Ped­er­son makes sure Birds are more than just Car­son show

The Review - - Sports - Jack McCaf­fery Colum­nist To con­tact Jack McCaf­fery, email him at jm­c­caf­fery@21stcen­tu­ry­media.com; fol­low him on Twit­ter @ Jack­McCaf­fery.

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.

RICK KAUFFMAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

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 Wentz isn’t the only Ea­gle wor­thy of ac­co­lades and praise in his locker room.

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