Doug Pederson was well on his way to topping Andy Reid as the most successful coach in Philadelphia Eagles franchise history when the team fired him in 2021. So why did the team part ways with the Super Bowl-winning head coach after such a strong start to his Eagles career?
Why Did the Philadelphia Eagles Fire Doug Pederson?
Doug Pederson’s first season in Philadelphia was nothing extraordinary, as the team stumbled to a 7-9 record and finished last in the NFC East. But his second season… well, that was one for the books.
Pederson’s Eagles demolished the league, blazing a trail over outmatched opponents en route to a conference-leading 13-3 record. The team handled the Atlanta Falcons in the Divisional Round and trounced the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game before taking down Tom Brady’s New England Patriots in one of the most entertaining Super Bowls of all time.
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Pederson won a Super Bowl ring, and the team brought home the Lombardi trophy to the city of Philadelphia for the first time in the team’s history.
While the following years didn’t quite live up to that success, Pederson delivered consecutive 9-7 seasons, both of which afforded playoff berths and one of which was enough to win the NFC East crown. It took just one 4-11-1 disappointment of a year following three straight playoff appearances and one Super Bowl victory for the Eagles to part ways with the successful head coach.
But why? Why did the Eagles let Pederson, a coach who was then quickly sought after on the open market, leave town?
There are a variety of rumors and reported reasons as to why Philadelphia ultimately fired Pederson.
“Sometimes you just have to look towards the future, try to evaluate things in as unemotional a path as possible and a process as possible and arrive at a decision that might make you very uncomfortable,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie told reporters following an announcement of the team’s decision to let Pederson go.
“Very few people, probably, after success, deserve to lose their job… It’s not about did Doug deserve to be let go. No, he did not deserve to be let go. That’s not where I’m coming from, and that’s not the bar in the evaluation process,” Lurie continued.
So what was it? If Pederson didn’t deserve to be let go, why fire him?
Let’s remember what happened during Pederson’s five seasons in Philly. The team traded up for the second-overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft to select Carson Wentz, and his sophomore season was a revelation. Wentz was smack in the middle of the MVP race before tearing his ACL, and his backup, Nick Foles, went on to lead the team to a Super Bowl win.
Wentz’s following two seasons didn’t quite live up to the hype he garnered in 2017, and his 2020 season was a downright disaster. A combination of injuries and poor play led to Wentz playing just 12 games. He recorded a career-low, abysmal 57.4 completion percentage and just 2,620 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, and a league-leading 15 interceptions. Wentz was benched midway through the season for then-rookie second-round pick Jalen Hurts.
By that point, reports were circulating that Wentz’s relationship with Pederson had deteriorated quite badly, something that surely couldn’t have been healthy for the dynamic within the locker room. It also led to some eventually wondering whether the Eagles picked Wentz over Pederson, though Wentz being traded two months after Pederson’s firing quells that notion.
In the final week of the 2021 season, Pederson bizarrely benched Hurts for career backup Nate Sudfeld. And while Pederson says he was “coaching to win” that game, many in the media questioned whether he was tanking the game for a better draft position.
Ultimately, Pederson and the team were at a breaking point. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Pederson was “sick of people telling him what to do.” It appeared as though his relationship with people in the building was beyond repair, and the team embarked on a search for a new head coach.
As it turns out, the move ended up working out for both sides.
With Pederson out the door, the Eagles hired Nick Sirianni. The former Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator and Frank Reich disciple has been phenomenal in Philly. He’s posted a 23-11 regular season record and two playoff appearances in his first two seasons.
At the time of this writing, Sirianni’s No. 1 seeded Eagles are preparing for the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs and appear well-positioned to compete for the franchise’s second Super Bowl victory.
Pederson took a year off from coaching before joining the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2022 as the team’s head coach following the Urban Meyer fiasco. The former Eagles frontman placed himself immediately in the Coach of the Year conversation, turning around the long-floundering Jaguars en route to a playoff berth and record-setting upset over the Los Angeles Chargers in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs.
Pederson has helped lift 2021 first-overall pick Trevor Lawrence from first-year disappointment to one of the league’s most exciting young passers. It’s clear that the future is bright in Jacksonville with Pederson at the helm.
All’s well that ends well, right?