In 2015, the Philadelphia Eagles were a mess. Former head coach Chip Kelly took a playoff team, blew them up, drew a line in the sand and forced front office personal and players to pick a side. The team needed a face lift and a miracle. In came Doug Pederson.
In his second season, Pederson led the Eagles to their first ever Super Bowl title and just like that, he became a living legend in the City of Brotherly Love. But then it all began to crumble. His MVP candidate Carson Wentz went down with another injury and the Eagles missed a chance to repeat.
That offseason, Pederson failed to lure in any real defensive help for the secondary, lost QB Nick Foles to the Jacksonville Jaguars but leaned heavily on the offensive side of the ball with the additions of DeSean Jackson and Jordan Howard. The Eagles were set to reclaim their throne atop the NFL. That was until the season began.
Jackson went down with an injury and was lost just three games into the year. Then WR Alshon Jeffery went down. To add more salt to the wound, Pederson was left to rely on the unsure hands of WR Nelson Aghlor as the main threat until he was lost for the year. What were the Eagles to do?
There was only one option. Look to their coach for guidance. But that wasn’t as easy as it sounds.
The Eagles struggled. With the NFC East being labeled the weakest in the NFL, the Eagles still stood a chance even with the Dallas Cowboys off to a hot start. With Carson Wentz and the offense looking for anyone healthy to suit up and catch a pass, his numbers and leadership took hits from the media and fans. Heck, there were even reports that players even questioned his skills. The team was falling apart and the faithful fans began calling for the job of Pederson.
But what they didn’t factor in was that Pederson bleeds Eagles Green. Pederson has embraced the blue-collar work ethic that the city of Philly embodies. While the team continued to struggle, Pederson stayed the course.
Players went down. Pederson signed new ones. Some worked out and others were forced to leave town. But still, he kept his team focused. Then the turning point of the season happened and all hell broke loose. With the Eagles and Cowboys fighting for first place in the division, the team laid a complete egg against one of the worst teams in the NFL, the Miami Dolphins. Now the Eagles faced a fork in the road and so did Pederson.
The same people who once praised him for his guts and leadership, now wanted him gone. How could he let a team of veterans lose to the Dolphins with so much on the line? The consensus was that he had lost the locker room and Pederson had to go. That’s the thing about Philadelphia, we love hard and hate even harder.
This had nothing to do with injuries. It was all about that Super Bowl victory. Pederson took a group of players no one else wanted and turned them into champions. He gave the reigns to a backup in Foles and let him do his thing. So why was the team struggling with Wentz at the helm and basically the same defense that won a ring and was a Jeffery’s catch away from possibly doing a repeat?
As the Eagles entered the season as one of the favorites to make it to the Super Bowl, it became evident early, the team was destined to struggle. Losses to lesser quality teams brought questions and the one person who never wavered from the pressure was Doug Pederson. What else was he supposed to do?
The City of Philadelphia can put everything behind a coach who throws caution to the wind and accepts his responsibility in bad times. That’s exactly what Pederson did with the media. But the essence of what he accomplished this season was on the field.
Crippled with injuries, Pederson made it work. They didn’t win 14 games, lost to the Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, and the Dolphins but managed to get their act together and win the NFC East and make the playoffs with players even Eagles’ fans didn’t know existed. That’s a testament to Doug Pederson all the way.
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