On January 18, 2016, Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie introduced Doug Pederson as the franchise's 23rd head coach, saying Pederson "is a strategic thinker, a compelling leader and communicator, and someone who truly knows how to get the best out of his players. All of these factors were what initially attracted us to Doug and we believe that he is the right man to help us achieve our ultimate goal."
One year later, what do we know about Pederson? What kind of strides did he make in his first year as an NFL head coach? Where does he need to improve?
"You talk about facing adversity. (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 towards 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," Howie Roseman said.
It was, in retrospect, an extraordinary set of circumstances to begin the season. When the Eagles traded Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings, Pederson turned to rookie Carson Wentz to run the offense after the first-round draft pick had played in only one preseason game before suffering a rib injury that ultimately knocked him out of the rest of the preseason.
After a 3-0 beginning to the season, the Eagles began to unravel, starting with a fourth-quarter collapse in Detroit. Nothing came easy after that, and it didn't help that Johnson, the standout right tackle, was lost for 10 games. Thanks in part to Johnson's absence, the Eagles used a total of seven different starting lineup combinations along the offensive line. Tight end Zach Ertz missed most of the first month of the season with a displaced rib and wide receiver Jordan Matthews played most of the final month of the year with a sprained ankle. The defense battled injuries at cornerback for much of the season and the Eagles made just enough mistakes to turn that 3-0 start to a 5-9 reality before beating NFC East rivals New York and Dallas to end the season at 7-9.
"Doug has been a steady hand throughout the season," center Jason Kelce said in late December. "He's really positive with us and he's been extremely encouraging. We've made a lot of progress. The mistakes we've made have been self-inflicted, and you can't have them in our league and expect to beat good football teams. That's on us as players. Doug and his staff have done an outstanding job working with us and getting us prepared each and every week."
said, "and now we have more work to do. We took some strides. Not enough to make the playoffs and see what could happen there, but we know we were right there in most of our games. Now we have to figure out a way that each and every one of us can improve and how we can push this team over the hump next season. I'm excited about what's ahead. We have a lot of work, but we're heading in the right direction. Everyone, I think, feels that."
One year ago, the Eagles ushered in a new era as they introduced Doug Pederson as the franchise's head coach. As they turn their attention to 2017 and Year Two under Pederson, the Eagles are in a far better place, but with a lot of work ahead to reach their goals.