Nearly four years ago to the day, deep in the bowels of U.S. Bank Stadium, moments after the “Philly Special” became legendary, Doug Pederson thanked the Philadelphia Eagles — players, coaches and administration — for believing in his process.
“You guys get on me a lot about dress code and the way we practice and do things,” Pederson said as he addressed his team following a 41-33 victory against New England in Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis. “This is the discipline it takes to win this game. This is a team game.”
Three years later, Pederson’s run in Philadelphia came to an end after five seasons, despite three playoff appearances and a Super Bowl championship. A voluntary year’s respite from coaching and the NFL ensued.
Thursday, not long after he agreed to become the new leader of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the man whose head coaching career began at Calvary Baptist Academy (2005-08) couldn’t wait to start building another championship foundation. Though it was nearly midnight, he needed to place a cornerstone.
And a phone call.
He got soon-to-be second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the face of the Jaguars, on the line
“We got to know each other and then he began to lay out his philosophies,” Lawrence said. “His resume speaks for itself. He’s an offensive guy. He played quarterback in the NFL (for 10 seasons). He sees things through my lens. All of those things make me really excited. Everybody is relieved.”
The Urban Meyer experiment left the Jaguars in shambles. Pederson, 54, knew the pieces had to be put back together as soon as possible.
“I know you’ve been through a lot,” Pederson said at his introductory press conference. “That’s about to change. I’m going to come to work every single day with the task to make this a winning organization.”
Jacksonville played in the AFC Championship Game just five years ago but has finished last in the AFC South in every season since, compiling a 15-50 record along the way.
It made sense, especially after the Meyer fiasco, for owner Shad Khan to take his time with this hire. In December, Pederson was the first candidate interviewed. More than a month later, it was the former Northeast Louisiana University (now Louisiana-Monroe) star’s job.
“That’s a tribute to Doug,” Khan said. “Our list of candidates was quite impressive. Philadelphia (was) a lot like Jacksonville (is) — we’re looking for the first championship.
“Doug is a great developer of quarterbacks, he creates a culture players and coaches thrive in, and he’s someone who knows exactly what it feels like to be the last team standing in February.”
With so many head coaching vacancies during this cycle, Pederson was swayed in his decision by teams’ quarterback situations. He believes he landed a gem in Lawrence, the former Clemson star.
“Everyone I’ve talked to says nothing but great things (about Lawrence),” Pederson said. “The sky’s the limit. Unfortunately, things didn’t go smoothly for him last year, but I will create a system that enhances his skill set.”
Pederson described his year off as “great.”
“I needed a break. I needed to step away and re-center everything about me,” he said.
Family was the theme. Pederson and wife, Jeannie, watched their oldest son get married and welcomed a grandchild. They also leaned on family as Pederson’s brother succumbed to cancer.
Pederson knew where 2022 was headed, however.
“Did I miss football? Yeah,” he said. “I needed my fix of football. The year away got my football competitive juices back and I started building that new family in the locker room as soon as I got here.”
If the Jaguars succeed, it won’t be just on the right arm of Lawrence or X’s and O’s. It will be Pederson’s ability to get 53-plus players, a coaching staff and management to buy in to the mantra he established in Philadelphia, the one the Eagles sang in unison in Minneapolis.
“An individual can make a difference, but a team makes a miracle.”
The Jaguars certainly need one.
Pederson as a head coach in Philadelphia
Season, Record (Division finish), Playoff result
2016: 7-9 (4th)
2017: 13-3 (1st), Won Super Bowl
2018: 9-7 (2nd), Lost divisional round
2019: 9-7 (1st), Lost wild card
2020: 4-11-1 (4th)
Total: 42-37-1 in regular season; 4-2 in playoffs
2005-08, Head coach, Calvary Baptist Academy
2009-10, Eagles offensive quality control coach
2011-12 Eagles quarterback coach
2013-15, Chiefs offensive coordinator
2016-2020, Eagles head coach