10 people who influenced head coach Doug Pederson, Part 1


10 people who influenced head coach Doug Pederson, Part 1

Doug Pederson says his coaching style is a mixture of the styles and personalities of all the teammates and coaches he’s been around in 14 years as an NFL quarterback and seven years as an NFL assistant coach.

It’s quite a list.

As a rookie with the Dolphins in the summer of 1991, his coach was Don Shula, and the starting quarterback was Dan Marino.

With the Packers, he backed up Brett Favre.

In Philly, he backed up Donovan McNabb and played for Andy Reid, who he would go on to coach for with the Eagles and again in Kansas City.

“Some Hall of Fame guys,” Pederson said. “Not many people who can say they’ve been around so many people on this type of list. For me to have the opportunity to have rubbed shoulders with those guys, I just feel so fortunate. It’s meant a lot to me.

“I feel like every one of them has helped shape who I am and my coaching philosophy and the way I view things and how I want to help shape this organization and this team. They all have a little bit unique styles, different leadership styles.”

Pederson, named head coach of the Eagles on Jan. 18, sat down with CSNPhilly.com and talked at length about 10 of his former coaches and teammates, what he learned from them and how they influenced and shaped who he is today.

We start today with Marino, Shula, Favre, Mike Holmgren and Rod Dowhower.

Five more Tuesday, including Reid and McNabb.

Don Shula
(Dolphins head coach, 1993-95)
“With Don, it was toward the end of the career when I was there, but such a legend in the league, Hall of Fame coach. I had the opportunity to win his 325th game (against the Eagles). That’s a lot of wins for any coach. By the time I was there, he kind of had removed himself from a lot of the day-to-day coaching and let his assistants do most of the football stuff, but from a leadership standpoint he was still the guy who stood in front of the team, he was the face of the franchise. When you saw Miami, you saw Don Shula. An icon and a legend. Just his experience of being in Baltimore and then Miami and putting together so many successful teams. He drafted Dan Marino and put all that together.

"Very unique. Very unique leadership style with him. He was definitely the one who stood up in the front of the room, he was always in the offensive meetings with us. It was like the E.F. Hutton commercials. When he talks people listen? And that’s the way Don Shula was. When he spoke, it always got real quiet. You paid attention because you knew there was going to be something in there that could really help you.”

Dan Marino
(Dolphins quarterback, 1993-95)
“Toughness. Mental and physical toughness. The ability to make people around you great. His leadership style was very abrasive and aggressive. Very smart. He was about in his eighth year in the league when I got there. Student of the game, but at the same time he loved to have fun, he loved to not only off the field but on the field as well.

"But I just remember with him when it was business time? It was all business. Joking aside, it was all business. Gosh. Guys like that. He hated to lose. Just hated to lose. He would be sore all week after a loss. Even after a win, he was the type of guy that would crank it up another notch. He held those guys accountable. That was the sign of a true Hall of Fame quarterback and leader. It was just unfortunate he could never get that championship, that was the obvious thing that was missing. But it takes nothing away from the type of career he had and his ability to lead people."

Brett Favre
(Packers quarterback, 1996-98, 2001-04)
“You talk about a character. Loved to have fun. Hated to practice. Wished he could go from Sunday to Sunday. Just warp it. Just forget everything in between and go game to game. Tough, mentally and physically. There’s times he would be banged up in a game and you’d think there’s no way he could continue, but he always did. Or he’d tweak his knee the week before and his streak of starting is in jeopardy, but lo and behold, there he is on Sunday, starting. He’s got a broken thumb, doesn’t practice all week. I practice all week. Even Saturday. But he starts on Sunday and throws for 300-something yards against the Vikings. OK, this guy is Superman.

"But, you know, looking back at Brett. He’s a guy I think was very raw coming into the league as a quarterback, the discipline and the details weren’t there, and those were the things that were refined. But the one thing that really sticks out with me with Brett is how Mike Holmgren always stuck with him. ‘Ship goes down, I’m going down with you.’ He believed in him even through all his quirkiness and drug rehab and everything that’s been documented on Brett, he still stuck with him. He didn’t kick him to the curb. Because he knew what he had, and it’s so important to have ‘that guy,’ and being able to hang your hat on that guy and if the ship goes down, we’re all going down together. That was the biggest thing.

