Extra Points: Doug Pederson Gives Hope to Jaguars Fans
My brother, Mark, has been a Jacksonville Jaguars season-ticket holder since the franchise played its first game in 1995.
Suffice it to say he hasn't had a lot to cheer about over the last 28 seasons. Oh, the Jaguars haven't always stunk - they've made the playoffs seven times and have to been to three AFC Championship games - but he's watched far more losses than victories at TIAA Bank Field.
The last few years have been particularly frustrating for Mark and other Jags fans. Their last winning season came in 2017, when they won the AFC South at 10-6 and led New England 20-10 in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship game before losing 24-20. Ironically, beating the Patriots would have meant a trip to Super Bowl LII against Doug Pederson and the Eagles.
They've been an especially bad the last two years, posting a combined 4-29 record. As if a 1-15 record in 2020 wasn't embarrassing enough, hiring Urban Meyer was an even bigger mistake. Besides going 2-11 before getting fired, he also lost the locker room, players and fan base with a series of gaffes that included: getting penalized for illegal use of hands in a Cincinnati bar during a road trip, allegedly kicking former place-kicker Josh Lamb in practice, belittling his coaching staff, and failing to develop quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
All that's about to change now that Pederson is their head coach. At the very least, the 54-year-old brings respectability, dignity and responsibility to the Jaguars, qualities have been missing in recent years. At the most, he will have the Jaguars contending for division titles and playoff spots again.
Jacksonville is about to undergo an Urban renewal with Pederson as the architect.
Pederson may not have been Jags owner Shahid Khan's first choice - Tampa Bay offensive coordinator and former Jags quarterback Byron Leftwich was supposedly the front-runner before he pulled himself out of contention - but he will turn out to be the best choice, just like he was in Philly.
Remember, owner Jeffrey Lurie only hired Pederson after Adam Gase, Ben McAdoo turned them down. One year later, he gave the city it's first NFL championship since 1960, then guided the Eagles to two more playoff berths before a myriad of injuries and other problems - including quarterback Carson Wentz's incredible regression - led to a 4-11-1 slump in 2020.
"We had a process," Khan said Saturday. "We ran the process. We had great candidates, but Doug is our guy."
Firing Pederson after that season will go down as the biggest mistake of Lurie's reign.
Hiring Pederson will go down as the best decision of Khan's tenure, assuming he allows his new coach to be in charge of the football decisions without the relentless meddling from the front office that accompanied Pederson's five seasons with the Eagles.
"Doug would not have taken the (Jaguars) job if the chain of command was not crystal clear," said a source close to Pederson.
Pederson is charged with turning around a franchise that's been floundering but has potential. He figures to be a great influence on Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick in 2020.
Lawrence had a tough rookie season, throwing 12 touchdown passes against 17 interceptions.
"It's unfortunate that things didn't go necessarily smoothly this past year, but that's behind us now," Pederson said at his introductory press conference Saturday. "I'm excited to come in here, roll up my sleeves, got to work, create a system that enhances his skill set, and be successful. I pride myself in that. We did it in my former place with Carson Wentz early in his career."
Pederson will be returning to his "former place" next season, when the Jaguars visit Lincoln Financial Field.
Here's hoping he hears more cheers than boos. Eagles fans gave Andy Reid a standing ovation when he returned to Philly for the first time with Kansas City in 2013. Pederson, who gave those fans their first championship in 56 years, deserves the same reception.
Jacksonville has never won a championship, but that will soon end. Assuming Lawrence stays healthy, the Jaguars will win a Super Bowl within the next five seasons.
Maybe they'll even build a statue of Pederson to match the one at the Linc.