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McLane: How will Eagles' Pederson put his own mark on the West Coast offense?

Doug Pederson was introduced to the West Coast offense in 1996. Discarded by the expansion Panthers and then the Dolphins for the umpteenth time, the quarterback signed with the Packers early that season.

Doug Pederson was introduced to the West Coast offense in 1996. Discarded by the expansion Panthers and then the Dolphins for the umpteenth time, the quarterback signed with the Packers early that season.

He was only the third-stringer behind Brett Favre and Jim McMahon, but that first year playing for coach Mike Holmgren, in the system that Bill Walsh had mostly created, started a journey that has Pederson bringing the West Coast offense back to the Eagles some 20 years later.

The Eagles, of course, have primarily had a West Coast-based system for most of the last two decades. They had it first with offensive coordinator Jon Gruden in the mid-1990s and then with Andy Reid for 14 seasons, until Chip Kelly brought his up-tempo spread offense to Philadelphia three years ago.

Pederson is most identified with Reid, but when he arrived in Green Bay, Marty Mornhinweg was his quarterbacks coach. Even then, Mornhinweg said, Pederson showed a proficiency in calling plays in the West Coast system.

"A lot of times in two-minute offseason [drills] and training camp, and even during the season, you'd allow your quarterback to call the plays," Mornhinweg said during a recent phone interview. "So what I would do is go, 'Oh, the phones are down.' And I'd point to him, 'Go.' "

Holmgren was an immediate disciple of Walsh, having been his offensive coordinator in San Francisco. He jumped from the 49ers to the Packers and brought with him many of the concepts that he learned from the Hall of Fame coach.

"It was about the purest form of the West Coast," Mornhinweg said. "Every team evolves just a little bit, and you evolve every year depending upon your personnel. We certainly did that in Philly, and Doug got to see and be a part of it as a coach, too."

Mornhinweg left Green Bay to become the 49ers' offensive coordinator in 1997 and was replaced by Reid, but Mornhinweg would be reunited with Pederson in 2009. After spending four years coaching high school football, Pederson took an entry-level offensive quality-control position with the Eagles, where Mornhinweg was the offensive coordinator.

The job mostly included breaking down film, helping prepare the playbooks, and assisting during installation meetings, but Pederson was almost immediately involved in the quarterbacks meetings and on-field assignments, according to Mornhinweg.

Pederson worked even more closely with Mornhinweg after becoming quarterbacks coach two years later. Mornhinweg had been calling plays for years, and while the team had begun its slide under Reid by that point, Pederson said that instruction was invaluable.

"Marty's a great play- caller," Pederson said. "Marty sees things naturally on the football field. Everybody sees things differently, but everything kind of came natural to Marty. He had an aggressive style."

Reid's version of the West Coast offense had evolved significantly, partly to reflect personnel, but also to counter modern defenses. The offense was still pass-oriented, with early throws designed to set up the run both later in drives and in the game. The terminology and receiver route concepts were relatively the same, but the system was different with Michael Vick at quarterback than it was with Donovan McNabb, for instance.

"The thing with the West Coast is you can do anything you want, you can evolve any way you want," said Mornhinweg, now the Ravens quarterbacks coach. "And most of that depends on your personnel. And some of it is your own philosophy."

Pederson's philosophy is partly unknown. He's steeped in the West Coast offense, although he played in other systems, but he's never been chiefly responsible for an NFL offense. He said on Tuesday during his introductory news conference that he would call plays.

"It is a pass-friendly system, but yet it's not so much of a vertical system than what people think," Pederson said. "Today's game has changed offensively. You're seeing more spread-style offenses in the National Football League. You're seeing more of the run/pass options that the quarterbacks have at the line of scrimmage."

The Chiefs, under Reid, incorporated more spread plays to utilize quarterback Alex Smith's athletic skills. They had zone-read, read-option, and package plays, which gave Smith run or pass options after the snap.

Just as Kelly was open enough to integrate pro-style passing concepts into his offense, Reid cribbed ideas from the college game, where so much of Kelly's philosophy was developed.

"I think that's the biggest thing that you're seeing today in the spread style of offenses, particularly in your short-yardage situations, even some of your goal-line situations, where you're not just packing the box with 11 big bodies," Pederson said. "You're spreading the field and giving your quarterback and your offense a favorable chance to make those downs."

For example, Pederson, who was responsible for calling plays in the second half of games, dialed up a read-option play on second down and goal when the Chiefs scored late against the Patriots in last week's divisional playoff loss. Smith pitched to running back Charcandrick West, and West waltzed into the end zone.

Pederson and Reid were criticized for the pace of that final drive, but responsibility also fell on the quarterback's shoulders. Kansas City's season changed, according to many Chiefs, when the coaches gave Smith more flexibility to change plays at the line.

"We actually streamlined our offense," Pederson said. "We cut out a bunch of terminology."

Kelly's quarterbacks didn't have that pre-snap luxury, even if they knew the play was doomed based on a defense's pre-snap look. Sam Bradford had that comfort previously with the Rams, where he, too, once played in a West Coast-based scheme.

The foundation for Pederson is there, but his imprint on the West Coast offense is yet to be seen. A lot will depend on whether the Eagles bring back Bradford or whether they go with another quarterback.

Mornhinweg said Pederson would be prepared.

"I knew it immediately," he said. "It didn't take very long to realize that he would someday call plays and be a head coach."