"And then watching him through his career, the windows he could fit footballs into was amazing. I used to always kid him all the time and tell him that Cover 4 was four guys covering a receiver and he’d find a way to get the ball in there. His ability to make plays and extend plays with his legs. All the hunting that we did off the field and the bond that we had as a starter and backup, that also helped me down the road when I became a starter and as a coach in high school and throughout my career. A great one to play with.”

Mike Holmgren
(Packers head coach, 1996-98)
“How I’ll always remember Mike, he always surrounded himself with great teachers. He was a former teacher himself and had great coaches around him, and he was very successful in that way. Guys who all went on, a lot of them, to have very successful head coaching careers of their own.

"One of the things I’ll always remember with Mike is coming off the field in training camp one day and it was hot and we went to the cafeteria — before they renovated the stadium we used to eat in this gym — and he came up to me and said, ‘Doug, you’re doing a great job, you really understand our offense. But now you need to just take your game up a notch. You need to really understand now why we call certain things, why we do things a certain way. We got back to the details and the fundamentals. He said, ‘You’re good enough, now just go up one more notch. Just one more notch.’ He didn’t want you to ever stay the same. He was always coaching that way. He may not always have been hands on, but he was always watching me. He motivated me so much and challenged me to take my game to another level. That’s something I’ll never forget.

"I’ll also never forget too when I signed here as a free agent in 1999. I was supposed to go to Seattle as a free agent and visit them, take the tour of the facility and all that stuff, and Mike was the head coach and I had to call him and tell him I wasn’t coming, I was staying in Philadelphia. And he let me have it. He laid into me like no other. Like I had just thrown a pick in the Super Bowl to lose the game or something. And he let me have it. Oh my gosh.

"So I played the one year here and the next year I called Seattle because I knew they were looking for a backup quarterback, and I was a free agent again, and I actually got Mike on the phone and I said, ‘Mike, if you want me to come up, I’ll come up,’ and he said, ‘Let me get with our scouts, and I’ll call you back,’ and I’m still waiting for that phone call. Then after I got into coaching I saw him at the combine and our box and the Seattle box were right next to each other, and I saw him and I said, ‘I’m still waiting for my phone call.’ And he knew exactly what I was talking about, and we both had a good laugh about that. All those years later, he still remembered.”

Rod Dowhower
(Eagles offensive coordinator, 1999)
“I’ll never forget, Rod made us throw a thousand balls a day and mine and Donovan’s arms were falling off. Literally falling off at training camp. Falling off. But he knew our system. Only with him a short period of time, but again, when Andy came in, he brought those guys who really knew the system, guys who were tremendous teachers. I was kind of Rod when I when I went to Kansas City with Andy. Even though Andy did everything — it was his offense and he wanted to be in charge — he wanted to have a guy who knew it and who understand it and could help teach it.

"Andy was big into bringing in teachers, and all of that group of assistants he brought in (in 1999) were really good teachers, and that’s probably why they all had success later on as head coaches. Rod was like that. He knew exactly what Andy wanted and knew exactly how to get it across. So when I went to Kansas City with Andy (after the 2012 season), I knew exactly what he was looking for. He wanted me to take on the role Rod had with us back in 1999.”

Is this the year Jordan Mailata goes from project to player?

Is this the year Jordan Mailata goes from project to player?

A couple years ago, when the Eagles drafted Jordan Mailata in the 7th round of the NFL draft, I asked him a question and he gave an answer that has followed him. 

How much did you know about American football just a few months before the Eagles drafted you? 

“Mate, as little as peanuts.” 

By the end of his first training camp, Mailata said he had reached a quarter of a bag of peanuts. And it’s clear he has made progress. But now, entering Year 3 in the NFL, it’s time to start asking if Mailata has finally filled that bag. 

In other words, is this the year Mailata goes from a project to a real NFL player? 

“Look, I’m always as honest as I can be. I don’t want to lead you down a garden path, OK,” offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said last week on a Zoom call with reporters. “So I always try to tell you that absolute truth; you guys know that. … I can’t answer that question right now.” 

Hopefully, we get our answer soon enough. 

Stoutland said the reason he couldn’t answer that question is because he needs to see Mailata do it on the field. That might have hit a snag last week, when Mailata was one of three Eagles placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, meaning he either tested positive for COVID-19 or was exposed to somebody who did. Lane Johnson said publicly that he tested positive. 

So, obviously, everyone is hoping Mailata is healthy; that’s more important. But he also can’t afford to miss any grass time, especially in a training camp that won’t have preseason games. With such limited game experience in his life, those preseason games were more important for Mailata than any other player on the roster. And now he’ll have only training camp practices and that will only happen once he’s off the Reserve/COVID-19 list. 

