Doug Pederson got to know Andy Reid as a backup quarterback in Green Bay, then as his starter in Philadelphia, before coaching under him with the Eagles and helping him build Kansas City into the juggernaut it is today.
“How many years is that?” asked Pederson, who is just a couple weeks shy of his 55th birthday. “That’s a lot of years. That’s 28 years, almost 30 years. So that’s 30 years of my professional life that I’ve been influenced by him.”
Not surprisingly, the Jaguars coach learned a bit about offence – Reid is one of the game’s masterminds. He also learned how to run practices, develop talent, relate to players. But most importantly last week, he learned how to handle adversity, and that came in handy when Jacksonville faced a 27-0 hole in the wild-card round against the Chargers.
With preternatural calm, and an incredible second-half performance by quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Pederson’s Jaguars rallied for a 31-30 victory and a date with Reid’s Kansas City team in the divisional round Saturday in Kansas City.
“We never waver. He never wavers,” Jaguars linebacker Josh Allen explained. “Even when things happen, his approach never changes. It’s, ‘Let’s move on to the next one with a sense the urgency.’ That’s the biggest takeaway.”
Given his background, that shouldn’t be a surprise.
“The coaches I’ve played for were all very level-headed,” Pederson said this week. “Never got too high, never got too low. Yeah, they can get emotional, but never really coached that way. Stayed level-headed.”
One of those coaches, of course, will be on the opposite sideline Saturday.
“He played, obviously, and he knows the kind of coach he liked and didn’t like,” Reid said of his protege. “Within his own personality, he presents things in a friendly manner, yet he’s demanding of the guys. And I think that’s a positive.”
Pederson and Reid have matched wits plenty of times since going their separate ways, including earlier this season, when Kansas City rolled to a 27-17 victory over the Jaguars at Arrowhead Stadium.
At the time, KC was barrelling toward the No. 1 seed in the AFC, which ultimately gave them last week off, and the talented-but-rebuilding Jaguars were still trying to find their footing under their new coach.
Much has changed in the last two months. KC may not have lost since Dec. 4, but neither have the Jaguars, whose third-largest comeback in playoff history last week gives them plenty of swagger heading into the rematch.
“That’s the biggest difference, that they might have more confidence because they’re winning,” KC quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “They’re a talented team. I knew that the first time we played them. They made a few mistakes here and there and that’s why we got the win the first time.
“But we know we’re going to get their best.”
Mahomes has never lost in four starts in the divisional round, beating Indianapolis, Houston, Cleveland and Buffalo. All those games were played at Arrowhead Stadium, including last year’s thriller against the Bills, when the teams combined for 25 points over the final 2 minutes of regulation before Kansas City won 42-36 in overtime.
Lawrence’s Saturday success will be put to the test in Kansas City. The Jaguars quarterback is 37-0 on that day, a winning streak that spans his time at Cartersville High School, Clemson and the last two weekends in Jacksonville. “Honestly, kind of a coincidence,” Lawrence said, “that I’ve had Saturday games on all three levels.” Turns out Pederson is pretty good on Saturday, too. He’s 3-0 as the head coach in Philadelphia and Jacksonville.
I can’t hear you
Lawrence unwittingly provided some bulletin-board material Tuesday, though not for KC so much as its fans, who in 2014 set mark recognized by the Guinness World Records for “loudest crowd roar” of 142.2 decibels during a win over the Patriots. “I can’t imagine it will be much louder than our fans were here on Saturday,” Lawrence said. Pederson knows better: “Nothing prepares you for [Arrowhead Stadium],” he said. “I can turn the noise here as loud as I want, and it’s not going to make an impact. But it’s loud for them. It’s loud for their defence. And we both have to play in it, obviously. It’s a great atmosphere, and these fans are passionate … obviously, and it’s the loudest for a reason.”
Most of the Jaguars defence will be focused on tight end Travis Kelce, and for good reason: He caught 110 passes this season, one off Tyreek Hill’s club record. That’s the approach other teams have taken, too. But seldom-used running back Jerick McKinnon has taken advantage of it, getting loose for TD passes in each of the past six games. That’s pretty good production for a 30-year-old journeyman making less than US$1.3-million on a one-year deal.
The Jaguars have trailed in nine of their past 10 games, including six by double digits, though the “Comeback Cats” went on to win seven of them. One of the losses was in Kansas City, where mounting a comeback is exceptionally difficult. “When you get this far into the postseason now, everything matters,” Pederson said. “Every mistake is magnified. Every turnover is magnified. Every point you can get. You’re playing an explosive offense; you better score touchdowns.”