Opening Day: Questions and Answers With Doug Pederson

The Eagles’ rookie head coach (and onetime Birds QB) on Carson Wentz, youth concussions, and staying friends with Andy Reid

Photograph courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Photograph courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles.

The city has come a long way since you were the Eagles quarterback in 1999. What changes stand out? The fan base has always been very passionate and very excited about the Eagles. That’s the part that hasn’t changed. Obviously, the NovaCare facility and Lincoln Financial are all new since I played here in ’99. I love to see the excitement in the community. Change is exciting.

What part of the team will surprise people this year? I think the offensive line will be much improved, with the addition of Brandon Brooks and Jason Peters coming in healthy. I also think our secondary will be much, much, much improved. Plus, the overall physicality of the football team, the toughness of the football team — that’s something I want fans to see.

You played at the University of Louisiana-Monroe. Back then, it was Northeast Louisiana University.

Right. I feel like there have been a lot of pro quarterbacks coming out of smaller schools lately, including rookie Carson Wentz. Why is that? I think the biggest advantage is that those kids can play right away, as opposed to going to a big program, where you might be sitting on the bench for three or four years. Our personnel department, their job hinges on finding talent. As coaches, we don’t necessarily care where they come from.

The stereotype of the NFL coach is someone who stays up late, watches tape and often misses family dinner. Is that a fair description of you? If you’re not spending the time, you’re going to get beat, and you’re not going to have a job for long.

Outside of football and family, what other things are you looking to get involved in? I love playing golf, both around the city and in New Jersey. My wife and I are both charity-oriented and love to do different things with hospitals and young people. The more things like that that we can do, to get out in the community and meet the fans, the better. Plus, it gets you outside the office for a little bit.

Your son Drew was a quarterback at Samford University. There’s been so much talk of concussions in youth football. As a father, were you worried? No, I never worried about it. The biggest thing my son had was dislocating and breaking his ankle his senior year of high school. Injuries are part of the game, and we don’t shy away from that. We signed up for this business to play a competitive, physical game.

You’ve had a close relationship with Andy Reid since your playing days. Aren’t you guys technically, like, enemies now? No. Since we don’t play each other this year, we can still talk all we want. He’s been very supportive. We continue to talk on a weekly basis.

Did he give you any advice before you took this job? Go in and do it your way. Be yourself. Be transparent. At the end of the day, make sure you put your spin on it. Don’t put Andy Reid’s spin on it.

What do you want your legacy to be as an Eagles coach? Hopefully I’ll be here 15, 16 years. I want us to be a competitive, championship-level program and competing for division titles every year. Having that pride of the NFC East, and always being the team to beat.

Published as “We Want Answers” in the September 2016 issue of Philadelphia magazine.