For Doug Pederson, one of the most incredible coaching seasons ever

For Doug Pederson, one of the most incredible coaching seasons ever

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — There was a funny little moment on Monday morning, borne out of exhaustion and delirium. 

A bleary-eyed Doug Pederson greeted NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as Pederson walked on stage for a quick photo op before a press conference, Pederson's last obligation of an obligation-filled week. 

The lectern on the stage was between Nick Foles' Pete Rozelle (MVP) trophy and the Lombardi Trophy. The photographer suggested Pederson pick up the Lombardi Trophy for the shot, but Pederson didn't move at first. 

"It's that one, Doug," a bunch of smart-asses said, pointing to the legendary prize. 

"You can pick it up if you want," Goodell said. "It's yours." 

Damn right it is. 

And Doug Pederson earned it. 

The same Pederson who wasn't the Eagles' first choice. The same Pederson who people said was one of the worst possible hires at the time. The same Pederson who was the least qualified coach ever, according to one blowhard. 

That guy just pulled off one of the most incredible coaching seasons in NFL history. 

This year, Pederson really seemed to come into his own as a play-caller. He pushed the right buttons all year, especially in the Super Bowl, and his aggressive attitude rubbed off on his entire team. 

And that's not even the most impressive thing he did. He won a Super Bowl with Nick Foles! And not just Foles. He won a Super Bowl with backups everywhere. He won a Super Bowl in the same season that the Eagles lost Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Darren Sproles, Chris Maragos and Caleb Sturgis. 

"It's tough," Pederson said on Monday morning, the shock of winning the Super Bowl still in full effect. "It's something that you spend a lot of time thinking about how you want to talk to the team, how you want to present your messaging to the team. 

"How's the team going to buy into losing as many starters as we did this season? Again, it was part of just entrusting the players a little bit. Great leadership with some of the veteran players. Just allowing them to sort of embrace it and [the] next-man-up mentality." 

Pederson, 50, was incredibly calculated in every trying situation that presented itself this season. He knew that any weakness he showed to his team could be disastrous. He put on a brave face, believed in his players and trusted they wouldn't give up on him or the season. They didn't. 

Of course, when Wentz went down, that was slightly different. The team lost the MVP of the league on Dec. 10 in Los Angeles and there were some understandably mopey faces slumping through the NovaCare Complex. Pederson finally admitted recently that there was a brief moment of self-pity in all of that (see story)

But he couldn't let it show. Not publicly and definitely not to his players. 

He had to get Nick Foles ready to play quarterback the same way he got Big V ready to play left tackle, the same way they transferred middle linebacker responsibilities to Nigel Bradham, the same way they figured out a way to get by on third downs without Sproles and rolled right along with a rookie kicker. 

With confidence that absolutely nothing was going to wreck their season. 

"As coaches, hats off to my coaching staff for preparing our guys, for getting our guys ready each week," Pederson said. "It didn't matter who was in there; we were going to coach them up and get them ready to play." 

Everyone laughed when Jeff Lurie said he wanted his next coach to have emotional intelligence. He brought it up again after the Eagles won the NFC Championship Game, when he finally had proof he was right. 

Do you really think Chip Kelly would have been able to coach the Eagles through losing that many key players? There's no way. 

But things are different with Doug. His players refused to give up on the season because they would never think of giving up on him. Sure, you can credit the players for that, but make sure to give credit to Pederson for creating that type of atmosphere. 

When most teams would have given up, the Eagles got tougher. When most teams will be spread across the country on family vacations and golfing on Thursday, the Eagles will be parading down Broad Street. 

When most coaches simply get fired and forgotten, Pederson is already a legend. Not quite Lombardi yet, but give him time. This was just Year 2. 

Emotional Jason Kelce explains origin of epic speech

Emotional Jason Kelce explains origin of epic speech

More than two months after Jason Kelce gave that now-famous and impassioned vulgarity-filled speech on the steps of the art museum, the emotions that led to it haven’t dissipated. 

On Tuesday, the Philadelphia folk hero got choked up trying to explain the impetus of his words for the first time since he spoke them. 

“I found myself literally [after] the Vikings game in the shower, like,” Kelce said before pausing. 

He choked back tears for a full five seconds. 

“Goddamnit,” he said under his breath, cleared his throat. Another three seconds passed. 

“You get pretty emotional, you’re crying,” said Kelce, recomposed. “And all of that, after the Super Bowl, after the game is finally over, I’m running on the field and I still can’t believe it happened. And it all hits you all at once. I think that’s what the whole speech was. It was the culminating of all the stories I’m thinking about at night, I can’t go to sleep, of how I got there. Then you start thinking about how everybody else got there. Then you start thinking about how the city got there.”

