John Harbaugh's memories of Doug Pederson, 20 years later

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Updated: 1:14 p.m.

In the summer of 1999, Doug Pederson was the Eagles' opening day quarterback and John Harbaugh was the Eagles' unknown special teams coach, just two years removed from coaching special teams and defensive backs at the University of Indiana.

Twenty years later, they're both Super Bowl champion head coaches, and today and Tuesday their teams will practice against each other at the NovaCare Complex.

Harbaugh, who spent 10 years with the Eagles before joining the Ravens after the 2007 season, loves telling the story of the Eagles-Buccaneers 1999 Week 2 game at the Vet. 

As he told the story, this happened opening day in the Eagles-Cards game at the Vet, but it was actually a week later.

The Bucs led the Eagles, 13-5, late in the second quarter when a Troy Vincent interception of Trent Dilfer and 26-yard return gave the Eagles possession near midfield at the two-minute warning.

Pederson drove the Eagles down to the 9-yard line with 19 seconds left, but the clock was running and the Eagles didn't have any timeouts remaining.

Harbaugh picks up the story, as told to writers covering the Ravens Saturday at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills, Maryland.

Doug was the holder and Norm Johnson was the kicker and we worked on Bonzai field goal so many times in terms of running everybody out there when the clock's running and kicking the field goal," Harbaugh said. "And right before half it came up, and we're screaming, ‘Bonzai, Bonzai,' and I'm looking at the line and I see Doug and he's back there and the line's set up perfectly, and I'm like, ‘Yes, we got it, there's plenty of time left.' And then I noticed out of my left eye … there's no kicker. And here comes Norm running off the bench putting his helmet on and he's running out, and the ball was snapped, because Doug's smart, and he kicked it right on the run.

And? 

Harbaugh pauses for effect …

"Wide left," Harbaugh said sadly, and everybody laughed.

I ran to the locker room," Harbaugh said. "Andy [Reid] ran behind me. I out-ran him but he caught me in the locker room and asked what happened. That's quite a memory. You never forget those things.

Harbaugh and Pederson were together only that one year, but Pederson made a lasting impact on Harbaugh, especially in how he mentored rookie Donovan McNabb.

Andy brought him in for a reason, and the reason was he's sharp and he was a leader and he knew how Andy wanted to do things because he'd been in Green Bay with [Andy and] Mike Holmgren, knew the philosophy, and he was big that way," he said. "He was really good for Donovan, he was a great mentor for Donovan and taught him a lot of football, I'm sure Donovan would say that.

After joint practices, the Eagles and Ravens then meet at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Linc in a game that will likely be much less competitive than the two-hour full-pad mid-afternoon sessions today and Tuesday.

The reason so many NFL coaches value joint practices more than preseason games is because they can control the situation.

You could play a preseason game and not get a single red-zone play. But in a joint practice, you can run as many red-zone snaps as you want in a very competitive atmosphere.

Sometimes you don't get all the situations in a game that you'd like to see your players in," Pederson said. "I can set practices up that way. I can set them up hard. I can set them up where we're in pads or going live, whatever it might be [so] we can really get a true evaluation of a player. The only real change from a game to a practice is in a game you don't get to do it over. At least in a practice setting, if we make a mistake, we can line up and do it again, and so we can correct that mistake right away. In preseason games we can't do that. We get a little bit better evaluation in practice in that case.

These things can always get chippy, but both coaches have spoken to their teams about avoiding fights the next couple days and focusing on getting work done. 

Yeah, you want to be physical," Pederson said. "Obviously, you want to protect yourself, but at the same time we're here to get work in. That was my message to the team [Sunday] when they come in here: It's not about who's the bully. It's about getting work in, and getting quality work in. This is a good football team coming in here. This is the No. 1 ranked NFL defense a year ago. Offense is explosive and they have a great, elusive quarterback. This will be a good test for both sides of the ball for us and so we're excited about that. If you're worried about getting in a fight, then you're in the wrong business. We're here to get better and that's my message to the team.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

John Harbaugh's memories of Doug Pederson, 20 years later originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia