Intangibly Great: Explaining Doug Pederson’s Success
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ (973espn.com) - The NFL's Coach of the Year is likely going to John Harbaugh down I-95 in Baltimore with some politicking for Kyle Shanahan in the Bay Area and as always, the caveat to the annual honor should be COTY after Bill Belichick.
All that said, Doug Pederson should be in the conversation.
The Eagles coach has somehow gotten to his "new normal" of January football for a third consecutive year by pulling off a late-season run with names like Boston Scott, Greg Ward, Josh Perkins, and even Deontay Burnett on Sunday in North Jersey, playing prominent playmaking roles.
After the 34-17 win that clinched the NFC East Pederson and his players took what amounted to the colling off period to celebrate.
"It was excitement, it was guys dancing, the music was going, guys are excited, and it's a great feeling," Pederson admitted.
By the time the media entered things were far more business-like for a team that won three postseason games two years ago and another last January before coming up short in New Orleans.
"Through all the ups and downs, through all the injuries, we've battled," Pederson said. "We put ourselves in a position to win the NFC East, we've done that. But, again what I've seen from our players is that they're already talking about next week and coming to work this week and preparing for next week. It just tells me that the guys are in the right state of mind."
That right frame of mind will now focus on Russell Wilson and Seattle coming to Lincoln Financial Field for a second time.
A far healthier Seahawks team came into Philadelphia back on Nov. 24 and beat the Eagles 17-9 in a game that featured four Carson Wentz turnovers -- two interceptions and two fumbles.
"I just remember the turnovers," Wentz said. "I think offensively we did some decent things. We just gave them the ball. Those are the things we will get cleaned up. We're excited for the opportunity. ... we're pumped that it's at home. We're going to take advantage of that and have some fun next week."
Leaders don't take bows so Pederson turned the light of his latest success on his offensive coaching staff which took so many hits earlier this season as fans struggled to understand why their favorite team wasn't the greatest show on turf.
Generally, offensive coordinator Mike Groh and receivers coach Carson Walch took the most criticism and it's no coincidence Pederson started with those two.
"I commend Mike Groh for putting plans together to help those players play and be successful," Pederson said. "Carson Walsh for putting them in the right positions to be successful, for [tight ends coach] Juston Peelle to coach up the tight ends in the run game and the pass game, and [running backs coach] Duce [Staley] to get Boston Scott caught up to speed, and [offensive line] coach [Jeff] Stoundtland to get a Matt Pryor ready to go, to get a Nate Herbig ready to go. That's where it starts, so that's where I'm the most proud, is with my staff."
Too many wring their hands over X's and O's but there is a reason: Game Pass junkies think they know more than the professionals because they obsess over what the pros do best. They are thieves with little original thought. It's only about compiling what others have imagined and taught.
Anyone can do that.
Want a "creative" play call. just turn on a Shanahan tape and make it your own. Want to be a successful NFL coach, pull it out at the exact right time after making sure so many different people with varying levels of experience, divergent skill sets, and contrasting personalities are prepared to pull it off.
Matt Rhule, the Baylor head coach who many in the NFL believe will succeed at the highest level, discussed what it takes to be a successful coach recently when he appeared on Adam Schefter's podcast.
“I don’t think that I would ever want to see myself or any coach in a situation where you’re just subcontracted out for you X’s and O’s knowledge," Rhule explained. "The teams that have won in college football, the Nick Sabans the Dabo Swinneys – and the people that win in pro football in the Mike Tomlins and Bill Belichicks, they run a complete and total program. And everybody, they have different responsibilities, but everybody’s aligned to the same vision.”
Pederson is lapping his peers with far more intangible qualities that define leaders like day-to-day consistency and trust.
“I just think just staying consistent with the players, just getting them to believe in themselves, honestly, through all the different adversities and the things that we’ve faced, the amount of injuries that have piled up and the next guy and promoting all the practice squad players,” Pederson said when discussing his regular season. “For me, just kind of keeping everybody on the same page. I think that’s the most proud that I feel with these guys, and leaning on the leadership of the football team and the veterans, leaning on the coaching staff, and just trusting. In this business, we have to trust a lot of people.”
In a landscape where the rest of the 2019 NFC East head coaches are now looking for work, it's status quo in Philadelphia with Pederson and his staff preparing for another January game.
That's not a coincidence and far too many Eagles fans don't realize how lucky they are.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen