It took a while, but the Jaguars are hiring the man they began this entire process with, former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson. Pederson now becomes the team’s ninth head coach and seventh full-time coach, taking over for Urban Meyer who lasted just 13 weeks into the 2021 season.
Pederson would win the Eagles its first-ever (post-merger) Super Bowl, Super Bowl LII, in the 2017 season, defeating the New England Patriots 41-33, in one of the most exciting Super Bowls in recent memory.
Jacksonville initially interviewed Pederson 35 days ago, the first of their extensive interview process that saw plenty of ups and downs as reports of dysfunction and confusion surfaced throughout the hunt. In the end, though, the team got their guy, one that is expected to groom franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence as he enters his second season in the NFL.
In all, Jacksonville spoke with a total of 10 coaches, including Pederson. Pederson was the only coach the team interviewed twice in person.
Other candidates that received a second interview following their initial talks with the team were Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus, who was the Indianapolis Colts’ defensive coordinator prior to being hired by the Bears.
Though this began and ended in a rocky fashion for Jacksonville, I believe they made the correct decision on their lead man. What comes next and the questions that remain to be answered will be important, though, in deciding just how successful the Pederson era in Jacksonville will be.
With that said, here are 4 observations of the hire, one that comes with plenty of intrigue and questions:
Jaguars sought experience, got plenty of it, especially considering QB position
Early on in the process, the Jaguars were intrigued by plenty of candidates of all types, including first-year coaches such as Leftwich, now-Denver Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett, formerly the Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator, Eberflus, Dallas Cowboys OC Kellen Moore, among others.
However, they began this process with two of the more qualified and experienced candidates in Pederson and former Colts and Lions HC Jim Caldwell. Both have taken trips to Super Bowls, though only Pederson won as an HC. Both have had plenty of success.
The team’s early ideas were fair and accurate. The team sought out someone who could not only get a grip on the current state of the Jaguars’ roster, adding a coach that has had success and comes from a winning background, but also one that has had plenty of experiences at developing quarterbacks.
Pederson and Caldwell both checked those boxes, with Pederson coming out as the winner in the end.
During his five seasons as the Eagles’ HC, Pederson oversaw development from both Carson Wentz and Nick Foles. Foles would later become the MVP of Super Bowl LII.
Though Wentz’s tenure with the Eagles would come to a sloppy end, his first four seasons were plenty encouraging, including his second year as the team’s QB.
His best year would come when Philly made it to the Super Bowl. He’d complete 60.2% of his passes, completing 265 out of 440, while tossing 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. His 7.5% touchdown percentage was the highest mark in the NFL. He was selected to the Pro Bowl, though couldn’t participate due to injury.
In his next two seasons in 2018 and 2019, Wentz would toss 21 and 27 touchdowns, respectively, while posting just seven interceptions in each season. Due to injuries, Wentz played in just 11 games in 2018, while he played in all 16 games in 2019.
In the year the Eagles won its Super Bowl, Foles would start three games in the regular season, playing in seven, completing 57 out of 101 of his passes for 537 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions.
His play in the playoffs that year, completing 72.6% of his passes while throwing 971 yards, six touchdowns and one interception, was spectacular, playing and starting all three playoff contests.
Pederson's acumen as a developer of the QB position is well-documented, working under former Eagles and current Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid in various positions for seven years.
Pederson ultimately finished his tenure with the Eagles with a 42-37-1 record, posting just two losing seasons out of five, while finishing his final season 4-11-1. He’d make the playoffs three times.
It’s clear, though, that Jaguars owner Shad Khan wanted a proven winner.
“Doug Pederson four years ago won a Super Bowl as head coach of a franchise in pursuit of its first world championship,” Owner Shad Khan said via a statement late Thursday night.
“I hope Doug can replicate that magic here in Jacksonville, but what is certain is his proven leadership and experience as a winning head coach in the National Football League. It’s exactly what our players deserve. Nothing less.”
The Jaguars have gone 41-118 under Khan in the regular season since he took over in 2012. Pederson has one more regular season in just five years as a head coach. He’s won.
Hiring an offensive coach was no surprise, Exactly what was needed
It was clear early on in the process the Jaguars intended to seek out a head coach that how a knack for coaching the offensive side of the football. This was the case not only for Lawrence’s development but also to ignite a flame that appeared completely extinguished in 2021.
Khan indicated as such in his statement released shortly after the team made Pederson’s hire official, too.
“Combine this (being a coach that has won in the league) with his acumen on the offensive side of the ball, and you have why I am proud to name Doug Pederson the new head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars,” he said.
