There are quite a few coaches in the NFL who aren’t exactly media friendly. Sometimes they can get testy with reporters. Other times they just don’t have anything of substance to say. Andy Reid mastered this art with his “I need do a better job” line.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson usually doesn’t fall into this category. He’s actually pretty honest — sometimes to a fault, perhaps.
But that wasn’t the case on Tuesday. Pederson went into full playoff mode for his first press conference ahead of the Eagles’ Divisional Round game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Check out this rapid fire exchange.
Q. What’s your message to QB Nick Foles this week?
COACH PEDERSON: My message to Nick or to the team?
COACH PEDERSON: My message to Nick is: Listen, we have a great opportunity. Let’s go be Nick. Let’s go play. Let’s go execute the offense. [My message] to the team is the same thing: We [have] a great opportunity. Back’s against the wall. Let’s come out swinging and see what happens.
Q. Do you expect everyone to practice today?
COACH PEDERSON: Well, you know what, I’m going to have an injury report at the end of the day. I’ll let you know.
Q. How is DE Brandon Graham doing?
COACH PEDERSON: Brandon Graham’s doing fine.
Q. Will he practice today?
COACH PEDERSON: I’ll let you know at the end of the day.
Q. What’s the plan for CB Sidney Jones moving forward here?
COACH PEDERSON: Keep working every day.
Q. Do you see a role for him on Saturday?
COACH PEDERSON: We’ll work today and we’ll see what happens.
Q. You mentioned ‘back against the wall.’ Offensive coordinator Frank Reich mentioned yesterday that Nick needs to stay aggressive. Do you think there’s a confidence issue? Is that what you’re—
COACH PEDERSON: No, I don’t think there’s a confidence issue, no.
Q. You regard Chiefs head coach Andy Reid as a friend and mentor. Did you talk to him at all after his lost this past weekend?
COACH PEDERSON: No, I was focused on a couple of teams this weekend, so I didn’t talk to him.
Q. I know you’ve learned from him and shared coaching ideas, is there anything you can take away from the number of abrupt exits? It seems that the success that he has in the regular season doesn’t necessarily translate to the playoffs. Is there anything you can take away from that?
COACH PEDERSON: I was focused on the Falcons, man. I don’t get into that, honestly.
The media sure took notice of Pederson’s approach.
Doug giving short, terse answers this morning. Playoff mode.— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) January 9, 2018
Doug Pederson: Playoff is “just another game.” The huffy way he handled his news conference said otherwise. #Eagles— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) January 9, 2018
Interesting press conference from Doug Pederson just now. Very short, curt answers. Trying to send a message about being stoic, I suppose.— Geoff Mosher (@GeoffMosherNFL) January 9, 2018
Doug Pederson is all business today. Not giving any info on injuries #Eagles— Eliot Shorr-Parks (@EliotShorrParks) January 9, 2018
Permission to treat Doug Pederson as a hostile interviewee. pic.twitter.com/GDz03vKtIA— Bob Grotz (@BobGrotz) January 9, 2018
To be clear, I’m not criticizing Pederson for acting this way. It’s nice to see the intensity turned up for the post-season. Pederson is doing his best to not give any information away, and showing a little fire in the process.
If you weren’t already aware (shame on you), BGN Radio’s Jack Fritz has a running segment on his weekly Counterpoint podcast that features a “Doug Pederson confidence meter.” After this presser, Fritz foresees the meter rapidly rising this week.
It really is... this press conference is up there with the "YOU HAVE TO LOOK AT ME" from earlier in the season.— Jack Fritz (@JackFritzWIP) January 9, 2018
The “YOU HAVE TO LOOK AT ME” moment Fritz is referring to here is from the Eagles-Panthers game when the refs assumed Philadelphia wanted to apply a Carolina offsides penalty on a PAT kick to the ensuing kickoff. Pederson instead wanted to go for a 2-point conversion from the 1-yard line. And he got it.
Pederson isn’t always the most fiery guy but he can turn it on when he needs to. And he’s usually aggressive with his play-calling on game day, which matters most. Here’s hoping we continue to see “Big Balls Doug” keep his foot on the gas in the playoffs.
Read on for more from Pederson’s Tuesday presser.
Q. The Falcons defense over the last six games, only given up like 16 points a game. What are you seeing about how well they are playing and why they are playing so well?
COACH PEDERSON: I’ll tell you, this defense, it’s much improved over the course of the season. They are fast. You saw it the other day against the Rams. They are fast. They are flying to the football. Secondary is aggressive. Guys know how to cover. A lot of single-high. They are going to challenge our receivers and that’s what you’re seeing on tape. It’s a quality defense, but that’s what we expect this time of year.
Q. You guys gained over 200 yards on the ground last year against them. You had 38-21 advantage time of possession. Is that the recipe that you have to duplicate this week against that defense?
COACH PEDERSON: I’m not going to obviously give you my game plan today, but that worked for us last year. But [this is] a different year, different set of circumstances. Is it something to build off of? Yeah, we can look at it and learn from it, yeah, for sure.
Q. What are the advantages and disadvantages when you play a defense that plays the same types of coverages and doesn’t switch things up a lot but is still good at that?
COACH PEDERSON: You know where they are going to be. That’s the thing with this defense. They are going to line up and show you exactly -- I mean, that’s the way they play. They play with a lot of confidence. It’s an aggressive style. It’s fast flow and they are not going to pull any punches. They are not going to try to trick you or do anything to get in your head or anything like that. It’s just line up and try to beat us.
Q. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz talked yesterday about that sense of urgency now that the playoffs are here. Is that a message you have to give to the younger guys or do you let the veterans talk about their experiences?
