A few months ago, one former NFL GM stated that Doug Pederson was the most unqualified Head Coach in the National Football League. If you’ve forgotten the cutting words of Mike Lombardi, let me jog your memory.
“Hey Fred, meet the Eagles’ head coach, Doug Pederson! Now, everybody knows Pederson isn’t a head coach. He might be less qualified to coach a team than anyone I’ve ever seen in my 30-plus years in the NFL.
Pederson was barely a coordinator before he became head coach. Can you imagined if we elected a United States president who didn’t have any real training? Sorry, don’t answer that.
Look, the Eagles looked increasingly sloppy and unprepared as the 2016 season limped along. That ain’t changing in ’17.
Only Carson Wentz can save Pederson’s job, and Wentz actually got worse during his rookie year, not better.
When will the Eagles admit their mistake? Will they throw away 2017 by stubbornly sticking to the Pederson Principle?
The immortal Roy Rubin lasted 51 games. I bet Doug Pederson lasts way less than that.”
It’s ironic then that a Coach who according to Lombardi had his entire employment resting on the shoulders of Carson Wentz, is going to the NFC Championship game without him. The truth is, this season has been a complete rollercoaster. One of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. But through it all, the injuries, the touchdowns, the celebrations and the heartbreak, Doug Pederson stood tall and let his culture do the rest.
The Eagles tied a franchise record with 13 wins this season and earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC for the fourth time since 2002. Without even mentioning the six Pro Bowlers, the Eagles went on to win their first playoff game since 2008 on Saturday evening, overthrowing the Atlanta Falcons. Underdogs at home as a number one seed? That was a burden left to simmer in the mind of a Head Coach who has been downplayed since he walked into the league.
Pederson would have his mettle tested when he lost quarterback Carson Wentz. But it wasn’t anything new. Jordan Hicks, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, the list goes on and on. But the Eagles and Pederson showed resiliency even on the darkest of days and they now sit just one game away from their first Super Bowl since that 2005 loss to the Patriots.
Worst to first. That’s the catchphrase that now hangs over this Eagles team after Pederson pulled them from the gutter of the NFC East this season. After a year plagued by strip-club controversies, unusual umbrella incidents, players being pulled over for carrying Weed and guns and others by coaches for a simple lack of effort, there was a lot of work to do. While back of house changes certainly made an impact, it was the culture that defined it all.
“One of my favorite things about Doug is one of his biggest mottos, “let your personality show”. Tight end Trey Burton told me last year. “You don’t hear coaches say that very often. They don’t want crazy things to happen. Doug used to say that all the time and everytime he would say that, to me personally it gave me peace. It would calm me down and let me be who I am, instead of being like a robot and trying to impress a coach who likes a tighter ship.”
Pederson has infused an era of accountability just two season’s removed from one that lacked it completely. Players don’t just want to play for their Head Coach, but they trust so much in his vision and judgement that the Eagles are the most aggressive fourth down team in the league…even without their franchise quarterback.
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In a game that many labelled as the end of the road for the Eagles and a half that seemed to vindicate that label, Pederson took his troops into the locker room at halftime and rallied them like never before. The Eagles came out swinging. Nick Foles caught fire and the defense was as aggressive as it ever has been. The Eagles won. They upset the Falcons. In a game where most had the team written off, the resiliency and presence of culture was again on full display.
Sean McVay may well be a deserving candidate, but his L.A Rams couldn’t get the job done against this Falcons team…and that was with star quarterback Jared Goff at the helm. Doug Pederson and the Eagles limped into this matchup fueled on nothing but confidence and a chip on their shoulder. They left with a berth in the NFC Championship game.
Tough calls, aggressive calls and an ability to remain composed in the most stressful of situations, Pederson fused the best of two eras into his playbook on Saturday. The unpredictability of Chip Kelly’s 2013 offense blended perfectly with Pederson’s own offensive morals…leading the team to slow down one of the fastest defenses in the league.
So, when you ask yourself who really deserves that prestigious NFL Award, remember this. Doug Pederson just beat an Atlanta Falcons team who stunned Jared Goff and his QB Guru Head Coach…and he did so with Nick Foles, who was ice cold going into the matchup and into halftime. He did so without key components on offense and defense. He did so with culture and confidence.
Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports