When you think of the NFL, you often think of Star power. All-Pro players creating highlight reel plays on a weekly basis or legendary coaches with a penchant for game-winning decisions leading their team to the playoffs every season. Household names who make you want to tune in each week. Before last season, Doug Pederson didn't qualify.
A quarterback who spent most of his 12-year career as a back-up, Pederson went unnoticed by even the most ardent NFL fan. After his retirement, like many players, he went into coaching. Not as a flashy, up-and-coming quarterback coach or offensive coordinator in the NFL. No, Pederson began his coaching career as the head coach of a small, private high school in Louisiana whose football program was in its second year of existence. So, how did his meteoric rise from nowhere happen?
Doug Pederson's Playing Career
High School and College Career
A native of Washington, Pederson was a three sport start at Ferndale High School. An All-State performer in football, baseball and basketball, he signed to play quarterback at NCAA Division I-AA Northeast Louisiana University (now the University of Louisiana at Monroe) where he set records on the field and developed strong ties to the area. He still holds the single-game passing record with over 600 yards through the air in a 1989 game against Stephen F. Austin University.
After his glory-filled college days were over, Doug Pederson went undrafted by the NFL in 1991. He signed a free agent deal with the Miami Dolphins, but was cut before the season. This was the way in went early in his professional career. The first couple of seasons, he bounced from the Dolphins practice squad to the World League of American Football.
Finally, when Dolphins starting quarterback and future Hall-of-Famer, Dan Marino, went down with an injury, Pederson was elevated to the active roster for the first time. When Marino's replacement, Scott Mitchell was injured a few weeks later, Pederson saw his first NFL action. Entering a game against the Indianapolis Colts in the third quarter, Pederson completed just 3-of-6 passes but converted a couple of important third downs and led the Dolphins to a 19-14 victory. The game is especially important because it was legendary Dolphins' coach Don Shula's record-breaking 325th NFL win. Shula praised Pederson after the game saying, "(it was impressive) seeing Doug Pederson, as calm as he was."
The life of a back-up in the NFL is never easy and Pederson continued to struggle to maintain a roster spot in the league. After a series of cuts and temporary duty, Doug found himself with the Green Bay Packers, backing up future Hall-of Famer Brett Favre. Favre was known for his durability and Doug saw very limited action but was able to make an impression on the coaching staff as a student of the game.
When former Packers quarterbacks coach, Andy Reid, became the head coach in Philadelphia, Pederson was signed to be the starting quarterback for the Eagles in 1999. The job was temporary, however as the Eagles drafted Donovan McNabb with the second overall pick in that year's NFL draft. Pederson lasted just 9 games as the starter, posting a 2-7 record and throwing more interceptions than touchdowns. It was back to the bench for Doug Pederson as McNabb took over starting duties and Pederson was released by the team before the 2000 season.
Before the 2000 season, Doug Pederson signed with the Cleveland Browns to back-up starter Tim Couch for one season. This was followed by 4-season stint with the Packers as Favre's back-up again. Pederson would retire from the game before the start of the 2005 season having started 17 games in the NFL and posting a 3-14 record in those games.
Career NFL Passing Statistics
Doug Pederson's Coaching Career
His was a modest playing career to be sure. But the education Pederson received would prove invaluable. Having the chance to play for Super Bowl winning coaches in Shula and Mike Holmgren and proven winner Andy Reid, as well as backing up two Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks undoubtedly laid a foundation for future success as an NFL head coach.
As Calvary Baptist Academy Head Coach
His coaching career would have to begin at the bottom of the ladder, however. Upon his retirement as a player, Doug Pederson moved his family back to Louisiana in 2005 to take a job as head football coach at Calvary Baptist Academy in Shreveport. At the helm of a new program, Pederson found success immediately, leading the program to the state playoffs in his first season. His accomplishments in his 4 years at Calvary Baptist were impressive.
