Philadelphia Eagles News

Lawlor: Doug Pederson the right man to lead Eagles for the long haul

The Eagles have won 22 regular-season games over the past two seasons. That is their best two-year span since 2003 and 2004, when the team won 25.

The Eagles also won four playoff games over the past two seasons. Prior to that, they hadn't won a playoff game since 2008. They hadn't won playoff games in consecutive seasons since 2003 and 2004, when they got lost in the NFC Championship and then came up short in the Super Bowl.

It is interesting to compare the current team to the group from 2003 and 2004. They are similar in a lot of ways. Both had a franchise quarterback. Both had strong offensive lines. There were gifted skill players on both groups. Each had an attacking 4-3 defense that gave opposing quarterbacks fits.

One big difference is the timeline.

Andy Reid became the head coach of the Eagles in 1999. He had a five-year plan for getting the team to the Super Bowl. The Eagles didn't make it until the sixth year, but that was an incredibly successful stretch. There were five straight winning seasons and four consecutive division titles. There were three consecutive years of at least 12 wins.

There were four straight trips to the NFC Championship Game. The first three were agonizing losses. Then finally, the Eagles beat the Falcons and advanced to the Super Bowl. That was a magical day.

Doug Pederson took over the Eagles in 2016. He didn't talk about a five-year plan. Coaches aren't as big on timetables these days. Pederson shocked the world by leading the Eagles to a Super Bowl title in just his second year.

To be fair to Reid, their situations were very different. The Eagles were the worst team in the NFL in 1998. They went 3-13, but those numbers don't tell the whole story. They lost five games by at least 20 points. They were shut out three times. That team only scored more than 17 points once. Think about that for a second.

Most people expected the Eagles to hire Steelers defensive coordinator Jim Haslett to be the coach. Instead, Jeffrey Lurie had the vision to take a chance on Andy Reid, who was the Packers' quarterback coach. Reid had never even been an offensive coordinator in the NFL. Lurie knew his offense needed to be fixed and he rolled the dice. That move turned out to be great for the Eagles, and it has had an impact on NFL history.

Reid proved to be a great coach during his 14 years in Philadelphia. He also proved to be great at developing coaches. Two of his former assistants have won Super Bowls, Pederson and John Harbaugh. Reid has had several former assistants lead their teams to the playoffs. Ron Rivera lost in the Super Bowl. Brad Childress got to the NFC Championship. Sean McDermott, Leslie Frazier, and Matt Nagy got their teams into the postseason. That's pretty incredible.

Reid is now doing some amazing things out in Kansas City. It would be great to see him get back to the Super Bowl.

Lurie hired Reid back in 1999 and they agreed to build a program. That word has always stuck with me. Reid replaced Ray Rhodes, who had built teams to win right away. There wasn't much of an eye to the future and player development was a real issue. Reid wanted to win, but also wanted sustainable success. Reid always had a plan. He kept one eye on the present and one on the future.

Reid's plans weren't perfect. He wasn't able to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Philly. Still, he left quite a legacy.

Pederson inherited a team coming off a 7-9 season. If a few plays had gone differently, that team might have even made the playoffs. Pederson was handed a roster that had some structure in place and could compete right away.

A lot of new coaches obsess on tearing down the staff and roster of the team they take over. Pederson didn't do that. He kept several coaches. Why fire a guy if he's good at what he does? Pederson also embraced the players. He wasn't looking to clean house, but rather build a good team.

Pederson and Howie Roseman worked very well together as they upgraded the roster instead of making wholesale changes. The Eagles got off to a 3-1 start in 2016 before Lane Johnson had to serve a 10-game suspension. The team went 2-8 in that stretch before closing out the season with a pair of wins with Johnson back at right tackle. The Eagles easily could have been a playoff team without that suspension.

The Eagles got even better in 2017 and won the Super Bowl. They had to deal with an incredible amount of injuries last year, but the team rallied late in the year and almost made it back to the NFC Championship.

Reid had a losing season as a rookie coach in 1999 and then had five straight winning seasons, with the team getting better each year.

I'm curious to see what the future holds for Pederson and the Eagles. Pederson has proven that he knows how to win in the regular season and the playoffs. He has proven that he can handle adversity. The good news is that the three very influential coaches for Pederson are Reid, Don Shula, and Mike Holmgren. All of them had success for an extended period of time and all three had success with multiple teams. Those are great coaches to learn from.

It might seem funny to mention Pederson in the same breath as those three coaching legends, but he's off to a better start than any of them. Maybe someday we'll be talking about Pederson as an all-time great.

Pederson doesn't care about any of that right now. He's itching to prepare the 2019 Eagles in their pursuit of a championship.

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Eagles Message Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. You can also find his work at IgglesBlitz.com where he is the site's editor.

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