Jason Kelce Gets Real on Eagles Trying to Tank: ‘This Isn’t Basketball’

Doug Pederson

Getty Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is on the hot seat in Philadelphia.

Leave it to Jason Kelce to keep it real. The Philadelphia Eagles All-Pro center was asked about rookies seeing more playing time down the stretch when he went on a rant about winning. You see, football players aren’t wired to lose like maybe some guys in other sports are — and the Eagles’ organization values a winning culture above everything else.

Kelce will start his 103rd consecutive game this week in midnight green, a credit to both his longevity and the franchise’s faith in him. Kelce has been a stabilizing force in the locker room through the years and hasn’t endured many losing seasons. The crafty veteran has made the playoffs four times (out of 10) while finishing with a record below .500 on just three occasions. It’s hard to win in the NFL, but there is no intentional tanking. Ever.

“You know, in football — this isn’t basketball. One draft pick isn’t going to make us a Super Bowl champion,” Kelce told reporters earlier this week. “It might be a big start to a Super Bowl championship, but it’s always going to be about the team. That’s the greatest thing about this sport.”

Kelce’s teams have gone 85-78-1 (including the playoffs) in his 10-year career. He’s not opposed to letting the rookies learn on the fly, as long as it doesn’t distract from winning football games.

“That being said, I think, at all times in the NFL, the focus should be winning the football game. Nothing else takes precedence,” Kelce said. “No player evaluation, no amount of curiosity, from anybody within the organization. Everything is focused, in my opinion, in this league, upon winning games.”

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Vote of Confidence for Doug Pederson

Let the outsiders talk about Doug Pederson possibly losing his job. Kelce sees a man who has held the locker room together and kept everyone on course. Pederson may not be the “genius” offensive mind everyone thought he was but he’s a master motivator. That’s enough to warrant respect from his players.

“I think a great head coach is a guy that is a great motivator,” Kelce said. “I mean, is it important to be a genius? It helps, I guess. Is it important to be a big rah-rah guy? It helps. But the most important thing is, does this guy relate to people and does he motivate people?”

The latter is Pederson’s best characteristic, per Kelce, and it shows up on the field. No one has stopped fighting. No one has given up hope.

“I know that Doug built an environment that empowers individuals, empowers players, empowers his coaches underneath him to be the best that they can be,” Kelce said. “In my opinion, that’s the best quality/trait we can have in a leader, and it’s a lot harder to find than I think is often credited.”

Eagles Fighting for NFC East Crown

The Eagles sit at 4-8-1 and somehow, miraculously, still control their own destiny to a certain degree. If they can string together three more wins, there’s a good chance they can win the NFC East and host a home playoff game in Philadelphia. Go figure.

“I think it’s part of my job to make sure the guys understand that we still control our own destiny,” Pederson said. “We need a little help obviously the next couple weeks, but we just got to take care of our business and see what happens here at the end of the year.”

That would mark four straight postseason appearances for the Eagles under Pederson, including a Super Bowl championship in 2017. It might be hard to fire a coach with a track record like that, although Pederson knows it’s on the table.

“But we got to have success throughout the entire season, like we did in ’17 and parts of ’18,” Pederson said. “You just never want to come down to the — you want to be playing your best ball, I understand that, in the last month of the season and giving yourself an opportunity.”


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