FIERRO: Eagles' special power structure has gone long way toward creating winning culture
That elusive winning culture former Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly was intent on building within the organization from 2013 until his timely exit with one game to go in the 2015 season was, in a stroke of irony, created by his successor, Doug Pederson.
More irony: Pederson accomplished it with a key assist from the once and future general manager Kelly convinced owner Jeffrey Lurie to banish to the equipment room for two seasons: Howie Roseman.
Now, heading into the fourth season of this arranged marriage of Pederson and Roseman, who not only controls the 90-man roster but also has the power to overrule Pederson on pretty much everything else, the relationship is as strong as ever, Pederson said during June’s mandatory minicamp.
And there is little doubt that has a trickle-down effect on a locker room that’s also tighter than ever.
This priceless dynamic was among the many subjects covered by Pederson during a wide-ranging session with Eagles beat reporters.
The power structure continues to work mostly because Pederson never allowed the Super Bowl they won 17 months ago to go to his head with visions of gaining more power after proving himself as a top head coach in the NFL.
“Listen, I was hired to be the head football coach, not the general manager,” Pederson said. "I was hired to teach football. Howie was hired to do the job that he does. And [former vice president of player personnel] Joe Douglas [now with the New York Jets] has been hired to do a certain job. ... There has to be great communication and great dialogue between those departments – coaching and scouting.
"That’s the one thing, when I was here in ’16, that’s not my expertise. I can sit here and watch tape and write a report, and say this guy can do this, this, and this. And until we get him in the building and coach him up, you just don’t know. You lean on so much on our scouting department. ... We can have constructive conversations and talk openly about certain guys and how well they can fit our system. For me, [total control is] just not the avenue that I want to go down as a coach. I’m a part of it and I want my coaching staff to be a part of it. But I want to coach. I want Howie to bring the players in and give us the talent that we can go and develop and win games.”
Wentz maturing: That approach works the same way with the players who must answer to him — and particularly quarterback Carson Wentz, who has endured growing pains during his emergence as the alpha dog after being thrust into that role suddenly and unexpectedly a week before his rookie season, when Sam Bradford was traded to Minnesota.
“It takes time and it’s OK if coaches and players, if they disagree,” Pederson said. "To me, that’s what makes us healthy. We can have that constructive dialogue and come out better for it. I think that’s kind of where Carson was in his first couple of years, and people might have taken that the wrong way. But Carson is a leader of this football team, and what I’ve seen from him has just been excellence on and off the field.
“... Again, it’s something that takes time. It takes time to understand that role, understand our media, understand our fans, understand the city of Philadelphia, the surrounding area. He’s in a national spotlight and it takes a little time. He’s maturing now, going into his fourth year and he’s embraced that. I’ve seen nothing but positive all spring.”
Top concern is injuries: What concerns Pederson the most about this team is the same thing as last year (and the year before and the year before that): health.
To that end, he believes he and the training staff have learned to adjust to playing deep into the postseason, which is something the team hadn’t done for nearly a decade before his return to Philadelphia as head coach.
From 2009 through 2016, the Eagles made the playoffs just three just times and weren’t able to advance. Not until Pederson, who was jettisoned along with head coach Andy Reid following the 2012 season, was rehired did they start to become legitimate title contenders again.
And unlike last year, when they came into training camp all banged up and never were able to play at full strength, the prognosis is so much better this time around, thanks in part to Pederson’s not pushing the issue with so many players who as of June were still recovering from injuries the season before.
“I want our new norm to be playing into late January and early February as often as we can," he said, "and that is going to take that preparation and it’s going to take a toll on their body, coaches and player. But it’s something you get used to and you just accept it.”
More specifically, Pederson spoke of ways his staff is trying to reduce soft-tissue injuries.
“I think the one takeaway, talking to our medical team, talking to our nutritionist, talking to our strength and conditioning guys, is dedicating more time to soft-tissue-type injuries, their foam rollers, or doing more stretching, core,” he said. "Things like that that have kept our guys a little more healthy on the football field.
“... And as coaches and staff, as we get more data on the soft-tissue injuries, it’s just going to help us be more prepared and help our players down the road. And think that it does go back to nutrition. It does go back to hydration. It does go back to rest — all the things the players should be doing to try to help reduce as many of these as we can.”
Morning Call reporter Nick Fierro can be reached at 610-778-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.