PHILADELPHIA >> Just fortunate, just blessed.
That’s the mode Eagles head coach Doug Pederson shifts into each time he’s asked how he won a Super Bowl in just his second season while mentor Andy Reid has gone 0-for-19.
Just fortunate, just blessed doesn’t completelty explain how Pederson earned his title at the expense of Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, the GOAT, and the New England Patriots. The Patriots defeated Big Red in Super Bowl XXXIX.
“It’s hard to put a finger on any of that,” Pederson said during an exclusive availability. “The ball’s got to bounce your way. Of course, I did it with a lot of his players that he drafted. (Brandon Graham) makes a huge play in the Super Bowl. We drafted him. Fletcher Cox, we drafted him. Mychal Kendricks was on the team. We drafted him. Jason Kelce, Jason Peters, free agent, brought him in. (Brent) Celek was here. (Nick) Foles was here. So, a lot of guys that helped win us that game, he was directly responsible for. But it’s just hard to say. I mean, just fortunate, I guess. Just blessed. For me, it was just about bringing everybody together, trying to keep everyone on the same page, doing all the things that I really learned from him and just kind of doing it my own way. But it’s crazy how this business works.”
Blessed, fortunate or whatever, Pederson doesn’t have to be told how very different his life would be today if Matt Ryan had connected with Julio Jones in the end zone late in the divisional round of the playoffs at Lincoln Financial Field. There was enough pushing going on for referee Bill Vinovich to flag Jones or defender Jalen Mills, who shoved Jones to the ground.
It took about four instant replay angles to realize why Jones didn’t make the play. When the Falcons’ receiver got back on his feet, he misjudged the high, hard throw he normally pulls in. The ball hit him in the hands and skidded out of the end zone. A catch and the Atlanta Falcons own a 16-15 lead with less than a minute remaining, a shot to go for two points and potentially a conference championship game against the Minnesota Vikings.
“If that ball is a foot lower, it might be a different story,” Pederson said. “Of course, he landed out of bounds. I think there’s a little bit of that (luck). But again, it doesn’t pull away from the fact that our guys worked extremely hard and put themselves in a position to win those games.”
Pederson says he’s gotten together with Reid since the Super Bowl. The conversations? You can bet it mentioned the players who helped Pederson win the Super Bowl, and helped Reid win 130 games in 14 years with the Eagles. Jones had to be part of the conversation. Pederson played it humbly, privately.
“We haven’t talked a ton,” Pederson said. “The things we have talked about were just mainly how the families are doing, quite honestly. He was very complimentary, congratulatory, all that, after the game. Even at the league meetings. It’s a little bit of football but mainly just kind of catching up and seeing how things are going. It’s been very – he’s always been very positive with me and keeps it like `keep being you, keep doing what you’re doing and don’t ever change that.’ ”
It’s not easy for Pederson to keep doing what he does. Not with the Super Bowl fame. Whether it’s throwing out the first pitch at a Phillies game or banging an approach shot off a tree within birdie distance of the hole in a celebrity golf tournament, Pederson barely has a minute to himself. It wasn’t at all like that in his 10-year career as a backup NFL quarterback, one in which he forged a record of 3-14 as a starter, including 2-7 with the Eagles in 1999.
“It’s great when you are in the community,” Pederson said. “You hear a lot of stories and a lot of congratulations. People want pictures and autographs. And listen it’s probably going to be that way forever. I think when they are not talking about you, you’ve got problems.”
Pederson, before he coached a game last season, was attacked by former NFL executive Mike Lombardi, who called him the least qualified coach in Philly since Roy Rubin was fired in the midst of guiding the 76ers to an NBA-worst 9-73 record in 1973.
Now Pederson has to fight off daydreaming about where he ranks among the coaches in the game, including Belichick, who he beat, 41-33, in Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.
“I try not to,” Pederson said. “I don’t want to go there. That is probably not my personality. I try to just stay in this moment. I think that is for sports writers to talk about and put me in that spotlight. And that is fine. That is great. But again, when it is all said and done, I think for me it is about focusing on today and the team.
“Now, if I’m sitting at home and there is nothing else to do? You kind of sit back. My wife and I might have a conversation like ‘man, this is kind of cool.’ It is cool to be mentioned that way. For a guy that, you know, didn’t have probably a lot of support coming into this job initially, to be on the other end of that spectrum is cool. But I know what it took for me to get here. And I have to continue that for myself.”
Just fortunate, just blessed and kind of cool.
That’s Doug Pederson, who has promised Eagles fans he’ll keep doing what he’s doing.