As an NFL Assistant Coach
In January 2009, Doug Pederson received a call from his old NFL coach and friend, Andy Reid. Still the head coach in Philadelphia, Reid had seen something in Pederson and offered him the job of offensive quality control coach, a job he would hold for two seasons before being promoted to Eagles' quarterback coach prior to the 2011 season.
Two years later, before the 2013 season, Andy Reid became the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs and brought Doug Pederson along to be his offensive coordinator. The results were dramatic as Pederson helped Reid turn the last-place Chiefs team into an 11-5 playoff squad. Of Reid's influence, Pederson had this to say, “He taught me a lot through play calling and the different things that have allowed us to be successful. He’s been a big mentor for me.” Obviously, Reid thought very highly of Pederson, as a conversation with Jeffrey Lurie, owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, would soon show.
As Head Coach of the Philadelphia Eagles
When the Chip Kelly experiment failed in Philadelphia, the Eagles' owner turned to his former coach for advice on who Lurie should consider for the head coaching job in Philly. Without hesitation, Reid touted his own offensive coordinator for the job. It was a risky proposition as the Eagles were coming off of disastrous results with Kelly, a guy with no NFL experience. Now they were considering a coach with no head coaching experience at all outside of high school and a relatively thin resume as an NFL assistant.
Still, success had followed Doug Pederson wherever he'd coached, including Philadelphia. And while the Eagles considered other candidates, including former New York Giants' head coach Tom Coughlin, it was 47-year-old Pederson who got the job. Lurie had this to say at the press conference announcing Pederson as the new Eagle's coach, "Doug is a strategic thinker, a compelling leader and communicator, and someone who truly knows how to get the best out of his players."
Pederson's first big decision with the Eagles' was in drafting quarterback Carson Wentz in the first round. Though he already had a proven signal-caller in Sam Bradford, Pederson saw a better fit in Wentz. It was a bold move proved correct when Bradford was subsequently traded and Wentz became the starter in his first season. That season saw the Eagles post a 7-9 record as they made progress but battled inconsistency with their rookie quarterback.
The 2017 season started with high hopes in Philadelphia. An emerging young quarterback and a rugged defense had the Eagles flying high. After 12 weeks of the season, the Eagles were 10-2 and eyeing a deep playoff run. Their hopes seemed to come crashing down the next week when Wentz went down with a season-ending injury. They'd have to rely on experienced but erratic back-up Nick Foles the rest of the way.
Many an NFL season has been derailed by an injury to the teams' starting quarterback, but Doug Pederson and the Eagles were determined not to suffer that fate. The team rallied behind Foles and Pederson maintained his calm demeanor in front of the team and the press. Rather than scale back the offense, he stayed the course with the same aggressive play calling he'd relied on all season.
Foles responded. After a shaky start to finish the regular season that had fans wringing their hands, Foles was spectacular during a playoff run that culminated in his MVP-winning performance in Super Bowl LII. The Super Bowl win was punctuated by a gutsy 4th down and goal call by Pederson that saw his quarterback on the receiving end of a touchdown pass that set the tone for the rest of the game. Doug Pederson and the Philadelphia Eagles were Super Bowl Champions, the team's first title since 1960.
Life Off of the Field
The life of an NFL coach can be tough with long hours and lots of travel. Now 50, Doug Pederson relies on his strong Christian faith and wife, Jeannie, to help maintain a proper balance in life. The couple have three sons and make their home in nearby Moorestown, New Jersey. Doug's son Josh plays tight end on the football team of his dad's alma mater back in Louisiana. Pederson often travels to Monroe to attend games and raise money for the school as well as catch up with long-time friends. Needless to say, he's a legend in North Louisiana.
Though his NFL playing career might not have been what he dreamed of as a kid, you won't hear any complaining from Doug Pederson. He turned years of being an understudy to some of the leagues all-time greats into an improbable championship in his second year as a head coach. Winning the Lombardi trophy put him at the top of his profession and endeared him to some of the toughest fans in the league. And, this may only be the beginning for Doug Pederson.