Pederson makes sure Birds are more than just Carson show
Doug Pederson coaches the Eagles, all of them, the quarterbacks and the defensive backs, the tackles and the tacklers, those making plays and those preventing them. For that, he knows he must brace against the 21st-century sports trend about to explode.
That’s what the head coach did Monday, before his 8-1 Eagles began a byeweek sabbatical.
That’s what he did by making sure the whole story didn’t turn into a one-man play.
Because of how sports have come to be presented nationally and locally, the Eagles are about to be cast as Carson Wentz and 50 other guys. It’s the shortversion, easy-to-carry, easier-to-yell-about way to create interest. Throw his name out there, start a discussion, inflate TV ratings, pile up clicks. It’s the LeBron James model, and Wentz will be ideal for the purpose. The former president even famously reduced the Eagles to a ride on the “Wentz Wagon.” It’s how it rolls. And don’t expect the souvenir hucksters to get in its way.
With Wentz, in just his second NFL season, already close to a Pro Bowl spot, Pederson was prepared for the moment at his regular, day-after press briefing Monday at the NewsControl Compound. And when the conversation turned to crediting Wentz for the Birds’ unselfishness, he knew he had to run a reverse.
“There’s a lot of guys that way that are unselfish, disciplined ballplayers, in the way they prepare and study,” Pederson said. “I think with Carson leading the offense and kind of being the face right now and getting the accolades, he is the most humble guy you will come across. But he understands that this is a team game.
“So everything he is getting, he deserves, for the way he prepares and studies. But I think there’s a lot of guys who do the same thing. They may get overlooked, but they prepare to the best of their abilities.”
For multiple reasons, some reasonable and at least one unnecessarily cruel, Pederson’s coaching skills were to be sent this season to a referendum. He was not deeply seasoned in the industry before Jeffrey Lurie rescued him from Andy Reid’s Kansas City coaching staff. His 7-9 season last year wasn’t enough for his visor to make it into the Coach of the Year ring. And then there was the over-the-top nonsense from a failed former NFL executive before the season suggesting Pederson was not even qualified to be a pro football coach.
But more than halfway into the season, no NFL coach has been more successful. And it’s the subtle things like making certain not to allow the Wentzabove-all-else narrative to spread that has defined Pederson’s professional growth.
The players see that; they hear that. The Eagles are young in many areas, but there are some veterans on that roster, some raised in the Eagles system, others new to it just this year. Because Wentz is a legendary worker him- self, they will not dispute his value. More, they will be happy to ride his accurate arm, mystical evasiveness and positive attitude to the playoffs and beyond.
Just the same, the head coach must be careful not to let Wentz’s growing reputation smother any other egos in the room. Nor can he allow the notion to spread that the rest of the Eagles only need to show up on Sundays and let Wentz entertain the 68,000 modeling his replica jersey.
“Listen, I don’t like to put it all on one guy,” Pederson said Monday, when asked if Wentz setting a new standard for Eagles success. “I think he is a part of the standard. But it is not, ‘Carson, you set it, and I’ll follow your lead,’ even though he is playing extremely well.”
As a former quarterback and the Birds’ play-caller, Pederson knows he must guard against any in-house sentiment that he coaches half the team and that Jim Schwartz is in charge of the other. That might be accurate with some of the game-day tasks. It cannot work when it comes to managing people. Pederson can run all the successful shovel-passes there are in his book. None will matter if he is believed to be shoveling mud on one half of his clubhouse.
“You’ve got to look at our defense, too, and the way they’ve studied, and the way they understand our defense,” Pederson said. “Those standards are being set all over the place. Our players pride themselves on playing well each week. And if it’s Carson, if it’s Fletch (Fletcher Cox), if it’s Brandon (Graham), Malcolm (Jenkins), whoever it might be, they want to make sure that they want to do everything they can to win that next game.”
That next game won’t be for two weeks, in Dallas. That gives the Eagles, all of the Eagles, plenty of time to breathe. It also gives the easy story time to grow.
Wentz has been spectacular. He hasmade the Eagles better. And as long as Pederson keeps that hype to a minimum, he can make them contenders, too.
There’s no doubt that quarterback Carson Wentz, here congratulating running back Corey Clement after a touchdown in a 51-23pasting of the Broncos Sunday, has fueled the Eagles’ 8-1start. But coach Doug Pederson knows — and isn’t afraid to share — that...