Emotional Intelligence… The Philadelphia Eagles’ Secret Weapon

Remember when Chip Kelly, the former Eagles’ coach, was fired a few years ago? When owner Jeffrey Lurie was interviewed at that time, he said that he was looking for a new coach “who can connect with his players… someone with emotional intelligence.” He found that coach in Doug Pederson.

Emotional Intelligence or EQ is something organizations have been paying more attention to lately. A person with high EQ is self-aware, has self-control, is able to empathize with others, and has good social skills. Apparently, not qualities attributed to introverted Kelly, whose players referred to him as “standoffish” and “autocratic.”

So, what do Coach Doug Pederson’s players have to say about him? According to an article in the EAGLESWIRE, written by Turron Davenport, after Pederson’s first year of coaching, in response to criticism from former NFL GM Mike Lombardi, (he referred to Pederson as one of the least qualified coaches in the league), Eagles’ Safety, Malcolm Jenkins said, “He’s willing to allow us to have input. He leans on leadership a lot to give him a pulse of the locker room. Those are the things that in my experience make really good coaches. Guys that can give ownership to the players and have them buy in just as much as the coaching staff. Then, your players will follow you anywhere.” Former Wide Receiver, Torrey Smith said: “He’s great at communicating with us. He’s a guy that you know he has your back. You want to play for him.”

Defensive end, Chris Long told NJ Advance Media: “Doug is leading by example. He keeps the mood light.” Tackle, Lane Johnson, said: “Pederson is a lot better (than Kelly) in terms of relate-ability.” Doug’s fun and he’s a lot of energy,” Johnson told the Post. Offensive Tackle, Jason Peters, referring to the Redskins’ game, said: “We had to get this win for Doug.” Tight End, Zach Ertz commented about his coach: “We love playing for Doug. We don’t really care about what outside people are trying to say.” Former quarterback, Sam Bradford said: “Just knowing Coach Pederson has my back and knowing he’s a resource for me and someone that I can go up there into his office and talk with him.”

According to Dave Zangaro, NBC Sports Philadelphia: “More than anything else, it’s been Pederson’s willingness to adapt and change that has stood out.” Flexibility and adaptability are both indicators of high EQ. Zangaro also said “When players have input, when players feel like their coaches actually care what they have to say, they’re going to play harder for them because they’re invested.”

While watching a videotape of a game in progress, I heard Doug Pederson say, after a missed pass: “We’ll get another opportunity.” After another play, he told Carson Wentz reassuringly, “We’ll be fine.” I also viewed Pederson hugging his players, and telling them, “Great job!”

When he first arrived as head coach, Pederson created a group of veteran leaders that he called the leadership council, with whom he met every Tuesday. At the beginning of his second season as coach, when Pederson was going pass heavy, his offensive players spoke out and Pederson listened. Would Chip Kelly have taken his players’ opinions into consideration? Not likely.

Was Chip Kelly fired because he couldn’t coach? Eliot Shorr-Parks of N.J. Advance Media for NJ.com, reported that former player, Brandon Boykin was quoted as saying that Kelly didn’t treat his players like professionals. Daily News columnist, Marcus Hayes reported that Kelly’s first draft pick, Lane Johnson described Kelly as “having too much power,” “not being human about things”, and “being a dictator.” According to Hayes, “Johnson painted a picture of paranoia, a locker room where criticism and complaint would be met with the punishment of marginalization, and eventually unemployment.” Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports said, referring to Kelly: “His autocratic tendencies got the best of him.” “His allies were few and far between.”

According to a Fox TV commentator, “The coach creates the environment for the chemistry to develop.” It seems as though Kelly wasn’t able to create that kind of environment because he lacked the ability to empathize with his players.


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