Pederson knows he'll be fired someday, but for now he's the perfect fit

Pederson knows he'll be fired someday, but for now he's the perfect fit

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The Doug Pederson story is one of constantly defying the odds, one of forever proving people wrong, one of proving yourself over and over and over.

The ultimate challenge comes Sunday.

"As a player, I was a career backup," Pederson said. "That's who I was. That was my role. I embraced that role. I had a chance to start, but ultimately my place was to be the backup and support the starter.

"As a coach, I’m sure there was doubt. There was skepticism. Call it whatever it is, 'First-time head coach, what does he know about running a team?' Hopefully, I’ve proven people wrong.”

Yeah, about that … 13-3 and a berth in the Super Bowl without his starting quarterback in his second year would qualify as proving doubters wrong.

Pederson, who had never been a head coach on any level above high school before two years ago this month, spoke at length recently about his coaching style and why he thinks it's been so successful so fast.

"Fourteen years being in the locker room, understanding the players," he said. "Understanding that dynamic. The diversity in that locker room. That is important for me. To know what goes on down there. How these guys interact.

"Being a player for 14 years, you come across a lot of things. For me now, being able to relate to them and you hear all the time he is a players coach or whatever that may be — I think you have to listen to your guys. I think in today’s game, communication is big with me. Making sure our guys understand where I am coming from.

"Plus, I understand what they are coming from. That's why I did a player committee of veteran players, so we can communicate back and forth. I think that is probably the biggest reason for the buy in."

Pederson spent 14 years bouncing around the NFL as an undrafted free agent, so he's the ultimate underdog.

He's genuine, honest, down to Earth. That's why he works so well in Philly.

And he totally gets why what's happening right now is so special to the long-suffering Eagles fans of Philly, not to mention Williamstown, Burlington, Langhorne, Norristown, Ridley Park and all points in between.

"There's a part of me that, this underdog mentality, sort of you can't do something mentality, you know? That's kind of the city of Philly," he said.

"They say you can't do something, you rise up and do something amazing. That's kind of who I am. I've always been sort of one of those jack-of-all-trade athletes. Good at everything, but master of none. That's who I am. That's been my career.

"To come back to a city that sort of embraces that role a little bit and to rise up and lead a group of guys that have had a lot of adversity thrown in their face, that's kind of what draws you to this."

It's been fun to watch this football team, this collection of 28 guys who were on the 2016 team and 25 new additions, not just come together as a cohesive unit but develop the exact same underdog mentality as their coach has developed since he was backing up Reggie Slack with the New York/New Jersey Knights of the World League in the spring of 1992.

“I think the longer that a person is somewhere, and for me, this is year two, the team starts taking on the personality of the head coach and you hear the same things coming out of their mouths as (I say)," Pederson said.

"That’s where you start seeing that team take on that personality. Thats kind of what you want to see as a head coach.”

Dick Vermeil led the Eagles to the Super Bowl in 1980, his fifth year as head coach. Andy Reid led the Eagles to the Super Bowl in 2004, his sixth year.

Pederson has them there in year two with a young franchise quarterback and a remarkable amount of talent on both sides of the football in place.

This team isn't going away, and neither is Pederson.

At least, not for a while.

"Am I going to get fired one day? Yeah, probably," he said. "That's the reality. There's two types of coaches: hired and fired. You're either one or the other. You're either looking for a job or you're not.

"I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing, what I believe in, what I think is right. Do I need help along the way? Yeah. I'm not the only one in this hunt, either. I've got a great supporting staff, great owner, Howie (Roseman), Joe (Douglas)."

"We're all pulling the cart the same way, the same direction. That's the positive. That's what we have going for us."

6 ways for Eagles to create cap space

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6 ways for Eagles to create cap space

The Eagles are coming off a thrilling season but there's a lot of work to be done. 

The NFL's new league year begins on March 14 and the Eagles must be under the salary cap by then. The problem is that based on projections, the Eagles are set to be more than $9 million over the cap, according to OverTheCap. So it's time for some maneuvering. 

The good news is that Howie Roseman's specialty has always been finding unique ways to get the Eagles out of cap trouble. There are ways for him to do it again.

Cut Torrey Smith 
Probably the easiest one. Smith was a great teammate and a solid addition to the Eagles' locker room, and he really stepped up his game in the playoffs, but it's probably not enough to bring him back. He just wasn't good enough last season, and cutting him would save the Eagles $5 million in cap room with no dead money. The Birds still have Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor, while Mack Hollins is entering Year 2. 

Cut Brent Celek
This one will hurt, but Celek can take away the sting if he decides to walk away as a champion. He's set to have a cap number of $5 million. That's just way too much for what Celek provides these days. By cutting him, the Eagles would save $4 million in cap space. So just between Smith and Celek, the Eagles will almost get back to zero ... but there's other work to do. They'll still need money to sign free agents and draft picks. 

