESPN.“He understands the schedule for guys, he understands the stress that’s put on guys, he understands when guys need a break, need a bone here and there.”
Jeffery Lurie stated following Chip’s departure that he wants a Head Coach who can engage with his players emotionally. Something Doug Pederson has already showcased numerous times.
“Man, I used to be a player, I know what it’s like, I know how grueling this practice is.” This is what Coach Pederson told Marcus Smith after a grueling Training camp practice. “I’m with you. I want you to get through it. Because once we get to Cleveland, it will be easy.”
On the opening game of the season, Doug’s connection with his players was apparent. As seen in the video below, Pederson was out of the spotlight for most of the game, but directly affected what happened under it. From motivating rookie quarterback Carson Wentz to congratulating every Offensive player after a successful drive and even pumping up his Defense, Pederson was not afraid to get vocal on the sidelines.
Without delving into the stats and looking at how well Carson Wentz handled himself and trusted in his receivers, to then see it reciprocated, looking at how Pederson managed the game beautifully and balanced his Offense just as he did during his play-calling in Kansas City, without looking at the 39 minutes of Offensive possession or the well structured plays..you can still see a complete culture shift.
The players want to play for Doug Pederson. There’s an electricity in this team that seemed to have been insulated in recent years. Pederson has been able to unite a group of players who could have very easily dissipated into different corners of the locker room as a team that trust in him and believe in his philosophies..which is no easy feat for a rookie Head Coach.
Sometimes you say it best, when you say nothing at all. In a city where the spotlight is so intimidating, the fans are beyond passionate and the media will be hot on your heels, Pederson has done a fantastic job of keeping things Football related. It’s something he’s passed down to his players and as a result, the Eagles roll into week two with a lot of momentum.
“The more success you have, more things can kind of creep in.” Pederson told the media yesterday. “you just have to stick to your plan and stick to what you believe in. Each week, just dive back into football and try to win another football game.”
In comparison to the constant twists and turns implemented by Chip Kelly during his tenure, the Eagles finally have a sense of serenity, simplicity and sustenance. It’s a chance for the team to focus on winning Football games and letting their actions do the talking. Something that while a focus under Chip, often fell beneath the cracks in favor of the high-intensity style he brought to the table.
Many are wrapping Carson Wentz in blankets made of praise and predictions..but slightly out of the picture, standing on the sidelines with nothing but his headset, gameplan and confidence..is the Head Coach who took the gamble to start Wentz over Chase Daniel, knowing that his team will rally behind their quarteback and believe in his and their own ability. The Head Coach who made the gutsy call to go for it on 4th down but balanced the aggression with impressive game management..and the Head Coach who above all, has saved this team from the brink, given them an identity and put them in a position to win Football games. That’s coaching.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports