A full calendar year, and then some, has made a huge difference for head coach Doug Pederson. As February became March in 2016, Pederson was busy installing his offense, with coordinator Jim Schwartz doing the same thing on the other side of the ball. Everything was new. Pederson had an uncharted ocean of tasks to accomplish in his first months as the head man.
But now Pederson is in a different place. He is a relaxed, much-more-experienced head coach as he talked on Monday afternoon from the comfort of his NovaCare Complex office. It was the first time Pederson spoke since his postgame press conference following the Eagles' 2016 season-ending win over Dallas.
"Offensively and defensively, we've been doing our scheme evaluation. We've been kind of fine-tuning and tweaking our offense and defense, and making our schemes better," Pederson said. "Along with that, we've been evaluating our players and making sure we have every bit of information on our own players.
"Looking back at 2016 in retrospect, I'm disappointed that we went 7-9. There were some positives in there. We never quit. We fought through a tough stretch and ended the season with two wins against division opponents, and got some momentum to take us into the offseason."
Pederson has also done his share of self-reflection, as he constantly does, and points to some play calls here and there during the season that he would like to have back.
"I take full responsibility for the play calls," he said. "I felt like I was good in that area, too. I felt like I was very positive with our team. I had great dialogue with Carson Wentz and our offense and defense. My job is to put our team in the best possible position to win games. That is my responsibility."
But it's different now for Pederson and it's different for the Eagles. One year ago, Pederson was a newcomer to the NFL's head-coaching ranks. He now has seasoning, and he showed last year that he can navigate through an anything-can-happen-at-any-time kind of 2016. The team made the moves up last spring to get in position to select Wentz, the young franchise quarterback. There is, the players said over and over late last year, a foundation in place.
"The biggest difference between last year and this year is that everything is established," Pederson said. "Last year at this time, I was putting in an offense and Jim was putting in a defense and we were getting ready for the Combine. Now, we have everything in place. Our players can watch themselves on tape when they get here and we get OTAs underway. Last year, the offensive players were watching tape of the Chiefs (where Pederson was the offensive coordinator for three seasons) and the defense was watching tape of the Bills (where Schwartz was the defensive coordinator in 2014) and the Lions' defense (where Schwartz previously coached). That's going to make a big difference for us."
Wentz, of course, is the centerpiece. Pederson is extremely pleased with his young, rising star.
"He played a lot of football last year, starting with North Dakota State's National Championship run and getting ready for the Combine and then coming here," Pederson said. "He never wavered. He was ready every day he came into the NovaCare Complex and prepared for our challenge each week. He is going to keep working and improving his game. There is nobody more competitive."
Some other topics that Pederson touched on during his interview on Monday:
- On quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo reportedly being denied a chance to interview for an offensive coordinator job with the New York Jets: "I am in charge of the coaching staff," Pederson said. "Flip is a tremendous football coach, and Carson going into his second year and having John there with him is big. He wants to be a coordinator and I think he's going to be a tremendous coordinator again in the National Football League. But I want to keep as many of our good coaches here as I can. We're glad that John is here."
- On reports that the Eagles "reneged" on a promise made to DeFilippo when he was hired that he could leave if a job promotion from another team came about: "I did not renege on any promises. In fact, one of the things that I feel strongly about, with Jeffrey Lurie and I being on the same page, is retaining as many of our good coaches as we can. That's very valuable to this team and the success that we have."
- On reports that Jeffrey Lurie is more involved now in the football operations: "Jeffrey is a great and supportive owner who only wants to win a Super Bowl for the Philadelphia Eagles and the fans and the City of Philadelphia."
- On the change at wide receivers coach, with Greg Lewis leaving (he has since been hired in Kansas City) and with Mike Groh now hired: "I want to thank Greg for his work here and we all wish him the best of luck in Kansas City. We're excited to have Mike Groh here. Mike brings a tremendous work ethic and I look forward to working with him."
- On if he anticipates the Eagles being active in the upcoming free agency period: "We have a plan in place and I'm looking forward to seeing it unfold, and at the same time continuing to develop our roster and improve in every position. Let's see how it comes together."