He’s a football lifer.

And Doug Pederson has spent a portion of that life in South Jersey, traveling across the bridge to play, then coach, for the Phila­delphia Eagles. Now he’s back. Only this time, he takes on the role of head coach for a team that desperately needs an effective leader. Every moment before him has led to this. It’s the best part of his story, and it’s just beginning.

Doug Pederson sees his professional career as a series of chapters, and within those chapters you’ll find snapshots that resonate. Every new passage led to this moment where, as one of 32 NFL head coaches, Pederson is now in the spotlight as the head man of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Chapters. Snapshots. Head coach. Showtime.

“I’m definitely excited about the challenge,” Pederson says in early April as he prepared for the NFL draft later that month. “I’m in Philadelphia, where I love to be. I’m surrounded by a great organization with full support and the best fans in te world. Let’s get this thing Pederson has had it going for a long time. He’s a football lifer, and damn blessed to be one. “It’s always been part of me,” he says.

Pederson played professional football from 1992-2004, mostly as a backup quarterback in the NFL in Miami, Green Bay, Philadelphia and Cleveland along with single-season stints with the New York/New Jersey Knights in the World League of American Football and with NFL Europe’s Rhein Fire in Germany.

His last NFL season was 2004 with Green Bay, when Pederson completed 11 passes in 23 attempts and two interceptions. Numbers were never his thing. Pederson played 12 years in the NFL and threw just 522 passes. Heck, in six of his seasons Pederson didn’t throw a single pass, playing behind Dan Marino in Miami and Brett Favre in Green Bay.

While Pederson wasn’t playing much, he was a sponge in every other way. He absorbed the X’s and O’s part of the game, paid attention in meetings and observed how his coaches along the way – Don Shula in Miami, Mike Holmgren in Green Bay and Andy Reid in Philadelphia – treated their players and handled adversity and won games. Lots of games.

So when Pederson was finished playing, his natural transition was to become a head coach. And he did just that back home in Louisiana at Calvary Baptist Academy. Pederson loaded up the car each morning and drove his three young sons, Drew, Josh and Joel, to school. Then he coached the football team at the end of the day. Pederson turned the program around, and Calvary went 35-5 in the last three of four seasons Pederson was the head coach.

“It was a chance for me to get into the coaching business and see how I liked teaching the game of football to players. It didn’t matter what age or the quality of football. It was about teaching and establishing relationships and building,” Pederson says. “I knew I wanted to keep coaching, at whatever level.”

Andy Reid, then the head coach of the Eagles, called Pederson and offered him a job in Philadelphia in 2009, and Pederson made the large leap from high school to the NFL. He was the quality control coach for a couple of seasons, breaking down film and preparing practice scripts and doing the grunt work on the lowest rung of the coaching ladder in the NFL. Then Pederson was promoted to quarterbacks’ coach for 2011 and 2012. When the Reid era ended after 14 seasons and Reid moved to Kansas City to take over as head coach of the Chiefs, he took Pederson along as the offensive coordinator.

Chapters. Snapshots.

Pederson worked in Kansas City for three seasons, and the Chiefs made the playoffs in two of those years.

“It was another step, overseeing the offense, and we had some success. You’re always learning and seeing what works and what needs to get better,” Pederson says. “It’s a process that never stops.”

So how did Pederson end up with the Eagles? There was familiarity, of course, from the 1999 season when Pederson was the starting quarterback for half a season as the Eagles brought rookie Donovan McNabb along in spoonfuls. Pederson was gone after that season, but he left a lasting impression.

“Anybody who knew Doug that season knew what his role was, and he accepted it perfectly,” former Eagles tight end Chad Lewis says. “We knew the deal. He knew it. And he was a total pro. Never a complaint. Total class.”

201601150952-4“Doug had the mind of a head coach back then,” says former Eagles cornerback Troy Vincent about Pederson’s 1999 season. “He taught everybody the offense that Andy brought with him to the team from Green Bay. He wanted to be the starter, and he wanted to win, but he knew the other part of his role on the team was to show Donovan all of the components required to be a quarterback in this league. Doug was the perfect mentor.”

