The Super Bowl will be the first time that Doug Pederson will match wits with and try to outscheme Bill Belichick as a head coach.
But Pederson, in his second season with the Philadelphia Eagles, has experience defeating the New England Patriots’ coaching legend as a player.
In 2000, Pederson was a 32-year-old quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.
Belichick was in his first season as the Patriots’ coach, five years after he was fired by the Browns.
Pederson completed 20 of 37 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown in a 19-11 victory at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
On Tuesday, Pederson said the victory was “definitely one of the milestones” of his 10-year career.
Defeating the five-time Super Bowl champion Patriots and Belichick on Sunday would be even bigger.
Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks has played four NFL seasons with nothing but Hall of Fame-bound quarterbacks.
Last March, the Patriots traded for Cooks, providing Tom Brady with a speedy threat.
“I’ve thought about it,” Cooks said when asked to consider Brees’ and Brady’s lofty status. “I’m definitely fortunate. They’re two great guys. Not just great players but great friends as well.
“Extremely blessed in that aspect.”
Cooks caught 65 passes for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns this season. He had a combined nine receptions for 132 yards in playoff victories over the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars.
“It’s an OK season — I wouldn’t say it was a great season,” Cooks said. “If it was great season there would be a lot more production, and that’s on me. I’ve got to be better.”
Patriots receiver Danny Amendola described Cooks as “the ultimate professional” because of his preparation, body-maintenance discipline and ability to meld easily into a culture accustomed to winning.
“I remember I had a conversation with him early,” Amendola said. “It was just about, ‘Don’t worry about everything, and have the ability to adapt and change.’ ”
Cooks said he does not compare situations or teammates. Asked if other receivers in the league rib him for his good fortune to have played with Brees and Brady, he said no.
“They’re usually happy with their quarterbacks as well,” he said.
Safety in numbers
The Eagles’ Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod form one of the NFL’s most effective safety combinations.
Jenkins, a ninth-year pro in his fourth season with the Eagles, was voted to the Pro Bowl for the second time.
McLeod signed a five-year, $35-million contract with the Eagles in 2016 after four seasons with the Rams.
“It’s been a heck of a journey, just knowing I came into Philadelphia for this moment right here,” said McLeod, who began his career as an undrafted free agent from Virginia. “And now I’m five days away from making it happen. And that’s winning this thing.”
McLeod said the Rams tried to re-sign him after the 2015 season. He remains in contact with former teammates, some of whom he played against in a Week 14 victory at the Coliseum.
“I have a lot of guys I came in with,” he said. “I consider them my brothers, so I keep in touch and wish them the best. That was an emotional game when we played them.
“They’re my friends and brothers for life.”
Now he is happy to be playing alongside Jenkins.
“That’s one reason why I came over to Philadelphia, because of Malcolm,” McLeod said. “His caliber as a player, he’s smart, physical, everything.
“And I can learn a lot from him. He’s an intelligent guy, and so from Day 1, I’ve just been picking his brain.
“We work well together. We see the game similar. And it’s gone from Year 1 to Year 2, and I think that has a lot to do with our success.”
The Patriots’ decision to sign linebacker James Harrison late last month has paid off.
Harrison, 39, helped strip the ball from Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles during the AFC title game. It was the latest in a series of plays the veteran has made since his release by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Harrison said he was still working out the kinks of playing in a new defense without the benefit of offseason workouts, minicamps and training camp.
“Nothing is a smooth transition when you’ve got to learn a new defense, especially 16 weeks, 17 weeks in,” he said.
Harrison said he felt “comfortable with certain things — and certain things you don’t.
“That’s just the nature of learning things. Getting out there, practicing them and getting comfortable.”
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski says he expects to play Sunday but would leave his status up to those in charge of making medical decisions.
Gronkowski has been in the league’s concussion protocol after taking a hit from Jacksonville’s Barry Church in the AFC championship game.
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein