I was talking with another reporter on the opening day of training camp Monday, and we decided Doug Pederson didn’t exactly excite us as a head coach.
Can he be a serviceable head coach? Eh, yeah, probably. He can probably lead the Eagles to a 10-win season before his tenure is over. An 11-win campaign might even be within reach.
But how much, we wondered aloud, of that will be thanks to Pederson’s coaching, and how much will ultimately lie on the shoulders of others? The team hired Frank Reich and John DeFilippo for their quarterback of the future, Carson Wentz. Jim Schwartz was hired as the mastermind of the defense.
Pederson was hired, it seems to many, because he was a fungible commodity, one who could be shaped to the message the Eagles wanted: they were getting back to their Andy Reid-era roots after a brief dalliance with Chip Kelly’s futuristic ideas. He feels almost like a puppet, and he hasn't done much to dispel the feeling.
On Wednesday, when asked what he plans on doing differently from Reid during training camp, Pederson offered up a defense that essentially amounted to, ‘Andy did it, so I will do it.’
"This schedule we’re about to partake in, this training camp, took this team to many NFC championship games, it took them to the Super Bowl, and it’s won a ton of games," Pederson said.
He was, of course, speaking out of turn. The schedule he’s going to implement did not take this team to many NFC championship games, but rather it took the franchise to those games. It took a very, very different team to those heights, in a very different league.
Pederson has posited multiple times that the schedule, and his plans for training camp overall, are time-tested.
"I went through it in Green Bay as a player with Mike Holmgren, I went through it as a player with Coach Reid in 1999, and then obviously back a couple of years ago," he said Wednesday. "This schedule is proven."
Pederson won a Super Bowl under Holmgren’s tutelage, and this practice schedule, in 1997, so it’s perfectly fair for the Eagles’ new head coach to feel some sort of loyalty to what he knows.
But as Pederson talked Wednesday about using helmet cameras — like the one Blake Countess wore during practice — and the speed at which technology is moving these days, it was jarring to have Pederson reaching into the past to justify his approach moving into the future.
I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with Pederson sticking to what Reid and Holmgren taught him. That’s the whole point of hiring a head coach who has learned from some of the best in the business: he will, in theory, bring the best things he learned from those teachers, and then improve upon their concepts with his own ideas.
Maybe I've been spoiled by the innovation Chip Kelly brought. And maybe I should have learned a lesson or two from Kelly's disastrous third season.
But now that Pederson’s the man in charge, and training camp is here, it feels just a bit strange to refer to history as a defense for what you’re doing today, and tomorrow, and next week. It feels like it’s time for Pederson to put his stamp on his team. That is, after all, what head coaches do.