I like what the Philadelphia Eagles head coach had to say during his press conference on Thursday.
Q. How big of a challenge is it to put aside playing the mystique of the Patriots, and how do you address that with the fellas?
DOUG PEDERSON: I think that’s obviously a real question. That’s a real issue that you have. These guys have been there. They’ve done it. They’ve proven it time and time again. My biggest focus with the team is: let’s just focus on today. Let’s just win today. Let’s get better today, and we’ll worry about that when we get to the game. But it’s a credit to what the Patriots have done in their careers and their history, and everybody is trying to win championships like that. But we’ve just got to focus on today.
Q. Following up on Sal’s question about the mystique of Brady and Belichick because they are kind of larger than life, is that a message you need to get across to the team, to not be in awe of the mystique of the Patriots?
DOUG PEDERSON: You know what, if I make this all about them, we’re in trouble. Honestly, we’re in trouble. Everything is going to be written about it. Everything has been written about it, talked about it, discussed, debated, and it’s about us. And I’ll keep saying that. It’s what we do and how well we execute. I can’t worry about that.
I like this because this is what the Eagles showed in the NFC Championship Game. They weren’t intimidated by the fact the Vikings had the No. 1 defense. They didn’t coach or play scared. They went right at their opponent head on.
Now, obviously this week’s game is a different beast. Tom Brady is the best quarterback of all-time. Bill Belichick is the best head coach of all-time.
But the Eagles can’t worry about that, other than doing their appropriate film study and game-planning. All they can do is control their side of things. This sounds simple and obvious, but they just need to play their game. Play how they’ve played all season long. No need to drastically change things up. Just trust in the formula that’s led them to this point.
Pederson has gone a great job of pushing all the right buttons, so to speak, with this year’s team. I think he’s doing the right thing here once again by making the focus more about the Eagles than their Super Bowl opponents.
Q. How much less have you slept or more have you worked over the last few days?
DOUG PEDERSON: The same. Listen, at the end of the day, it is football, and it’s how well I can prepare this football team in all aspects. I don’t believe in just changing for changing, for the sake of change, unless it benefits the football team. And we’ve been pretty good up to this point in the things that we’ve done and the way we go about our business and the way we practice. And so I sleep well at night and wake up the next day, come to work and put in a full day’s work. I have a set of plans, set of boxes I need to check each day, and by the time I leave, I’m going to make sure every box is checked.
More from Doug Pederson’s Thursday press conference below.
Q. Before last season, 2016, you guys made a number of veteran acquisitions and then did the same thing this year, bringing in guys like WR Alshon Jeffery and WR Torrey Smith. They seemed like similar plans. Did you guys just get better players? Did things fit more? Why did it work this time around, as opposed to not working as well last season?
DOUG PEDERSON: I don’t know. I think some of it could be better player, quality of player that you get, obviously, in free agency. You start getting into the roster now, I think it’s just basically that. I think it just comes down to maybe just the need that you have and trying to get the best possible player at that position.
Q. In the 72 hours since we spoke to you last, what have you learned –
DOUG PEDERSON: Has it been that long? (Laughter)
Q. Too long.
DOUG PEDERSON: No, it hasn’t been long enough. (Laughter)
Q. What have you learned about the Patriots that you didn’t know at the start of the week?
DOUG PEDERSON: They’re a really good football team. I mean, really. They’re well-coached. It’s a disciplined group when you watch them on tape. They’re aggressive on defense. They can pressure the quarterback when they want to. Offensively, as efficient as they come, they’ve got the top quarterback in the league in [Patriots QB] Tom [Brady]. It’s a good football team, sound football team.
Q. Yesterday S Malcolm Jenkins talked about how close this team is. When did you realize that -- obviously winning helps forge that a little bit, but when did you realize how close this team was, and how much does that actually really matter?
DOUG PEDERSON: When I made that statement in training camp.
Q. What statement, the Packers?
DOUG PEDERSON: That was kind of a funny. (Laughter) You really don’t know. You sort of have a gut feeling when you come through OTAs and you get into training camp. You kind of have that like, ‘Oh, man, this could be a special team, this could be a special year.’ But listen, there’s guys -- I say that, then I go, ‘Okay, well then a lot of things have to happen for you, like you’ve got to stay away from the injury bug.’ Well, we didn’t. We’ve lost some talented guys, some starters, some role guys, specific guys. But for me, it was probably through some of that adversity early in the year, middle of the season that we kind of kept things together and we were figuring out how to win a game or two or three, and we kind of got on a little bit of a roll. At about that time you kind of knew that, all right, this is a pretty special team, and the sky’s the limit with these guys.
Q. When you were here, former NFL WR Brandon Gibson was on the practice squad a little bit in ‘09 and Patriots RB Dion Lewis was here. Do you have any memories of those guys? Could you see in them what they have become in New England and through their careers?
DOUG PEDERSON: Well, they were talented players. They were gifted, and both those guys were -- I can vaguely remember because I was here with both those guys. Brandon was a big, tall, athletic --
Q. Did I say Brandon Gibson? I meant Patriots WR Danny Amendola.
DOUG PEDERSON: Amendola was a player that I thought was a real special, core teams guy, going to be a return specialist, could be a slot receiver, had some talent. It was just unfortunate we couldn’t keep him. Obviously he’s been in New England now, and he’s had a tremendous career, and he’s helped them win some world championships. Dion Lewis is the same way. And that happens in this game. Listen, you’re going to lose some players. It’s just the nature of the game. You’re hoping to make the right decisions at the end of training camp or during the season. But it does -- it’s a credit to those guys for sticking with it and having good careers.
