Doug Pederson Gets Started on Managing Lofty Expectations
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The theme for the first day of Eagles training camp was expectations with many outside the NovaCare Complex describing the team's goals as Super Bowl or bust.
A number of times during his first post-practice press conference of the summer Eagles coach Doug Pederson was pressed on what such lofty goals mean for a team that hasn't accomplished much of anything as of July 25.
"I just tell them to focus on the day," Pederson said when asked how he handles the high bar. "Let's get better today. Don't worry about the outside noise. Don’t listen to the outside noise. That's obviously for the writers to write about and speculate upon. It's a long time for us before we play a game. A lot of things can happen between now and then.
"We just have to focus on us. My job is to make sure that we stay grounded, stay humble, and we come to work every day."
On paper the Eagles are so talented and have so much depth, it's hard to imagine a poor season but even a 12- or 13-win campaign can quickly be shaped as a disappointment if the only acceptable goal is Miami in February.
"It's obviously out there," Pederson said of the championship hype before explaining "talent" is only part of the equation. "Talent can get you so far, but how well we gel as a football team ... that's my concern, and my goal. Let's not worry about [outside expectations]. We have to execute on the field. Nothing's ever handed to us in this business. We have to go take it, we have to go earn it."
For Pederson accomplishing short-term goals morphs into the long-term.
"I'm excited for just the rest of today, getting better today and tomorrow," he said. "We have to stay grounded, we have to stay humble."
The Eagles' on-field leader, quarterback Carson Wentz, is also aware of what's expected, especially after garnering a lucrative contract extension and is also taken a micro approach.
“You just take it one day at a time,” Wentz insisted. “I know it sounds cliche, but first of all, training camp, it's a grind. It's a grind, and you can't be thinking that far in advance because you're going to miss what's right in front of you."
The opportunities right now are small ones.
"It's come out one day at a time and get a little bit better and not just on the field, but coming together as a team, bonding in the locker room, outside of practice and everything," Wentz said. "I think that's really what's going to separate us and take us to the next level.”
Even in an 8-8 league when an injury here or there can have a drastic Butterly Effect, expectations differ. In South Florida, for instance, the Dolphins are in the conversation for the least talented team in football just as the big game is set for their home field early next year.
Coaches are always on a sliding scale when it comes to expectations but Pederson tries to keep a steady hand whether the goal slides from improvement to playoffs all the way to Super Bowl.
"I try not to let it bother me. I try to block it out," Pederson said when asked by 973espn.com about the outside noise. "I have to go out here and do my job, coach, stay aggressive, and push these guys. Push them to their limit. At the same time, I have to listen to the guys, listen to the team, and understand the deeper we get into training camp, if I have to pull back, I'll pull back."
In other words, nothing changes.
"Nothing is going to change from my standpoint," Pederson assured. "I have to maintain my aggressiveness with the team not only during games, but also here in practice to push and compete and make it as hard as possible out here so that games can become somewhat a little bit easier from the standpoint of that."
The good news is that many in the locker room have already done it once and understand what it takes to reach the highest level in the NFL.
"I think guys learn. They learn through that adversity and through that experience," the coach said. "I think that's what has really so far made this team the type of team it is. The leaders on this team, the veteran players on this team, I challenge those guys to lead. It's also okay to fail, but if you fail, let's fail going forward. Let's fail forward not backward, learn from it, and move on.
"That's what this team, this training camp, is all about."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen