Never, not once in this injury-heavy 2019 season did head coach Doug Pederson sit back and feel sorry for his football team. Not when the Eagles lost player after player after player to injury. Not when the team was 5-7 and facing four weeks of must-win games. Never during the course of any game, no matter the mountain the team needed to climb to come back and win.
It is not in Pederson's nature to make excuses or give himself or his football team an easy out.
He just does what he needs to do to win.
"He's believed in us from the very start to the end," center Jason Kelce says. "His leadership never wavers. Doug just goes with what we have in terms of players or a situation. You just keep working hard and good things are going to happen."
Good things did happen for Pederson and the Eagles in their final four games, all wins, as Pederson captured his third playoff berth and second NFC East title in his four seasons as head coach. This playoff journey was different than the previous two as injuries had a major impact on the team, much more so than even in 2017 when the Eagles lost quarterback Carson Wentz, left tackle Jason Peters, middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, and running back Darren Sproles, among others.
The injuries in 2019 spread across every single position group on the roster, to the point where the Eagles won down the stretch with Wentz throwing to players recently elevated from the practice squad – wide receivers Greg Ward, Robert Davis, and Deontay Burnett, tight end Joshua Perkins, and running back Boston Scott. During the regular season, the Eagles had 13 players from the practice squad on the 53-man roster. In last Sunday's division-clinching 34-17 win over the New York Giants, the Eagles used 10 players who spent time this season on the practice squad.
"What I love about this football team is how we have stuck together the entire season," Pederson says. "Through all the ups and downs, through all the injuries, we've battled, we put ourselves in this position to win the NFC East, we've done that."
In many ways, 2019 represents Pederson's greatest coaching feat, given all of the injuries and the inconsistency that plagued the team through much of the regular season. Pederson's relentless optimism and his belief in his players and coaching staff paid off as the team found itself, a surprise to many on the outside, just when it appeared the season was heading in the wrong direction.
Pederson was asked after the win over the Giants what he was most proud of with this team.
"I just think staying consistent with the players," he said. "I think just getting them to believe in themselves, honestly, through all the different adversities and things that we've faced. Through the amount of injuries that have piled up, and through the next guy, and promoting all the practice squad players, and just sort of, for me, just kind of keeping everybody on the same page.
"I think that's the most proud that I feel with these guys, and leaning on the leadership of the football team and the veterans, and leaning on the coaching staff, and just trusting. In this business, we have to trust a lot of people, and that's what I'm most proud of."
And now, the second season begins. The Eagles have more football to play, more odds to defy. That's just the way Pederson likes it as he pushes forward, expecting the best.