By Max Harper
Doug Pederson is back coaching in the NFL.
The Eagles Super Bowl-winning Pederson, who was abruptly fired in January 2021, has been hired by the Jacksonville Jaguars, ending a wild and winding search that ended up where it started more than a month ago.
Pederson, who led the Birds to their lone Super Bowl title, was Jacksonville’s first candidate interviewed when he met with owner Shad Khan and general manager Trent Baalke on Dec. 30. He waited more than month for a callback. He got a second interview Tuesday and landed the job two days later.
“Doug Pederson four years ago won a Super Bowl as head coach of a franchise in pursuit of its first world championship,” Khan said in a statement.
“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 54-year-old Pederson takes over for Urban Meyer, who was fired after 13 games and countless missteps in what will go down as one of the worst coaching tenures in NFL history. He joins Baalke in a pairing that’s sure to irk a vocal segment of the fan base.
Baalke remaining in his GM role caused some candidates to hesitate about the job and several former players to openly question Khan’s search. Running back Fred Taylor, receiver Jimmy Smith, safety Donovin Darius, guard Uche Nwaneri and kicker Josh Scobee expressed concern with the direction of the franchise.
Pederson was chosen over former NFL coaches Jim Caldwell and Bill O’Brien, current/former coordinators Byron Leftwich, Nathaniel Hackett, Matt Eberflus, Todd Bowles, Kellen Moore, and Jaguars offensive coordinator/interim head coach Darrell Bevell. Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn declined an interview request, presumably because he preferred not to work with Baalke.
Discussions with Leftwich broke down for similar reasons, according to a person familiar with the process. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because both sides wanted to keep details private.
Former Las Vegas interim coach Rich Bisaccia and fired Denver coach Vic Fangio also interviewed and could end up being hired as coordinators.
Pederson led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl following the 2017 season and made the playoffs three times in five seasons. The Eagles went 4-11-1 in his final year.
Pederson was 51-34-1 in Philly, including 4-2 in the postseason. Before that, he served three seasons (2013-15) as Kansas City’s offensive coordinator and made the playoffs twice.
In Jacksonville, he’ll be tasked with ending the team’s woeful ways and getting the most out of quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
The Jags have dropped 35 of their last 41 games and have a league-high 10 losing seasons in the last 11 years. Lawrence, the No. 1 overall draft pick, finished his rookie campaign with 12 touchdown passes, a league-leading 17 interceptions, five fumbles and a passer rating (71.9) that was second-worst in the NFL ahead of only Zach Wilson of the New York Jets.
Jacksonville ranked last in the league in scoring (14.9 points a game) and 27th in yards (305.4 a game). The defense was slightly better, ranking 28th in points allowed (26.9) and 20th in yards (353.1).
Pederson seemed like one of the safest picks from the start of Jacksonville’s search, especially after Meyer’s yearlong mess, but Khan and Baalke appeared to be leaning toward younger offensive candidates to pair with Lawrence.
Pederson was out of coaching this season after Philadelphia fired him on Jan. 11, 2021. The Eagles ranked 26th in scoring (20.9 points a game) and 28th in passing (207.9 yards a game) in his final season.
Pederson inherits a roster that lacks talent, but he does have the No. 1 pick in April’s draft and should have around $70 million in salary cap space.