JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BVM) – Doug Pederson experienced the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows during his opening tenure as an NFL head coach. Those successes and challenges have culminated into one of the more interesting career paths of recent coaches.
After entering the 2017 season as a team on the rise, the Philadelphia Eagles blew past their expectations following a 7-9 campaign the year prior. Behind an MVP–caliber season from quarterback Carson Wentz and a historic playoff run from Nick Foles, Pederson would help guide the Eagles through adverse situations throughout the year to provide the team’s first ever Lombardi Trophy.
The shocking upset win in Super Bowl LII over Tom Brady and the Patriots had put Pederson in rare air, becoming part of a small list of opponents who had gotten past New England in the final game. With momentum riding high, the Eagles head coach looked primed to be one of the next offensive gurus to take over the league. With an MVP-level quarterback and a Super Bowl-winning defense, things seemed like they were lining up for the Eagles to become a yearly contender.
But Pederson and the team would reach the first sign of a changing tide during the 2018 season. After missing the first two games of the regular season, Wentz would return in 2018 but would be unable to recapture the MVP-caliber play he had once showcased.
Behind a 5-6 record as the starter, Wentz’s season would once again flame out after a back injury sidelined him for the remainder of the campaign. The injury would give way for Foles to work his playoff magic again as he worked past the Chicago Bears in the NFL Wildcard series before bowing out just a few plays short of another NFC Championship game appearance.
Pederson’s ability to adapt on the fly had come to the forefront during his three seasons with the team, but a brewing clash at the quarterback position had started to arise. With another injury and up-and-down play the following year, Wentz and Pederson’s relationship had seemingly reached a breaking point as the issues between the quarterback and the team became more prevalent. The strained relationship would go even further during the 2020 NFL Draft after the Eagles selected quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round.
For Pederson, questions had followed him throughout his previous seasons surrounding his ability to win without having his former assistants, Frank Reich and John DeFilippo.
As Wentz’s up-and-down play continued throughout the 2020 season, so would the play of the Eagles. Pederson’s once highly-regarded culture started to crumble during the team’s final regular-season game after the Philadelphia coach supplanted Jalen Hurts for third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld, a move looked at during the time as something done deliberately in the hope of losing.
The unraveling of what seemed to be a perfect relationship between Pederson and the organization made way as the team decided between the current head coach and general manager Howie Roseman during the 2020 offseason. As Roseman survived, Pederson would find himself looking for a gig elsewhere, leaving with a 46-39-1 coaching record.
A year away from the field would allow Pederson to seemingly hit the open market at the perfect time. As Jacksonville looked to move on from its year-long coaching controversy, Pederson seemed primed to be the candidate to change it.
With a myriad of problems to address, the former Eagles coach enters into what should make for an interesting upcoming season as he looks to undo the mess that Urban Meyer left behind. With another top quarterback pick to develop in Trevor Lawrence, Pederson is hoping he can show that he’s grown from his experience in Philadelphia and that his relationship with the quarterback won’t be an issue.
The new Jaguars head coach will have his work cut out for him after taking over a team that secured just three victories throughout the 2021 season. With the hope that Lawrence is a generational type of quarterback, the fate of his development has been entrusted in the hands of Pederson, who has shown he can get the most out of the position.
In Wentz’s near MVP season, the current Washington Commanders quarterback passed for 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
As 2021 first-round pick Travis Etienne returns for his opening year, the team as a whole will look a lot different after the additions from the past offseason, headlined by guard Brandon Scherff, wide receiver Christian Kirk, and tight end Evan Engram.
Even with the recent signings, the 54-year-old has tried to keep realistic expectations for the upcoming year and knows this isn’t a one–year fix.
“I’m trying to turn this into a winning program, a winning organization,” Pederson told NFL.com. “Do you learn from the past? Of course. Do you study it? Of course. At the same time, my focus has always been a forward-thinking approach to everything we do.
“It’s not an overnight fix. It’s going to be a fix that we’ve got to do one player at a time, one coach at a time, and get it turned around.”
With what should be an open division in the AFC South, don’t put it past Pederson to turn things around quickly, his resume proves it.