Eagles video director to retire after 37 years
Mike Dougherty shot video of his final game in Philadelphia on his usual perch atop Lincoln Financial Field at the 50-yard-line. All 22 players were captured in his lens. He could see the skyline on one side and the Delaware River on the other. He was joined by the Washington Redskins video director, who is a Cardinal O'Hara alum and one of Dougherty's former interns.
When you hold a job for 37 years, you're bound to have a tree of protégés. So Dougherty was happy that he was joined by one for his last home game in his final season of a nearly four-decade run as the Eagles' video director. It's the only job the 61-year-old Overbrook native and Ridley Park resident has ever known.
The Redskins game was Dougherty's 775th Eagles game. He has never missed one. Sunday's game against the New York Giants will be his 776th and last. There's been three commissioners, three owners, four equipment managers, five trainers, seven head coaches, and more than 100 total coaches during his time.
"And just one video department," said Dougherty, who is known as "Doc" around the Eagles facility. "Luckily, I've been able to stay through all them."
When Dougherty started the job, he shot on 16-millimeter film. There was one copy of the film. Eight or nine coaches shared, and the team watched it together. Practice film didn't arrive until the next day, after Dougherty took it to Clayton, N.J., to be developed. The processing finished by 2 a.m., and Dougherty would edit the film and put it on the coach's desk for the morning. Now, the practice footage is available by the time the coaches walk up the steps from the field to their desks.
Game footage was even more complicated. Dougherty remembers leaving games at 4 p.m., taking the film to Clayton and waiting until 4 a.m. for it to be developed. Then he drove to the airport for exchanges with other teams. He sat in his car, set a travel alarm clock for 5:30 a.m., walked into the airport, put the film on a flight and waited for the other team's film to arrive.
"Now we upload it to NFL Films, who uploads it to the whole league, and everyone in the league has every game" hours after the game, Dougherty said. "The technology has evolved for the good. I've been on the video director's committee for 18 years, and when you talk about things and the progression and where we've come from, it just blows your mind."
Dougherty still has 16-millimeter film in his office. He has shelves with every game from 1985 to now on beta. He can burn games onto a DVD, but even DVDs have become obsolete for Dougherty because every player can download the footage to iPads.
"I don't know where it's going to go after that," Dougherty said. "It just amazes me. Everybody used to want 42-inch screens, and now everybody's happy with the iPhone screens."
Dougherty got out of the Navy in 1974, worked part time for a local film company that helped the Eagles and eventually took a job for $185 per week when Dick Vermeil wanted a full-time video director.
He has watched some of the great plays in Eagles history through a lens. Two plays stick out, both occurring at the Meadowlands: Herman Edwards recovering a fumble in 1978 to beat the Giants, and DeSean Jackson returning a punt to win as the clock expired in 2010.
"If you had to pick one, [Jackson's return] was probably like, 'Oh, my God! Did he really do that? Did that really just happen?' " Dougherty said. "Because when you're filming it, you can't really get excited because you're watching everything that's going on, but you don't really know because you're so wide. You see it, and you're following him, and you're seeing the blocking going down field, and you're like, 'He might do this!' "
He rattled off other players, remembering runs and catches that dazzled him. He never captures a good look at the moment, so he's eager to watch again his office.
It has not yet sunk in that the he won't see those plays anymore. He'll stay with the team until June 1, helping however he can. He works at February's NFL Scouting combine on the field with draft prospects. He's the man at the NFL draft whom the Eagles call to deliver the pick.
It's part of the job, and he has enjoyed being atop the scissor lift even in the blistering heat at Lehigh University and the frigid winters in South Philadelphia. But 37 years is a long time. Dougherty sat with his wife in Maui in July with training camp approaching.
"It's time," he told her.
"It really is," Dougherty insisted this week. He sat on that perch next to the former intern on Sunday and looked toward the Delaware River. Dougherty saw a boat riding past him.
"Boy, that would nice over there," Dougherty said. "Cruise down the Delaware, not worry about after the game, did I forget anything. That's what I'll be doing."
Contact Zach Berman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.