Doug Pederson should be the NFL’s Coach of the Year for what he’s done with the Jacksonville Jaguars. When Pederson took over as the Jaguars’ head coach in early February, the organization was in absolute shambles. They made a horrible hire the year prior with Urban Meyer, and the results were far worse than even Meyer’s biggest critics couldn’t have imagined. Things looked grim.
Conversely, Pederson was practically universally hailed as a fantastic hire not just for the organization but for the progression of second-year QB Trevor Lawrence. Trent Baalke spent more money in free agency than ever to supplement the change.
But the Jaguars were 3-7 after 10 games and still needed more. And Pederson helped elevate them. They figured out how to win, and it pushed them to an AFC South title.
Doug Pederson’s Coach of the Year Resume
Pederson isn’t the betting favorite to win the award. Kyle Shanahan, Brian Daboll, Nick Sirianni, and Sean McDermott have better odds of winning the award.
Shanahan should be applauded for what he’s been able to accomplish with Brock Purdy, but that team is more loaded with talent from top to bottom than any team in the NFL, aside from maybe the Eagles. That also takes Sirianni out of the running because the COY award should be reserved for accomplishing the most with the least.
Brian Daboll has a legitimate argument against Pederson. How New York won nine games is a mystery when looking at their roster and efficiency metrics. In the end, they were well-coached and won many close games that could have gone either way.
Pederson took a team that couldn’t keep their shoes tied early in the season and made them a division champion by the end.
Learning How Not to Lose
Three weeks into the season, it appeared Jacksonville had already turned the corner. They lost a close game to Washington before absolutely embarrassing Indianapolis and Los Angeles (Chargers). They went on to lose five straight games by one score. Three of the five losses came against the Texans, Colts, and Broncos.
They were a 3-7 team, ranking 10th in offensive EPA and 19th in defensive EPA. They also ranked 16th in team DVOA over that time. In other words, they were a much better team than their record.
Jacksonville couldn’t get the job done in the red zone, and mistakes made by their young quarterback played a big part in their early-season red zone woes.
Those mistakes ended starting in Week 12. Jacksonville needed to win six of their last seven to make a playoff run, and they needed every bit of Tennessee’s collapse. But how the team turned around should give Pederson the nod for NFL Coach of the Year.
Jacksonville saw both offensive and defensive improvements coming out of the bye week. During the home stretch, they beat the Ravens, Titans, Cowboys, Jets, Texans, and Titans.
Five of their six wins came against teams desperately battling for playoff contention, with their only loss coming against the Lions, who were on an incredible streak of their own at that time. During that stretch, they ranked eighth in team DVOA, 10th in offensive EPA, and fifth in defensive EPA.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Pederson had to rebuild the Jaguars’ organizational culture from the ground up after Meyer ruined whatever positive forces were there before Meyer’s arrival.
The cultural shift had much to do with Jacksonville’s six-game turnaround from a season ago. Players have talked about the difference in the locker room between the two coaches all season. It took time, but the Jaguars learned how to win quickly. The Jaguars were projected to win just 6.5 games all season — they won six in the final seven weeks.