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.