PHILADELPHIA -- The atmosphere was right for the beginnings of a power grab.
Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson was less than 24 hours from boarding a plane bound for Minneapolis, where he would lead his team against Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots dynasty in Super Bowl LII.
While no one yet knew he would get the better of Belichick and etch his name into Philadelphia sports lore by dialing up the “Philly Special” on fourth-and-goal, the amount of clout he had built over the course of the season and was bringing with him was undeniable. Once behind Ben McAdoo on the organization’s wish list, and still a question mark after a 7-9 debut season, Pederson saw his stock skyrocket through a dazzling 2017 coaching performance that helped lift the Eagles past key injuries and onto the game’s biggest stage.
Things had changed quite a bit since he first agreed to the current power structure, which offers him little in terms of say-so over personnel. The wind now filling his sails, he was asked whether he would ever want more control over who is on the roster.
“Mmm, right now, I kind of like the way it’s going,” he responded.
Success often brings a thirst for more sway. Such was the case with the Eagles in 2015, when a pair of 10-6 seasons emboldened coach Chip Kelly to make a play for full authority over personnel. It was not the way owner Jeffrey Lurie wanted it -- he preferred a more balanced, collaborative approach -- but he acquiesced to Kelly’s demands, handing him the keys while moving executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman out of the personnel game.
It was a disaster. Kelly proved to be in over his head, and the experiment did not even last a year. Kelly was fired before the 2015 season was out, Roseman was placed back in power and the team brass set out in search of a coach with a more inclusive approach to the job.
It appears they found their man in Pederson, who is showing no desire to rip up the blueprint that delivered the Eagles their first Super Bowl victory.
“It’s going to take you away from football. If you do more personnel, you can’t coach football,” Pederson said. “If you [put all your energy into] football, you’re going to take away from personnel. So where’s the fine line?”
Many have struggled to find it, including his mentor, Andy Reid, who assumed more and more control while in Philadelphia as the on-field success and his reputation as a leader grew.
Pederson doesn’t appear to have any inclination to get away from it.
“I want to coach football,” he said. “We hire professionals to do the personnel -- with our input as coaches. I get that the personnel department and Howie can make the final decision, I got that, but not without having extensive conversations on players.”
The current setup has Roseman as the final decision-maker, with vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas overseeing day-to-day operations. Pederson will contribute in evaluations but doesn’t feel the need to hawk over every move. As with his assistant coaches, he allows them to do their jobs without unnecessary interference.
It was part of a successful formula for the Eagles in 2017. Pederson doesn’t seem particularly interested in changing it, even if his growth in stature has perhaps earned him a bigger piece of the pie.
“Players, players, players. This league is about players,” he said. “Put 98 percent talent in the room and 2 percent coaching. But the coaching needs to be 100 percent of the 2 percent. ... That gives our players with talent even that much greater success during these games.”