Plan to Win
By Coach Doug Pederson
You have to have your team members, players and coaches involved to successfully deliver on a plan.
For a plan to be successful, you can obviously write it out on paper. But the paper’s not going to go execute it. You have to have your team members, players and coaches involved in order to successfully deliver on a plan.
The town I grew up in — Ferndale, Washington — is a small community of about 5,000 people. My parents knew everyone in town, and I went to a small school.
There’s something very special about having small-town roots. So many ties. Your family; aunts, uncles and other relatives that are still there. I still feel connected to that part of the country. It’s also where I knew football was my true calling.
At that time, sports were what I loved to do. You know, playing wiffleball in the front yard, shooting hoops in the driveway, or playing football with our neighbors. That was life growing up in Ferndale.
I was about nine or ten years old when I first started playing football and loved it. It’s when I knew I had dreams and goals. And it’s when I started telling my parents that one day I would love to play in the league.
As a sophomore in high school, I started at quarterback for the first time. Even though I excelled in baseball as well, by my senior year, I knew football was my true calling. I just loved watching the sport and wanted to play in college on Saturdays. I started thinking about goals versus planning for them. Getting to college meant planning on being the best football player I could be, along with good grades and staying out of trouble.
When I got to college in Louisiana, my plan was still to be the best football player I could be with the goal of being drafted into the league. I did everything in my power to prepare myself properly for the next step.
But, I didn’t get that call.
I knew I could play, but just needed an opportunity to do it. So even though my plan had a deviation, I had hopes, dreams and goals. I knew I had to do something. I focused even harder on my preparation to be ready for whenever I could get my foot in the door. I knew not to worry about what I couldn’t control, but react to what I could — which were my next steps.
Work hard, continue to prepare and have a support structure, including my wife, Jeannie. She was right there by my side during those times I was picked up, cut and signed again.
And sometimes, all you need is a break. Things began to go my way a little bit. Somehow, some way I got my foot in the door, and I ended up in Green Bay. I was given an opportunity and told myself I’d make the most of it.
When I think about the early years of my pro career, it was a lot to plan for. Starting out in Miami, followed by a minor league, then a stop in Carolina. Everything went back to the day I wasn’t drafted and how it forced me to work even harder to achieve my goal. My goal was to play pro ball, and I kept my eyes on the prize. Even though there were setbacks early in my career, I never lost that focus.
I started thinking about the future during my second time in Green Bay. Toward the end of my career, I began feeling like coaching was in my future. That’s where I started to plan for that opportunity. I loved working with the offensive staff, but I wasn’t putting game plans together yet.
I was helping teammates implement those plans every week. And, I began asking questions of coaches around the league and considering which level of the game to pursue: pro, college or high school.
The best piece of advice I got was to determine if I really enjoyed teaching the game of football. So, a few years after retiring, I decided to dive into high school ball. It gave me insight on putting game plans together and implementing them in practice. I honestly thought I was going to stay in high school ball forever. I never thought about being a professional coach; I just wanted to be the best high school coach I could be. But it seemed like the more success I had, the more I was drawn to the next step, which was getting back to pro ball.
So, I left high school coaching for the league. When I retired from playing, I knew the first conversation I needed to have was with my wife to help me step from one chapter of my life to another. Returning to pro ball also wasn’t an easy decision, so I got my family involved. We had to prepare and plan for their futures. And I needed to be ready when that phone call came.
The years of preparation — my high school and college playing days, plus 14 years as a pro — readied me for the jump. Being around legendary players and coaches helped shape my philosophy, mentality and belief system. I leaned on my experience as a player for my first professional coaching job as quality control assistant with Philadelphia. From there, I had a plan to progress into a quarterback coach’s role.
That led me to Kansas City, where I became an offensive coordinator. I went from coaching a few players to about twenty-five. Everything I learned along the way brought me here and got me excited for the next step: becoming a head coach.
Game planning for the Eagles head coaching interview wasn’t easy. I talked with my agent and we built a plan, along with all the research I needed to do. I scrambled and pulled together a two-inch binder with all the information. I planned and prepared for that interview — and prepared Kansas City for a playoff game that week. We lost the game, but I got the call.
Within the first two weeks of accepting, I started planning for my first season with a philosophy built around creating energy, eliminating distractions, not fearing failure and being proactive. Even when the plan changed, like near the end of our championship season, we refocused and remembered that we have a lot of individuals but come together for a common goal. I told them, “One man can make a difference, but a team can make a miracle.”
Being able to plan for the unexpected isn’t easy. There are going to be setbacks along the way. Don’t spend an ounce of your time worrying about things you can’t control. Trust your plan because you put it there in the first place. Stick to what you believe in to get through the rough times. Allowing people to see your vision shows direction, provides accountability and helps everybody around you to become a part of the solution. And that all starts with you.