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Pederson probably was a fallback choice for Eagles

You know it's coming. Jeffrey Lurie will take the podium at the NovaCare Complex in the coming days or weeks and say some form of the following:

Doug Pederson
Doug PedersonRead more(Photo courtesy of The Kansas City Star)

You know it's coming. Jeffrey Lurie will take the podium at the NovaCare Complex in the coming days or weeks and say some form of the following:

Doug Pederson was our first and only choice to be the next Eagles head coach.

And that may be true. There were early indications that the Chiefs offensive coordinator was among the Eagles' list of candidates. Lurie had known Pederson well during his days as an Eagles player and coach, and looking to catch up on his last three seasons in Kansas City, he contacted Andy Reid very early in the process.

Reid, of course, gave Pederson his stamp of approval. And it was more than enough to draw Lurie, who was clearly looking for someone more like Reid and less like Chip Kelly, closer to the 47-year old.

But the Eagles' search - headed by Lurie, vice president of football operations Howie Roseman and team president Don Smolenski - and how it was conducted over the last 16 days suggests that Pederson was more of a fallback selection than the No. 1 (or 2 or 3) target.

And that may prove to be prescient. The last time the Eagles went after and snared their top choice they ended up with Kelly. It's still unclear if his disastrous third season was more of his doing or had more to do with a fixed climate that doomed his chances.

Whatever the reason, it didn't jibe with how Lurie wanted his franchise run, or with Roseman, who returned to personnel power after Kelly's ouster. The search, if anything, will prove to say as much about Roseman as it will Lurie.

The owner has married himself to the former general manager who has outlasted a steady stream of personnel executives and two coaches over the last decade. And finding someone who was willing to work with Roseman, fair or not, was always going to be an issue.

Kelly was a bold pick. Pederson was the safe one, at least in terms of the Eagles' familiarity with his personality. He is noble, amiable and forthcoming. He is the anti-Kelly. Like Reid 17 years ago, he has little NFL experience as a play caller, and like Reid, no other team had interviewed him for its head coaching vacancy.

The Eagles could have waited until after the Super Bowl and Pederson still would have been there. But when some of the more accomplished candidates opted for other environs in the last week, it forced them to end the search likely in an attempt to control the narrative.

The Eagles may not have offered the position to Adam Gase, Ben McAdoo or Tom Coughlin, but they had strong interest in all three, and were prepared to make their pitch to two of them, according to several NFL sources familiar with the team's search.

Gase, the former Bears offensive coordinator who signed with the Dolphins on Saturday, knew he could have had the Eagles' job, but he has chosen a situation and a quarterback in Ryan Tannehill that he felt made Miami more equipped to win now, two sources familiar with his thinking said.

Gase was the first outside candidate to meet with the Eagles. Lurie fired Kelly five days before the season finale in part because he said he wanted to get a jump on the search. The Eagles interviewed running backs coach Duce Staley first, thus fulfilling the Rooney Rule obligation of meeting with a minority candidate, and then met with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.

Staley and Shurmur were cursory interviews. Gase, it would seem, was the big white fish, the reason Lurie abruptly dumped Kelly, who was hired by the 49ers on Thursday. The Eagles used the same blueprint three years ago with Kelly. They interviewed minority candidate Keith Armstrong first before flying to Kelly.

But unlike last time, they didn't reel in Gase.

The Eagles then interviewed McAdoo, followed by Pederson on Sunday. However the latter meeting went, the team then narrowed its focus on the former. The Eagles were prepared to offer the job to McAdoo, three independent sources said.

But the New York Giants swooped in once the Eagles' interest was reported - an obvious pressure tactic by McAdoo's camp - and promoted their offensive coordinator to head coach.

"Howie totally got left at the altar," one source said.

Bob Lamonte, the agent for McAdoo and Roseman - not to mention Pederson and Shurmur - apparently was the one who whisked the bride away. The Eagles never scheduled a second interview with McAdoo, but they didn't need one before hiring Pederson.

Neither Roseman nor the Eagles would comment on McAdoo.

Then there were reports that they had set their sights on McAdoo's old boss - old being a relative term - the 69-year-old Coughlin. He withdrew his name from consideration, but the Eagles' interest was likely never more than tepid.

There were always doubts from both sides. Coughlin's age, his recent record, and his headstrong ways seemed the opposite of what Lurie preferred. There were reports that Coughlin couldn't pull together a coaching staff, but working with Roseman was also believed to be unappealing to him.

So that left Pederson - or maybe that was the plan all along.

He won't come in and rock the boat. Coaches who say "gosh," as Pederson did on Wednesday when asked about his meeting with the Eagles, aren't boat rockers. As silly as it seems, Pederson's aw-shucks answer almost sounded like a "Muskie Moment."

Does a leader of men, someone that will have to endure one of the toughest towns in which to coach football, say "gosh?"

"He's tough," Reid answered in a text message.

The Eagles got their man - Lurie's Reidlike man and Roseman's "Yes man" - but will that be good enough?