Doug Pederson was a journeyman backup quarterback for 10 years in the NFL.
He was an affable fellow with a few highlights as a signal-caller, but nothing that foreshadowed his quick rise in the coaching ranks. Pederson is set to lead the Philadelphia Eagles (15-3) against the New England Patriots (15-3) in the Super Bowl at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the swanky U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Pederson, who was Dan Marino and Scott Mitchell’s backup with the Miami Dolphins in 1993, including in Don Shula’s 325th career victory that moved him past George Halas on the all-time victory list.
He went on to serve as Brett Favre’s backup in Green Bay for eight seasons, which included two trips to the Super Bowl and a victory over the Patriots on Jan. 26, 1997.
He also guided the Cleveland Browns to a victory over Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
But that was about it for Pederson, who played in 100 games and had a 3-14 record as a starting quarterback.
He played for Miami (1993), Green Bay (1996-98, 2001-04), Philadelphia (1999) and Cleveland (2000).
When he retired, the former Northeastern Louisiana (now Louisiana-Monroe) quarterback, coached at Calvary Baptist High School in Shreveport, Louisiana.
“I coached high school ball for four years,” Pederson said. “It was a lot of fun. I wanted to find out if I really wanted to do it and if I wanted to teach. No better time than to teach high school kids how to run a few NFL plays.”
Pederson led his troops to a 33-7 record before his old position coach in Green Bay, Andy Reid, called and asked him to join his staff in Philadelphia.
Pederson started at the bottom as an offensive quality-control coach from 2009-10. He was the quarterbacks coach from 2011-12 and the offensive coordinator from 2013-15 with Kansas City.
“I worked myself back into the National Football League under coach Reid, and I’ve been here ever since,” Pederson said.
In 2000, in Belichick’s first game back in Cleveland with the Patriots, Pederson led the Browns to victory over their former coach.
“Obviously, we struggled as a team in Cleveland that year,” Pederson said. “That was a home game. We battled, and we won. It was great win for myself and the organization. It was definitely one of the milestones in my career.”
Pederson and his love for football was stoked by his father, Gordon, who died Sept. 2 at the age of 77. He was his first head football coach and was a disciplinarian.
“He was sort of that tough love (guy) on us as boys growing up, and he coached that way,” Pederson said. “He always had high expectations for me and my brothers. He coached us probably a little bit different than he did the rest of the team.”
Pederson carries those lessons from Bellingham, Washington, with him.
“He was positive and uplifting, but at the same time he wanted to make sure that we were doing things right, and if we weren’t, we’d hear about it,” Pederson said. “That’s kind of the same way I treat what I’m doing today.”
Pederson was a hot name in coaching circles and landed the Philadelphia job after the Eagles ran Chip Kelly out of town.
“Two years ago, the plan was to get a quarterback,” Pederson said. “After that it was about getting the talent around him. It’s not just the offensive guys, but getting guys on defense.”
Carson Wentz, who starred at North Dakota State, became the centerpiece of the Eagles’ revival.
The Eagles added veterans in wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey, wide receiver Torrey Smith, running back Jay Ajayi, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and cornerback Patrick Robinson.
“You’ve got to do that,” Pederson said. “You’ve got to have those guys as well as your quarterback. It’s still a work in progress to better yourself and better your team.”
When Wentz went down with a season-ending knee injury against the Rams on Dec. 10, the Eagles’ move to sign Nick Foles to a two-year, $11 million contract looked prudent.
Pederson has been credited with coming up with game plans that played to Foles’ strengths, which contributed to a 4-1 record and the trip to the Super Bowl.
He blended some of the college read-pass-option – what’s the prop bet for how many times announcers will say “RPOs” during the game broadcast? – concepts into the offense to maximize Foles’ intermediate passing skills.
“You are seeing so many of these young kids come out of these systems in college now. I wouldn’t say that it’s all conducive to the National Football League,” Pederson said. “You still have to line up under center, still run the football and do some different things that way.
“It’s a small part of your offense. It’s not the total package. Finding the mix and strengths, just trying to allow them to see the defense and execute the play. It’s something that we’ve used in our offense the past few years.”
Against the Falcons in the divisional round, Pederson was a conservative play-caller and relied on his running game. If Foles’ errant pass had been intercepted by Keanu Neal, perhaps the Falcons would be getting ready for a rematch Sunday with the Patriots.
But the ball bounced back to Smith, who picked up 20 yards and set up the Eagles for a field goal with 12 seconds left in the first half.
Against the Vikings in the NFC Championship game, Pederson was a fearless play-caller and took shots against a stout Minnesota defense.
“I hope I can maintain it because that’s kind of what has got us here,” Pederson said. “Fearless, or not, I trust my staff. There is a lot of collaboration that goes on during the game. It’s not just me calling plays.
“Ultimately, they are my calls and my decisions, but it’s a team effort. I’m going to try to stay as aggressive as possible. ... I hope this game doesn’t change that.”
Having been a backup quarterback, Pederson knows how to get Foles comfortable.
“We just have to make sure the plays that I call fit his personality and the personality of our team,” Pederson said. “When he’s comfortable, even if the offensive line is blocking and protecting well. Our skill players have to be able to make plays for Nick. It’s not about one guy. It’s not just about the quarterback.”
What was the major difference for the Eagles in the Falcons game and the Vikings game?
“In the Atlanta game, we did struggle a little bit to separate at the top of our routes and didn’t make the plays that we made in the Vikings game,” Pederson said. “It’s sort of opened up a little bit more in the second game.”