Business-As-Usual Mantra Falls Flat for Pederson
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Doug Pederson has pushed all the right buttons this season but he may have finally slipped up on Tuesday in advance of the Eagles' divisional-round playoff matchup against the Atlanta Falcons.
With the stakes as big as they can be in the NFL -- win or go home -- Pederson claimed outside voices [the media and the fans] can make things bigger than they really are.
"The outside media can make it bigger than it is. It's a football game," the coach said. "Just do your job. Do what you have always loved, give it your best effort Saturday. If it's good enough, great. If it's not, we'll focus on next season."
On paper that seems like a logical and prudent path forward for someone who is trying to portray things as business as usual for his players.
The problem was Pederson's demeanor, a complete 180 from his typical early-week presser, in which the coach was very short and often curt with answers, a change that seems conflicted, at least on the surface.
After all, if you are trying to sell things as business as usual, than why are you not going about things in the same fashion as you always do?
The likely answer is that Pederson is like a lot of the rest of Philadelphia, he's on edge with the uncertainty of the move from a potential MVP at the game's most important position to Nick Foles, a reality that has taken the Eagles from being a potential 6- to 7-point favorite into a 2 1/2-point underdog against the Falcons, the first No. 1 seed labeled as an underdog in the divisional round.
Typically, players and coaches don't pay attention to the Vegas line and that's certainly the case here but some have quickly realized that a lot of people expect Matt Ryan and Co. to leave Philadelphia with a win.
“It just puts a bigger chip on our shoulder and just adds fuel to the fire, and that’s what this team, obviously, has been going off of all year,” star defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said, “People doubting us every week. So we just want to go out and shut those doubters up.”
To be fair Cox is wrong there as the Eagles would be considered prohibitive favorites to reach Super Bowl LII had Carson Wentz not torn his ACL in Week 14 against the Los Angeles Rams so there has been no profound disrespect "every week" but if the perception can motivate, no one is going to correct the Pro Bowl selection.
Others simply block any outside noise like veteran defensive end Chris Long, who won a Super Bowl with New England last season.
"What would I sound like if I stood here and was like, 'Man, I wasn't that motivated for this playoff game but I found out we're underdogs and nobody picked us on ESPN so now I'm more motivated?'" Long asked rhetorically. "I mean, it's just not the way we think."
Pederson, though, at least intimated he was using that very tool.
"Back's against the wall. Let's come out swinging, and see what happens," the coach claimed.
And Pederson had an even more direct message for his embattled backup and now starting QB, the crux of all the anxiety.
"You have a great opportunity, go be Nick," Pederson said. "Let's go play. Let's play with some confidence."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen