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Culture / Sporting Life

Doug Pederson Boldly Shows Up Justin Timberlake and That Offensive Prince Tribute

Eagles Coach Absolutely Steals Super Bowl, Displays What Bill O’Brien Lacks

BY // 02.05.18

Whoever thought a 50-year-old from Bellingham Washington, a guy whose coaching career started at a private Christian high school in Shreveport, Louisiana with no football tradition at all, would turn out to be cooler than Justin Timberlake at the Super Bowl?

But that’s exactly what happened in Super Bowl LII in frozen Minneapolis’ Viking ship-shaped stadium. Timberlake bumbled through an ill-conceived halftime show and a butchered Prince tribute that the iconic star would have despised, never coming close to matching what Lady Gaga pulled off in Houston last year. And Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson absolutely stole the Super Bowl.

The big game ends Eagles 41, Patriots 33, with New England’s hulking tight end Rob Gronkowski sprawled on the end zone turf, barking at the refs who cannot save the Pats this time. Soon, Gronkowski will be floating the idea of retiring. It ends with Tom Brady having lost the ball on the Eagles’ only sack of the night — and the Patriots having lost it all.

It’s a little like seeing Emperor Palpatine get thrown down a space shaft. Its immensely satisfying and gratifying — the feel-good moment everyone outside of New England’s been waiting on.

Pederson, that 50-year-old from a town that’s closer to Alaska than Seattle, is responsible for making it happen. The Eagles’ second-year coach showed more guts than an acrobat who insists on working without a net on the NFL’s biggest stage. By making bold call after bold call after bold call, Pederson kept Brady and Bill Belichick on edge.

The Patriots never could get comfortable in this game. Not with that brilliantly mad man on the other side.

The only one who came close to having as good a Super Bowl as Doug Pederson was Hopper, the cop from Stranger Things, whose Tide ads won the Super Bowl Twitter game. Or maybe that kid on his phone during Timberlake’s limp halftime show.

Pederson even manages to make Bradley Cooper’s act in Jeffrey Lurie’s owners box seem a little less annoying by game’s end.

Everyone will remember the fourth-and-goal at the one-yard line call — the play Pederson dialed up that had tailback Corey Clement taking a direct snap and flipping the ball on an end-around to tight end (and former sometime college QB) Trey Burton, who then threw a touchdown pass to wide-open Eagles quarterback Nick Foles.

It’s a play many high school coaches would be too scared to call. Pederson went to it in a crucial moment in the damn Super Bowl.

If it had just been one play, it would have been epic. But Pederson kept it up all game long. He went for it for on fourth-and-one from his own 45-yard line while trailing 33-32 with under six minutes left — and called another pass. This time, Nick Foles, the backup from Austin who Pederson somehow turned into the most unlikely dominant Super Bowl MVP ever, hit tight end Zach Ertz for the first down.

“I knew that we were going to have to score a touchdown in that situation,” Pederson says in his postgame news conference. “A field goal wasn’t going to be good enough, not against Tom and the Patriots, so we stayed aggressive.”

Eagles coach Doug Pederson won the Super Bowl by being fearless with his play calls. Is Bill O’Brien taking note?

In a Super Bowl that turned into a Madden video game shootout — the Eagles and Patriots combined for 1,151 total yards, the most yards in any NFL game ever, not any Super Bowl game, any game — letting up for even an instant would have spelled defeat.

Pederson never let up. The Eagles and their backup, emergency quarterback are the world champions. They’re first-time champions for their city just like the Astros were for Houston last November 1.

Will Bill O’Brien Ever Be Super Bold?

Houston’s professional football team should be encouraged by this purely offensive Super Bowl. With Deshaun Watson, the Texans should have one of the best offenses in the NFL for the foreseeable future. As long as Texans coach Bill O’Brien finds some Doug Pederson in himself.

Of course, that’s a big IF. O’Brien’s done a number of good things in his four years on the Texans’ sidelines. But no one would ever describe his coaching style as fearless. When O’Brien’s been forced to turn to his backup quarterbacks (or to bench one of his questionable starting quarterback choices pre-Watson) he usually turns more conservative than a Fox News host.

The Texans with Watson playing brilliantly lost close games to Seattle and New England last season in part because O’Brien coached conservative down the stretch. He didn’t push the pedal to the floor. Instead, he looked to quietly back into a parking spot — and a win.

That’s no way to win in today’s rapidly changing NFL. Coaching scared is no longer acceptable. It’s a way to lose the faith of your players — and fans.

Hopefully, O’Brien will take something more out of this Super Bowl than marveling about that Tom Brady guy he once coached still being pretty good (505 passing yards in the big game good). Hopefully, O’Brien will want to go full Pederson.

It’s more important than ever to coach bold. The Patriots are more vulnerable than ever — Gronk’s talking retirement, one of their former Super Bowl heroes (cornerback Malcolm Butler) is left crying during Pink’s national anthem because of a surprise benching that still makes no sense and more reports of palace turmoil are sure to swirl.

But are there any more Doug Pederson’s out there to take advantage? Philadelphia is lucky to have one. Championship lucky. Sometimes the 50-year-old who acts like he has nothing to lose is the coolest guy on the world’s biggest hype stage.

Imagine that.

Home, chic home.

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