Eagles seek to 'Win Today', and Sunday, too, at Dallas | Marcus Hayes
Doug Pederson's "Win Today" motto might not be original, but it's working for the Birds ahead of their rivalry game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Malcolm Jenkins blew two coverages in practice Wednesday, but he knew why he made the mistakes and expected to correct them Thursday. Then, he spent 15 minutes sharpening his blitzing skills. That's how he Won Today.
Nigel Bradham, who wins every day, blew a couple of calls at practice, but he Won Today because he got the plays right the next time.
As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, Mychal Kendricks hadn't Won Today, but he felt confident that, after the evening's meetings, he might still leave the NovaCare Complex a winner.
Doug Pederson returned to Philadelphia last year with a myopic and boring "Win Today" motto. It appeared to be a form of recycled brilliance when the team went 4-2. It didn't resonate as much over the next eight games, when it went 1-7.
It resonates now, though. The Eagles are 8-1, on top the conference and the league, primed for a prime-time game at Dallas on Sunday night. It resonates even more this week, because Pederson is tasked with refocusing his players after a bye.
" 'Win Today.' That was my message this morning," Pederson said before practice. "Let's just win today. Let's get better today."
The message has gotten through all season.
"To me, it means, 'Don't look too far down the line.' Even every snap in practice," defensive tackle Tim Jernigan said. "You can't play the game on Wednesday or Thursday. Just have the best practice ever. During the week, do everything we've got to do to take care of our bodies to get ready for the game. Then, in the game, one snap at a time."
If "Win Today" sounds obvious and unoriginal, that's because it is. William Shakespeare used it in King John. Chip Kelly used a slightly different version — "Win The Day" — as King Chip.
Kelly and Pederson employ it as a bastardized derivation of carpe diem, a Latin phrase very loosely translated as "seize the day," dating to the Roman poet Horace and his Odes, written just before Christ's birth. It was later made fashionable in English works by Lord Byron in the early 19th century and again by Robert Frost about 100 years later — though it's difficult to picture Pederson, sitting fireside with pipe and slippers, thumbing through a book of poems.
He's no literary scholar, and he's no motivational innovator. It's just a catchy saying.
"It's, like, a universal football philosophy," Kendricks said.
Pederson's just the latest genius to adopt it.
Still, cliches can be relevant and effective. Consider Pederson's audience. They're all young men; even the old ones. They're newly rich and NFL famous. They have wives and girlfriends and kids and kin, and they usually have two residences, plus a business interest or two. Every day, they face temptations. Every day, their career might end in an eyeblink.
So, yes, it might be difficult for them to concentrate.
The Eagles are 8-1 because they stay in the moment. If they hope to reach 9-1, they will do well to ignore the injuries plaguing Cowboys Pro Bowl players Sean Lee, Tyron Smith, and Dez Bryant, and they will ignore the suspension of running back Ezekiel Elliott. They will play with the same precision in preparation that brought them to this heady point.
"Often times, you're looking too far off, thinking about where you can go, and you miss a step, and you fall short," Jenkins said. "Like, Monday, we came back, and we were really focused, looked really crisp. Today, we started out shaky. Then, we got back to where we normally are as a team. When the offense got to go against our defense, the energy was there, the focus was there. We've been successful, but our preparation is what has allowed us to play like we've been playing."
They've been playing better than everyone else, and they know it. The trick is to not be satisfied with what they've done.
"I'd be a liar if I said we don't look down the line and look at who we're playing, which games are going to be more challenging than the others," Kendricks said. "We focus on who's in front of us. But this team isn't scared to say that we're good."
They've been so good because some players, such as Kendricks, now ignore the big picture.
"I'm better at that, yeah," said Nelson Agholor, who is a less-anxious receiver in his third season. "I had great effort, great focus today. Today was first- and second-down situations. I was prepared with that."
"It's a mixture of practicing that, and knowing we're capable," said Vinny Curry, who no longer tries to match his breakout season of 2014, when he collected nine sacks and forced four fumbles. Now, he's a disciplined, every-down end who works well with the other 10 defenders. "You get 11 guys doing their job, you've won the day."
"I win every day," said Bradham, who spent his first season dealing with the distraction from two arrests in Miami. He's no longer distracted. "I come prepared. Accountable. With intensity. Integrity. Being responsible. Taking control. That's how you 'Win Today.' "
Not everyone Wins Today like Bradham, but candid self-evaluation has value, too.
"To be honest with you," Kendricks said, sipping a reddish super-drink after practice, "I feel like I didn't have that good of a day today."
Tomorrow's another day. He can always carpe cras.