Ford: Let's not judge Eagles and Pederson just yet

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, right, talks to defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz during practice.

Out in Santa Clara, the San Francisco 49ers players are falling all over each other praising the new head coach who doesn't make them fall all over each other very much.

Practices are loud and fast, but they don't last too long. Sometimes they are off the field in an hour or 90 minutes, and the contact is limited. The players are happy, at least with that part of it. Let's see how long it lasts.

Meanwhile, back in Philadelphia, the Eagles and their new head coach are on the field for three hours most days, the very limit allowed by the collective bargaining agreement, and they tackle to the ground in live sessions. The Eagles, of course, say that's fine with them.

It is two different philosophies as Chip Kelly and Doug Pederson prepare their new teams for the coming season. If you choose to accept the prevailing local narrative, Kelly has his way of doing things, and Pederson has Andy Reid's way of doing things.

Labeling Pederson an automaton who has plagiarized a system rather than written his own is convenient - and not one Pederson bothers to challenge - and feeds into the perception that the new coach might not be the brightest bulb in the chandelier. That's a disservice, or premature, anyway, because it doesn't give Pederson credit for not worrying about establishing some concocted identity just to be different.

"The schedule [for] training camp, it took this team to many NFC championship games. It took them to the Super Bowl, and it's won a ton of games," Pederson said when asked how this camp might differ from those of Reid. "This schedule is proven."

So, in other words, he took the training program from last season in Kansas City, changed the five to a six, and handed it out. Well, so what?

A new coach who is unsure of himself, or lacks confidence in himself, is just as likely to try to prove his genius by dazzling the players with a fresh way of doing things. Just because Pederson didn't offer his own tweaks doesn't mean he didn't see a few elsewhere in his career or didn't have a few occur to him. It just means he likes the throwback style he first encountered with Mike Holmgren in Green Bay, which is also where Reid cribbed it.

"The only thing I'll do probably a little different is about every third or fourth day, go ahead and take the pads off and give the players a little break at that time," Pederson said.

This isn't to say Pederson won't be criticized at some point this season, just that it isn't time to do so yet. In the absence of an expectation buzz for the coming season, it's easy to link Pederson, who is something of a flat line compared with Kelly, with the lack of excitement. It's worth remembering, however, that having the smartest guy in the room didn't do much for the room.

Steady might finally win the race, although Reid, who was the master of steady, never reached the finish line here. Pederson's image hasn't been helped by his association with a time-management problem under Reid during last season's playoffs, or by the fact he didn't know a head coach can have three communication channels on his headset rather than the standard two. If he had been hired to be an air traffic controller, that might be a big deal. As it is, he'll have four exhibition games to get the runways cleared for the regular season.

When Pederson said he was still mulling over how the play-calling protocol would work, that was actually a good sign that he doesn't think he has everything figured out. Kelly said a lot of stuff while he was here, but, "I don't know" didn't come out of his mouth very often. He always knew, or said he did.

There doesn't seem to be a good reason for Pederson's play calls to be routed through offensive coordinator Frank Reich before reaching the quarterback. It sounds balky and a little slower than necessary, and the suspicion is Pederson will eventually elect to cut out the middle man. But he's going to find out for himself, starting Thursday in the Linc against Tampa Bay.

"With the game management situations and time management and just managing your roster and the trainers and substitutions and everything, there's a lot involved," Pederson said. "But I'm still working through that. We'll see where that ends up."

A new head coach who can leave it like that isn't looking over his shoulder for critics. The same goes for one who puts his team at greater injury risk with a physical, demanding camp. Pederson will be second-guessed if people get hurt. He accepts that, too.

"I'm not going to shy away from tackling or shy away from hitting just to try not to get [anyone hurt]," Pederson said. "The guys will learn how to practice and play fast, and that's what you want."

Pederson is doing what he thinks is right, not what he thinks might sound right to someone else. If it mimics Andy Reid, that's fine. If it doesn't reek of innovation, that's OK, too. The new head coach should be allowed to say there are things he doesn't know yet.

Down the road, the game changes, and the microscope will come out. It might be that Doug Pederson won't hold up to close inspection, but we don't know that yet, even if we think we do.