Doug Pederson was an easy guy to root for.
Though not from the City of Brotherly Love originally, he played for the Philadelphia Eagles for a beautifully transitional season in 1999, came from the Andy Reid coaching tree, and thus, brought a certain level of familiarity to a still franchise shell-shocked by the magic energy of the Chip Kelly-era.
Sure, Pederson was goofy. He wore that silly visor and had an “aw shucks” demeanor that rubbed more than a few fans the wrong way, but his intentions were pure and his ability to get guys to buy in was undeniable.
And, in the best twist of all, it worked.
Pederson assembled a quality coaching staff, built on a promising rookie season by his young franchise quarterback, Carson Wentz, and ultimately accomplished a feat not even Reid could in South Philly; wining the darn Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.
Granted, was some of that Frank Reich, Nick Foles, and just a ton of good luck? Sure. I don’t think even Pederson would argue that his team was the beneficiary of some good luck in 2017, but honestly, what winning team doesn’t? There’s an old saying that luck is the convergence of preparation and opportunity and to the entire team’s credit, that particular roster was ready for just about anything.
I mean, we’re talking about a team that lost its quarterback, left tackle, running backs, linebackers, etc, and still remained firey due to their underdog mentality.
Did things sort of temper off after that point? Yes. The Eagles didn’t make it back to the Super Bowl the following season and finished out each subsequent campaign with a worse record, but surely 2020, a year marred by injuries to the offensive line, wouldn’t be enough to give Pederson his walking papers, right? You don’t just go from Super Bowl-winning head coach to unemployed in three years, right?
With the Wentz situation deteriorating fast and an offseason divorce looking more and more likely, all signs pointed to the Eagles keeping Pederson around with an adjusted coaching staff and Jalen Hurts serving as his starting quarterback.
… at least, until it didn’t.
No, on January 11th, a full week after “Black Monday,” Pederson was let go for a number of reasons, most notably his relationship with Howie Roseman, and the Eagles opted to roll into the 2021 season with a new head coach, a basically new quarterback, and a roster straddled with $50 million in dead money on the books.
Okay, okay, not ideal, but not a disaster either. Plenty of teams have landed new coaches to pair up with second-year quarterbacks and it worked out for the best, just ask Baker Mayfield with the Browns, Jared Goff with the Rams, or most recently of all, Justin Herbert with the Chargers.
Unfortunately, the Eagles opted to hire what feels like the least experienced coaching staff in the NFL and have been greeted with a team that just generally doesn’t look professional more often than not, especially when facing off against legit contenders like the Cowboys or the Buccaneers.
Did the Eagles still have a chance to win the Super Bowl with Pederson as their head coach? Debatable. Are they going to win it all now without some serious steps being taken forward by Nick Sirianni and Jonathan Gannon? Not a chance.
Firing Doug Pederson closed the Philadelphia Eagles’ playoff window and negatively impacted the entire franchise’s trajectory moving forward.
Imagine the 2021 Philadelphia Eagles with Doug Pederson still on the sidelines.
Doug Pederson got a lot of slack for his vanilla offense.
His average at calls never advanced too much further than the intermediate level, he would run the ball a bit too much, and some of his tendencies became incredibly obvious to even the most casual viewer at home.
Though he’d sometimes have to be taken there kicking and screaming, Pederson’s offense ranked in the top-13 in rushing during his final two years with the team and he seemingly cracked the code for how often was appropriate to run Hurts when he was inserted into the game as the team’s starting quarterback.
With a full offseason to tailor his scheme around Hurts, maybe Pederson would have returned with an exciting new offense. I mean probably not, but maybe.
Instead, the Philadelphia Eagles brought in the OC of Pederson’s OC, who runs a scheme that isn’t too dissimilar to the one Philly ran from 2019-20 but is like a bizarro version with even less parody and even fewer intermediate chunk plays.
Therein lies a big difference between Pederson and his predecessor, Nick Sirianni: One played quarterback in the NFL for over a decade and the other’s career capped off as a D-III wide receiver at Mount Union. While Pederson didn’t always see eye-to-eye with Wentz, especially at the end, he genuinely seemed to get what it takes to play the position at the NFL level and how to script up plays with the optionality necessary to beat multiple coverages.
Heck, we don’t even know how much of Pederson’s offensive woes on his final few seasons with the team were even really on him, as Wentz would audible out of plays so often that the team’s offensive identity was hard to really pin down.
Once Hurts became the team’s full-time quarterback, albeit a few weeks too late, the offense at least looked cohesive. Not elite or even particularly revolutionary, but cohesive. Had the team’s overall health been in better order, maybe the pairing of Hurts and Pederson would have been able to put together a run down the stretch for that NFC East playoff spot, but the margin of error was just too tight to overcome
And just like that, it was over. Pederson and Wentz were gone, Sirianni’s crew was hired without a Jim Schwartz-style former head coach on the staff to help with the day-to-day operations, and Hurts was given a year to prove his mettle in a scheme that isn’t quite as good as in seasons prior.
Would the Philadelphia Eagles have a better record than 2-4 through six weeks if Doug Pederson was still the team’s head coach? We will never know. Would Jalen Hurts’ flash be backed up with the substance of an offensive scheme built around his strengths? Again, impossible to say. All I know definitively is that I never thought I’d see a team with a Super Bowl drought that spanned multiple generations fire their lone Lombardi-winning head coach less than three years later. That truly caught me by surprise.