Doug Pederson is the reluctant head coach.
Mentioned as a possible candidate following his sophomore season as the Chiefs' offensive coordinator, Pederson told his agent, Bob Lamonte, "I'm not ready. Take my name off everything you've got."
A year later, Pederson didn't even prepare for the likelihood. When the Eagles contacted him for an interview, he had to scramble. With Lamonte's help, he pieced together a plan in a two-inch, three-ring binder.
Pederson wanted to be a NFL head coach. He thought he had the ability. But he was hesitant. He immediately accepted Jeffrey Lurie's job offer in January 2016, but the doubts that nagged him in various stages of his life crept back early in his tenure.
"Am I going to be good enough, because I don't have head-coaching experience outside of high school football?" Pederson said in a recent interview. "I've been around a lot of great head coaches in my career, but you begin to doubt. And, for me, it was the doubt of, 'Are the players going to believe me?' "
The players, of course, would come to believe. How else could Pederson have led the Eagles to a Super Bowl victory in only his second season? But in telling his story in the just-released memoir, FEARLESS: How an Underdog Becomes a Champion, the Eagles coach spends almost as much time writing about fear as he does about fearlessness.
To Pederson, the title refers to the oft-repeated message in scripture of doing away with fear. The Bible is full of reluctant leaders, people who didn't choose power but were chosen for it. And they often needed to overcome the fear of self-doubt.
Pederson's story isn't exactly Moses-like, and nor did he make that comparison, but the two are similar in that they became great leaders when few – including themselves – might have expected it. The responsibility was thrust upon them even though leading the Israelites or coaching in the NFL wasn't their No. 1 priority.
"There's more to life," Pederson said. "This doesn't have to define me as a person. This is just my job, this is what I do. It's what I love to do, and I don't want people to be mistaken, because this isn't drudgery. But I'm not a lifer, I think, in this. There's a difference."
In his book, Pederson revealed that he could see himself coaching for only eight to 10 more years. The 50-year old recently signed a contract extension through the next five years, so one more deal might mean he would end his career in Philadelphia.
Pederson's early success almost allows him to write his own ticket. Sustainability in the NFL is often unattainable. But with Carson Wentz at quarterback, it's difficult to see significant regression this season and beyond.
So, why a memoir now? Pederson said that Lamonte first broached the idea after the Super Bowl in February. They figured his story was one worth telling, and it offered Pederson the opportunity to take ownership.
"I don't talk a lot about myself," Pederson said. "That's why I don't have Instagram, Facebook, or all the social media stuff. I stay away from it. Other people post crap about my life, and I hate that, too, because it's not their life, it's mine."
Longtime NFL writer Dan Pompei was chosen as Pederson's ghost writer, and over three spring weekends, Pederson spent 30 to 35 hours answering questions that would be transcribed into book form.
"There's no way I was writing the thing," Pederson said. "I'd still be writing. I wouldn't even be past Page 1."
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When Lamonte shopped the memoir proposal, one of the publishing companies submitted an offer with Mike Lombardi as co-author. It's unclear whether the suggestion was meant as irony. Lombardi, the former NFL executive-turned-pundit, said before last season that Pederson "isn't a head coach."
Even though Lombardi sent him a handwritten apology after the Eagles won the NFC championship, Pederson declined the book offer.
"I said, 'No thanks, respectfully,' " Pederson wrote.
Lombardi's assessment was harsh, but he wasn't the only one with reservations about Pederson's qualifications and readiness. The Eagles, after all, were the only ones to interview him. The meeting hadn't gone well, sources told The Inquirer at the time.
Pederson not only had to cobble together an outline – unlike his mentor, Andy Reid, who famously walked into his Eagles' interview with a detailed binder he had been compiling for years – but he was distracted by the Chiefs' upcoming playoff game.
"I compartmentalize everything. So I focused on the postseason, not an interview," Pederson said. "I was like, 'Gosh, I really wish this was not here, so I could focus on this.' So, it was a little unsettling. I like things to be calm."
In the book, Pederson said he felt positive about the interview. It was ultimately a conversation between acquaintances, he felt, having previously known and work for the Eagles.
"And I never once opened the notebook I had," Pederson said.
Lurie said that Pederson was the Eagles' only choice, but Pederson acknowledged in the book that there were reports that Ben McAdoo, who was eventually hired by the New York Giants, was the first choice. McAdoo has since been fired.
Pederson walked into his first meeting with the players with uncertainty. " 'Who's this guy? What's he know?' " he envisioned them asking themselves. It didn't take them long to buy into his culture.
Pederson can be tough. He laid out the fines for being late for a meeting or wearing the wrong shoes – a maximum of $2,490 – but he said he'll usually only charge them $750 the first time "to get their attention." Losing an iPad can cost a player $13,285, but Pederson said he typically fines them just the cost of the device and $1,000.
He isn't unrelenting. There's a chapter titled simply, "Emotional Intelligence," the term Lurie used when asked to describe some of the characteristics he was looking for in Chip Kelly's successor. On Christmas Eve, for instance, Pederson allowed the players to stay at their homes rather than in the team hotel before their Christmas night home game against the Raiders.
Did that have anything to do with the team's sluggish play? Perhaps, Pederson conceded, but he wouldn't have done the opposite, he wrote, even if they had lost.
The memoir isn't linear. Pederson jumps around and hits various points in his life, but there is the consistent thread of doubt, whether it was during his playing career as a backup who was cut six times, or as the underestimated coach.
Pederson begins his book with the climax. He recounted his pre-Super Bowl chat with five-time winner Bill Belichick. The Patriots coach was complimentary, and Pederson said he had nothing but respect for the future Hall of Famer.
Belichick is anything but a reluctant head coach. But Pederson, in that moment, felt a surge of pride in what his team had accomplished and the obstacles they had cleared. In his mind, there was no doubt the Eagles would win.
"I looked at him," Pederson wrote, "and thought, 'I'm going to kick your tail, definitely going to kick your tail.' "