Doug Pederson is on a roll the likes of which few coaches ever enjoy, and he’s taking full advantage of the moment.
By Dave Spadaro
Doug Pederson walked out to the pitcher’s mound at Citizens Bank Park as the Philadelphia Phillies prepared for their home opener of the 2018 baseball season, with thunderous applause ringing the stadium and Fly, Eagles, Fly playing as the fans sang along.
It was, for everyone, an incredible moment.
Pederson then stepped up for the first pitch and delivered a fastball down the heart of the plate. A former baseball pitcher and, of course, NFL quarterback, Pederson showed that he still has an arm.
Truth is, the man is on a roll the likes of which few coaches ever enjoy and he’s taking full advantage of the moment.
“You’re only as good as those around you and I’ve got a great support staff,” Pederson said. “We enjoyed a Super Bowl season in 2017. Everything fell into place with us even with so many injuries and adversity. We stayed the course. We believed in ourselves and in each other and that’s half the battle right there.”
A year ago, Pederson faced his share of skeptics after a 7–9 season (after a 3–0 start, the Eagles went 4–9). Mocked when the Eagles hired him prior to the season, Pederson’s status 12 months ago was seen, on the outside, as shaky. At best. His critics wanted him gone at the first blown play call.
But as the Eagles rolled through a 13–3 season and overcame a slew of injuries that would fell most teams, Pederson united his team. His genuine likability endeared him to the players. His trust in his locker room and the leadership there created a winning bond.
And Pederson’s performance on game days — the daring, the creativity, the ability to gain matchup advantages — helped the Eagles become the top-scoring offense in the NFL prior to quarterback Carson Wentz’s injury, and then hang 41 points on New England to outscore the Patriots in Super Bowl LII with backup Nick Foles at the helm.
So here is Pederson now, getting standing ovations wherever he goes, basking in the adoration of a fan base that reluctantly shows its love on the outside to its sports heroes.
“It hasn’t changed me in that kind of way. I know that we’ve won the Super Bowl now, so you know how to get it done. Doesn’t make it any easier. If anything, you’ve got higher expectations every day,” he said. “I want all of us to get used to this and to reach and attain this every season. I know that isn’t going to happen, but the blueprint is there. We’ve gone down that path before. But I certainly recognize that we have a lot of work to do this season. The NFC is loading up and going after us. We’re the hunted team. We’ve got to be ready to take every team’s best shot.”
Pederson’s Super Bowl victory instantly vaults him into the pantheon of all-time Philadelphia head coaches. And who saw it coming two years ago when the Eagles, according to media opinions, hired the “worst head coach” in the NFL? Life moves fast in the NFL. Turnarounds require some magic, and Pederson’s approach of keeping it real and honest and unassuming plays perfectly in a city that wants, desperately, to love its sports icons.
Especially those who win it all. Pederson, in only his third season as the Eagles head coach, is at the very top of his game, and the region’s fans have fallen for his good-guy personality. ••