Pederson's QB pedigree a factor in his hiring

Doug Pederson started nine games for the Eagles in 1999. He played quarterback in the league for 12 years, and in his travels he backed up both Dan Marino and Brett Favre. "He's been there, he's seen it," said Chiefs backup Chase Daniel.     File Photograph
Doug Pederson started nine games for the Eagles in 1999. He played quarterback in the league for 12 years, and in his travels he backed up both Dan Marino and Brett Favre. "He's been there, he's seen it," said Chiefs backup Chase Daniel.     File Photograph
Posted: January 16, 2016

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Doug Pederson had never called a play as an NFL offensive coordinator until this season. His boss, Andy Reid, handled those chores. The Chiefs coach added more to Pederson's plate in 2015, giving him situational play-calling responsibilities such as the two-minute drill.

When Pederson's quarterbacks were asked about his readiness to become a full-time play-caller - or even a head coach, as he will be with the Eagles - they didn't focus as much on the job he has done in that role as they did on his actual experience as a quarterback.

There are plenty of successful play-callers who never played the position, let alone in the NFL. Reid is a perfect example. But for some quarterbacks it helps to know that the coach diagramming the plays and calling them into their headset once stood in their shoes.

"You have to start with his pedigree and how long he played in the NFL. He's been there, he's seen it," Chiefs backup quarterback Chase Daniel said. "He's played under Dan Marino and Brett Favre. He's played and coached under Andy for a long time. And so, I think all of that gives him a unique perspective on the quarterback position when he's coaching it."

The Eagles couldn't officially announce Pederson's hiring on Thursday, but NFL sources said he would be the team's next coach as soon as Kansas City's season is over. In hiring the 47-year-old, the Eagles will partly be banking on his 12 years as an NFL quarterback. Pederson, in his third season with Kansas City, simply doesn't have as much coaching and play-calling experience as most candidates.

But it's not as if he played defensive tackle. Pederson played the most important position in the game. He played under Hall of Fame quarterbacks, a Hall of Fame coach (Don Shula), and some of the winningest coaches of the last 25 years.

"He's a quarterback, so he's going to develop a quarterback faster than most people," Chiefs receiver Jason Avant said. "You see [Chiefs quarterback] Alex Smith has had one of the best years he's had as a quarterback in this league under him.

"The head coach is very, very, very important, but I think the quarterback may be the most important."

The Eagles, of course, don't yet know their quarterback for next season. Pederson could help secure the return of free-agent-to-be Sam Bradford. Or the Eagles could look to the draft and start over , as they did 17 years ago, when Reid was hired.

Owner Jeffrey Lurie appeared to be fixated on recapturing some of what he had during Reid's 14 years with the Eagles. He sent a text message to Reid early in the process asking for suggestions. Reid called back and gave Pederson a strong endorsement.

After the Chiefs toppled the Texans, 30-0, in the first round of the playoffs, Lurie, vice president of football operations Howie Roseman, and team president Don Smolenski flew to Kansas City to interview Pederson on Sunday.

"It was a great opportunity for him to visit with a great organization, a phenomenal organization," Reid said Friday before the Eagles had ended their search. "And I think it was an honor for him to have that opportunity. Whatever happens, happens. That's not my business, but I'm happy he had that opportunity to speak with them."

The Eagles brass knows Pederson well. He played a season for Reid in 1999 and was brought back as an assistant coach in 2009. Pederson started at the lowest level and was then promoted to quarterbacks coach in 2011. He worked with Michael Vick, Vince Young, and Nick Foles during that span.

He's also the quarterbacks coach with the Chiefs and has tutored Smith, Daniel, and Aaron Murray.

"I think it helps that he's a former player," Murray said. "He kind of knows what we're thinking, what we're going through. So his ability to communicate with us is pretty cool. He knows what we're seeing out there, which is great.

"When Alex comes to the sideline, we're talking. He only sees it on the tablet, but the experiences he's gone through makes it a lot easier for him to communicate with us."

Smith's season improved once Reid and Pederson gave him more leeway in audibling at the line of scrimmage. In the first five games, he completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,291 yards and five touchdowns with three interceptions for an 88.1 passer rating. In the final 11 games, he completed 67 percent for 2,195 yards and 15 touchdowns with four interceptions for a 99.7 rating.

"I think in critical situations - third down, red zone, two-minute - you definitely want to be able to trust your quarterback to get in and out of the right plays," Daniel said. "I think they just trust Alex to run the ship. [Smith] always says, 'They give me the keys to the kingdom,' and it's showed these past 11, 12 weeks."

One of the criticisms of former Eagles coach Chip Kelly and his up-tempo offense was that it typically didn't allow for checking into new plays based on a quarterback's pre-snap reading of a defense. Pederson, Daniels said, is "receptive to player ideas."

"For me as a former quarterback, I put myself in Alex's shoes," Pederson said Thursday, "and see what he's seeing and then call plays based on what we're all kind of collectively seeing during that time in the game."

It's unclear whether Pederson will take on play-calling duties as head coach. He could retain Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur or bring Chiefs assistant Brad Childress with him. Either way, Pederson's past as a quarterback was instrumental in his becoming the Eagles' newest head coach.

jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane

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