Mike Zimmer is in good company.
Bill Belichick got out-coached, too.
The Eagles’ well-engineered victory in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium taught an unusual lesson about building a championship team.
Usually in early February, the NFL lesson is that you need a star quarterback and a star coach, and maybe the painstaking collection of homegrown talent, to win a Super Bowl.
What the Eagles accomplished will place even more pressure on the rest of the league’s coaches and general managers, because the Eagles were not deterred by key injuries or a coaching change. They filled their roster with key players anyone else could have acquired. And they hired as a head coach a guy who 10 years ago was running a high-school program.
Doug Pederson out-coached Zimmer, then Belichick, to win the Eagles’ first Super Bowl title.
And he did it after losing a great left tackle and a quarterback who might have won the league MVP award.
NFL excuses will never again sound reasonable.
Need a long, slow, build? Nope. The Eagles were 7-9 the last two seasons and fired Andy Reid and Chip Kelly within a two-year stretch.
Need a big-time quarterback to win big? Occasionally. But Nick Foles made $1.6 million this season. Anybody could have afforded him, almost nobody wanted him, and he produced 41 points in the Super Bowl against one of the best defensive minds in NFL history (Bill Belichick) and the coordinator who will be the Lions’ next head coach (Matt Patricia.)
Need the fruit of a famous coaching tree? Pederson worked under Andy Reid, who has never won a Super Bowl and produced a protege named Brad Childress. Sunday, Pederson beat the Patriots’ legendary head coach and the incoming coaches of the Lions and Colts
Need to get lucky and stay healthy? Wrong. The Eagles lost stars at quarterback and left tackle, as well as a middle linebacker, a key special teams player and a running back to injuries, and survived a deflected-pass interception and the Vikings’ early lead in the NFC title game.
Need to build with “character” players? The Eagles signed LeGarrette Blount, who ran himself out of Pittsburgh, and traded for Jay Ajayi, who wore out his welcome in Miami, and both performed well.
Need to avoid “distractions?” Malcolm Jenkins raised his fist in protest of black Americans being unjustly killed, and teammate Chris Long, formerly the NFL’s man of the year, placed his arm around Jenkins’ shoulders while he did so, and the Eagles were so distracted they scored only 41 points on Sunday.
Need to impersonate Darth Vader to be a high-level NFL coach? Pederson seems almost too nice. He likes eating ice cream, so he feeds his players ice cream. And his players performed like champions.
Need to prove how tough you are as a leader? Belichick benched Malcolm Butler, who had contributed to two Super Bowl victories in his previous three seasons. Belichick used Eric Rowe in his place, and didn’t tell Rowe of his promotion until Sunday.
According to Boston radio personality Tony Massarotti, Philadelphia threw six third-down passes in the first half. The first three targeted Rowe. Two were completed. Butler’s benching may have cost the Patriots a title.
The Eagles’ championship bodes well and ill for the Vikings.
The Eagles proved that anyone can win the Super Bowl if run and coached well enough.
And the Eagles may have taken away the Vikings’ best chance for the foreseeable future to win their own.
The Eagles won with a backup quarterback but also have Carson Wentz, an MVP candidate, returning from injury, while the Vikings have three quarterbacks not under contract and will face a far tougher schedule next season than they did while winning 14 games this season.
What is clear is that the previously-mediocre, currently-battered Eagles were the class of the NFL this season.
For all other NFL teams, their story creates hope, and job insecurity.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Jim Souhan is a columnist for the Star Tribune of Minneapolis.
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