Eagles

By just being himself, Doug Pederson has had masterful year

ap-doug-pederson-smile-falcons-eagles.jpg
AP Images

By just being himself, Doug Pederson has had masterful year

Bill Belichick didn’t win a playoff game until his fourth year as an NFL head coach and didn’t reach a conference title game until his seventh year.

Don Shula didn’t win a playoff game until his sixth year as a head coach.

It took Dick Vermeil four years to win a playoff game, Dan Reeves six years, Tom Landry eight.

Heck, Pete Carroll didn’t reach a conference title game until his third head coaching stop, and Marv Levy didn’t even get to the playoffs until his eighth year as a head coach.

Just a little context.

Pederson has been magnificent this year, and out of everybody we talk about who’s played a role in the Eagles' success — from Carson Wentz to Nick Foles, Howie Roseman to Joe Douglas, Fletcher Cox to Malcolm Jenkins, Jim Schwartz to John DiFillippo, Jason Kelce to Alshon Jeffery — Pederson is the common thread that’s tied all of it together.

We saw last year that Pederson had a rare ability to keep a team together when faced with adversity. Whether it was the whole Sam Bradford situation before the season, Lane Johnson’s suspension, a couple arrests, two players publicly speaking out about mental health, or just keeping the thing on the rails after three straight late-season ugly losses, Pederson won over his players by confronting each issue openly and professionally and treating his players like grown men.

By the time the team training camp ended this past summer, Pederson had earned the respect of the veterans by preaching discipline without being over the top about it and by constantly keeping the lines of communication open with his players. 

Here’s a young, inexperienced coach who had a long but undistinguished playing career and no real track record or resume as a head coach trying to convince a locker room of Super Bowl winners and all-pros that he knows what he’s doing.

But he did that. Just by being himself. Tough, smart, open, honest.

And once you get guys like Malcolm Jenkins, Jason Peters, LeGarrette Blount and Alshon Jeffery to buy in, the younger guys just fall in line. 

And that might be the biggest challenge any head coach faces. Getting guys to believe in his message. To believe in him.

But Pederson has tremendous instincts when dealing with people, a real natural, honest way of getting his point across, and it enabled him to seamlessly win over the locker room. 

Once that happened, this team was built to withstand whatever challenge it faced. To withstand whatever roadblocks stood in its way.

And as it turned out, there were plenty of them. 

We don't have to run down the littany of season-ending injuries the Eagles faced, but what this team has accomplished without its MVP quarterback, its Hall of Fame left tackle, its best linebacker, its all-pro returner and its top special teamer is nothing less than astonishing.

Nick Foles is their quarterback and they're in the NFC Championship Game.

Think about the last month.

They came from behind in Los Angeles to beat the Rams after Wentz got hurt. They beat the Giants on the road. They beat the Raiders to clinch No. 1 seed. They "upset" the Falcons in a conference semifinal playoff game. 

For this football team to be one home win away from the Super Bowl after all it has been through speaks volumes about Pederson. He's guided this franchise through adversity that would have crushed some locker rooms, and he's done it in his second year as a head coach above the high school level.

Pederson found a way to get 53 guys to believe in themselves even when very few other people did. And they returned the favor by consistently playing smart, physical, disciplined football for him no matter who the opponent, no matter what the score, no matter how long that Injured Reserve list grew.

This has been a masterful year for Pederson, and anybody who can't see that just isn't looking very hard.

After 'bumpy road,' Matt Jones sees opportunity with Eagles

After 'bumpy road,' Matt Jones sees opportunity with Eagles

The last time Matt Jones donned a helmet and pads in Philadelphia, he was enjoying a career game against the Eagles — a fact not lost on his new team.

“When I did my workout, I had some of the defensive coaches tell me I owed them something or they remembered that game,” Jones said Tuesday. “Everybody remembers that game here. Some of the same guys on defense are still in here, too.”

Not only were Jones’ 135 yards rushing and 8.4 yards per carry personal bests, but the performance keyed Washington to a 27-20 victory in 2016.

As it turns out, that game would serve as an audition of sorts.

“I know that wasn’t overlooked,” said Jones, who signed a two-year contract with the Eagles.

In one and a half seasons since, Jones has recorded just 15 touches in the NFL. He suffered a knee injury the following week, was released by Washington last September and then claimed by the Colts, where he failed to crack the RB rotation.

