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Friends Become Foes On Sunday In Chicago

The Eagles didn't control their own destiny going into Week 17 due to some tough losses earlier in the season. To get in, they needed to win their game against Washington and enlist help from an old friend.

Head coach Doug Pederson wasted no time.

With a laugh, he told reporters the Monday after the Eagles' Week 16 win over Houston that he had already called Bears head coach Matt Nagy, a former coaching colleague in both Philadelphia and Kansas City under head coach Andy Reid, that morning and presumably asked him to play his starters and beat the Vikings.

It's unknown if Pederson's dialing had any real effect on how Nagy approached the Bears' final regular-season game against a division rival. Nonetheless, Nagy and the Bears won in Minnesota and allowed the Eagles to grab the final NFC playoff spot.

Now, the two coaches will face off in the NFC Wild Card round this Sunday (4:40 p.m. EST, NBC) with everything on the line.

The Eagles haven't faced the new-look Chicago Bears in 2018. Last season, they dismantled the eventual 5-11, last-place Bears by a score of 31-3. But under rookie head coach Nagy this season, the 11-5 NFC North Champions look like a completely different team.

Still, Pederson believes he has already seen a lot of what the Eagles will face.

"I know it was a different head coach, different offense, but defensively was very similar to the year before," said Pederson in his Monday afternoon press conference. "And having played Kansas City last year, I think you can draw some parallels there a little bit. And then of course what they're doing this year not only in KC but in Chicago with Coach Nagy.

"He does a good job moving his guys around. (Running back Tarik) Cohen is all over the place and he's a challenge. He's a load. But I think back to the Rams game and a lot of their moving parts, and it kind of goes back to the question earlier how we were able to handle some of the moving parts there, and with the LA game I think can help us moving forward in this game."

Nagy has roughly followed the same path of Pederson to a head coaching job.

Nagy started as an Eagles coaching intern, a job he described in his press conference with Chicago reporters on Monday as "an assistant to an assistant," from 2008-09 while Pederson was a quality control coach from 2009-10. Pederson was promoted to be the Eagles' quarterbacks coach from 2011-12, while Nagy was hired as the offensive quality control coach.

Both Pederson and Nagy then followed Andy Reid to Kansas City where Pederson became the offensive coordinator from 2013-15 and Nagy was the quarterbacks coach. When Pederson left to coach the Eagles in 2016, Nagy became the co-offensive coordinator for a season before assuming full offensive coordinator duties in 2017.

"We keep following this path here, so I told him at this past owners meeting, I told him since he got that Super Bowl, I'm trying to follow his lead here," Nagy said jokingly on Monday. "He probably doesn't want to hear that right now but I'm trying to stick on that path."

If Nagy truly stays on that same path, his Super Bowl will have to wait another year. Regardless, their relationship with each other, as well as with Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, has taken a remarkable collision course to next Sunday.

"It's crazy to think that eight years ago … that's where we got our start together putting in a lot of hours," Nagy said. "I can still remember the day that we were both in his office watching tape on Nick Foles … Doug and I were hip-by-hip for six years and I think the world of him."

Nagy was on the staff as a quality control coach during Foles' rookie year of 2012 in Philadelphia and was with Foles when he came to Kansas City in 2016 to resurrect his career. Foles shared a memorable story about Nagy on Sunday after the Eagles' Week 17 win when they learned their playoff opponent.

"I went to Training Camp, signed late at Kansas City, went to get my physical, and was dropped off at Nagy's house at Overland Park (Kansas) because it was his off day," Foles said. "I had known him from my rookie year.

"I got to spend time with his family, hang out, and then I drove back with him, and I didn't have a car, so he let me use his car in Training Camp so I could get from place to place and he just rode with a coach. And that's just who he is, not only as a person but as a coach. He's unbelievable. So, I admire him, I'm proud of him, it will be fun to compete against him."

Nagy brought up that same interaction on Monday of when he picked Foles up from the airport and spent time with him "away from football" at his home. Nagy's genuine connection with Foles was crucial at a time when Foles had considered retiring from football and it amplifies the respect on both sides in the upcoming game.

"Nick is about as good of a human being as you can find," Nagy said. "You want to talk about people that do things the right way, somebody that cares about others, somebody that just wants to play for the love of the game, and he was at a low point then …

"It's not easy," he added. "What he did last year in Philadelphia was a special deal. I believe truly that good things happen to good people and he's a story of that last year."

There will certainly be a lot of respect and friendship from both sidelines on Sunday when the Eagles and Bears square off in their first postseason matchup since the 2001 Divisional Round at Soldier Field.

But when it comes down to it, the play on the field is what counts. Pederson knows the Eagles will face a tough challenge against Nagy's division-winning Bears on the road. He will look to use their comparable coaching experiences to get an edge in gameplanning.

"You can draw parallels from Coach Reid. We both kind of learned under him," Pederson said. "I know Matt is definitely an aggressive coach. He has an aggressive mindset. He's very creative. That's what you're seeing on tape and in games.

"So, I think there are some similarities there. You always have to sort of adapt to your personnel and personality as a team. That's what he's been able to do, and it's been successful for him. Would expect much of the same."

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