Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Will Pederson fare better as coach than he did as player with Eagles?

DOUG PEDERSON'S one and only year as a player with the Eagles was, for lack of a better word, interesting.

Head coach Doug Pederson is hoping to point the Eagles in a winning direction.
Head coach Doug Pederson is hoping to point the Eagles in a winning direction.Read more

DOUG PEDERSON'S one and only year as a player with the Eagles was, for lack of a better word, interesting.

Andy Reid didn't want to throw his first-round rookie quarterback, Donovan McNabb, into the deep end of the NFL pool until he felt he was ready. So, in 1999, he signed Pederson, a career backup, to hold the fort until then.

Pederson ended up starting nine games that year and the fort was constantly under attack, both from opposing defenses and from Eagles fans.

The fans actually were scarier than the defenses. They wanted McNabb out there, ready or not, and absolutely loathed Pederson, particularly since the Eagles won just two of the nine games he started. They booed him nonstop. They hurled four-letter-loaded insults. They threw things at him, including batteries.

"Those big ones," he said recently. "Those 'D' ones. I was spit at. Beer (thrown at him). But hey, listen, whatever.

"Quite honestly, and it kind of holds true today, I didn't read a paper. I didn't listen to the radio. I didn't watch SportsCenter. My little world was that locker room. Eagles football. That was it.

"I think my wife and family heard more of it because we all have friends and they're saying, 'What in the heck if your husband doing? What is he thinking?' So (they) were getting the brunt of it more than I was, even though I'm the one in the media."

And now he's back in Philadelphia as Jeff Lurie's warmer-and-fuzzier successor to Chip Kelly.

Pederson hasn't gotten the hostile reception from Eagles fans that he got as a player, but it's still early. If the Eagles open with back-to-back losses to the Browns and Bears, stores may have a run on batteries.

Compared to Kelly's hiring in 2013, there hasn't been a whole lot of hip-hip-hooray enthusiasm for Pederson. The national media didn't stand up and applaud his selection. Which isn't surprising.

We're talking about a guy who, despite 12 years as an NFL backup, still is just eight years removed from being a high school coach and was an NFL coordinator for only three seasons before the Eagles hired him.

Except for DUI and domestic abuse arrests and ridiculous court cases over deflated footballs, the NFL has a six-week news hole in June and July, between the end of OTAs and the beginning of training camp.

Hard up for football info, this generally is when ESPN trots out Sal Paolantonio's 10 favorite pasta dishes and John Clayton's five favorite memories of Otto Graham, and publications and websites slap together rankings of teams, quarterbacks, left tackles, long snappers, cheerleaders, and yes, head coaches.

Not surprisingly, Pederson has not fared well on these lists. USA Today and The Sporting News had him ranked 30th. and Rotoworld put him dead last.

This almost certainly would've bothered the hell out of Kelly. It doesn't bother Pederson. As a guy who started just 17 games in 12 pro seasons and had a 62.3 career passer rating, he's used to flying under the radar. Prefers it, actually. It's easier to surprise people when they don't have a high opinion of you.

"It's my first year as a head coach and that's fine," Pederson said. "You gain experience each and every day. I've been around this league 22 years - eight as a coach, 14 as a player. I've seen a lot of things. I've been around a lot of great coaches.

"I apply a lot of what I've learned into this situation. At the same time, you have to develop your own plan and your own ideas. Are all of them going to work? Probably not. You learn and you move on. Same as a player.

"Underestimated? That's OK. I'd rather go in that way, and be as successful as I can on the field. My concern is the players in that locker room. I really don't put a lot of weight or external value on what people say. That's their opinions. I can only control that locker room and things that are in my grasp."

After Kelly, Lurie wanted someone familiar. Someone like, well, like Reid, who he fired in 2012 after 14 seasons. He wanted someone who was a good football coach, but who also was approachable and would have no trouble gaining the trust of the locker room, and would treat everyone in the organization with respect.

He thinks he has that in Pederson, but being approachable and well-liked isn't going to matter much if the new coach can't get the Eagles back on the playoff track.

In Philadelphia, like everywhere else in the NFL, football is a bottom-line business. Win and you're fine. Lose and you're gone. So, Pederson doesn't think Lurie's familiarity with him is going to buy him any extra time.

"In this league, I don't think there is time any more," he said. "I've seen coaches get fired after one year, after two, after three. You've got to win now. You do everything you can in the offseason with free agency, with draft picks, to bring guys in that help you win now."

And yet, the Eagles traded away a truckload of primo draft picks to move up and grab quarterback Carson Wentz, who Pederson has said probably will open the season as the team's No. 3 quarterback.

The move would seem to indicate a long-range plan here on the part of both Lurie and executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman, which would seem to suggest they won't have a quick trigger with Pederson.

That '99 team that Pederson started nine games for finished 5-11, which had zero impact on Reid's job security. But Pederson correctly pointed out that the Eagles of 2016 have a lot more talent than the Eagles of '99.

"I've said this before. I think this team is better today than that team," he said. "I just think we're in a better position. Back then, (the '99 season) was sort of a weeding-out process. I think nearly half of that roster that year ended up being gone (the next year).

"So, as far as time, I don't think there's time. I'm going to coach every game to win now. That's the way we're going to approach it."

Pederson has had good teachers. He played for Hall of Famer Don Shula, Super Bowl-winner Mike Holmgren and Reid. He spent seven years as an assistant under Reid.

"I think it's important to have your own identity," he said. "Andy obviously laid a great foundation for me. But one of the things he shared with me when I left Kansas City (was) he said you need to be you. Bring your (own) thoughts and your (own) ideas to the table.

"So he laid a good foundation and structure (for me) from the aspect of how to organize an OTA practice, how to organize the entire offseason, how to lay out your coach's calendar for the spring and summer; training camp and all the things that come with being a head coach.

"But you have to put your own personality and spin on it. That's where the separation (between him and Andy) can begin. Even though the foundation has been laid, now you take it in the direction you want to go."