Doug Pederson is one win away from bringing Philadelphia the elusive Super Bowl title his mentor couldn't deliver.
If the Eagles (15-3) beat New England (15-3) on Sunday, Pederson will hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy and Philadelphia will celebrate its first NFL title since beating Lombardi's Green Bay Packers in 1960.
No one saw this coming two years ago.
U.S. & World
After abruptly firing Chip Kelly, Eagles owner Jeffery Lurie longed for a coach more like the one he used to have: Andy Reid. Even though Reid failed to win the big game during his 14-year tenure in Philadelphia, he won more games than any coach in franchise history and led the Eagles to nine playoff appearances, five NFC title games and a Super Bowl loss to the Patriots.
Reid also had a close relationship with Lurie, was well-liked by the players and instilled a family atmosphere. That culture was an important element for Lurie. The environment had changed under Kelly, who was 26-21 in three seasons. Though he was an innovative coach, Kelly didn't connect well with all his players and members of the organization.
So Lurie went back to what he knew and hired Pederson, Reid's protege.
Lurie was quite familiar with Pederson, who was a quarterback for Reid with the Eagles in 1999 and then an assistant coach on his staff in Philadelphia and Kansas City.
Other coaches had more impressive resumes, but Lurie liked Pederson's intangibles.
"I spent a lot of time with players at the end of that (2015) season and I thought what was really needed was a kind of leadership that leads with a genuineness, a real genuineness," Lurie said. "And people laughed when I used the term 'emotional intelligence,' but that's probably a really good way to describe it.
"There's a lot of great coaches. They all have their different styles, but the one common ground among them all is absolute consistency and genuineness. And Doug Pederson is just himself. And at times that's very humble, and at times it's just very real. At times that's very bright. At times it's tough. But he does it in a true, genuine way and I think players really respond to that in today's world."
Naturally, Pederson learned from Reid.
"Being around him, he's the same day in and day out," Pederson said. "Same consistency. Same work ethic."
Like Reid, Pederson had his share of critics. He wasn't the people's choice in Philly when he got the job and ESPN ranked him the worst hire of his coaching class at the time. Three of the six other coaches already have been fired.
"I don't pay any attention to that, quite honestly," Pederson said. "I drive home at night knowing I put in a full day's work. I get up in the morning to come in here, and however I can serve this organization and serve these players, that's all I know. I love football. I love coaching football. I love teaching it. I love being around these guys, and I'm going to pour my life into these players. If it's good enough, great, because that's all I know I can do and I've given it my best effort. So I don't care about what's written."
Pederson cares about his players, improving their game and making them better men off the field. He gets what they're going through because he played, although mostly as a backup. They trust in him and his coaching philosophy.
"Coach Pederson is an unbelievable coach to play for," said Nick Foles, who went from backup quarterback to hero of the NFC championship game. "He just has such a great feel for the game."
Pederson's steady demeanor and positive approach helped the team overcome numerous injuries to key players, including Carson Wentz, Jason Peters and Jordan Hicks.
Seeing their coach never waver gave guys confidence they can beat anyone. It helps that Pederson has devised masterful game plans. He outcoached Mike Zimmer in the NFC championship game as Foles picked apart the top-ranked defense en route to Philadelphia's 38-7 win over Minnesota .
"I played for some amazing coaches, and Doug is an unbelievable play caller," Foles said. "He does a great job of deciding when to call each thing, but our staff is unbelievable at game planning and putting us in position, no matter if it's the run game, the pass game, the screen game, whatever it may be. The attention to detail is unbelievable and we go into a game feeling 100 percent confident because of our staff and the work and long hours that they put in to get the game plan to us so that we can go out and execute. That's big for an athlete when you can go out there and trust everything."