Winning Words
A new book from Doug Pederson reveals much about the leader, the champion and, best of all, the man

Doug Pederson is everyone’s new favorite person. And rightly so. Amidst a lot of negative chatter when he arrived to Philly, the Eagles coach rolled up his sleeves, focused on his work and demonstrated to everyone what a good leader looks like. In his new book, “Fearless,” Pederson discusses the principles that guided him through the ups and downs of his career and what it took to lead his team to a Super Bowl win.

In this exclusive excerpt for SJ Magazine, Pederson takes a look at his personal – and public – life.



Having a healthy, balanced approach to life is important. I’m not one of those coaches who works around the clock. But I still put in a lot of hours. During the regular season, I’m in the office from 5:30 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. or so Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. On Thursdays, it lightens up a bit and I’m usually home by 8:30. On Friday, I try to be out by 5:00.

I’m a sound sleeper, but sleeping time is limited during the season. I have to get at least five hours of sleep. I try to get six hours, 11:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m. In the offseason, I can get between six and eight. Then, after my quiet time, I work out. I ride a Peloton bike for forty-five minutes three times a week and then at least once on the weekend if I can. The other days, I’m in the weight room. I have a dumbbell circuit I do, and some core exercises.

There has been kind of a learning curve on how to manage my time as a head coach. At first I was trying to do everything for everyone. If someone wanted a meeting, I went down right then and did it. If Howie Roseman wanted to meet with me on personnel, I dropped what I was doing. If someone came by my office, I let them in no matter what I had going. All of these people started knocking on my door. Well, two hours later, a good part of my day had just disappeared.

I went the first two weeks on the job and didn’t look at any game film from the Eagles’ 2015 season because I was being pulled in so many directions. I was dealing with personnel, but I wasn’t installing an offense. It became apparent that I needed to manage my time better if I wanted to get everything done. So after a while, I was like, “Time-out, hold on.” I had to set up a schedule. “This block of time is Doug Pederson time. This is when we’re going to go out there and teach offense. This is when I’ll schedule meetings for thirty minutes each.”

When you are organized, it’s a lot easier to be efficient. So being organized is big for me. You look around, my books are organized, my bottles of water are organized, my files are organized. I’m anal about coaches leaving things around the copy machines—playbooks, papers for players, that kind of thing. And I’m that way at my house. I’m big about if you take it out, put it back. I learned that from my dad, an Air Force guy. In our garage, he had all his tools hung up nice and neat. If we took a hammer out, he made sure we put it back.

When I met Jeannie, she was probably the opposite, a little disorganized. One of the first things I did was reorganize her bedroom at her parents’ house. She was still in high school at the time, and her closet was a mess. Everything was piled under her bed or in the closet. So I rearranged everything. Now she’s probably more organized than I am. She blames me in an amusing way. Now she can’t stand a mess either.


While I manage my stress well, I do lose my cool sometimes. Not very often, but I can, I have, and I will. Critics may not see me as a Bobby Knight type—someone who is fiery— but that side of me is there. After we lost to the Bengals in 2016, for instance, I publicly questioned our team’s effort. I thought it was the right thing to do. I was ridiculed for calling out my players in the media. But I didn’t do that. I questioned the entire team, including the coaching staff and myself. I accepted a lot of the blame. I used a lot of words like “we” and “us.” I said it was not our best effort. I felt I needed to get the team refocused because we were not performing up to our expectations. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t necessarily put it out there publicly and would handle it more internally. But I believe questioning their effort was necessary, and we didn’t have a lack of effort after that.

Whatever the circumstances, I try to maintain control and discipline. It’s important, though, that players see that passion come out in me at times. When I do get upset at practice or in a game, it’s meaningful because I don’t do it often. It refocuses the group, and when we aren’t performing up to my expectations it becomes necessary.

A lot of people were surprised when they saw the mic’d up version of our game against the struggling 49ers in 2017. We were sputtering on offense in the first half, and I said, “We better figure this out before I lose my freaking mind.” I was pissed. I ripped them that day on the sideline, the entire offense, the players, the coaches, all of them. We were a better team than how we were playing. It’s like we just showed up and expected to win the game. I don’t roll that way because anybody can beat anybody at this level. I felt we didn’t come ready to play, and that’s my responsibility too. So part of what I said was directed at myself. I was part of the problem, and I could be part of the solution. We made some adjustments and turned it around in the second half to win the game 33–10.

Against the Raiders on Christmas night in 2017, we were struggling and trying to get some things going. We couldn’t complete a ten-yard pass, whether it was because of the quarterback, protection, the route, or play call. Everything was incomplete. I lost my mind. I went off again on the offense. I told them since we couldn’t pass it, we were going to run the ball the rest of the game. And I said it in a way that was loud. They got the point, and we figured out a way to win the game. And we did go back to the pass.

In training camp before the 2017 season, we were on field three, practicing a two-minute drive. It was starters versus starters. The offense went three and out. We did it again, and the offense went three and out again. I completely lost it. I went off on all the players and coaches, then stopped the drill and kicked the offense off the field. I had enough. I told them we were not going to win if we didn’t practice better. And I used some colorful words that I normally don’t use. Fans and media saw it. Some of the media guys picked up on it and made some comments about it.

That’s okay, though. Sometimes blowing off a little steam can be good for the team. And for the coach. 


Excerpted from the book  Fearless: How an Underdog Becomes a Champion by Doug Pederson with Dan Pompei. Copyright (c) Doug Pederson by Hachette Books.  Reprinted with permission of Hachette Book Group, New York, NY.  All rights reserved.

September 2018
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