BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Only 11 hours passed since Doug Pederson outfoxed the NFL's best coach in the Super Bowl, since he was showered in Gatorade and he hoisted the Lombardi Trophy and he told his team that miracles can, in fact, happen. Bleary-eyed with day-after stubble crowding his face, Pederson fulfilled his final league obligation during a Monday morning news conference and photo opportunity before boarding a flight back to Philadelphia.
There had not been much time to process or reflect, and it still didn't seem entirely real for the Eagles' second-year coach that he was now a Super Bowl-champion coach.
"It really hasn't sunk in completely yet," Pederson said. "I can remember back even as a player winning this game and what it felt like, what it meant, but I think it's just a little more special waking up today knowing you've accomplished what you set out in April."
Pederson should use the term "waking up" loosely, because there wasn't much sleep when Sunday turned to Monday. He enjoyed the moment with his family, including his wife, sons, and mother. He spent time with players and coaches at the team's postgame party.
"Just a crazy whirlwind of a night," Pederson said.
Upon analysis, Pederson will see what was clear to a worldwide audience on Monday. His aggressive approach and creative play-calling allowed the Eagles to amass 41 points on the New England Patriots, and the way he manages and motivates his players allowed the Eagles to play loose and with confidence on the sport's biggest stage against the league's most daunting foe.
Pederson, who admitted that he knew of skepticism when he was hired, now has the last laugh. He didn't win coach of the year this season – he didn't even finish in the top three in voting – but he's just the eighth coach in NFL history to win the Super Bowl during his first two seasons.
"I've known Doug for 20 years. I know the man, I know the leader," Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said in the postgame locker room. "In today's world of sports, you need to be able to truly connect at all levels, through ups and downs and be genuine, and you've got to be fearless. He combines fearlessness and genuineness in a way that creates a world champion."
After the Super Bowl win, his players marveled at the play-calling. They've seen it before this season, whether it was with gutsy fourth-down decisions in September or a flea flicker in January. But when he called "Philly Special" on a fourth down at the goal line in the Super Bowl, giving Trey Burton his first career pass and Nick Foles his first career catch, it was a new level of guts.
"He should have won coach of the year," tight end Zach Ertz said. "He is the best play caller I have ever played for. He is the best head coach I have ever played for, and I am blessed to play for him."
Tackle Lane Johnson said that Pederson told the players that he "wasn't going to change for anybody" in the Super Bowl. The commentators might have been surprised. An out-of-town fan at a Super Bowl party might have doubted him. But the Eagles didn't expect Pederson to start thinking conventionally because there were more rings on the other sideline or more eyeballs watching him.
They also didn't think the Eagles were at any preparation disadvantage against Belichick on the other sideline. Pederson was asked all week about how daunting a challenge it is to go up against Belichick, whose five Super Bowls as a head coach rightfully earns him the distinction as the elite coach in NFL history. And though he didn't say it, Pederson's play-calling and decision-making hasn't taken a backseat to anyone this season. That's why they won 16 games, including the Super Bowl.
Torrey Smith referenced the "heat" Pederson took and that he wanted Pederson to "cherish" the championship. It's clear that his players – especially veterans – respond to him. Chris Long, who has played 10 NFL seasons, noted the way his coach carries himself, pointing to Pederson's attitude after Carson Wentz's injury.
"We came into the team meeting room and Doug just erased any doubt that anything was going to change," Long said. "That's a leader."
Pederson gathered his players in the locker room an hour after the Super Bowl finished and offered one final speech. Throughout the season, he asked the players, "Are we done?" The answer was never "yes" – until Sunday.
He shared all those moments when he nagged them about the little things that fans don't see – the dress code, practicing well – and how it led to the Super Bowl. He recited what's become a team mantra: "An individual can make a difference, but a team makes a miracle." He repeated that they're "world champions" and that it was because of the players, and on Monday, he emphasized how urging the players to take ownership was a theme of the season.
But it was because of the coach, too. Pederson is a Super Bowl-winning coach. And no matter what happens for the rest of his career, he'll also have that distinction.
"I know it's going to take some time, it's kind of surreal right now," Pederson said. "These next few days are going to be a little crazy. A lot to do still. But excited for the guys. We'll remember this for the rest of our lives."
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