Back in 1999, when Doug Pederson was a back-up quarterback with the Eagles, I heard another beat writer call Pederson – a journeyman quarterback with less-than-average talent and a below-.500 winning percentage – “a real loser.”
My answer was: “What? Are you kidding? He’s one of the biggest winners in sports.”
The other guy looked at me like I was crazy, until I explained.
First of all, yes, Pederson was a mediocre QB at best and his whole career illustrates that. He played collegiately at a middle-of-nowhere place called Northeast Louisiana, where he had a pretty good career, setting 15 school records. But maybe this sums up Pederson’s so-so career: In 1987, the season previous to Pederson winning the starting job, Northeast Louisiana won the Division I-AA national championship. In the next three seasons, with Pederson at the controls, the team went 16-17-1.
Maybe that’s why Pederson wasn’t drafted out of college, even though the NFL draft lasted 12 rounds back then. He signed as a rookie free agent with Miami, and then bounced on and off the Dolphins’ practice squad for a few years – he would eventually be released five times by Miami. He got his only action in that time playing with the New York/New Jersey Knights of the World League of American Football, a short-lived minor league supported by the NFL.
Pederson finally made it to Miami’s active roster, which was a pretty good place for a young, eager quarterback since the coach was Hall-of-Famer Don Shula, who had coached the likes of Bob Griese, Dan Marino and the greatest of them all, Johnny Unitas. And Pederson had one shining moment of glory with the Dolphins, when he came off the bench to lead them to Shula’s record-breaking 325th victory – against the Eagles in Philadelphia.
But then the journeyman trail led him to Green Bay, which was also a pretty good place for a backup quarterback and aspiring coach to learn the game, since they had Mike Holmgren and Brett Favre leading the way. The Packers also had an ambitious quarterbacks coach named Andy Reid, and the two developed a close relationship.
That’s why, when Reid was named coach of the Eagles in 1999, he signed Pederson to be his starting quarterback while rookie Donovan McNabb got his NFL sea legs under him. That took nine weeks – the Eagles went 2-7 in that stretch — and then Pederson was back where he belonged, on the sideline with a clipboard in his hand. In his one season with the Eagles, Pederson completed just 52.4 percent of his passes, with seven touchdown passes and nine interceptions and an overall passer rating 62.9.
Pederson’s career numbers would eventually be pretty close to that – 54.8 percent passing, 12 TDs and 19 interceptions, a passer rating of 62.3 – and all that certainly seem to indicate that he wasn’t a very good player.
But a loser? No, Pederson is a winner through and through, simply because he was so bad and still managed to last 12 seasons in the NFL. Even back-up quarterbacks in the NFL make pretty good money and Pederson lasted a long time in a business where the average career span is 3 ½ years and he made millions of dollars in that time, and how many of us would be happy to have a career like that?
So, was Doug Pederson a bad player? Of course. But was he a loser? Far from it.
That has also been evident in his coaching career, which really hasn’t lasted that long or been that spectacular compared to most – just like his playing career. Pederson started at the bottom again, as head coach of a high school team, Calvary Baptist Academy in Shreveport, La. Then, once again, Andy Reid rode to his rescue and hired Pederson as an offensive quality-control coach with the Eagles. Again, that is about the lowest rung on the NFL coaching ladder, as a quality-control coach basically breaks down his own team’s game film to make sure they’re not becoming too predictable, etc.
Then, when Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor left to become Miami’s offensive coordinator, Reid promoted Pederson to that position, where he served until Reid got fired after the 2012 season. And when Reid was quickly hired by Kansas City, he brought Pederson along with him as his offensive coordinator.
And now, after just three seasons as a coordinator – and don’t forget that Reid designs the offense in Kansas City and calls the plays – the guy who was a head coach in high school just eight years ago is now a head coach in the NFL.
So, you can call him a loser if you want, but he’s going to make a lot of money and a lot of people in South Philadelphia are going to call him boss. And that sure sounds like a winner to me.