As the Eagles’ head coach, Pederson’s offenses ranked 22nd in yards during his first year but would sky-rocket up to seventh in the NFL the next season. It would go from 16th in points to third, with Pederson calling the plays.
They’d rank 14th in yards the next two seasons (2018 and 2019), while dropping to 24th during his final year.
In DVOA. the Eagles ranked 20th (2016), 3rd (2017), 16th (2018), 14th (2019) and 28th (2020) during his tenure.
By contrast, the Jaguars were one of the worst offenses in 2021, ranking 27th in yards, 32nd in points and 22nd in passing yards. The team posted the 27th-overall offensive DVOA in the league.
The Jaguars interviewed a total of seven offensive coaches, including Pederson. The three outliers were former Las Vegas Raiders special teams coach Rich Bisaccia, Eberflus and Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
Pederson’s staff will be equally as important
While Pederson has been successful as a play-caller, QB developer and as a head coach in the league, his staff was one of the dark marks on his tenure as the Eagles’ lead man. Both offensively and defensively, there were routinely issues that propped up, especially following the team’s Super Bowl run.
Those issues came up near the end of his tenure, too, with passing-game coordinator Press Taylor, among other issues that centered around Pederson and his relationship with Eagles GM Howie Roseman. During his tenure, Pederson had four different coordinators for offense, including Taylor, run-game coordinator Jeff Soutland, Mike Groh and Frank Reich.
Reich, of course, would go on to be the head coach with the Colts, while Groh would be let go after two years as the team’s OC.
Pederson is a loyal person, perhaps to a fault at times, staying firm with his decisions and coaches that he brings in with him.
The Jaguars have already lost out on hiring Kansas City Chiefs QB coach Mike Kafka, slated to join the New York giants as the tram’s OC, but perhaps Pederson can be reunited with former Bears coach Matt Nagy in the not so distant future, while Taylor also remains an option, albeit likely not popular.
Defensively, Pederson was saddled with Jim Schwartz as his DC, and while he had major success, that tapered off near the end. Seeing who Pederson gets as first officially hired DC will be important and intriguing.
Perhaps, though, that can be corrected in Jacksonville id Pederson can land former Broncos coach Vic Fangio, who reportedly interviewed in Jacksonville.
Perhaps that can be a great trait, but it will be something to watch moving forward as who Pederson ultimately decides to hitch his wagon to, especially defensively, will be paramount.
Jaguars front office remains a great concern, Questions must be answered
Though the Jaguars ultimately landed one of the more qualified and highly-thought-of coaches in this year’s cycle, the team did a poor job of managing the search, at least optically. Most of the concern centered around the team’s structure and alignment of its front office.
The fact that Pederson’s second interview would come 35 days following his first also points to some confusion along the way: why did it take so long?
Prior to Pederson’s hiring, the Jaguars were reportedly slated to hire Leftwich. That of course would never come to fruition as the team marched on, interviewing other candidates.
The team also, reportedly, struggled to get coaches to buy into their general manager in Trent Baalke, who was a deterrent, reportedly, and according to various sources, throughout the process for many canidiates, including Leftwich.
Amazing at Senior Bowl the chatter is Byron Leftwich made a mistake that he made it known that he couldn't work with Trent Baalke when the question was presented to him. He suggested the Jaguars should hire his guy Adrian Wilson as GM.— John Reid (@JohnReid64) February 3, 2022
That led to plenty of speculation of Baalke’s status, yet none of that was answered and still has yet to be answered by the Jaguars or Khan.
Perhaps the confirmation of many beliefs that Baalke and the team’s current front-office structure as a problem, the team has interviewed former Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman for some high-level front office role, according to reports.
From @gmfb: The #Jaguars continue to work toward adding former #Vikings GM Rick Spielman to their front office. Sources tell us at @nflnetwork progress has been made, though nothing is done yet. Doug Pederson remains in the mix for the HC job. pic.twitter.com/g43SCSLzTZ— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) February 3, 2022
If that’s the case, why wasn’t that done before? That’s a question that will be answered in the coming days, and something of a concern as the hiring of Pederson continues to cement. Without a doubt the Jaguars’ process was mismanaged, optically, but just how much of an impact it will make in the end remains to be seen.
One other red mark on the team’s search occurred just last week when the team reportedly was slated to interview Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell. Well, that would never happen as they missed the boat due to the Rams making the Super Bowl.
Another failure of the process brought confusion among league circles throughout the week about what the Jaguars were doing.