BOCA RATON, Fla – This is part of a series of firsts for Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, this NFL Annual Meeting, which wrapped up on Wednesday afternoon. He understands better the scope of the league, the enormity of the challenge to engage fans more every year and the extraordinarily competitive nature of the game. The learning process continues.
"It's been great to, No. 1, go one on one with the coaches and get a chance to meet them and talk to them and bounce some ideas off of each other. The other thing is the interaction of the whole process, from the Commissioner's message to us as a league to the breakouts (sessions) to listening to the rules proposals and by-laws proposals to sitting in on some of these meetings. There is a lot of information," Pederson said. "A lot, a lot of information and it's good information and it's all about making our game better and that's what we're all in this to do, to make our game better. That's been the biggest thing I take away."
There were no outlandish statements from Pederson on Wednesday morning when he met the media as part of the NFC Coaches Breakfast. Pederson answered football questions for about 70 minutes, and if he didn't shatter your Twitter timeline with his comments, well, get used to it. Pederson is here to win football games. He is in the business of the Philadelphia Eagles. It's not about him.
There were some nuggets from the question-and-answer session. Pederson, for example, is going to give wide receiver Jordan Matthews a look as an outside receiver in the spring after Matthews has played in the slot for two seasons. Interesting. Pederson mentioned the following positions as areas of "need" moving forward: Offensive line, secondary, pass rushers, linebacker. And, truly, everything in between. The Eagles will keep their eyes open for a quarterback to add depth to a group that includes Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel. Running back is clearly something to consider and the Eagles may or may not have a fullback on the roster when September rolls around.
Training Camp, Pederson said, will include some "live" periods during which the Eagles will tackle and work on their defensive technique, something the team did not do the last three summers.
Anything else? Well, not really. Pederson is an engaging guy who has a strong presence and a personality that makes you want to like him. He wants his players to come to him when they want to talk. He wants them to understand that he knows how a locker room operates, given his long NFL playing career. He won a Super Bowl as a backup quarterback in Green Bay.
The player-head coach relationship is a vital one, and Pederson has a clear vision of what he desires and wants to cultivate, a process that really begins in earnest when the offseason conditioning program begins in a couple of weeks at the NovaCare Complex.
"I think (a head coach) is someone that they can come to at all times," Pederson said. "It's almost like a father figure. It's like a son going to your dad. You want to have that relationship where he can come to you at any time. I also want them to see me as somebody who's played the game, somebody who understands the dynamic of the locker room, somebody who understands the dynamic of practice and what it takes to win a championship, being on Green Bay's Super Bowl team, what it takes to get there. I want them to be able to see those things in me."
Beyond that, Pederson has spent his time evaluating the current roster, adding players in free agency and installing his offense with the collaborative efforts including offensive coordinator Frank Reich and quarterbacks coach John DiFilippo. The defense belongs to Jim Schwartz, a relationship that is similar to what rookie head coach Andy Reid and veteran defensive coordinator Jim Johnson had in 1999.
"I wanted to find a defensive coordinator that I could trust, sort of that head coach on defense and he's been that head coach (Schwartz was the head coach in Detroit for five seasons)," Pederson said. "He's a guy you can kind of turn the keys over to him and say, 'This is your deal.' My focus is going to be more on offense. I'm intrigued by his philosophy. This spring as we start diving in to the X's and O's with our players, I'm going to get a little more involved with what he's doing on that side of the ball."
Reid shared with Pederson the benefits he realized having Johnson, a member of the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame, oversee the defense.
"It was very helpful," Pederson said. "He expressed how important it was to find that guy that you trust on defense."
He has that guy in Schwartz, along with the rest of his coaching staff, and he has gone through most of the free-agency process, with some late additions always possible. Pederson has the pre-draft period to finalize and the chance to dig into the evaluation business, something he is comfortable and confident doing. The team gathers at the NovaCare Complex in April. More firsts. More learning for a first-time NFL head coach who is on the right track early in Philadelphia.