For Pederson’s Eagles ‘If You See Something, Say Something’
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - With the season on the line for all intents and purposes against the New York Giants Sunday, Doug Pederson's strength as a coach came to the forefront.
The long-time backup quarterback to superstars like Brett Favre, Dan Marino, and Donovan McNabb simply doesn't have the traditional ego that typically comes along with a head-coaching position in the NFL.
That's not to say Pederson is any kind of shrinking violet, though. In what has been a disappointing sequel to the franchise's first Super Bowl win the now third-year head coach has clashed with the notoriously tough Philadelphia media on more than one occasion but any perceived crankiness or saltiness doesn't carry over behind the scenes where Pederson remains professional.
Pederson, of course, learned under Andy Reid so in front of the cameras he tries to play lightning rod and keep the focus on him in order to give the players as much of a leash as possible in a football-crazy environment where everything is under a high-powered microscope.
A perfect example of that is Jason Kelce's recent "accountability" charge, which was taken and run with by many in the click-bait mob who aren't interested in adding in the context that the All-Pro center was really talking about cohesion and chemistry on offense and simply chose the wrong word before explaining himself in a clearer fashion.
Pederson also wants everyone involved and doesn't care where a good idea comes from. As a play-caller, that means taking things from other NFL teams, the college ranks, and even high school football. As a motivator, it means keeping the players involved and urging them to take ownership of the team in both good times and bad.
In the Eagles' practice bubble there is a banner displaying the word "ownership" in the foreground of many hands touching the Lombardi Trophy after February's win over New England in Minneapolis.
Against the Giants with the team reeling and down 19-3, veterans Malcolm Jenkins and Corey Graham urged defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to simplify the coverage schemes for the young cornerbacks forced into action due to injury.
"The biggest thing we were just having -- we had so many new guys on the field and we were having some issues with communication and execution," Schwartz said Tuesday. "We just simplified some things. They were trying to use -- not hurry-up tempo like you would think, like no-huddle, but they were trying to get out of the huddle and snap the ball quick and things like that. like I said, we had some new guys and a lot of different layers to a lot of our calls, but we sort of eliminated those, and it worked out pretty well for us."
Pederson's offensive linemen, meanwhile, implored the coach to run the football in order to generate more balance on the offense.
"We had a lot of success [running the football]," offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. "The offensive line did an outstanding job throughout the course of the game. [RB] Josh [Adams] really found a rhythm and did an excellent job of reading his keys and even making people miss and getting more out of what might have been there."
Pederson's predecessor in Philadelphia, Chip Kelly, came in with a reputation for questioning the status quo and in many ways Kelly did that but being an authoritarian with old views vs. being one with some new perspective still has the GPS pointed to the same destination, the classic my-way-or-the-highway mentality.
“As coaches, we take [the feedback] and we listen to [the players]," Pederson said. "We can make adjustments during the game. Even when it doesn't come out publicly, there is always that conversation after a series or two or three. There is always that dialogue on the sideline. It just so happens that it was kind of evident [against the Giants] that that was the case.”
It's a common-sense, pragmatic approach from a guy who spent 13 years on the sidelines as a player before starting his coaching career.
"I think it's important from the standpoint of these guys are playing. These guys are out on the field. They're seeing it at real speed, just like we are, but at the same time, if they see something — we're always asking for feedback and dialogue and communication," Pederson said. "I think that's what makes what we do special."
The buck might stop with the head coach but everybody in the organization owns a piece of the success or the failure and that's by design.
"I encourage the guys to speak up,” Pederson said. “If they see something, say something. Again, as coaches, we definitely have the final say, but at the same time, I think it builds a healthy chemistry with your team.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen