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Pederson A Steady Presence In Year One

Posted Jan 9, 2017

For first-year NFL head coaches, much depends on being in the right situation at the right time. Some coaches can step into an already talented locker room and lead the team to the playoffs right away, something we saw this year in Miami and New York with Adam Gase and Ben McAdoo, respectively. Yet sometimes even the most talented head coaches need time to adjust their schemes and get the right pieces in place (see Bill Belichick, who won just five games with New England in 2000).

There are currently 26 head coaches in the NFL (six teams have head coach openings), and they averaged 7.9 wins in their first season with their current teams. Doug Pederson finds himself right in the middle of that pack, having won seven games in his rookie campaign as an NFL head coach.

Things started on an upswing, of course, as the Eagles won their first three games in 2016 by a margin of 65 combined points. Things took a turn for the Eagles in the middle of the season, but to Pederson’s credit, he found a way to lead the Eagles to victories in the final two games to finish one win short of a .500 campaign. 

Sure, there were some growing pains along the way. Pederson dealt with having his starting right tackle Lane Johnson suspended for 10 games, the release of a starting wide receiver in early November and naming a rookie as the team's starting quarterback eight days before the season opener. On a personal level, Pederson lost his father, Gordon, just over a week shy of his first game as an NFL head coach.

Despite all the hurdles that came his way, Pederson’s first-year performance left the players in the locker room feeling very confident about their head coach moving forward.

“This year for me was fun just sitting back and watching that development as a head coach, seeing what his personality was going to be like, what his philosophy would be like and if he'd be consistent for an entire season when we'd hit some adversity,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “Doug was the same person all year, every day, regardless of if we'd win or lose - the preparation for the week, the attention to detail, the demeanor didn't change. I think that kept us together as a team when things hit the fan a little bit. He never panicked. He never once got too high or too low. That kind of carried out through the team where we were able to stick together through tough times."

“I have nothing but great things to say about him,” added tight end Trey Burton. “He played, which carries a lot of weight. He understands what needs to happen, how things need to go, what players like, what players don't like just because he's been in the business before. That experience has helped him a ton.”

Pederson took over an Eagles team that went 7-9 in 2015, but that record doesn’t tell the true story of the team he inherited. The Eagles had plenty of unanswered questions in regards to the roster, including at quarterback with Sam Bradford unsigned and no immediate answer in clear view. After Pederson was hired, the roster underwent a variety of changes, with DeMarco Murray, Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso (three starters for the 2015 Eagles) traded away in order to move up in the 2016 draft.

Eventually, all of those moving parts netted Carson Wentz, the long-term answer at the quarterback position and a player who Pederson can work with and develop for years to come. Pederson helped tutor Wentz to an Eagles single-season completions record and NFL Rookie of the Month honors in September.

It became clear fairly quickly that Pederson could see the game through Wentz’s eyes, and the coach-quarterback connection proved to be beneficial all season long.

“One thing I’ve always appreciated with Coach Pederson is how he valued my input,” Wentz said after the season. “Even as a rookie, he valued my opinion on things and I thought that was awesome for me. I thought he did a good job.”

Through his first full season as the Eagles’ head coach, Pederson displayed an ability to connect with young players and veterans alike. Having played the quarterback position at the NFL level, Pederson knew how to push his players, and it showed in how the team responded to his message.

“I feel great about him,” tight end Brent Celek said. “I think all the guys feel great about him and they show it by the way we played. This team hasn’t given up one time in any game. We had a lot of fight in us all year, even when things weren’t going the right way, so I think that’s a sign of good coaching and good leadership.”

Pederson’s ability to maintain his leadership style even through tough times wasn’t only noticed by the players, though. The front office also took note of how Pederson was able to stay consistent with his approach day in and day out, and it’s something that the team hopes to build around moving forward.

‘You talk about facing adversity,” said Howie Roseman last week. “(A new) head coach comes in and our right tackle (Lane Johnson) is suspended for 10 games; our starting quarterback (Sam Bradford) is traded eight days before the start of the regular season. And the way the players responded, certainly toward the end of the season, you could see how the players felt about him. I’m just looking forward to him getting better and continuing to go grow like all of us in our jobs.

“It's something really promising, we are really excited to see what we have in store going forward. He does a great job with our rookie quarterback and the rest of our team, and tremendous tribute to him and his character for what he went through this year and how the team played for him.”

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