Doug Pederson would take Eagles back to Andy Reid era

PHILADELPHIA -- Jeff Lurie wanted his Philadelphia Eagles to be the way they used to be.

He fired Chip Kelly, who had been hired with much fanfare as an agent of change in the NFL. After a two-week search, Lurie is expected to hire former Eagles player and assistant Doug Pederson to be the team's new head coach.

Pederson is a close friend and colleague of Andy Reid's, the man who coached the Eagles during the good old days Lurie sought to relive. Reid and Pederson became good friends in Green Bay, Wisconsin, when Reid coached the Packers' quarterbacks and Pederson served as Brett Favre's backup.

When Reid became head coach of the Eagles in 1999, he brought Pederson along with him. The Eagles signed Pederson to a free-agent contract. Pederson was the starting quarterback while Donovan McNabb, the No. 2 pick in the 1999 draft, was learning Reid's offense.

A decade later, in 2009, Reid hired Pederson for a low-level position on his coaching staff. Two years later, Pederson was coaching the Eagles' quarterbacks.

Three years after firing Reid and his staff, Lurie looks to bring Pederson back to erase any trace of the Kelly revolution. The Eagles are taking a leap of faith similar to the one they took when they hired Reid in the first place.

Before coming to Philadelphia, Reid had been a position coach in Green Bay. He had never been a coordinator, had never called the plays. Lurie was impressed with Reid's detailed preparation, a plan outlined in a thick, three-ring binder.

That plan was derived from Mike Holmgren, Reid's mentor and the head coach of the Packers. Holmgren's agent, Bob LaMonte, urged Reid to develop a similarly detailed plan that he could present to prospective employers.

It was a strategy that had helped LaMonte client Jon Gruden get the head-coaching job with the Oakland Raiders. It was a strategy that would work later for Brad Childress, Steve Spagnuolo and Pat Shurmur.

And now it has worked for Pederson.

Will Pederson be as successful a hire for the Eagles as Reid was? The only honest answer is that no one knows for sure.

Being an NFL head coach is something you can't simulate. It's a unique and complicated job that coaches either can or cannot do. No one knows for sure until they hold the office.

Pederson has some things in his favor. As a backup quarterback, he studied under Reid, Holmgren and a pretty successful guy named Don Shula.

Pederson's role in Philadelphia in 1999 was to make sure Reid's offense ran right while McNabb was learning it. Pederson made sure the other 10 offensive players lined up right and knew their assignments. He was literally serving as a coach on the field.

In the years since, he has gotten more hands-on coaching experience. He coached Michael Vick, Vince Young and Nick Foles with the Eagles. He has served as offensive coordinator in Kansas City, helping Alex Smith play the best football of his career.

The challenge in Philadelphia will be different. Reid knew he wanted to draft a quarterback with the No. 2 pick in 1999. He chose McNabb over Akili Smith, Daunte Culpepper and Cade McNown. It was a decision that carried the Eagles to five NFC title games by 2009.

Pederson would inherit a team with Mark Sanchez under contract and Sam Bradford waiting to find out whether he will become an unrestricted free agent in March. Bradford said he would base his own decision on whom the Eagles hired as head coach and what kind of offense they planned to run.

Pederson can sell Bradford on an offense similar to the one Bradford ran successfully as a rookie in St. Louis in 2010. There's a chance Pederson will retain offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, another Reid acolyte who was the Rams' coordinator when Bradford arrived.

For all of the players, Pederson represents a return to the traditional NFL way of doing things. That means Tuesdays off and slowed-down practices in which coaches correct mistakes.

For the players, it means no more of Kelly's unorthodox ways. For the owner, that seems to be the whole idea. The Eagles are going back to the way they were, and Doug Pederson is taking them there.