But while Jones may have fallen off the map, the Eagles never forgot the vision of him rumbling through their defense. The club maintained an interest in the running back ever since.

“It’s been trying to happen for a while,” Jones said. “I was claimed by waivers from the Colts, but [the Eagles] were trying to claim me too.

“I’m finally here and I thank [Howie Roseman] for giving me a chance to come prove myself.”

Jones should have no problem acclimating to the locker room. He professed the Eagles were his favorite team growing up. A third-round pick from Florida, he and fellow running back Jay Ajayi already know each other as members of the 2015 draft class. Jones even became friends with Brandon Graham as well, sharing how the Redskins used to scheme against the DE.

Perhaps most important, Jones has taken a liking to running backs coach Duce Staley, who wants to see Jones get back to running the way he did that day against the Eagles.

“He humbled me a lot about getting my pads down and just getting back to where I was,” Jones said. “Duce is a great coach. He makes you better. The first day I met him, he made me better.

“Just telling me little stuff I never heard before as far as pass blocking, running, everything. He was a running back, too, so he relates to running backs in different ways. I dropped a couple pounds and I was ready to go.”

It’s unclear why exactly Jones fell out of favor in Washington, where he rushed for 964 yards and six touchdowns in two seasons, then Indianapolis, but he attributed both exits to different sets of circumstances.

Fumbles were an issue in Washington. He racked up eight in his first 20 NFL games, though it seems he was overtaken on the depth chart after his injury.

“Just bumps in the road,” he said. “Some things I could’ve fixed. Everything was great. I just have to figure out what went wrong and try to bounce back.”

Jones was with the Colts until May but was cut loose after the team used fourth- and fifth-round picks on RBs.

“It was weird,” Jones said. “It felt great over there. I was in tip-top shape. I guess they just wanted to go a different route.”

Despite the way his career has unfolded, he's upbeat and determined to learn from every experience.

“It’s been a bumpy road, man,” Jones said. “Hard, but I’ll take the good and the bad. From here, I just want to work. This is a big opportunity for me. It’s been up and down, but I’m thankful for it all.”

President Donald Trump’s latest comments put Eagles in tough spot

President Donald Trump’s latest comments put Eagles in tough spot

While the NFL’s new national anthem policy has been met by plenty of opposition — including a few notable Eagles and former Eagles — President Donald Trump unsurprisingly likes the decision. 

In a video posted by Fox News this morning, Trump was asked about the new policy and said players who protest the anthem don’t belong in the NFL and “maybe” don’t belong in the country. 

These comments come less than two weeks before the Eagles’ scheduled celebratory visit to the White House, which puts the team in a tricky spot. 

“Well, I think that’s good,” Trump said to Fox & Friends. “I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms. But still, I think it’s good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem and the NFL owners did the right thing if that’s what they’ve done.”

From now until June 5, anything the president says will likely be of particular interest to the world champion Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles have accepted an invite to the White House for June 5, head coach Doug Pederson confirmed earlier this week. 

While several key players, including Malcolm Jenkins, Chris Long and Brandon Graham, have already said they won’t attend the visit to the White House, the team will apparently still visit. On Tuesday, team leader and franchise quarterback Carson Wentz said if the team was going, he would be attending. He said he didn’t view the trip to the White House as a political thing. And he likely isn’t the only player who is looking forward to the trip. 

But the accepted invite and comments from those players came before these latest remarks from Trump, in which he said about protesting players, “Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.” That likely won’t sit well with plenty of NFL players who either demonstrated during the national anthem or had teammates who did. 

You’ll remember in September of this last season, Trump set off a firestorm in the NFL, when he said about protesting players: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

Those comments were met with plenty of opposition from around the league. Many teams, including the Eagles, amped up some sort of protest during the playing of the national anthem. That Sunday, before the home game against the Giants, the entire Eagles team — including front office members, coaches and owner Jeffrey Lurie — stood on the sideline and locked arms. 

At the time, Lurie praised his players’ work in their communities and said he could attest to their great respect for the national anthem. After the most recent anthem policy was accepted, Lurie released a similar statement. While he didn’t address the actual policy or fines, he did say he was proud of players for “continuously working to influence positive change.” 

Lurie’s feeling about Trump are fairly well-known at this point. He donated money to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and reportedly called Trump’s presidency “disastrous,” according to the New York Times. 

All of this should make for an interesting day on June 5.