Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson spoke to the media at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis on Tuesday.
While Pederson didn’t get too deeply into Jacksonville’s draft plans or free agency strategy, he did have some interesting things to say about second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence, his relationship with Trent Baalke, the trust owner Shad Khan has in him and more.
“The Sky is the limit” for Trevor Lawrence
Of course, Lawrence’s name came up often during Pederson’s media availability at the combine. Lawrence needs to make a major second-year jump as a professional if the Jaguars plan on winning games in 2022. Pederson isn’t worried about Lawrence’s struggles as a rookie, or even Jacksonville’s struggles as a team in 2021, though, and is looking forward to the future.
“I take (it as) last year is last year and we’re starting fresh, we’re starting new and we’re starting from the ground floor,” Pederson said when asked about the difficulty of evaluating Lawrence’s performance as a rookie. “That’s what I’m excited about and that’s why just moving forward, big picture, that’s the great thing about taking over with having a young quarterback. Much like what we did in Philly with Carson (Wentz) and how in his second year we saw the growth and everything in him. Trevor (Lawrence) is coming into that second year this year and looking forward to working with him this spring. I think the sky is the limit. Obviously, we have some work to do. Nothing is perfect and we’re looking forward to that.”
"Sky's the limit."— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) March 1, 2022
New @Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson is anxious to get started with his new QB. pic.twitter.com/69byNtjPHQ
When asked if struggling and facing adversity is a good learning experience for young quarterbacks such as Lawrence, Pederson thinks there are some benefits to it.
“I think so (that struggling early could be a good thing to learn from),” Pederson said. “Just the short conversations that Trevor (Lawrence) and I have had already is the fact that he has an offseason now to relax. It’s hard on these young kids that are coming straight from college into this whole sort of rat race with all the moving parts through to training camp and a regular season, there’s no down time. Now, he finally has time to really focus on what he did last year, but at the same time kind of rest and heal and really put a good plan together for how we want to attack this season.”
Multiple times, Pederson compared the situation with Lawrence — a young, developing quarterback looking to significantly improve in his second year — to Carson Wentz’s sophomore campaign with the Philadelphia Eagles when Pederson was the head coach there.
Wentz was putting up MVP-caliber numbers in 2017 before a torn ACL ended his season prematurely. Of course, Pederson and the Eagles were still able to win the Super Bowl LII that season with Nick Foles at quarterback, and perhaps Wentz hasn’t been the same player since the injury, but there are parallels that Pederson can draw between Lawrence and Wentz.
One difference, though, is that Wentz had continuity with his offensive coaching staff from year one to year two, while Lawrence will have new coaches, terminology, schemes and more to learn.
“The biggest thing with Carson (Wentz), too is that I kept the staff together around him and you have continuity within the offense,” Pederson said. “And this is going to be a little different because we’re changing staffs, personnel and scheme a little bit (compared to what Trevor Lawrence had last year). I think the fundamental part of the game is not going to change and how we developed Carson from the ground up and that’s something we’re excited (about) with Mike McCoy being the quarterbacks coach, and obviously (offensive coordinator) Press (Taylor) and what he’s bringing, and (passing game coordinator) Jim Bob Cooter on offense and how we can really build Trevor from the ground up and get him to the type of quarterback that we know he can be at and be successful with the team.”
Doug Pederson has already impressed Jaguars owner Shad Khan and general manager Trent Baalke
HC Doug Pederson meets with the media on the first day of the 2022 NFL Combine. https://t.co/naqLG5cSCS— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) March 1, 2022
Much has been made about the Jaguars potentially hiring an executive vice president of football operations, as was Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s original plan this offseason. However, after watching Pederson work with general manager Trent Baalke for a few weeks now, Khan has paused the hiring process for an EVP. The franchise still plans to hire others under Baalke and Pederson to assist, however.
“I am pausing on the consideration of introducing an executive vice president of football,” Khan said in a statement. “In just over three weeks, Doug Pederson has instilled a structured and disciplined approach that is clearly making a difference in our culture and mindset. I feel we’re best served at this time by allowing Doug, Trent and their assistants to take ownership of our path forward.”
When Pederson was asked about what he has done to impress Khan and Baalke in the short period of time since he was hired on Feb. 3, Pederson had this to say:
“I think just coming in and being me,” Pederson said. “The relationship that Trent (Baalke) and I have built and continue to build every single day. I think it speaks volumes what our owner has said and he really has given the confidence to Trent and I to really build this thing. Not to say we can’t continue to add value in the personnel department, we could still do that. At the same time, it shows the confidence (Khan) has and really me just being me from day one and showing people there who I really am.”
As for what role Pederson will have in personnel decisions, he will of course have a say in the players the Jaguars are bringing in this offseason through free agency, the NFL Draft or trades, but the Jaguars will have a “collaborative” process between Pederson, Baalke and others in the personnel department.
“That’s one of the biggest things that has been reported or scrutinized surrounding Jacksonville,” Pederson said about his role in personnel decision-making with Trent Baalke as GM. “But from the day I walked in that door, and really it goes back to the interview process, how collaborative we’ve been and the questions we’ve been able to bounce off of each other. I want it to be that way, I want it to be transparent, I want it to be open and honest. We’re not always going to agree and that’s part of this process, but at the same time, we can walk out the door and be united. That’s the most important thing — we’re keeping the organization and the players first and that’s the biggest thing we have been able to do. Building on that relationship each and every day.”
As for what the Jaguars are planning to do in the draft or in free agency, Pederson and company are still figuring that out. But Pederson, Baalke and others have been busy evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the current roster to allow future decisions to be made.
“I think we’re still early in the process as far as the draft goes,” Pederson said. “The biggest thing is obviously evaluating our own roster and that’s kind of what we’ve come out of with the new staff is just evaluating our guys and seeing the level of talent that we have. I’m excited about the team and the guys that we do have, but I said earlier that it’s a work in progress and we’re not where we want to be, but we have the resources to make a difference with Jacksonville and really start chipping away at some of the negativity that has surrounded this organization for many years.
“I really think we can make an impact and all of that is part of the process that Trent (Baalke) and I are going through. Really with the coaches too, involving the coaches in this process. Again, we’re the ones out there coaching the players. That’s what I like about the relationship Trent, and I have. ‘Hey, you’re out there coaching them so you should have input on who we select.’”
Pederson also spoke on the “Jaguars Today” radio show on 1010 XL. One interetsing thing Pederson noted is that the team would like to re-sign both left tackle Cam Robinson and wide receiver D.J. Chark Jr.
“Listen, I want to bring all our guys back, quite honestly — especially those two guys (Robinson and Chark),” Pederson said. “You think about it, what they’ve done, but you also know, too, that this is a game with free agency and players do move on. We just talked about adding value, and these two guys could add value, they could add depth to our roster, and they’re two great players. We’ll see, we’ve got a couple weeks coming up here (until) free agency, would love to have them both back.”
The full audio from that interview is below: