Doug Pederson cut his teeth as an NFL quarterback, backing up Brett Favre and starting ahead of Donovan McNabb during a career that spanned 10 seasons. Sean McVay learned the inner workings of the NFL from his grandfather, the celebrated San Francisco 49ers executive who teamed with Bill Walsh to build a Super Bowl powerhouse.
Pederson, 49, spent three years as an offensive coordinator on Andy Reid's Kansas City Chiefs before joining a Philadelphia Eagles team that was only a year removed from back-to-back 10-win seasons. McVay, 31, spent three years as an offensive coordinator on Jay Gruden's Washington Redskins before joining a Los Angeles Rams franchise coming off 10 consecutive losing seasons.
They now share two notable circumstances: A chance to be named the NFL's Coach of the Year, and a highly anticipated Week 14 showdown.
Pederson's Eagles (10-2) face McVay's Rams (9-3) at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sunday, with kickoff set for 4:25 p.m. ET on Fox. The focus will be on Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, the two quarterbacks who went first and second overall in the 2016 draft. But don't lose sight of Pederson and McVay, the coaches guiding the two teams that currently lead the NFL in point differential.
Here, ESPN Rams reporter Alden Gonzalez and Eagles reporter Tim McManus take a closer look at each of them.
McVay: Given this sudden rush of success, it seems as if the entire NFL community is trying to identify "the next Sean McVay." Kevin Demoff, the Rams' chief operating officer, has been asked about that a few times already. But he believes the thought process is generally flawed. "What makes Sean Sean is not that he’s young, and it’s not that he’s this brilliant offensive mind," Demoff said. "It’s his ability to communicate and build a culture and get players to buy in."
Pederson: His lack of ego. Instead of trying to harness power, he distributes it to his coaches and players. Pederson formed a leadership council consisting of about a dozen players and has created ownership by empowering them to help guide the team. Wentz has growing input into the offense and has been given significant pre-snap freedom at the line of scrimmage. Pederson sets the tone and the agenda, then trusts the people around him to do their jobs.
Primary remaining obstacle
McVay: First, it's the schedule. The Rams' four remaining opponents have the fourth-highest combined winning percentage in the NFL, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. McVay also has a relatively inexperienced roster, with 16 of his 22 starters having never previously been part of a winning team. And, of course, he's young himself. McVay, 31, is the youngest head coach in modern NFL history. And he has experienced some growing pains in the midst of prosperity, mainly with regard to clock management and run-pass balance. But he is also a fast learner.
Pederson: Lack of experience. Pederson, in his second year as the Eagles' head coach, was a backup quarterback on the championship Packers team in the mid-1990s and learned under Reid as an assistant for seven years. But this is his first time guiding a team into meaningful December and January football. Same for his MVP-caliber quarterback, Wentz. The loss at Seattle in Week 13 was a reminder that there is a different intensity level to late-season football. Growing pains are to be expected, but too many could cost the Eagles down the stretch.
Why he should win NFL Coach of the Year
McVay: McVay joined a perennial loser in January and led it to its best start since 2003. What he has done with the offense has been nothing short of a miracle. The Rams have scored 30-plus points seven times in 12 games this season, after accumulating five 30-point showings in 48 games over the previous three seasons. McVay has turned Goff into a capable franchise quarterback and helped Todd Gurley re-establish himself as an elite running back. Gurley was asked recently if McVay should be in the running for coach of the year. "What's understood don't need to be explained," he said.
Pederson: The Eagles, projected to win around eight or nine games at the start of the year, have held the best record in football for much of the season thanks in part to the outstanding play of Wentz, the ability to stay focused and avoid letdowns, and a selfless, fun culture where they don’t dance alone, but rather Electric Slide together. Pederson has had a hand in all of that. Dubbed as a “freakin’ phenomenal playcaller” by tight end Brent Celek, Pederson has helped Wentz turn the Eagles into the top scoring team in football, tied with the Rams at 30.08 points per game. He’s the front man for arguably the best team in football, and has been a key force in the grooming of a star quarterback. What else do you need?