Doug Pederson's Packers comparison puts a bullseye on his back

Doug Pederson's Packers comparison puts a bullseye on his back

It was one of those remarks that at the time you kind of assume you misheard.

Doug Pederson didn't really just say the 2017 Eagles have more talent than the Super Bowl Packers teams he once played for.

Did he?

By now, everybody has seen or heard Pederson's remark, which he made in a group session with beat writers earlier this summer:

"I look back on my time in Green Bay as a player when we were making those playoff runs, those Super Bowl runs there. And do we have as much talent on this team than we did then? We probably have more talent, right?"

Pederson spent seven years with the Packers either as the No. 2 or No. 3 quarterback— 1996 through 1998 and, after stints starting for the Eagles and Browns, 2001 through 2004. And the Packers reached the playoffs in all seven of those seasons, made two Super Bowls, won seven playoff games, and averaged 11.6 wins per year.

So while Pederson won't come out in public and say what his goals for the 2017 Eagles are — “I’m not one to make bold predictions” — that comment about the Brett Favre Packers and the Carson Wentz Eagles is awfully revealing.

Pederson believes this is a playoff team, a 10- or 11-win team, a team that should be able to not only reach the postseason but also do some damage once it gets there.

Pederson couched his remark with a disclaimer about Wentz staying healthy, about how everything has to "blend" together, and about how talented teams don't always have success and how a lot of factors go into it.

Pederson spoke for about 40 minutes that day and when he was finished and about to leave the room, I double-checked with him to make sure he meant what I had heard … that this year's Eagles team is as talented as the Packers teams that had a Hall of Fame quarterback in Favre, a Hall of Fame defensive end in Reggie White and stars like receiver Antonio Freeman, four-time all-pro safety LeRoy Butler, running back Dorsey Levens, safety Eugene Robinson, pass rusher Sean Jones and so on.

He couldn’t have been clearer.

"Yeah, I think we're there," Pederson said. "It's just bringing it all together, though, that's the thing. Bringing it all together."

The Eagles certainly did upgrade their talent level this offseason. At least on paper.

Doug Pederson: Eagles 'probably' more talented than '90s Super Bowl Packers

Doug Pederson: Eagles 'probably' more talented than '90s Super Bowl Packers

It's been so long since the Eagles won a playoff game there are only three players still active in the NFL who've worn an Eagles jersey in a playoff victory: Brent Celek, Trent Cole and DeSean Jackson. And Cole may be finished.

It's been almost a decade since the Eagles beat the Giants in a conference semifinal game after the 2008 season. They haven't won a postseason game since, and second-year head coach Doug Pederson's job is to end that streak.

Now.

Howie Roseman brought him receivers, defensive linemen, offensive linemen, corners and a running back, and with Carson Wentz now in Year 2, everything points that way.

Does Pederson think this team is ready to finally make a run?

"I think you’re capable," he said. "There are a lot of (factors). I look back on my time in Green Bay as a player when we were making those playoff runs, those Super Bowl runs there. And do we have as much talent on this team than we did then? We probably have more talent, right?

"But we also had a lot of talent in 2010, here, and where did that get us?"

Pederson spent 1996 through 1998 and 2001 through 2004 backing up Brett Favre in Green Bay, and the Packers reached the postseason in all seven of those seasons, winning seven playoff games and reaching two Super Bowls, winning one.

If the Eagles have as much talent as those Packers teams, shouldn't 10-6 and a playoff berth be a reasonable goal? Maybe more?

"It’s hard to put a number on that," Pederson said. "There’s a lot of things that factor into a season. You can lose your quarterback on opening day."

OK, what if Wentz stays healthy? Is 10 wins a reasonable goal?

“It still goes back to, 'There’s a lot of those factors,' " he said. "So it’s hard to put a number. I’m not going to put myself in a box that way, obviously. It’s still a game-by-game mentality. We focus on our division. We focus on the NFC East, we start there. We have to win those games, focus on those. We focus on the NFC. There’s layers."

The Eagles have reached the playoffs three times since reaching the 2008 NFC Championship Game — 2009 and 2010 under Andy Reid and 2013 under Chip Kelly — only to lose in the wild-card round each time.

The eight-year gap without a playoff win is the Eagles' longest since they went 11 years from 1981 through 1991. The three years without even reaching the postseason matches the franchise's longest drought since a six-year drought from 1982 through 1987.

The Eagles are one of 12 teams that hasn't won a playoff game the last eight years and also one of 12 that hasn't reached the playoffs the last three years.

