The Eagles have finally won a Super Bowl and Doug Pederson has finally shed the Rodney Dangerfield tag he’s worn his entire career. Finally, Pederson has the respect he’s always wanted, but rarely received.
The Eagles are the unlikeliest of champions – they finished just 7-9 last year in Pederson’s first season as coach and you probably know the long list of star players they lost to injury this season, including Pro Bowl quarterback Carson Wentz and future Hall-of-Fame left tackle Jason Peters. And even though they had the best record in the NFL, they were underdogs in every playoff game, including, of course, Super Bowl 52.
It was in that Super Bowl victory over New England that Pederson established himself as a great coach, even though he had done a solid job all season in leading the Eagles to a 13-3 record and the NFC East title despite all of those injuries. But Pederson got just one vote in the coach of the year balloting, far behind Los Angeles’ Sean McVay (even though Pederson’s team beat McVay’s), who received 35 votes. Next was Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer (who also lost to Pederson), with 11 votes, and Jacksonville’s Doug Marrone (whose team lost to the team Pederson beat in the Super Bowl), with two votes.
Of course, Pederson would have won in a landslide if that voting had been taken after the Super Bowl instead of the end of the regular season. That’s how good a job in did in all three playoff games, not just the last one.
And as insults go, let’s not forget the slap in the face that former NFL executive Mike Lombardi hit Pederson with before the season began. Lombardi, who worked for the Eagles in 1997-98, infamously said that Pederson “might be less qualified to coach a team than anyone I’ve seen in my 30-plus years in the NFL.”
Assessments like that are probably why Lombardi isn’t in the NFL anymore.
Anyhow, you get the point. And looking back on his careers as a player and a coach, it’s easy to see why Pederson didn’t get much respect.
As a player, Pederson was nothing special. He played at a small school, Northeast Louisiana, and in three years as a started his team went 16-17-1. He didn’t even get drafted by the NFL, even though the draft lasted 12 rounds back then. He signed with Miami and bounced around on their practice squad – he would eventually be released five times by the Dolphins.
Pederson’s perseverance paid off and in 1984 he eventually made Miami’s active roster as a back-up and learned from Hall-of-Fame coach Don Shula and Hall-of-Fame quarterback Dan Marino. But Pederson rarely played and usually didn’t distinguish himself when he did, with one notable exception, when he came off the bench to lead the Dolphins to Shula’s record-breaking 325th victory – against the Eagles in Philadelphia.
Pederson then signed with Green Bay — as a backup, of course — and once again he was in offensive meetings with a brilliant coach, Mike Holmgren, and a Hall-of-Fame quarterback, Brett Favre.
Even more importantly, at least from a career standpoint, is that Pederson also developed a good relationship with the Packers’ young and ambitious quarterbacks coach, a guy named Andy Reid. When Reid became coach of the Eagles in 1999, once of his first moves was to acquire Pederson to mentor rookie QB Donovan McNabb. Pederson started the first nine games that season before McNabb took over, and that was pretty much it for his playing days in Philadelphia – Reid released him the next year. Pederson signed with the Cleveland Browns and also started the season as the starter before once again losing his job.
Pederson then re-signed with the Packers to back up Favre, who was on his way to establishing an NFL record by playing in 297 consecutive games. That didn’t leave much playing time for the No. 2 guy, and in Pederson’s final four seasons in Green Bay he threw a total of 53 passes.
Pederson’s final NFL career stats include 12 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions and a passer rating of 62.3, and his final record as a starting QB was 3-14-0.
Pederson’s coaching career began as inauspiciously – his first job was as a high school coach in Louisiana. He eventually contacted Reid about a job with the Eagles and was hired as a quality control coach, which is pretty much the bottom rung of the coaching ladder — his job was to the break down the Eagles’ game tapes to make sure the team wasn’t becoming too predictable, which isn’t exactly a glamorous or lucrative way to make a living.
You probably know what happened from there – Reid eventually promoted Pederson to quarterbacks coach, and when Reid moved to Kansas City he took Pederson with him as offensive coordinator, even though Reid continued to design most of the offense and call most of the plays. And then Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie gambled and hired Pederson to coach his team.
Now everybody is singing his praises and copying his style, and nobody will doubt or disrespect Doug Pederson ever again.