- The Eagles' head coach is the same man despite the career-defining victory.
The confidence was always there.
Before last year's Training Camp, Doug Pederson reasoned that the 2017 Eagles were more talented than the Green Bay Packers teams of the 1990s that won three straight division titles and earned back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, capturing the crown in 1996.
Pederson's vantage point of those Packers teams was somewhat similar to his view in Philadelphia. Pederson spent almost all his time on the sideline as the backup to Hall of Fame quarterback and ironman Brett Favre. He attempted just 24 passes for the Packers in a three-year span from 1996-98.
The comments provided some good fodder for the media in the lull before Training Camp, but the head coach was not afraid to set the bar high for his players. He told them in the spring that 7-9 was not good enough, despite the 2016 team showing a lot of promise for the future. He emphasized in meetings that the players could match up against any team in the league, specifically mentioning the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots, coincidentally two future playoff opponents. The Eagles rewarded Pederson for his belief in them by dominating in the regular season, winning nine games in a row at one point in the year to tie a franchise record. Seven of the 13 regular-season wins, also tying a franchise record, were by double digits. And the Eagles had fun along the way with their touchdown celebrations and line dances.
"I think back to our days in Green Bay when we won the Super Bowl, as players we knew walking out onto that field that we were going to win the game," Pederson says. "That was the confidence level, and that's where we were as a team. I think our players started believing in that somewhere in that Chicago, Denver area of the season. They really, truly started believing that they could get it done and every time they stepped out on the field in their mind they were going to win the game. That's how they felt.
"It's a snowball effect."
The head coach further cultivated that confidence in the team by trusting his players to convert on fourth down. Pederson combined the team's research and his instincts to push the envelope and seek an edge where NFL groupthink has been to play it conservatively on fourth down. Philadelphia boasted a league-high 17 fourth-down conversions on 26 attempts (second in the NFL) for a 65.4 percent success rate (third in the NFL).
Pederson remained steadfast in the face of adversity, losing several key players - including Pro Bowl quarterback Carson Wentz - which would have derailed most teams. The Eagles, however, proved not to be like most teams.
"Even after Carson went down in the Rams game, they still had that belief that they were better than their opponent last year," Pederson says. "The confidence level was extremely high with the team and the players."
On the game's biggest stage, Pederson stayed true to who he is. When the Eagles faced fourth-and-goal from the Patriots' 1-yard line just before halftime, Pederson wanted to go for the touchdown to no one's surprise. Quarterback Nick Foles ran to the sideline to suggest a trick play - the Philly Special. Pederson didn't flinch, loving the conviction of the audacious play call. Foles' touchdown reception from tight end Trey Burton is now one of the iconic plays in the history of the game.
After the Eagles outlasted the Patriots to claim the first Super Bowl in franchise history, Pederson declared that "this is the new norm," a statement that is now plastered on the walls inside the players' entrance at the NovaCare Complex.
A year ago, Pederson's assertion about the team's talent drew criticism. Who is going to doubt him now that he's a Super Bowl-winning head coach?
"For a guy that didn't have probably a lot of support coming into this job initially, now to be on the other end of that spectrum it's cool, but at the same time I know what it took for me to get here and I had to continue that for myself," Pederson says.
"I'm still going to be the same. I don't ever want it to change me. I don't want it to define me, hold me down, bog me down. I think it's an honor, obviously. I hold it in high esteem. It's a great accomplishment for what we do, but it doesn't have to define me as a person."
Pederson won't even allow himself to indulge in taking credit for the team's success. He was very complimentary of former head coach Andy Reid, whom Pederson played for in Philadelphia and coached under in Kansas City. Pederson noted how the Eagles won the Super Bowl with players originally acquired during Reid's tenure including Foles, the MVP, and defensive end Brandon Graham, who strip-sacked quarterback Tom Brady in the fourth quarter. He acknowledged another former head coach in Chip Kelly for his play design. Pederson incorporated elements of Kelly's playbook in the team's high-scoring offense.
There is no ego with Pederson, and it's evident in his team's selfless nature.
"I think you've got to keep reminding them that, as I use the phrase, 'One man can make a difference, but a team can make a miracle.' I think you keep reiterating those points and it is about the team," Pederson says. "Are you a reason we won or are you the reason we won? We all need to be a part of we're all the reason. We're all in this together."
The fans were also an incredible part of the journey to the Super Bowl, helping provide home-field advantage on the road last season. Pederson relishes in sharing the experience with everyone in the community and appreciates the stories, and the deluge of requests for pictures and autographs. He understands what this win meant for the City of Philadelphia. Pederson was the quarterback here in 1999, Reid's first year on the job. He went 2-7 as the starter, serving as a mentor to the No. 2 overall pick Donovan McNabb and taking the shots from the defense until the rookie was ready.
Pederson's experienced the highs and the lows that this game has to offer. That's why it doesn't make any sense for him to change who he is now.
"I just keep doing my job every single day. I'm going to be the same person today. I'm going to be the same person tomorrow," Pederson says. "You don't ever want to shut the door to what you did because you have to remember and sort of think back on our success last year, but at the same time, we have to flip and turn the page. We're moving on to 2018, and that's my focus."
A leader. A teacher. A motivator. A team builder. Pederson remains all those things. And is now a Super Bowl-winning head coach.