Belichick’s Standard is Pederson’s Goal for a ‘New Normal’
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Sunday marks the first time the Patriots and Eagles have met since Super Bowl LII, the biggest win in franchise history for Philadelphia and the lone speed bump between New England being a reigning three-time NFL champion.
In the offseason after the first SB win in franchise history Eagles coach Doug Pederson coined the term "the new normal," a nod to Philadelphia planning to become just like the Patriots, an organization where January football is an expectation, not something to be cherished.
In some ways, the Eagles sequel last season accomplished that goal, although there were many headaches en route to a 9-7 regular season before an upset Wild Card Weekend win in Chicago and a near stunner in New Orleans that turned on what at the time was considered an uncharacteristic Alshon Jeffery drop.
Another uneven 5-4 start with the Pats set to visit Philadelphia has many in this town reminiscing but one winter's night in Minneapolis hasn't resulted in denting the gold standard. Since that game, New England is 22-6 overall and the Eagles are 15-12 and essentially a .500 team before a two-game winning streak ignited some faith in the fan base again.
"I think the biggest thing you realize is how hard it is to repeat, and that’s why I have a lot of respect for what Coach [Bill] Belichick and the Patriots have done for many years is being able to repeat," Pederson said when talking with the Boston-area media on Wednesday. "And that’s the thing that we’ve learned through this whole process is the hard work, and the preparation, and even some of the sacrifices that you make along the way in this sport to try to get yourself and put yourself in a position to play in that game again.
"So, for me personally, that’s what it’s about. As a team, that’s what it’s about, and you’ve got to continue to trust your process. You’ve got to, obviously, enjoy the grind. It’s a long season, but the fact that – you know, it does take a lot of hard work to get back there, and that’s why, again, a lot of respect for what the Patriots have done."
The trick seems to be keeping everything moving in the same direction despite the drastic change, typically turnover on the roster that ranges over 30 percent each year and the inevitable attrition on a winning team's coaching staff. For Pederson that meant losing the highly-regarded Frank Reich, who is now the head coach in Indianapolis, and former QB coach Josh DeFilippo, who has been the offensive coordinator in Minnesota and now Jacksonville.
"That’s really a big part of everything," Pederson assessed. "You know, I think back to just the few months after the game. I mean, I lost a few coaches on offense who got hired away. Obviously, you lose players to free agency, but that’s every year."
The wear and tear of a longer campaign is also always an issue but one the Patriots seemed to have solved.
"You have players who were nicked up or banged up from the season, so they miss some of the OTA’s, some of your training camp stuff. And that’s all part of it, and those are the things that you learn from," Pederson said. "Those things right there, I think, are what really make your team going forward and how you handle that."
The Eagles have handled it all well, according to Pederson, but there is obviously another rung on the ladder that hasn't been reached just yet.
"I credit our players for bouncing back, and we made a nice run last year," Pederson assessed. "We got to the divisional round of the postseason, had a chance to move on from that and didn’t."
Beating the mighty Pats on Sunday could fuel another second-half run, one that turns Pederson's new normal into a standard of legitimate Super Bowl contender.
"I’m in my fourth year in this business as a head coach. I look to that. I look to what Bill’s done, and some of the veteran coaches in the league – even the Andy Reids and Mike Tomlins, guys that have had long careers coaching in this league," Pederson said. "You have to adapt. You have to adapt to your team, you have to adapt to the times.
"Even culture and society changes with some of the players that we get out of college today. So, that’s the part that I think is most impressive with Bill, and then the other thing too is he just, with all of that change and with the subtle changes they make and being adaptable, the consistency that comes from that. I think that’s the underlying message with that."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen