Doug Pederson

Eagles thankful Nick Foles reconsidered retiring

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Eagles thankful Nick Foles reconsidered retiring

His year with the Rams was so difficult, so miserable, so unfulfilling, that when the 2015 season ended, Nick Foles thought about giving it all up.

At the tender age of 26.
 
Foles, just two years removed from his historic Pro Bowl season with the Eagles, said in a recent interview that he seriously considered retiring when his season with the Rams ended.
 
"Yes, I sat there and talked with my wife," Foles said. "You go through a lot of emotions. Changing teams, being traded, going there, going through that year, and once I was a free agent, we just sort of sat there and said, 'Hey what do we want to do?'
 
"It was the first time I had been a free agent in my career and it was the first time I had to make a decision because I was drafted and traded. I was leaning toward not playing and stepping back."
 
Foles, drafted in the third round by the Eagles in 2012, was traded to the Rams in March of 2015 along with second- and fourth-round picks for Sam Bradford and a fifth-round pick by new Eagles general manager Chip Kelly.
 
On a team with very little talent — their leading receivers were Kenny Britt and Tavon Austin — Foles went 4-7 in 11 starts before getting benched twice in favor of Case Keenum, who's now quarterbacking the Vikings.
 
When the Rams selected Jared Goff with the first pick in the draft, Foles asked to be released, and he was.
 
"My wife and I kept talking for months, and when I was free I talked with Coach (Andy) Reid for a while and then I took a break," he said.
 
"I went on a camping trip with my brother. I came back and my wife and I kept talking and just prayed about it. We just made the decision to go back and play for Coach Reid."
 
Foles backed up Alex Smith last year with the Chiefs but played well in two midseason appearances — wins over the Colts and Jaguars. He completed 65 percent of his passes with three TDs and no interceptions in those back-to-back wins.
 
"It was the best decision I made going there in that situation," said Foles, who had played for Reid in Philadelphia in 2012.
 
"It wasn't an easy call for me but I was back with someone familiar and I think Coach Reid is one of the best coaches ever. Love the man.
 
"Had a special year with them last year, and I can't say enough about that organization as well as a whole, much like here, which is really awesome."
 
As Foles prepares for his first start in an Eagles uniform in more than three years, here is the rest of our 1-on-1 with Foles from two weeks ago:
 
Roob: What has it been like working with Carson for the first time? It seems like you have a great relationship.
 
Foles: "Yeah we have a really good quarterback room with Carson, me and Nate (Sudfeld). We all get along great, we are all very similar in our values and in our work ethic. Just going to work every day. We get here early and get in the film room early. And you are around each other a lot so if your personalities clash it isn't a good thing but we all get along. Every day is enjoyable and we keep getting better. Carson is a tremendous player as everyone has seen throughout the course of the year in how much his game has developed from Year 1 to Year 2 and it continues to develop week to week, which is exciting to be a part of. It is a great place to work and it is a great quarterback environment."
 
Roob: What are your fondest memories of your first three years here? Obviously, a magical year in 2013, 27 touchdowns and two interceptions is still the greatest ratio in NFL history. You were the Pro Bowl MVP, you had seven touchdowns against the Raiders. What do you remember about that year?
 
Foles: "There are so many special memories. I think the biggest thing was playing in the Linc. When I wasn't a part of the Eagles the last couple of years, I just missed playing in the Linc, just being in that stadium and just being around our fans in a game-time situation, especially in the night and primetime games which are really fun here. The opportunity to be back here, to walk back in the Linc and to be back at the facility is surreal. There are so many great memories. All of the coaches and teammates I had. Some of the coaches I had are still here, which is really cool, and a lot of the strength staff and the personnel in the building. It was like coming back to a family you hadn't seen for several years. I can't say enough good things about the city of Philadelphia, living here, now my wife and I have a daughter and we are in a different part of life than when we were here before, so it has been a really awesome journey."
 
Roob: You talked about that year in St. Louis. What happened with the Rams?
 
Foles: "It didn't go exactly how I wanted it. Obviously, when you go somewhere you want to have a lot of success like you had in the previous spot. A great group of guys and teammates but it just didn't work out but there were still a lot of good wins and we played some good ball. Some didn't go my way but I think through those tough times you have to grind it out and keep working every day to get better. So with that, I moved on and went to Kansas City and got back together with Coach Reid, which was awesome and had a great year with them, got to play in two games and we had a lot of success. Just being around them at that time was a good thing for me at that time in my career."
 
Roob: I know you are the ultimate team guy and you have always been but at the same token you are a competitor and you want to play. How do you balance being the best backup to Carson you can and having that competitive urge to play football?
 
Foles: "I think that it is something deep down in your heart that you know you have the ability to play but at the same time this is why this is the greatest team sport because everyone in this locker room can play. They have played at one level or another, and sometimes you have to take a backseat and help that person to succeed and find joy in that. It has really been awesome to watch Carson grow and have the success in the same uniform that I had success in. When I was coming here, that does cross your mind like how is that going to work with everything but I feel that everything has been smooth and it has been an enjoyable place to come to work and I have a lot of good memories here. Now my memories are watching one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL that will be one of the greatest to play and it has been really cool to be a part of that my second time around here."
 
Roob: Now you are in Year 6, in your mind and in your heart, will you be a starter at some point in your career?
 
Foles: "That's the question, you don't really know. There are times where my wife and I talk about all of this and that does come up. Obviously, I know I can start. It is just taking it one day at a time. I am enjoying this moment right now and I signed a two-year deal and there was a reason for that. I am just going to do everything I can for this organization. We will see what happens at that point because that's how this business works. I would like to start again and do that and continue to play. We will sit down and make those tough decisions as a family and see where it leads us."

Eagles learn about Kobe Bryant's 'Mamba mentality'

Eagles learn about Kobe Bryant's 'Mamba mentality'

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Rodney McLeod broke into a huge grin as he passed along the explanation from Kobe Bryant.

Bryant, an Eagles fan who grew up in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania, spoke to the entire Eagles team Friday morning at their hotel in Costa Mesa, California.

How did Kobe explain his "Mamba mentality?" 

"A killer mentality," McLeod said. "He said literally every time he stepped on that court, he wanted to be the best. He wanted to go out there and kill the guy lining up across from them and make him feel like he didn't deserve to be on the court. Like literally, those were his words. 

"He wanted to make them feel like they shouldn't be a basketball player, they should be an accountant. That's what he said. And you see it when you watch him play. When you have that mindset, it's hard to beat a guy like that."

It takes someone truly great to leave a group of 63 professional athletes and their coaches in awe. Bryant is one of them. McLeod also said Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Derek Jeter would make the list. 

McLeod brought in a pen and pad of paper to take notes, but he ended up recording Bryant's talk and Q&A session in his brain. He didn't get an autograph, but he did get a photo with Bryant, which was good enough for him. 

"It's a dream come true, really," McLeod said. "Electric feeling for me. You just feel the energy and his presence as soon as he came in and talked to us." 

In the Eagles' media guide, McLeod lists Bryant as his favorite childhood athlete. Even though McLeod grew up in Maryland, Bryant's play and mentality won him over at a young age. McLeod considers Bryant to be the greatest basketball player of all time. 

A few thousand miles away from McLeod's childhood home, Kenjon Barner and Joe Walker grew up near Los Angeles, where Bryant was one of the best and most famous players in the NBA with the Lakers.

"It was really cool to see him walk in," said Walker, who, like Barner and McLeod, has Bryant listed as his favorite childhood athlete in the Eagles' media guide. "Growing up a little kid in L.A., I mean, he pretty much built this city."

Friday was the first time Walker had ever been around his childhood hero. But it wasn't the first time for Barner, who had actually met Bryant a few times before. 

Because Barner's cousin is former NBA player Andre Miller, he has been around NBA players for a long time. He doesn't really get starstruck, but the first time he met Bryant, it was something special: "It just makes you say, 'damn!'"

Upon overhearing Barner talk about all the times he had met Bryant before, fellow running back Wendell Smallwood gave him some grief in the overflow locker room at Angel Stadium. 

"He's so cool, Kobe isn't cool to him," Smallwood said. 

Barner stepped in. 

"It's still cool, man," he said. "It doesn't change."

Head coach Doug Pederson said there wasn't really an interesting story about how the Eagles got Bryant to their team hotel. The Eagles simply checked in with him to see if he was available. Bryant was, so he showed up. 

Pederson said a lot of Bryant's message was about focusing and paying attention to details.

That was the part of Bryant's talk that really seemed to stand out to Nelson Agholor, who is recognized as one of the hardest-working members on the team. 

"He's also a guy that has that dog in him when it's time to step on somebody's throat, he'll do that," Agholor said. "I think that was something I'll never forget." 

Doug Pederson at his best when facing challenges — on and off field

Doug Pederson at his best when facing challenges — on and off field

When I think about how the Eagles will respond to Sunday's loss and the abrupt loss of their status as consensus GREATEST TEAM ON EARTH, I think back to last year and everything the Eagles dealt with.
 
Legal issues for Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff and Nigel Bradham. Sam Bradford going AWOL for two weeks of minicamp. The Bradford trade and Carson Wentz's sudden ascent from third-stringer to the starting lineup eight days before the opener. Lane Johnson's suspension. A mid-season five-game losing streak. Brandon Brooks missing a couple games with what he later revealed was extreme stress.
 
It was a lot for an NFL rookie head coach to deal with, and the one thing you kept noticing was that Doug Pederson always found ways to keep the thing on the rails and navigate his team through every challenge it faced.
 
Whatever chaos was swirling around the Eagles last year, you never saw things snowball. You never saw things get out of control. Pederson continually demonstrated a knack for dealing with whatever issues arose around the football team, and by the end of the season, they were playing pretty good football.
 
That's a unique skill and just as important for a head football coach as calling plays, making substitutions or challenging bad calls.
 
All those little mini-dramas can take a toll on a football team, but it seemed like with each one, the bond in the Eagles' locker room grew stronger, as did the respect the players have for Pederson.
 
All of which is why I'm not all too worried right now.
 
What this team went through last year has a lot to do with the success it's experiencing this year, and I don't think that's going to change.
 
The Eagles lost a football game Sunday for the first time since Week 2, and we've got to keep this in perspective.
 
They lost. Sometimes teams lose.
 
The Seahawks have the best home record in the NFL over the last six years. They've lost eight home games with Russell Wilson at quarterback since 2012. Yes, two of them were in November, but it's not the end of the world losing to an elite football team and Hall of Fame QB in a really tough stadium after nine straight wins.
 
Big picture?
 
Nobody in the NFL has a better record than the Eagles. And for a franchise that's been around for 84 years, they've had a better record after 12 games only three times.
 
No, they no longer control their own playoff destiny. They could conceivably win out and still have to travel to Minneapolis for the NFC Championship Game. (And if that happens, Case Keenum is not beating this team … but that's another story.)
 
But when you step back and take stock, this football team is sitting here 10-2 with four games left. Last time they lost? They won their next nine.
 
There are worse places to be than first place in the NFC East sharing the best record in football with one loss since Phillies season ended.
 
And if the Eagles haven't demonstrated over the past two seasons their ability to respond positively when faced with a little adversity, I don't know what else they have to do.
 
Teams lose games. Teams bounce back. This one is really good at it.
 
I don't think any of us had any idea what the Eagles were getting when they hired Pederson, but he's definitely got his finger on the pulse of the team in a very powerful way.
 
He gives the players leeway but trusts them to do the right thing, and they respect him for it. If they tell him practice is too hard, he adjusts. He leans on his assistants. He involves everybody in the organization. He listens.
 
This is as strong a locker room as I've seen, and Pederson is a big reason for it. It's a bunch of guys with a chip on their shoulder. Late-round picks. Undrafted dudes. Guys released by other teams.
 
They're hungry and they are unselfish and they are determined and want to win. They love to work hard, they love playing for Doug, and one loss isn't going to change any of them.
 
If anything, it will motivate them even more.
 
That loss Sunday night in Seattle doesn't change the fact that the Eagles are still one of the NFL's best teams.  
 
It does put into focus a few things they need to work on.
 
They have to protect the ball at the goal-line. They have to find their offensive rhythm earlier. They have to avoid the defensive breakdowns that led to the Seahawks' big plays. They have to adjust when they realize an opposing quarterback recognizes a zero-blitz is coming. Big V needs to play better. Doug has to stay aggressive.
 
The Rams are very good, and playing back-to-back games on the West Coast isn't easy. Nobody is going to hand home-field advantage to the Eagles.
 
There are a lot of challenges facing this team right now, but facing challenges is something they've proven to be very good at.