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January 14, 2019

Doug Pederson has turned Eagles into a team free agents want to join

Eagles NFL

What makes Doug Pederson so special?

It's a simple question with a very complex answer. And for the sake of keeping this post at a readable length, we'll focus on just one part of Pederson's job: his role as a leader of men.

Look no further than Pederson consoling Alshon Jeffery on the sideline after Jeffery's dropped pass turned into a game-sealing interception for the Saints, hugging him and telling him how proud he was of his wide receiver. Or Pederson standing at the door to the locker room as players came off the field, offering a similar message to each and every one. 

Sure, Pederson has proven himself to be a more than capable game-planner and a heck of a coach on the field. But, as Nick Foles, who is likely on his way out of Philly, pointed out on Monday, the games are only a tiny part of being on a professional football team. The players and coaches are together a lot more than the three and a half hours they're out on the field on Sundays. 

And Doug Pederson may be better at winning that part of the week than any other coach in football. How? I'll let Foles explain...

"[Doug Pederson] is one of my favorite people in the world," last season's Super Bowl MVP said during locker clean-out day on Monday. "Being able to play for Doug for the last couple of years has been a joy. He was my quarterback coach as a rookie. I was just talking to him not long ago, I remember when he flew down to West Lake High School and I threw with him when he was trying me out before the draft. I mean, he's the same guy. That's how he leads. He never points the finger, just continues to work and continues to motivate. He knows it's about the process, not just the outcome. 

"If you weigh everything on the outcome and that's going to define who you are, you're going to be lost in life. But if you enjoy the process, no matter whether you win or lose, you can keep your head held high. And that's why the guys in this locker room are keeping their heads held high, because that's what's preached here. 

"That's what Doug does, that's what the coaches do, and that's why this place is so special."

That's one hell of an endorsement of the head coach. (In fact, the second paragraph of that, the part about weighing everything on the outcome, is advice to live by every day.) Furthermore, he's hardly alone in feeling that way — tight end Zach Ertz was among the players singing Pederson's praises on Monday.

"I love paying for Doug," Ertz said when asked about Pederson's parting message to the team, "He’s helped me through a lot of tough times off the field and I am forever indebted to him. He was just reminding everyone that the loss hurts and it will hurt for a while but we can be proud of how we fought as a team."

A coach having that kind of reputation in his own locker room is one thing. But when that becomes known around the league, it could be the difference between signing a free agent or watching him go play for one of your rivals. Now, not only do the Eagles boast a winning culture that has been able to overcome enough injuries to derail almost any other team's seasons, but they also boast a locker room culture that can become magnetic for free agents. 

And according to Foles, the league is starting to catch on. 

"If anything, people that look at this locker room and look at what Doug has done would say, 'Man, these guys enjoy playing here. They love playing here. They love playing for him.' It's an atmosphere here that they want to be in. You hear about the other side all the time in this league where, you know, it's not fun, it's a grind, it's a business. The business thing has always bothered me. If you're going to say this is a business and that's all it is, I don't see many times [those teams] are a success.

"There are some anomalies out there, but I think what Doug does is he creates an atmosphere where he trusts the players, he lets the players come out here and be themselves, and lets their personalities show. And ultimately, by doing that, you create success because everyone comes in here with a lot of energy, a lot of joy, and goes out there and practices and practices hard and I think that's the big thing people see. 

"And people want to play here because of that. They know that when they talk to guys [on the Eagles], they're like, 'Yeah, it's a great locker room. We have fun. Yes, we work our butts off, but we enjoy what we do.'"

Foles isn't just posturing here. He says he's heard that from players outside the organization. And he's apparently not the only one.

After seeing what Pederson was able to accomplish this season, despite all the obstacles, it's hard to argue.

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