The good news is that Stoutland is very optimistic. 

“I can say this: In the meetings that we have, the virtual meetings, he was a completely different guy in the meetings,” Stoutland said. “And, you’re going to say, ‘What do you mean by that?’ His confidence level. Because we require these guys to know a lot and to be able to convert blocking schemes and calls. Completely, completely different in the meeting. 

“Now, will that carry over to the field? Every morning when I come here I pray that’s what will happen. Do I think that will happen? Absolutely. But I can’t guarantee that. We’re going to find out, though. That’s what this is all about. And if it does carry over then we got action. We’re going to be in good shape.”

This offseason, Halapoulivaati Vaitai left in free agency and got a big contract with the Detroit Lions, which means the Eagles’ depth at offensive tackle took a big hit. But then they drafted two players with tackle experience and brought back Jason Peters to play guard and also be insurance at tackle. 

So the Eagles have options if Mailata doesn’t work out or if he isn’t ready. But in Year 3, it’s probably time to get past the project phase. 

Mailata is still just 23 but in his first two NFL seasons he still hasn’t played in a single regular-season game. And he has ended both years on Injured Reserve with back injuries. 

But all the traits the Eagles saw in Mailata when they drafted for former rugby player to play offensive tackle are still there. 

Mailata is 6-foot-8, 346 pounds, incredibly strong, athletic and willing to learn. And in last year’s preseason, he looked good. We saw progress. Really, we’ve seen progress every time Mailata steps foot on a football field. 

But is he ready to be an NFL player and not just the guy trying to become an NFL player? 

We’ll find out soon enough. 

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Eagles coaches 'never felt more safe' at NovaCare Complex

Eagles coaches 'never felt more safe' at NovaCare Complex

On Friday, two days before Eagles head coach Doug Pederson tested positive for COVID-19, several of his assistant coaches spoke about how effective they believe the Eagles’ safety protocols are inside the NovaCare Complex and how safe they consider the facility.

The Eagles, under the direction of vice president of football operations and compliance Jon Ferrari, reconfigured the South Philadelphia facility over the last several weeks to comply with NFL safety measures once the players arrived.

On Monday, the Eagles' so-called IDER plan – that stands for Infectious Disease Emergency Response plan – was approved by the league, meaning the team's plan to deal with the virus in the facility met the safety standards required by the league and the players' association.

Yet here we are.

Without knowing how or where Pederson contracted the virus, it’s impossible to determine whether the safety measures are working. 

If nobody else in the building contracts it, they’re working. If it turns out there are additional positive tests within the building in the coming days, it’s possible that even the strictest adherence to the safety measures isn’t enough.

We’ll know more in the coming days, but offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, running backs coach and assistant head coach (and interim head coach) Duce Staley and special teams coach Dave Fipp all spoke on Friday about how effective the measures the Eagles took to create a safe working environment appeared to be.

Stoutland: “Coming through the front door, going through the gate, getting tested each morning, I gotta tell you guys, I’ve never felt more safe in my life. I told my wife that, I told my kids that. Mr. (Jeff) Lurie, he cares about his team, his coaches, and just proves it once again with the group of people that he’s put together to organize this whole operation. It’s all different, it’s all new, (team president) Don Smolenski, Jon Ferrari, it’s unbelievable. Every little detail that’s going on right now, the door handles, everything that I notice, I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness, they think of everything to keep us safe.’ That part of it is great I think for all of us because it kind of lets you (know), ‘OK, let me just focus on my job and detail what I have to do and the other stuff, we’re good. We’re going to be in good hands.’”

Staley: “We have to be careful, that’s something that all coaches are being redundant with. We’re talking with our players, we’re talking amongst ourselves. We’re all reminding each other how serious this is, reminding ourselves as coaches and reminding the players. This is a different time for us and as a team we must make the adjustments so we can be successful down the road. We must make the adjustments. I think the Eagles, this organization, Howie, Jeffery, along with Jon Ferrari, they’ve got a great plan here for us while we’re in the building, so we feel 100 percent safe in the building. Now, we understand everything going on, how it can be contracted, but we feel safe.”

Fipp: “I think common sense is the biggest thing. Gotta be smart, obviously. There’s definitely an issue going on out there. I think we feel good about it as long as we wear masks and take care of our responsibility outside the building. I feel great about being inside the building.”

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