He came in on Day 1, faced the Philadelphia media, and dropped a welcomed news nugget – announcing that Jim Schwartz would be his defensive coordinator -- and spoke enthusiastically of the mission ahead and the work needed to build the Eagles into winners. Doug Pederson did his job, the first of many tasks ahead as the Eagles' 23rd head coach.
If there were any nerves, Pederson didn't show them in front of a sometimes-ornery packed house in the NovaCare Complex auditorium on Tuesday afternoon. Pederson showed the communication skills that Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie emphasized were so important, he talked about having "Doug Pederson guys" on his team and he insisted that he was in it to win it as soon as possible for a fan base that he fully understands having played as an Eagle and having coached here as an assistant on Andy Reid's staff.
But it was more than the press conference for Pederson, who was in the midst of a whirlwind few days. He had his interview with the Eagles the day after the Kansas City Chiefs defeated Houston in an AFC playoff game and then spent a week preparing for New England in the AFC Divisional Playoff round. After a tough 27-20 loss, Pederson and the Eagles settled down into the business of next steps and, boom, Pederson was all dressed up and looking positively head coachish on Tuesday spending hours in a variety of interviews.
"I just want to see improvement. I want to see hard work. I want to see guys every day who want to come to practice," Pederson said. "They don't want to take plays off. They've got to be so beat up and banged up that you have to carry them off the field. We're going to be aggressive by nature. I just want to see that team come together – offense, defense and special teams become one unit. Just improve, man. Just get better every day. As teachers, as coaches, giving them one thing each day to get better at and then you become a better football team."
Pederson said the offensive philosophy will be "aggressive by nature. That's been my mentality." There are going to be some things you recognize from the Reid Era, but Pederson said the offense is a "hybrid of the West Coast system" that the Chiefs ran. He wants to utilize the strengths of the talent on offense, of the quarterback. Pederson spoke highly of quarterback Sam Bradford, who really came on in the second half of the 2015 season. Bradford is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March, so there is work to be done there should the Eagles plan to retain him.
On defense, Schwartz runs the show, and he's been one of the best in the business. The Eagles are going to attack and be aggressive with Schwartz calling the shots. From 2001-2014, Schwartz – who oversaw Tennessee's defense for eight seasons before taking over as Detroit's head coach from 2009-2013 and then running Buffalo's defense in 2014 – led defenses that ranked in the top 10 in overall D four times, including the past three seasons in which he was solely a defensive coordinator. In 2014, the Bills ranked No. 4 in yards per game, 11th against the run, third against the pass and fourth in points.
He knows how to get the job done. Hiring him was a great early move for Pederson, who also said that special teams coordinator Dave Fipp and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland will return on this staff.
"Keep it simple and let your players go make plays," said Pederson, who will call the plays on offense. "This game is kind of simple that way when you break it down. The teams that are successful every year are the teams that can do that and do that on a consistent basis."
Said linebacker Connor Barwin: "I'm excited to get to know him and the way he communicates with the team when everybody gets here for the offseason program, and what moves he makes and I look forward to getting to know him. I think a good head coach needs to have a great football mind and must be able to manage a lot of different personalities and he must be an inspiring leader. Those are just a couple of things you need."
Barwin will be impacted by the new defense, which features Schwartz's signature "Wide 9" technique for the defensive ends, who line up wide to funnel the football back to the interior of the defense. That's what Schwartz has done in the past, but "we're not really married to a scheme," and would prefer that it's called an "attack defense," with a variety of fronts, Schwartz said. "We're going to attack. We're going to get after the quarterback. We've historically been good at sacking the quarterback, creating turnovers, good on third down … The thing that matters to me is that we give up less points than we scored."
This is all encouraging. The Eagles have Pederson in the fold and he's raring to get rolling, to fill out his staff, to get to Mobile, Alabama next week for the Senior Bowl and to prep for the NFL Draft and for free agency. Nobody denies that there is work to do to turn a 7-9 team into a big winner.
"Probably a trait that I have is listening. Listening and watching," Pederson said. "You get into a leadership role, particularly a head coaching position like this or a coordinator's position that I came from, just listening to the people around you, listening to your mentors, like a Mike Holmgren, the Andy Reids, the Don Shulas. Listening to the players as well and understanding their side of it spins a different light on how you want to tackle the next job, in this case the head coaching position here in Philadelphia.
"I'm excited about the opportunity. I'm looking forward to working with the guys. We've got some challenges ahead, but for the most part I'm so excited and I'm ready to get to work."