Three years removed from winning Super Bowl LII, the Philadelphia Eagles fired head coach Doug Pederson on Tuesday morning (Australian time).
And while each side, as well as Eagles fans, could relate various versions on why Pederson’s parting of ways with the Eagles occurred, there’s no denying that the timing of the move occurred at a perfect time for both the team and its ex-coach can move forward.
That truth applies to Pederson more than to the Eagles.
The Eagles announced the move following a meeting between Pederson and Jeffrey Lurie, the team’s chairman and CEO, where both sides could not resolve their philosophical differences in how to move the Eagles forward following a highly disappointing 4-11-1 season, pinning them in the cellar of the NFC East.
“Coach Pederson and I had the opportunity to sit down and discuss what that collective vision would look like moving forward. After taking some time to reflect on these conversations, I believe it’s in both of our best interests to part ways,” Lurie said in a team statement.
However, in the three years since then, the Eagles under Pederson succumbed to a 22-25-1 mark, a post-Super Bowl interval rocked by various quarterback controversies among other player unrest, sparking claims that Pederson was losing control of the team from within the locker room as early as in the 2019 season.
Others will claim that Pederson sealed his own fate in Week 17 of the just-concluded regular season, during a 20-14 loss to the Washington Football Team, by benching promising quarterback Jalen Hurts in favour of not previous starter Carson Wentz but Nate Sudfeld, who had yet to take an NFL snap up to that point.
As Sudfeld did not inspire the Eagles to a comeback by completing five of his 12 passes for 32 yards and an interception, Pederson’s move came off as a tanking, for multiple reasons:
It allowed Washington to clinch the NFC East division title, at the expense of the New York Giants, the Eagles’ closest rivals, as the Giants beat the Dallas Cowboys 23-19 earlier in the day
With the season-ending loss, Philadelphia jumped up four spots in the NFL’s draft order, from tenth to sixth
Pederson’s legacy in Philadelphia won’t just be tied to winning a Super Bowl, or even the debacle in that last 2020 regular-season game, but also in overseeing – and some would say mis-managing – the choice of Wentz over Nick Foles after that Super Bowl win, the losing overall record which followed, and creating another quarterback controversy between Wentz and Hurts.
However, while his successor in Philadelphia inherits a host of issues, Pederson leaves the Eagles with a set of memories without regrets, in his view.
“It has been an absolute honour serving as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. As difficult as it is to say goodbye, I will always look back on my time here with appreciation and respect,” Pederson said in a statement.
“Although I am disappointed that this chapter of my career has come to an end, I am extremely proud of what we accomplished together.
“Through all the ups and downs, one thing remained constant about our team – an unwavering commitment to battle through adversity and to achieve our goals not as individuals, but as a collective unit,” Pederson added.
As the Eagles are now the eighth NFL team to have a coaching vacancy open – with former Eagles running back and current assistant coach Duce Staley said to have an inside track as being a favourite among all rumoured candidates to succeed Pederson – Pederson himself now faces plenty of options.
With the other seven teams – Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Chargers, and New York Jets – all deep into interviewing candidates to fill their coaching vacancies, Pederson would be expected to jump to the front of the queues for each of them in their searches.
And aside from Ohio State’s Urban Meyer – rumoured to be contacted by the Jaguars for their head-coaching vacancy, and to draft Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields over Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence with the number-one overall draft pick – available championship-winning coaches are hard to come by.
While not discounting any of the other six available vacancies, the Jets’ open job may be the one most readily accessible to Pederson. Joe Douglas, the Jets’ current general manager, worked alongside Pederson as the Eagles’ director of player personnel for three years until 2019, meaning that the two helped build the roster which won Super Bowl LII for the Eagles.
And with a few weeks to go before the three-year anniversary of that famous win, Pederson has lots of options before him, including and beyond just that of the Jets.
Not to mention fantastic odds to take on his next coaching challenge before Super Bowl LV.
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