Super Bowl LII - Philadelphia Eagles vs New England Patriots on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Philadelphia Eagles)
Those who are old enough to remember Gomer Pyle can relate to my sentiments. So here goes my mea culpa.
My thoughts were even though he was Andy Reid’s OC in KC, he didn’t have the depth of experience to bring the Lombardi trophy to a town starving for it.
He was the safe choice, I thought. After the Chip Kelly debacle, Jeff Lurie and Howie Roseman wanted a coach they could control.
Pederson was a company man, right? Ready to toe the company line if things went off kilter. (And, with the Eagles, things ALWAYS went off kilter—until last season).
So, my apologies are forthcoming to Doug, his wife Jeannie, their three sons Drew (23, architectural grad student), Josh (21, redshirt sophomore at LA Monroe), and Joel (16), and the entire Eagles organization for my Doubting Doug attitude.
Doug Pederson was the perfect choice for the job. An ex-player who had some “cred’ with the current players, young enough to gauge the temperature in the locker room, but old and experienced enough to have gained football knowledge from his mentor with a courage and “go for it” mentality that this town and team has rarely seen.
The Philly Special pass to Nick Foles was the prime example of a “second guessable” play that most coaches would NEVER have tried. I was crying for him to take the three points and head to the locker room with a nice cushion.
But Pederson knew what I didn’t. That this track meet masquerading as a football game would light up the scoreboard and three points didn’t mean a hill of beans.
We needed touchdowns, and he pulled off what might have been the most daring play in Super Bowl history.
Like Sergeant Carter was barking out the orders, he has me stepping in line and marching to the tune of “Fly Eagles Fly”.
KEN DUNEK: Let’s start at the beginning. How does a kid go from Bellingham, Washington to NE Louisiana University?
DOUG PEDERSON: Good question. My senior year in high school was 1986. My Dad had taken a job in Monroe (Louisiana) right after graduation and he had heard about the school and contacted them. I think he sent about 10 VHS tapes to the school and they were interested and offered me scholarship. It was good because my family was there and I was happy to be near them.
KD: Did you receive any other D1 scholarship offers?
DP: My only other offer was from the University of Idaho.
KD: We fast forward to 1999. Andy Reid takes the Eagles job and signs you as his starter. But he then drafts Donovan McNabb in the first round. Are you aware he was going to do this and what were your thoughts when he did it?
DP: Andy wanted me as a free agent and he knew he wanted me to come to Philadelphia and get the program started. There was good communication there regarding him drafting a QB in the first round but he wanted me to help teach the player he drafted.
KD: You were an understudy to two pretty good quarterbacks in Dan Marino and Brett Favre. What were you able to learn from those guys that made you a better quarterback and possibly even a better coach?
DP: Both Marino and Favre were somewhat similar in style. Dan was very prepared and cerebral. He made the guys around him better and had an absolute rifle for an arm. Brett was more of a gunslinger. Maybe not quite as much prep as Dan but played with incredible passion and loved the competition. His drive and determination were unbelievable.
KD: Okay, it is now 2016 and the Eagles fire Chip Kelly and are looking for a replacement. Lead me through that process. Who contacted you and did Andy Reid mentor you through the process?
DP: I got a call from Howie Roseman and got permission to talk to him from the Chiefs. We were preparing for a playoff game against the Houston Texans and I was really stressed for time. We beat the Texans on Saturday and I interviewed for the Eagles job on Sunday with no time to put together an interview plan since we were going to play the NE Patriots the following week.
It was a four hour interview but I was very comfortable having been in Philly and knowing the people involved. We lost to the Patriots that week and I got a call immediately after the game offering me the job, which of course I accepted.
KD: You get the job and immediately the whispers in the media are regarding your relative lack of experience, the fact that you were the Offensive Coordinator in KC but in reality Andy was calling the plays, etc. How did you handle all that?
DP: I did not let the criticism bother me. I am pretty good and tuning out the noise and am confident in my ability. My main focus was this football team and the players understood where I was coming from. I chose not to listen to the naysayers.
KD: In 2016 you win some games and played well in some losses. You come into 2017 and were projected to be a “middle of the pack” team. What were your expectations going in to last season?
DP: My main focus was trying to improve from the year before. I wanted us to be in a position to play in a postseason game. I knew we were better than the previous year and 7-9 was not going to be good enough. We drafted a good young quarterback and Howie was able to nab Alshon Jeffery, Chris Long, Tim Jernigan, and some other good free agents. I wanted to be a better team.
KD: You wind up losing arguably your best four or five players to injury. Is there any point where the coaching staff throws up their hands and says maybe it is just not our year? How were you able to fight through such adversity?
DP: There was never panic. We knew we had depth and and quality back up guys and I know it sounds cliché but it was the classic next man up mentality. If you remember we also lost our kicker [Jake Elliott] in the first game. Big V [Halapoulivaati Vaitai] comes in for Jason Peters and Corey Clement picks up for [Darren] Sproles. Depth made it easier for us to make these transitions and our coaches really emphasized getting back up players reps in practice in case something happened.
KD: What did you do with Nelson Agholor last off-season? He struggled so much in 2016 and then had a monster year for you.
DP: No question he struggled in 2016 and lost his confidence a bit. When I benched him that season I told him it might help him to look at the game from a different perspective on the bench. That might have helped because he came back last year very eager and more ready than ever and had a great season for us.
KD: You roll through the season and make it to the Super Bowl. What is it like to take the field in the ultimate game and face a modern day Vince Lombardi in the Patriots Bill Belichick? Is it surreal or were you confident you had the better team and could compete?
DP: Knowing you were up against possibly the greatest coach and quarterback [Tom Brady] in pro football history is a bit surreal. I can remember taking the field and almost wanting to pinch myself. But I had a quiet calm about me. I knew the team was focused and there was no panic. It was a credit to those guys who want out there and made plays clawing and scratching the entire game.
KD: How about Nick Foles in that game? Were you surprised at all that he could raise his game in the playoffs and Super Bowl. It was such a big stage and he came out slinging darts right from the beginning.
DP: I was very confident Nick could play well. He went into the Super Bowl at an all-time high in confidence. It was really a thing of beauty to watch. Guys were making plays all over the field. We decided to take the training wheels off and let everybody play. They get paid a ton of money to go out and make plays and that is exactly what they did.
KD: Talk to me about the championship parade experience and what that meant to you.
DP: The crowd was amazing. Starting at the stadium up through Broad Street and to the Art Museum. The faces of fans young and old that have waited their whole lives for this moment. I am just so proud and happy we could win it for the city.
KD: I have to ask you about the White House decision to withdraw their invitation to the team to visit and be recognized.
DP: I was disappointed. I felt we earned the right to go there and be recognized. I am being honest in saying I was interested in going and want the opportunity to go if we win it all again.
KD: The old adage it that is it is tough to win one and even tougher to repeat. What are your expectations for this season and will anything less than a championship be a disappointment?
DP: Our goal is to win the Super Bowl. We have a competitive team and we are healthy now getting our injured players back on the field. I will not go as far as to say that the season will be a failure if we don’t repeat, but I am really looking forward to the challenge and I promise you we will be ready to go.