ORLANDO -- He's in his third season as the head coach, with a Super Bowl title under his belt, and Doug Pederson is in his comfort zone. He holds out a fist. The fist is his Eagles football team. The relationship Pederson has created with the locker room, with his players, has the team "right where you want them."
The Super Bowl victory was seven weeks ago, and while the fans are still celebrating and reveling in the feeling, Pederson quickly moved on to the next step.
"The page is probably, like, almost turned. But we know that we still have a job to do and we've got to get ready for 2018," Pederson said Tuesday at the NFL's Annual Meeting. "My mentality, when we were a week removed from the Super Bowl, was, as soon as we can, let's get it behind us and let's move on to 2018. I was so ready to move on. Long season. Great accomplishment, however. Try to enjoy it as much as you can. We've got to focus on the future, on what's coming down the pipeline, and it's coming down extremely fast. We're a couple of weeks from the offseason program. There's still a lot of work to do in the office. We're flipping the page as fast as we can, but at the same time it's kind of nice to take some time and reflect on what happened."
What happened was that Pederson kept the Eagles on course despite a spate of season-ending injuries to key players. Not once was an injury used as an excuse. Never did Pederson allow his message to divert from the goal: Keep winning as a team. The entire roster contributed to the historic victory, and as Pederson looks back on the success of 2017 and his growth as a head coach, he points to his greatest accomplishment.
"I just think leading the team through the adversity. It kind of goes back to Year 1, holding those guys together a little bit when things could have unraveled. Guys are believing in me. Gives me a lot of confidence that I've got the team right there where I want them," Pederson said. "They've do anything for you. That's part of being a good leader, understanding that. I feel real comfortable there. For me, that's probably the most proud, as a coach, to lose the type of players we lost, especially you're starting quarterback, and still be able to hold everything together, get your backup quarterback ready to play and ultimately win a championship.
"It was a process throughout the entire season. Each week that we won a game, I tried to keep the focus on just the next game and not read the hype, positively or negatively. Stay in the moment. Stay on task this week. That grew every single week and they believed in that. You heard guys talk about it after games where we'd win a game and it was great, but, hey, 'Let's stay grounded. Let's stay focused.' All the things that I sort of talked to the team about. When I took the pads off at the end of the year and kind of slowed the tempo of practice down a little bit and then that bye week going into the post season, they came to me and wanted the pads back on. That's a sign that you've got your team right where you want them. It was a process throughout the entire year."
It really began when the team reported to the NovaCare Complex and Pederson implemented a series of team-building activities in the weight room and on the field. Players competed for parking spots and the chance to control the music in the conditioning area. They won tee-shirts. They battled each other. And they had a great time.
In the end, it made a difference.
"I just think it builds a little team chemistry. That's kind of where it starts," Pederson said. "You're kind of feeling out your team again, one more time. You find out who your leaders are again. It just sort of starts galvanizing your team at that time."
Here we are, a couple of weeks into free agency with the NFL draft a month away. Pederson has a firm grasp on who he is and the team he has. He is the head coach of the Super Bowl champions, an elite group. All week in Orlando Pederson has been around his peers and what happened on February 4 is in the past.
The focus is on 2018, and Pederson is in his groove. He's got his team, the fist, and they all believe in him and he believes in them. In a very short period of time, Pederson's growth as a head coach has been significant in so many ways.
"The biggest thing I took away from last year, and it's big, is the trust factor with my players," Pederson said. "Them trusting me, putting them in good positions during games, and then me trusting them with play design, play call offensively. Defensively, trusting those guys if I do elect to go for it on fourth down, I'm going to trust my defense, that we're going to make it.
"The biggest reality for me is that you have to trust in your guys in order to get that done. That was the biggest takeaway for me."