After winning 10 playoff games and reaching five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl from 2000 through 2008, it's been a dismal eight seasons.

"There has to be a combination of blending all of this talent with a coaching staff, with my ideas and philosophy, to bring all that together, with the egos aside — put pride aside — and just go focus on winning this game that we have in front of us," Pederson said. 

"I’m a big believer that if you do that, then you look back at the end of the season, and you’re probably going to be where you want to be, and that’s playing in the postseason."

The last Eagles head coach to not reach the playoffs in his first two years (not counting the 1987 strike season)?

Marion Campbell in 1983 and 1984.

But if this team has as much talent as those Packers powerhouses, they have to get there this year, right?

“I’m not one to make predictions or bold predictions but obviously (we want) to show the incremental improvement from last season and get better as a football team," Pederson said.

"Ultimately, you're judged and critiqued on Super Bowl wins and getting yourself into the postseason."

The Eagles won their first three games last year, then went 2-9 over the next 11, then won their last two, including the finale over the Cowboys' backups.

It marked the franchise's first back-to-back losing seasons since 1998 and 1999.

“By no means are you satisfied with 7-9, and you definitely want to get better," Pederson said.

"I want to get better personally as a head football coach, not only from managing the football team but also with play calling and just the little things, working with Carson Wentz, spending more time on special teams and defense, getting to know those schemes and philosophies as well. … You’re definitely trying to get yourself better."

How does Pederson define a successful season?

This is a franchise that has gone 56 years without a championship. They are one of only 13 current NFL franchises without a title since 1961, although four of the others — the Chiefs (Texans), Bills, Oilers and Chargers — won AFL titles before the merger.

“Oh, man, if you win the Super Bowl," he said. "That’s a successful year. Thirty-one teams failed to win the Super Bowl. I think if you’re not winning or playing in that game, everyone’s trying the next year.

"I think success can be measured in a few different (ways). If we go 8-8 is that a successful year? I don’t coach to be average. I’ll tell you that. These players don’t practice the way they do to be average. We’re all in this together. We’ll just continue to work every single day until we get to that goal.” 

Doug Pederson: Carson Wentz felt Eagles asked too much of him at times

Doug Pederson: Carson Wentz felt Eagles asked too much of him at times

Carson Wentz felt too much was resting on his rookie shoulders last year, head coach Doug Pederson said this week.

Pederson, in an interview with Comcast SportsNet's John Clark, said he hopes to "take a little bit off" Wentz's plate in 2017.

Wentz threw 607 passes last year, second most in NFL history by a rookie and more passes than Kurt Warner, John Elway, Carson Palmer, Donovan McNabb or Joe Montana ever threw in a season.

Or all but 20 quarterbacks in NFL history.

The Eagles' leading receiver had just 816 yards. Their leading rusher had just 661 rushing yards. Their star right tackle missed most of the season because of a suspension. Their Pro Bowl center struggled much of the season. Their only two reliable pass catchers missed time with injuries.

With a shaky running game and one of the weakest groups of wide receivers in recent NFL history, it all fell on Wentz. He was forced to carry the offense — and the team — on many occasions.

In fact, he threw an astonishing 422 passes from Week 7 through the end of the season, the seventh-most passes in NFL history over the last 10 weeks of a season.

The Eagles finished 7-9 after a 3-0 start and Wentz finished with 3,782 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

But the Eagles went out and added numerous offensive weapons — veteran receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, rookie draft picks Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson, veteran running back LeGarrette Blount and rookie running back Donnel Pumphrey.

Pederson has said he would like to run the ball more next season and be more balanced, but his admission that Wentz felt like too much was asked of him a year ago was a first.

“I think you can take a little bit off of Carson," Pederson said when asked what he'd like to change in 2017. "What I mean by that is I don’t think you have to load his plate every Sunday. I think now with the addition of LeGarrette Blount in the running game and the receivers we have, I think now that you have opportunities to take a little pressure [off].

"Everything doesn’t have to fall on Carson’s shoulders and I think sometimes a little bit last year he felt that way and things had to fall his way a little bit to make a play and I don’t think we have to do that this year."

Wentz threw 35 or more passes 10 times. No rookie in NFL history has ever had more games with 35 or more passes.

But it's not just the number of passes Wentz threw that Pederson would like to reduce. He also just thinks all the new weapons will alleviate some of the pressure on Wentz to do it all himself.

"I think we can be patient," Pederson said. "We still want to be ball-control like we were last year, but I think now with the opportunities we have, that he has, creating plays I think it will just benefit Carson and the team as a whole."