Q. In terms of prep, is your plan to grind the midnight oil this week and then next week when you get there –
DOUG PEDERSON: Grind the midnight oil again. Listen, yeah, we’ve got a game to play, and it’s not a vacation next week. My message to the team is just that. We’re going to prepare this week as if we’re playing this weekend, obviously, and then we can sort of fine tune some things. But we’ve just got to stay on top of our game, keep the grind, and keep the intensity going right into next week.
Q. Your other head coaching job with Calvary Baptist Academy, what can you remember about those days and just the journey; can you appreciate where you’ve come so far?
DOUG PEDERSON: Well, obviously it was my first head coaching job when I retired. Those four years were special to me because, one, my family and my boys were right there in the school with me, being a private school. And [then] just watching the kids grow over a four-year period and then having the chance to see some of them go on to play college football or have great careers after college. Not necessarily in athletics but just as students, as well. Had a chance to play in some playoff games and almost make it to a state championship a couple times down there. Those are special moments, and moments that I’ll remember. Obviously we’re on a much bigger stage now playing for the Super Bowl, but the journey is the same. The ride is the same. It’s just as special doing it at this level. You still have the same types of relationships with these guys now today that you would with, say, a 16- or 17-year-old in high school.
Q. Did you have the RPO in your playbook back then?
DOUG PEDERSON: Heck yeah. (Laughter)
Q. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, playing against his teams, they obviously have the reputation with deflate gate and all that stuff going down the list. When you’re preparing for a team like this, you can’t just ignore all that stuff, right? Don’t you have to be a little more cognizant of what’s going on around you? I think this year people wondered if they had something to do with the fog at the game this year. (Bob Grotz)
DOUG PEDERSON: Really? Now they can control the weather? (Laughter) Well, we’re playing in a dome, so there won’t be any fog unless the lights go out again. Listen, I don’t really -- my mind doesn’t go there. My mind is on the Patriots and focused on scheme and trying to figure out how to beat them. That’s the bottom line. How to get my team prepared to play the final game of the season, and that’s where my mind is right now.
Q. The film study this week on the Patriots, what stands out that’s different about them that has allowed them to win championships? (Sal Paolantonio)
DOUG PEDERSON: They’re a resilient group, too. Just put on that Jacksonville game. Here’s a team that gets down in the game early, and there’s no panic. They just stay the course. They execute their game plan. Defense is creating turnovers there. They’re getting three-and-outs. They’re getting the ball back to their offense. And that’s what they’re doing. It’s just an efficient group. That’s why it’s important for us to make sure that we continue to detail what we do in practice, [and] we execute our game plan. Guys are focused that way. And you just can’t get caught up in what they do. It’s more about what we do in this game.
Q. What’s the most striking thing to you personally about the learning curve as a play caller, going back to the time when you took over?
DOUG PEDERSON: I think with each game, you learn from the good, you learn from the bad calls that you make, and the situational aspect of the game. Am I making the right play call at the right time? How well do I put our team in a position to be successful offensively? You learn from all of that, and I critique myself each Monday on how I did and try to get better the next week.
Q. After going through it last year for the first time on this level, what did you learn?
DOUG PEDERSON: I just think the experience of having gone through an entire season last year, calling the games, is probably the biggest change for me. Getting comfortable in that role and then how I study, how I prepare this season learning from last year.
Q. What do you remember about back in 2002 when you were with Green Bay going against Patriots QB Tom Brady and the Patriots? What do you remember about Brady back then?
DOUG PEDERSON: 2002? Oh, gosh. Where did we play?
Q. You played at home.
DOUG PEDERSON: We played in Milwaukee? I honestly do not remember. I’m sorry.
Q. How about just in general anything about Brady back then?
DOUG PEDERSON: Good question. You stumped me.
Q. When you meet with offensive coordinator Frank Reich on the nights before games, what do you hope to accomplish in those sessions? What are those like?
DOUG PEDERSON: We just kind of go back through everything one last time. And for the most part we’re just kind of sitting and telling stories, just kind of reminiscing about the season, maybe the week we just had or something like that. But it’s just a review of the plan and make sure that we’re set on whatever our openers are for that particular game, make sure we’re all set and just kind of go over everything one more time.
Q. Having players and coaches that have gone through this with various experiences, how much does it allow those guys to tell the guys who have not gone through this what to expect next week because it is a different stage? You have RB LeGarrette Blount how has gone through it, you have DE Chris Long who has gone through it. How much does it help the players who have not gone through this?
DOUG PEDERSON: I think it’ll help. I think it’ll help to have those guys maybe even stand up and talk to the team or at least talk to one side. If it’s Chris Long or LeGarrette or Malcolm [Jenkins] or Torrey [Smith] or whoever it is, just to share their experiences about next week and what it can entail because it’s definitely going to be a busy week and there’s going to be a lot of distractions. I think the team that can put aside the distractions and focus on the game is going to be the team that’s probably going to benefit from that.
Q. Are you going to do something on the day of the game where it’s a longer day, the guys come out early, got like three hours until the game? Some guys have said they kind of wore out during the fourth quarter because they exhausted too much energy when they first came out.
DOUG PEDERSON: Those are all things that we’re kind of going through right now with the extended pregame, extended halftime, and those types of things. Just being prepared for that, coaching our players now for that so that they’re ready to go and they understand that it is a little bit longer than a normal game, and not to be in that position, obviously, not to wear themselves out or do anything extra that would hinder them from playing 60 minutes.