He was someone who served as a pioneer in the NFL for film/video technology starting in the 1970s all the way through the 2012 season with the Eagles, leading the way that every other team followed. Mike Dougherty worked behind the scenes for the franchise for all of those years, and is now being recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame with an Award of Excellence for the great work he did.
Dougherty, the team's film/video director from 1976 through 2012 – he never missed one of the team's 736 games – who will be officially honored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in June, was part of a two-man crew for the Eagles back then (along with Lou Tucker, who hired Dougherty to his outside business before joining the team) and helped usher in a new era of film technology to a league that needed the jolt.
"It's an honor to be recognized and to be somewhere in the Hall of Fame for what we've done over the years and to help support the NFL," said Dougherty, who learned of the honor at the NFL's Video Directors Meeting a few weeks ago and who is one of five film and video directors being lauded for his long-term service to the league. "The money wasn't around back then like it is today. We used 16-milimeter film with projectors and that grew into Sony Betacam in 1986 and then into digital editing and now everything is on a tablet, on a computer. Everything used to be on VHS tapes and then it went to DVDs and now it's on the Cloud.
"It's been a heck of a transition, of which I have been part of all of it."
"Doc is one of the pioneers of NFL video. His influence and presence helped develop the foundation that today's video departments function within the league environment. His larger-than-life personality endears him with everyone he works with and I am proud to call him a friend. He so richly deserves this honor and I can't be happier for his family for all they shared throughout his 37 years of dedicated service to the Eagles," said Patrick Dolan, Eagles vice president of football technology.
Thirty, 40 years ago, there was a reluctance in league circles to spend money on video production, and the availability of game film was much more scarce and more difficult to share than it is today. The league is at the forefront of technology now, of course, but back then, teams had to play it smart. Dougherty remembers that prior to Eagles-Giants games, the teams' video staffs would arrange to meet at a truck stop off of Exit 7 of the New Jersey Turnpike to exchange game film, and that when the Eagles played Washington, Dougherty drove to Philadelphia's 30th Street Station and sent the film on a train to Washington.
Today, the sharing is uploaded and in the Cloud in less than an hour and teams throughout the league have access to the footage.
"You have to stay on top of that or you won't be around," said Dougherty, a veteran of the United States Navy who was the recipient of the Billy Driber Award for leadership and was inducted into the Sports Video Hall of Fame in 2015. "It has meant so much for the league, or the NFL wouldn't be where it is today. It has been an amazing process."
"No one deserves it more. As good as he was at everything video-wise, he was instrumental in helping so many people with their professional careers," said Kevin Dougherty (no relation), an intern under Doc in 2001 who is now the team's director of video operations. "Whenever something was wrong, whether it was a Beta deck or a camera, we rarely had to send it out to be fixed because Doc was like his own repair shop. As we transitioned to digital, he led a lot of those committees and meetings with the various companies on how to move forward because it has to be a shared effort. There's a standard for all 32 teams. A lot of the guys around the league looked to Doc to lead the group and make the right decisions."
Before Dick Vermeil became the head coach of the Eagles, Dougherty said, the video team would shoot a single practice each week and coaches wouldn't have a chance to review until later that night, many hours after practice ended because Dougherty had to take the film to be processed. Vermeil modernized his demand and practice video was shot Wednesday through Friday.
Another part of the business moving forward: Situation football was presented to the coaches – cut-ups – were created so teams could watch the short-yardage plays, all of the third downs, jersey-number-specific plays, college game coverage, etc. – and the demand for footage grew exponentially as coaching staffs and scouting departments expanded.
The need for more information expanded as technology boomed and Dougherty was a leader in the NFL industry, spearheading the charge ahead.
"It's nice to be recognized in the sense that there are so many parts to this that people don't see," said Dougherty, who also represented the Eagles at the NFL Draft for 30 years. "It isn't just the players and the coaches that make the game. The show is on Sundays, but the behind-the-scenes part of it is important and helps the league put out the best product on gamedays, so I'm proud of that.
"You hear it after the game from coaches: 'I have to look at the film.' That's amazing to me. Even young coaches say that and it's, to me, a sign of respect for what once was. It's no longer 'film' they're watching because everything is on the Cloud or on their computer. But to hear 'film,' that just reminds me of how it all got started."