One of the first things Doug Pederson did last January upon becoming the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator was revisit one of the most painful periods of his life.
It was 1999, and Pederson was Andy Reid’s first quarterback with the Philadelphia Eagles. Reid, in his first year as Eagles coach, drafted Donovan McNabb as his quarterback of the future. However, Reid made Pederson, who had been a backup at Green Bay when Reid was an assistant, the Eagles’ opening-day starter.
It did not go well. The Eagles started 0-4, and the ill-tempered and impatient Philly faithful voiced their displeasure. By time the team sank to 2-7, Reid finally handed the job to McNabb and sent Pederson to the bench.
But what Pederson learned amid the hard knocks of 1999 made an impression. In the next decade, McNabb, operating the West Coast offense Reid brought to Philadelphia, guided the Eagles to five NFC Championship games, including a Super Bowl. And that’s the offense Pederson plans to replicate as Reid’s offensive coordinator with the Chiefs.
“The one thing I did in January and February was go back to those years when coach Reid was year-in and year-out in the NFC Championship game in Philadelphia,” said Pederson, 45, who is in his first season as an offensive coordinator.
“I went back and explored those offenses to see what was clicking, and it’s really what I grew up on way back with Green Bay. I really stressed on bringing back our core West Coast stuff and mix that with the abilities and talents we have offensively, and put guys in positions to be successful.”
Pederson made just 17 NFL starts in 10 seasons, mostly backing up the indestructible Brett Favre during 1995-98 and 2001-04. But he believes those years holding a clipboard will pay off as an offensive coordinator.
“I had a chance to sit back and see everything and be exposed to everything and understand how the ins and outs worked,” Pederson said. “It’s a little harder in the heat of battle, and you don’t see it like that sometimes.
“To learn this offense from Brett Favre, and how he took it to the next level, and how he demanded excellence from his receivers was a tremendous learning experience for me. That’s what I took to Philadelphia that first year and passed it on to Donovan. And we know what he did in his career. As a backup quarterback, you see it, and when you get in the position I’m in now, you use that experience and you lean on that experience.”
Once Pederson’s playing career ended, he embarked on a coaching career in 2005, starting the program at Calgary Baptist Academy in Shreveport, La., and building it into a power by 2008.
He stayed in touch with Reid and made the jump from the high school level to the position of Eagles quality control coach in 2009-10 and quarterbacks coach in 2011-12 before accompanying Reid to Kansas City.
“We go back to the Green Bay days when he coached me,” Pederson said of Reid. “We think alike. Now we’re spending a lot more time together … he has good ideas, I have good ideas, we bounce them off each other. I’m learning from when he called plays for me as a player.”
On game day, Reid will call the plays from the sideline, but it will be in concert with Pederson, who will draw up the game plan.
“Doug has a complete understanding of the offense,” Reid said. “And he’s not only played in it, but he also coached in it. As a former player in this league, he sees the game from a different perspective, and that will be a great benefit for our players. He has a knack for developing talent, and he’s a good communicator. I have full trust in him.”
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, who knows something about offensive coordinators — having played for six different ones in seven seasons at San Francisco — senses something special in Pederson.
“You would have no idea this is his first time being a coordinator by being around him in the meeting rooms, being around him on the field,” Smith said. “He has complete composure like he’s been there before. He’s even-keel, always the same every day … in the meeting rooms and on the field.
“As a player, I really appreciate that, every day being coached the same way and taught the same way. When it comes to the season, you’ve got the ups and downs, and you’re battling through things, it helps even more.”