Head coach Doug Pederson knocked on wood, literally rapping his knuckles on the wooden podium in the auditorium, as he gave his Friday morning press conference at the NovaCare Complex when asked about winning three straight regular-season-opening games in his time with the Eagles.
He’s looking for every bit of good luck because, you see, a blueprint generally veers off course three or four times during the course of a 16-game season. It’s Pederson’s job to steer it back on track, and he’s done that brilliantly in his three seasons here, compiling a record of 33-20 (including postseason) and his .623 winning percentage is the highest in the history of the franchise.
Pederson is also 3-0 in season-opening games and a win on Sunday moves him to 4-0, which would put Pederson in hallowed franchise territory, joining only Greasy Neale (1942-47) to have at least four straight season-opening victories.
All of this is very heady stuff, and all of it is the very last thing on Pederson’s mind. He has grown so much as the head coach of the Eagles and, look, if you question the buy-in from the locker room at this point, you just haven’t been paying attention.
“Doug has an open mind, he listens, he understands what players go through and you know he’s going to be fair and that’s really all you can ask as a player,” center Jason Kelce said of Pederson. “We’re all-in here. There’s not a question about that in this locker room.”
2019 is a new challenge for Pederson. He’s got a team that has some prominent new faces and, let’s face it, there are going to be egos involved. How many times has the one-ball, many-players-want-to-touch-it conversation taken place in reference to the offense? Pederson shrugs it off. He knows that every wide receiver and the two talented tight ends and the cadre of running backs want the football!!!
To make it work, the players have to be selfless. And the only way the players are going to be selfless is if they follow the lead of the head coach, who established that culture the minute he returned to the NovaCare Complex in 2016.
“He set the tone in that first season,” wide receiver Nelson Agholor said. “We had a great start (3-0) and then we struggled and Doug never changed. He was demanding and he also understood that we were growing together and learning to be a team. All of that paid off.”
Agholor is a perfect example of Pederson’s touch. A first-round draft pick in 2015, Agholor struggled in his rookie season, recording 23 receptions for 283 yards and a touchdown. Then he struggled throughout 2016, failing to catch the football consistently and generally not taking that vital next step.
Pederson hung with Agholor the entire way, helped coach him up, understood the mental struggles, and made sure that the young, talented wide receiver knew the head coach was in his corner. A season later, Agholor had his breakout season and then starred in the Super Bowl LII victory and is now a valued and significant weapon in the Eagles’ offense.
“I appreciate the way Doug worked with me and showed patience,” Agholor said. “That meant a lot to me.”
A new season is upon us and the Eagles have in Pederson a veteran coach who has seen just about everything a head coach can see. He’s won through some of the most debilitating injuries a team can have, he has turned losing streaks into winning strides, and he’s taken the Eagles to the playoffs in two of his three seasons, capturing a Super Bowl.
And the greatest strength of the many Pederson has is that he’s the same guy he was the day he walked back into the NovaCare Complex as the newly minted head coach. He just sticks to football and building relationships throughout the organization and it all mixes together into a tidy, winning atmosphere.
“We just focus on the little things one more time and just pay attention to our details and what we do and not worry about necessarily the opponent that's coming in here,” Pederson said on Friday after knocking the wood and considering the question of his opening-day perfection. "We’re just trying to get better, obviously.
“So, I try to keep it real simple that way for the guys and just let them play, have fun, and enjoy the atmosphere.”
Pederson keeps it simple. He keeps it selfless. He wants to promote the “fun” part of it and, yes, the players enjoy the atmosphere.
All that’s left now is a regular season and winning football games and spreading the credit to those around him. Doug Pederson, in Year 4 as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, deserves all that has come to him and everything that awaits.
“Doug is the kind of coach you want to play for,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “That hasn’t been a question since he came here. He does it the right way.”