COACH PEDERSON: I think it’s a little of both. It’s part of the ownership theme that I’ve talked about with the team all season and putting it back on the players. We’ve got a veteran team and a lot of guys have been in the post-season. A lot of guys have been to the Super Bowl, so they can really wrap and embrace the younger guys and bring them along, sure.
Q. How do you think the week off has helped RB Jay Ajayi and RB LeGarrette Blount as far as getting rested and getting ready to carry the load going into the game on Saturday? Do you think that’s kind of been a big benefit and is that something you can rely on them?
COACH PEDERSON: Well, yeah, we’re going to have to rely on them obviously, but having a week to rest a lot of players is very beneficial. But at the same time, you want to maintain your intensity and that’s why we practiced last week and try to keep everybody into the moment as possible.
Q. This is your first playoff game as head coach. What are you leaning on as you get ready for this?
COACH PEDERSON: A lot of it is just past experience as a player. Even my time as an assistant coach being in the post-season, just leaning on those times, leaning on the guys. To be where we’re at and to have a home, playoff game and feed off the fans and the crowd, which is going to be electric on Saturday afternoon. And again, just stay in the moment. Do the things that got us to where we are today, and that’s kind of been my mindset the last couple of weeks.
Q. Do you focus specifically on that last post-season with the Chiefs, when you were starting to call more of the plays?
COACH PEDERSON: No. I think we played the Patriots, so it’s a different deal.
Q. You have a lot of young players who haven’t been in the playoffs before. Do you wonder how they will handle the pressure of being in that moment?
COACH PEDERSON: Oh, yeah, you always wonder. Do you wonder? Yeah, there’s going to be wonder. But I’m going to tell you, listen, these guys are football players. I think sometimes the outside, whether it be the media, the fans, can make it bigger than it really is. When you boil it down, it’s football at the end of the day. It’s football at the end of the day. Just go do your job. Do what you’ve been coached to do all week long and give it your best effort on Saturday. If it’s good enough, great. If it’s not, then we focus on next season. But it’s football. These guys are football players. They are going to be coached up and ready to go.
Q. On Saturday night when you found out you’re playing the Falcons, what’s the first thing that went through your head?
COACH PEDERSON: Got to get ready for the Falcons.
Q. What did you think?
COACH PEDERSON: You watch that game, and you’re going, ‘Good football team.’ This is -- go on the road to that stadium against a great defense, a great offense, and to pretty much stymie that team, that’s pretty impressive. We definitely had and have our work cut out for us this week.
Q. Are you handicapped at all being indoors for practice a lot? Do you anticipate going to Lincoln Financial Field at all this week?
COACH PEDERSON: No, the weather’s going to be mild. It’s, what, 40 degrees, going to be 50 during the week.
Q. There is a lot of snow on the field. Do you anticipate getting outside?
COACH PEDERSON: I’m going to try to get over there later in the week if I can, yes.
Q. With the cover three that they run, their base, basically zone, there are holes down the field to throw. Is it going to be important for Foles to take those shots when given the opportunity?
COACH PEDERSON: Sure. That’s playing quarterback. [If the] opportunity’s there, rip it. If it’s not, check it down. It’s been the mindset all season long, and we’re not going to change it now.
Q. You talked about getting back to what you guys do and doing that well, the defensive line has been the key to the success of the defense all year. Now that those guys are getting healthy, how important are those guys in this game?
COACH PEDERSON: It’s big. The energy level obviously ramps up a little bit. I think what you’re seeing, even in the wild-card weekend is the line of scrimmage, control the line of scrimmage, both offensively and defensively. Our defensive line is no different. We have to make sure that -- this is a two-headed monster offensively with this running game that they have and we’ve got to be able to control that and sort of slow that down the best we can, and a lot of that falls on the defensive line.
Q. Do you expect them to blitz Foles early, and how important is staying in third-and-manageables going to be toward that end?
COACH PEDERSON: This team’s not a big blitz team. Again, they are just going to line up and play. We’re going to see a lot of the same -- they are going to rush five guys. They will bring one extra, rush five quite a bit. But, our goal, our key, one of the keys, actually is we have to do better on first down. These last couple of weeks whether we’re running the ball or throwing the ball we haven’t done enough on first-and-second down and we’ve kept ourselves in third-and-long. We can’t do that, not against good defenses and we haven’t done that all season. We have to make sure we’re doing our business on early downs to stay ahead of the chains.
Q. Are the Chargers probably the best comparison for the type of team you’re about to face, not just scheme, but also personnel?
COACH PEDERSON: It’s very similar. When the Seahawks are healthy it’s very similar, defensive scheme. So we feel like we’ve kind of played this defense a little bit already this season. But at the same time, [there is a] different set of challenges. These guys are healthy and they are playing good. But having played this scheme already guys are familiar with it, yes.
Q. What do you feel like the run defense is right now, the numbers weren’t as good kind of the last month. Was that a product of who you were facing, some pretty good backs or do you think they wore down a little?
COACH PEDERSON: I think it’s a combination of that, and I think it’s a combination of the last game of the year, too. We rested some starters in that game and it’s just the numbers are going to fluctuate a little bit offensively and defensively. So our defense will be up for the challenge this week. Again, [they have] two really good running backs that we have to sort of slow down.
Q. You worked with Matt Nagy for a number of years both here and with the Chiefs. What are your thoughts about him getting the head coaching job with the Bears?
COACH PEDERSON: I wished him congratulations yesterday, and it’s a great opportunity for him. It’s great for the Chicago Bears. Excited to watch his career take off.