The Eagles hired Pederson as the head coach on January 18, just a couple days after the Chiefs lost in the second round of the AFC playoffs. It was a swift turnaround, as Pederson immediately hit the ground running.

One day he was meeting the media, explaining his big-picture vision as a head coach cultivated from playing under legendary men in Miami, Green Bay and Philadelphia. The next morning he was on stage in a Q & A session with Eagles season-ticket members.

“We really never celebrated Doug becoming the head coach,” says Jeannie Pederson, Pederson’s wife, who plans to move the family to Moorestown, where they lived when Pederson was an Eagles assistant coach from 2009-2012. “Everything happened so fast. One day we were in the playoffs wearing Chiefs colors, and the next day, it seemed, we were talking to the Eagles and Doug was hired. It’s been a blur in a lot of ways.”

Time has to slow down at some point for Pederson, but not yet. He survived three days of madness with the NFL draft. And then held a voluntary minicamp in mid-April where, for the first time, Pederson stood up before the entire team and talked about “building a bully” of a football team in Philadelphia.

An offensive coordinator – the job Pederson had in Kansas City – is responsible for those who play on that side of the ball, roughly 25 of a team’s 53-man roster. Now, Pederson is in charge of the whole enchilada.

“The biggest difference is the time element and managing the entire organization – the business side, the media part of things – and tying it all together,” Pederson says. “There are a lot of different elements to the job in addition to overseeing a football team. I was part of the draft process for the first time in a really in-depth way. I love it. I love going out and seeing these young guys in workouts and having a chance to get my hands on them to see what they’re all about.”

“Every step of the way it’s new territory, something to learn. I’ve prepared myself for this. I’ve taken a lot of notes, and I’ve seen the game for the last 20-plus years from the inside. It’s just a matter of me going out and doing it.”

Coming home to familiar territory is the part that is so welcoming. Pederson knows the way the Eagles run the organization, and he knows how the fans emote, and he knows how to handle the traffic from Moorestown to South Philadelphia. He loves all the nooks and crannies of South Jersey. His youngest son will be a freshman next September at Moorestown High School, reuniting with his friends from four years ago.

Doug and Jeannie have their favorite places to eat: Passariello’s Pizzeria in Moorestown, Barone’s Tuscan Grill in Mount Laurel for Italian, Yokohama in Maple Shade for sushi. The Pedersons stayed in touch with their friends over the years and had a great reunion last month.

“We just love the community that has such a tight-knit feeling,” Jeannie says over the telephone as her Kansas City home is being inspected prior to being sold. “We love the Jersey Shore, which I never thought I would say being a Louisiana girl who always vacationed in Florida. ”

“Doug got the job with the Eagles, and all of our friends sent us texts saying, ‘Welcome home.’ That just felt so good. They consider us a part of that community, a part of that family. That means a lot to someone moving into the area.”

The task ahead is formidable. The Eagles haven’t won a playoff game since the 2008 season. They haven’t been in the postseason since the 2013 campaign. Pederson is surrounded by veteran coaches – defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was Detroit’s head coach for five seasons and offensive coordinator Frank Reich has been an NFL player and coach for 25 seasons – and that helps. There are curves to learn, mistakes to correct and a fan base to assuage.

“Nothing is easy in the National Football League,” says Pederson, a charismatic figure at 6 feet 3 inches, 225 pounds. “I know it as well as anybody both as a player and a coach. You earn everything you get in this league. I know I’ve got a great support system in place at home and within this Eagles organization. I know what the fan base wants. We all want that Lombardi Trophy. That’s the ultimate goal. That’s what is missing here in Philadelphia.”


Dave-Spadaro-headshot

Dave Spadaro has covered every Eagles game since 1987 and has been with the Eagles organization since 1997, overseeing the team’s publications, Internet operations and now serving as the Eagles Insider. You can see him or hear him throughout the year talking Eagles on local television and radio segments and on PhiladelphiaEagles.com on a daily basis.

June 2016
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