Kelce said he didn’t know how much his speech would resonate with fans and that’s not why he gave it anyway. He delivered his speech because in the lead-up to the Super Bowl, he began thinking about all the adversity he had overcome. He didn’t get a scholarship coming out of high school, needed to prove himself at a new position, and not long ago even questioned his own ability to still play at a high level. 

Then he realized it wasn’t just him. He thought about all of his teammates and what they went through. Then he thought about the city’s waiting to get a Super Bowl. 

The epic speech was born. 

“The whole speech was a realization of myself, realizing that I’m not the only person that’s been through something,” Kelce said. “I’m not the only person that’s had to go through [something]. Literally everybody has had something that they’ve overcome. Everybody’s pushed through. Everybody’s persevered through some sort of adversity and that was kind of the mantra the whole season. We had so much adversity, injuries, all these things happening. It just seemed like nothing could stop us.”

Since the Super Bowl and the speech, Kelce has become a wanted man. Everyone wants a photo and everyone tries to get a mic in his hand. A lot of people expect Kelce to be a great speaker, but what he said at the art museum that day had been building for years. He won’t always have that magic. 

While Kelce has spoken to some of the other local teams and his face appeared on beer cans with proceeds going to charity, Kelce has turned down most offers. Because of added fame, Kelce said just going out for breakfast is more difficult these days; and we all know what happens when Kelce doesn’t eat breakfast. 

He understands the new level of fame, though. It comes with the territory of helping the city achieve its dream. There are too many stories to list of fans telling him how much it meant to them and he understands the Eagles are glue for families in the region. He remembered one teammate walking up to him at the parade after a fan poured the ashes of their grandfather into his hands. The teammate didn’t know what to do and Kelce didn’t have any answers either. 

“It’s one of those things for the first seven years,” Kelce said, “that’s all anybody ever talked about when they came up and talked to you as an Eagle. They were like, ‘Just get us one. We’ve been waiting forever.’”

That’s pretty emotional stuff. You’ll forgive Kelce for getting choked up. 

A backup again? Life after Super Bowl has Nick Foles more than happy

A backup again? Life after Super Bowl has Nick Foles more than happy

The question to Nick Foles was how long did it take to fully understand exactly what he had accomplished.

For the reality to really hit him.

“Still working on it,” he said. “You know, I don’t know if it’ll ever really set in. I don’t know if it’s ever really meant to.”

Foles, who replaced an injured Carson Wentz in December and then led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl championship with a record-setting postseason performance, met with the Philly media Tuesday for the first time since the Wednesday after the Super Bowl and spoke about what the last few months has meant to him.

“To be part of and to do it in the city of Philadelphia with the guys I did it with after everything that had gone on, it’s something that’s very humbling and very special,” he said. “I feel undeserving to be a part of it.

“There’s times where I wake up and I’ll walk in [the next room] and see the banner and I’m like, ‘Wow, did that really happen?'"

Foles completed an NFL postseason-record 73 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and one interception that plopped right out of Alshon Jeffery’s hands during playoff wins over the Falcons, Vikings and Patriots.

At some point, he’ll go back to backing up Wentz and next year he’ll likely be starting somewhere else. But he said Tuesday he’s not thinking about the future right now. He’s just grateful to be an Eagle.

“I look in my locker and I see the Eagles colors in my locker and part of me is like, ‘I’m a part of the Philadelphia Eagles,’ because once I wasn’t here,” he said. “So I’m still adjusting to all that.

“It’s really special for the city and it was really special for me to be a part of it. It’s really special for everyone in that locker room. It will be forever.

“I’ve run into so many people across the country — because I live in California in the offseason, that’s where my wife’s from, that’s probably where we’ll raise our kids — and still there’s Eagles fans everywhere.

“Grown men coming up to me at dinner when I’m with my father, pretty macho guys, that all of a sudden break down crying and you see the emotion and the heart of it.

“They’ve waited their whole life, their father waited his whole life, their grandmother, and I know when we won the game all of us in this locker room realized this, and that’s why it was so special, because we did it in such a unique, special city.

“That’s why like when everyone wants to talk about, ‘Hey, do you want to go start [somewhere else]?’ Yeah, I have aspirations to lead a team.

“Do I wish I could play my whole career here? Absolutely. But I know the situation and I am grateful to be in this locker room at this moment to be here because I genuinely do love the city.”