In the afterglow of his team’s win over the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 21, Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson smiled when he saw a familiar name flash on his phone.
It was his friend and mentor, Chiefs coach Andy Reid.
“Congratulations, number one,” Reid told him. “Good luck in the Super Bowl.”
Pederson, who spent three years in Kansas City as Reid’s offensive coordinator from 2013 to 2015, treasured those words.
Pederson has come so far since then, guiding his own team to the Super Bowl in only his second year in charge, but when Reid offered his next bit off advice, he still listened closely.
“Enjoy the moment,” Reid reminded him. “You’ve got to enjoy these times. You never know when you’re going to get another opportunity to come back.”
Reid knows this well. Despite a successful 19-year run as a head coach in which he’s accumulated a .663 winning percentage, it’s been 12 years since Reid guided his own team to the Super Bowl as a head coach, as the Eagles’ 24-21 loss to the New England Patriots in 2005 remains his only dalliance with glory.
So it’s ironic for sure that Reid’s disciple is now getting a shot in Sunday’s Super Bowl — which starts at 5:30 p.m. Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium — with the same team Reid went to the Super Bowl with, against the same team he faced when he went.
“He’s done a great job there, a phenomenal job there,” Reid said of Pederson. “To me, he’s really taken that whole organization there to another level.”
Reid said the most impressive thing about Pederson’s leadership this season was the way he managed to guide the Eagles to the promised land with Nick Foles at quarterback following the season-ending injury to star quarterback Carson Wentz in early December.
“He has a quarterback that believes in him, and he comes back with another quarterback that believes in him,” Reid said. “You’ve seen his ability to coach those guys and bring out the strengths in each of them.”
While Wentz was an MVP candidate, the 29-year-old Foles — who spent 2016 as the Chiefs’ No. 2 quarterback — has performed well in his absence. Foles completed 56.4 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and two interceptions in the regular season, and he has completed 77.8 percent of his passes for 598 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions in the two playoff wins.
Reid, however, isn’t surprised Foles rose to the challenge. Shortly before Reid took Foles in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, he couldn’t believe how resilient Foles was in the college tape Reid watched.
“The one thing that kind of attracted me to him was, other than his skill, was watching tape of him at Arizona, and he had (close to) an all-freshman offensive line ... and he was just getting the dog beat out of him,” Reid recalled. “But he never blinked at those guys, and then those guys would come and help him off the ground when he got knocked down, and I go, ‘You know what, he’s not pointing fingers, he’s getting up, he’s standing in the pocket, and doesn’t care. He’s just gonna play.’
“You can tell guys rallied around him, and he wasn’t a finger pointer at all. That, along with his ability, is an important part of all this.”
That’s part of the reason Reid decided to take a stab at Foles as a reclamation project last summer, after the then 27-year-old had been unceremoniously released by the Los Angeles Rams.
“I really felt like he would be back with the Eagles, I felt that all along,” Foles’ dad, Larry Foles, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I felt like (owner) Jeffrey (Lurie) thought the world of Nick.”
And while Foles was considering retirement following his release by the Rams, he later credited his one-year stint in Kansas City with helping him rejuvenate his career.
“I love the structure the coaches and (quarterback) Alex (Smith) had, and going through that helped me a lot throughout that week,” Foles told The Star in Jan. 2017. “Just having that comfort level (with Reid) has been real good for me ... the environment, the culture that’s created … when you’re in the locker room, you see everybody talking, hanging out, having a good time.”
Reid said he knew when he initially signed Foles to the Chiefs that the quarterback had been considering retirement, but Reid figured he still had plenty of good football left.
“He’s a young guy, and his parents are amazing — they’re good people,” Reid said. “But his dad, really, kind of said he’s too young to retire and he really wants to play, he’s just got to get away and take a deep breath.
“He’s been through a lot, and I give the credit to his dad, really hanging with his son, giving him support when he needed the support. It was a good lesson for all us dads.”
Now, Foles will find himself guiding a similar version of Reid’s offense on Sunday, as the Eagles strive to prevent the Patriots from adding to their collection of Super Bowl victories.
“There’s a wrinkle here or there, whether it’s in the pass game or run game ... but for the most part, Coach Reid’s offense and Doug’s offense is the same,” said assistant offensive line coach Eugene Chung, who held a similar role in Kansas City under Reid from 2013 to 2015.
Still, whether it’s the decreased amount of run-pass options they liked so much under Wentz, or the addition of certain concepts Foles executes well, Reid pointed out that Pederson has done a good job adjusting to whatever challenges the Eagles have faced this season as they rolled to a 13-3 regular-season record.
Even more important, Reid can tell Pederson’s players like him and play hard for him — something Reid has always had going for him.
“He’s got respect from everyone,” Reid said. “I think the person that did the ultimate Gatorade dunk on him (on Jan. 21) was a defensive player, so they care about the guy, and that’s an important thing.”