Extend Brandon Graham 
Graham is entering the final year of his contract with a cap number of $8 million. He wants a new contract and deserves one. Good news: An extension would work for both sides. Graham would get more money long-term and the Eagles could get his cap number down this season. 

Re-work/cut Vinny Curry
Curry is coming off of probably his best season in the NFL but will have an $11 million cap number. That's tough to swallow, especially with Derek Barnett waiting for his chance to start. It seems likely the Eagles will ask Curry to take a pay cut or re-work his deal. If not, cutting him would leave $6 million in dead money but would also save $5 million in cap room. 

Trade Mychal Kendricks
If you remember, Kendricks actually wanted a trade last offseason. Good thing that didn't happen. Kendricks ended up being a big part of the Eagles' success in 2017. Depending on what happens with Nigel Bradham in free agency and with Jordan Hicks' Achilles recovery, trading Kendricks might again be an option. A trade would save $4.4 million in cap space. 

Trade Nick Foles 
This is such a tough one -- we explore it more herehttp://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/stay-or-go-super-bowl-mvp-nick-foles. But basically, Foles is a pretty amazing insurance policy until we know when Carson Wentz is going to be ready. If the Eagles do trade Foles, it would save them $5.2 million that they could certainly use. The problem is that by the time they know Wentz's status, free agency will be long gone and that cap space won't help this year. But it could help in 2019.

Stay or Go — Will both Grahams return?

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Stay or Go — Will both Grahams return?

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Nathan Gerry
: Gerry, a fifth-round pick last year, seems to be a decent late-round linebacker prospect. He was a core special teamer — his 180 snaps were sixth-most on the team — on a roster where the linebackers are generally older guys (with the exception of oft-injured Jordan Hicks). A roster spot will be there for the taking if Gerry has a good training camp, especially with Trey Burton likely to leave and Corey Clement’s role on offense expected to grow.

Verdict: STAYS — as a special teamer

Dave: As a rookie, Gerry switched from safety to linebacker but didn't get a chance to play much on defense. He did find a role on special teams. He played in 10 regular-season games and every postseason game, including Super Bowl LII.

Verdict: STAYS

Shelton Gibson
: Gibson, a fifth-round pick last year, got only 17 snaps on offense and caught just two passes for 11 yards. He’ll be invited back to camp, but for once, the Eagles have depth at wide receiver, and young guys like Mack Hollins and Johnson are well ahead of Gibson in the Eagles' eyes. Even if Torrey Smith doesn't return, Nelson Agholor, Alshon Jeffery and Hollins have spots locked up. Gibson's lack of special teams value will play a role.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: After a mostly terrible training camp, Gibson was inactive for the first 10 games of the 2017 season before playing a small role on special teams down the stretch. He still hasn't shown his potential as a fifth-round speed receiver, but he'll get another chance. 

Verdict: STAYS

Najee Goode
: Goode was one of those underrated players that every Super Bowl team seems to have but nobody talks about. He's a terrific special teamer — he was third behind Kamu Grugier-Hill and Burton with 294 special teams snaps — got 200 snaps at linebacker and held his own defensively. Goode is a free agent, and you can probably keep him at minimum wage.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Since 2013, Goode has appeared in 61 Eagles games. Not the best linebacker but a solid special teamer. Goode was on a one-year deal in 2017 so he's an unrestricted free agent-to-be. At 28, he isn't a viable option on defense, but I never thought he'd be here this long. 

Verdict: STAYS

Brandon Graham
: Graham has another year left on his deal. He’s now one of the NFL's top outside pass rushers with a career-high 9½ sacks this year and his first Pro Bowl honors. But he turns 30 this spring, and Derek Barnett is under contract with modest cap figures through 2020. The team can't afford to keep both Graham and Vinny Curry. Graham is obviously the superior player, but how difficult will it be for the Eagles to keep him? I expect he’ll look for a long-term deal in the $12-13 million per year range. He'll get it. I'm just not sure where.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: The Eagles didn't give Graham a new contract last offseason but they added some incentives to the last two years of his deal. As their most disruptive pass rusher, his strip-sack on Tom Brady in Super Bowl LII was the biggest play of the game. The Eagles have to decide if they're going to break the bank but for now, he'll be a huge part of the 2018 season. 

Verdict: STAYS

Corey Graham
: Corey Graham is another one of those one-year contract veterans who made a big impact this season both on defense and special teams. He’ll turn 33 before camp opens but is in tremendous shape. He's played in 171 of a possible 176 games in his 11-year career and shows no sign of dropping off. Graham is also a terrific natural leader who was extremely vocal during the Super Bowl run. The Eagles don't really have any young safeties knocking on the door, so as long as Graham is willing to accept another cap-friendly contract, I don't see a reason not to re-sign him.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Signing Graham was one of the best moves Howie Roseman pulled off last summer. Having a quality third safety freed up Malcolm Jenkins to slide into the slot when needed and allowed the Eagles to use a smaller lineup in their dime package. Graham is a free agent and the Eagles might try to go younger, but they should think about bringing him back.

Verdict: STAYS