The following is excerpted from the book Fearless: How an Underdog Becomes a Champion by Doug Pederson, with Dan Pompei. Copyright (c) Doug Pederson by Hachette Books. Reprinted with permission of Hachette Book Group, New York, NY. All rights reserved.
Fast forward eight years later, and very few people thought I would be selected as head coach of the Eagles. I didn’t even prepare to be interviewed prior to being contacted by the team because I didn’t think I would be a candidate. A lot of people doubted that I would be the right person for the job. There were reports that Ben McAdoo was the Eagles first choice. They also interviewed Adam Gase before me, and Tom Coughlin after me.
My history with the Eagles worked in my favor, I think. I played for them in 1999, and met Howie Roseman, who was on the scouting side and working his way up at the time, Jeffrey Lurie, and current team president Don Smolenski—a lot of the people who are still in the organization. When I came back in 2009 as an assistant for four years with Coach Andy Reid, they saw how I worked and interacted with others. By this time Howie was the general manager and he and Andy had a great relationship. All that good history meant there were some good vibes.
By 2015, I had been with Andy in Kansas City for three seasons. We had a successful year and we were getting ready to play the Texans in the playoffs. That’s when the Eagles sent a permission slip for an interview. I suspected it was coming. Andy was still close to the Eagles organization and spoke on my behalf to Howie and Jeffrey and the people who were making the decision. I give a lot of credit to Andy for helping me.
by Doug Pederson
How does an underdog become a champion? One of the most innovative, gutsy, and dynamic head coaches in the NFL reveals the strategies behind building the Eagles team that shocked the world by winning the Super Bowl.
When they requested an interview, I scrambled to get prepared. I was trying to game plan for Saturday night’s Texans matchup in Houston at the same time. The interview was scheduled for 8 a.m. the following morning in downtown Kansas City, where the Eagles contingent had flown in from Philly.
I had to be able to verbalize my coaching philosophy and talk to them about how my staff would look. With help from my agent Bob LaMonte, I prepared a two- inch, three ring binder that explained everything. I had all the information organized and ready to go. A lot of it was in my head too, and I knew it was important for me to speak from my heart as well. Meanwhile, we beat the Texans.
When I arrived at the hotel in Kansas City, Howie met me in the lobby and escorted me to one of the suites. It was very big, a presidential suite with a living room and a kitchen. I turned the corner and there was this beautiful dining room table, and everybody was sitting around it. I knew just about everyone in the room: Jeffrey Lurie, Don Smolenski, Howie Roseman and senior VP Aileen Dagrosa and a couple others. I was like, “Hey guys!” It was sort of calming to recognize the people I had worked with or played under when I had been a member of the Eagles.
Jeffrey’s son Julian was there too. I helped train Julian when Julian was in high school and he wanted to be a quarterback. I was the quality control coach at the time, and Jeffrey came to me and said, “Hey, would you mind teaching my son to throw a football and play the quarterback position?” I spent several sessions teaching and coaching Julian. Now here he was interviewing me.
I sat down and we exchanged pleasantries, talking about our families and that kind of thing. Then we got to business. Fortunately, everything came easily and flowed naturally. I felt I had good answers for their questions. There were some funny moments too. When the subject of training camp came up, I said, “I’m looking forward to going back to Lehigh for camp,” not knowing they had moved camp from Lehigh University, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to the NovaCare Center in Philadelphia. And they said, “Well, you know we’ve moved camp.” I said, “I got it,” then told them I was all in for training camp at NovaCare. We had a good laugh.
I’ll never forget the last thing they asked me to do. Howie said, “We’re going to leave the room for ten minutes. When we come back, we will sit on the sofa over there and would like you to make a presentation. Act like we are your new team, your new players and this is your first team meeting in the spring. Tell us what you would say to the team.” So they exited the room and I grabbed my notepad and I jotted down my thoughts.
After they sat, I launched into my speech. I talked about how we would practice, I talked about the type of culture I wanted, how we would cultivate it. I talked about how we were going to play a certain way and act a certain way as Philadelphia Eagles. I said I didn’t know what had happened in the past, but going forward, things would change. We would pay attention to little things. I talked about what I truly believed in. And the last thing I shared with the panel was the four things that apply to anything and everything we do.
First we needed to create energy. Every day the players step into this building, they have to bring the juice. Every single day. I would, too.
Second, eliminate distractions. What are those? It could be dealing with people asking you for tickets to a particular game, or hotel rooms. It could be the media pulling at you. It could be your contract weighing you down. Whatever the distractions are, we need to eliminate them once we are in season.
Third, attack everything. We will attack the way we train. We will attack the way we practice, the way we eat, the way we sleep, the way we study. That needs to be in their mindset from day one.
Fourth, fear nothing. Not our opponents, not failure, not anything in our lives.
When I finished with the presentation, that was the end of the interview. We said our goodbyes and they returned to the airport. I went back to the office to prepare for our next game, against New England.
Later in the day, Howie called. He told me I did an outstanding job. He said they were comfortable with me, but he didn’t offer me the job. He went over some of the interview, then thanked me for the time.
A few days later, I called Jeannie from the office and she said, “I just heard the news!” I’m like, “What news?” She said, “Ian Rappaport and Adam Schefter are saying you’re going to be the next head coach of the Eagles. That’s awesome!”
Officially, nobody told me anything, but I was excited anyway. Andy, after hearing the reports, came by to congratulate me. I hadn’t heard from Howie or Jeffrey though. We lost to New England that Saturday night. It was disappointing to lose in the divisional round of the playoffs after the season we had. When I was leaving Gillette Stadium some Philadelphia reporters were waiting for me, but I declined all interviews.
On the bus to the airport my phone rang. It was a 215 area code. I didn’t recognize the number but I picked up and it was Jeffrey Lurie on the other end. He said he was sorry for the loss, but it was a great season. Then we talked about my interview, and he told me how impressed he was. He said he wanted to officially extend the offer to me to become head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. I was thinking, “Heck yeah! I’d love to accept the job.”