ORLANDO — The head coach of the Super Bowl champions has been immersed in planning for the 2018 season, preparing to get back on the field next month with new players, new coaches, new challenges.
But the afterglow of the first Super Bowl victory in Eagles franchise history lingers, a little less than two months later, this week at the NFL meetings.
“It’s something that’s a little bit surreal,” Doug Pederson said Tuesday at the NFL coaches’ breakfast. “You’re walking among all your peers. You’ve got all the owners and GMs and head coaches here and presidents and everybody. When you’re outside of NovaCare, outside of the building, that’s what makes it special, what you’ve accomplished, and how hard it is to get there and to win that football game. I appreciate everything that got us there, obviously. And then to be here and to be congratulated, yeah, it’s pretty cool.
“You’re viewed differently. Everybody is very complimentary, appreciative. I think there were a lot of people pulling for us to win. You’re looked at, now, you’re a Super Bowl champion. As crazy as that sounds, it’s still hard to fathom. It’s hard to kind of put in perspective.”
But Pederson said he also looks forward to getting back home Wednesday, as well, getting back to business in an offseason that is five weeks shorter than the ones enjoyed by peers who missed the playoffs.
“It’s hard,” making up for lost time, Pederson acknowledged. “The page is probably almost turned. … I’m going to tell you, mentally, when we were a week removed from the Super Bowl, I was [thinking], ‘As soon as we can, let’s get it behind us and let’s move into 2018.’ I was so ready to move on. Long season, great accomplishment, however, let the players enjoy it as much as they can, but we have to focus on the future and what’s coming down the pipeline.
“And it’s coming extremely fast. We’re a couple weeks from OTAs and from the offseason program and there’s still a lot of work to do in the office. We’re flipping the page as fast as we can, but at the same time, it’s nice to take some time and reflect on what just happened.”
Pederson said he didn’t gather any mementos from that magical night in Minneapolis, has nothing on his desk that he can look at and find himself transported back to U.S. Bank Stadium amid all the hugging and the tears and the swirls of confetti.
“Besides the trophy? You know what, no,” Pederson said. “I didn’t grab anything out of the room, didn’t take anything from the locker room, didn’t get a ball. … You get so much, like the hats and the T-shirts and all that. … A ball probably would have been nice. That [commemorative] Super Bowl LII helmet, I have that. I’m going to look into maybe getting a replica trophy or something at the house. … The ring will be a souvenir enough.”
Asked how he maintains the special vibe of a team that won three successive playoff games as the underdog, behind a backup quarterback, Pederson said: “I don’t know if you keep it as much as you rebuild it again. Our team will be different. It’s just the nature. You can already see with the moves that were made this spring with free agency. I think maintaining some of your core players in the locker room helps that.
“But I think you have to start kind of from ground zero again in April and start talking about everything again. You can just kind of flush the system and retool it. We really do have a good locker room. That’s going to be part of it this spring.”
One of the tests that awaits is the fact that OTAs are voluntary, and some vets, with their offseason recovery time drastically shortened, might feel disinclined to volunteer. That might not be the end of the world, but it also might not be the best way to begin a quest to become the first Super Bowl champions to repeat since the Patriots beat the Eagles in SB XXXIX.
“It’s a fine line. When we left back in February, I encouraged everybody — that was gonna be a concern,” Pederson said. “And when I talk about the other side of success, that’s what I talk about. Guys not showing up for OTAs. Guys not showing up for the offseason program, thinking they’ve arrived. I don’t think that we have that kind of group. It is hard when you can’t communicate with them in the offseason.”
Pederson’s bond with his players is built on his playing career, on understanding their concerns. He wants everyone to show up, but everyone doesn’t have to take a zillion on-field reps.
“I can be smart on who practices and who doesn’t,” he said. “Nobody makes the team in the spring. It’s turning into a really good developmental program. My mind-set is, we’ve got some young guys on this roster that we’ve got to continue to improve and get them caught up. This will be a good opportunity for those guys.”
Pederson said turning the page also means bidding farewell, at least for 2018, to the “Philly Special,” the trick fourth-down play that produced a touchdown just before halftime at the Super Bowl.
“No. there’s no way you can call that again. It’s out there,” he said. “I mean, any time your quarterback does that, [the other team will know what’s coming]. Now, I’m not saying you couldn’t do that [motion] and run something else … but for the most part – you’re probably not going to see it this year.”
So the play immortalized on tattoos and T-shirts is dead?
“I would say it’s more on the back burner. Maybe retired. But he hasn’t put in his papers yet,” Pederson said. “He may retire and come back.”