Jaguars hiring former Eagles HC Doug Pederson as Urban Meyer replacement

The Jacksonville Jaguars are turning to a Super Bowl winner to replace Urban Meyer.

The team hired former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson as its next head coach, the team announced Thursday night.

In many ways, the Jaguars have picked a coach with basically the opposite resume of Meyer, whose disastrous 13-game tenure left the team embarrassed on and off the field. While Meyer took over as Jaguars head coach with no NFL experience whatsoever, Pederson is a former NFL quarterback who worked six seasons as an NFL assistant under Andy Reid before his first head coaching job with the Eagles.

In five seasons in Philadelphia, Pederson accrued a 42-37-1 record, highlighted by the franchise's first Super Bowl championship in 2018, his second year with the team. Jaguars owner Shad Khan made sure to point to that experience in a statement:

"Doug Pederson four years ago won a Super Bowl as head coach of a franchise in pursuit of its first world championship. I hope Doug can replicate that magic here in Jacksonville, but what is certain is his proven leadership and experience as a winning head coach in the National Football League. It's exactly what our players deserve. Nothing less."

"Combine this with his acumen on the offensive side of the ball, and you have why I am proud to name Doug Pederson the new head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. I know our fans will warmly welcome Doug and his family to Duval and I personally look forward to having Doug as part of everything we envision for the team, downtown and community in the years ahead."

A former Super Bowl-winning head coach would typically be a slam dunk hire for a team in the Jaguars' position, but Pederson does enter Jacksonville with some question marks. He may have taken the Eagles to the mountaintop, but what followed was a rocky descent, with injury-prone franchise quarterback Carson Wentz falling apart. After back-to-back 9-7 records, the bottom dropped out last season, when the Eagles fired Pederson after a 4-11-1 performance.

There's also the fact that he was very clearly not the Jaguars' first choice for the job.

The Jaguars wanted Byron Leftwich ... but not enough to fire Trent Baalke

The Jaguars first interviewed Pederson for the job on Dec. 30. They then waited more than four weeks before going back to him for a second interview on Feb. 1.

Why such a long wait? Well, the Jaguars were trying to hire someone else. Specifically, they were going after former Jaguars quarterback and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, and the reported reasons why that pursuit wasn't successful are perplexing.

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - FEBRUARY 25: Head coach Doug Pederson of the Philadelphia Eagles, now with the Jacksonville Jaguars, interviews during the first day of the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 25, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
It appears Doug Pederson was not the Jaguars' first choice. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

There were rumblings in late January that the job was Leftwich's if he wanted, and it seemed he did want it, but only on the condition that the team let go of current general manager Trent Baalke. The Jaguars apparently didn't agree to that condition, as this is an article about Doug Pederson taking the job and not Byron Leftwich.

That is a curious decision, as Leftwich was widely considered the fans' favored choice, while fans swarmed the Jaguars' stadium dressed as clowns to advocate for Baalke's firing. Leftwich has seen a rapid rise through the coaching ranks and immense success calling plays for Tom Brady, while Baalke oversaw a fall from 13-3 in his first season with the San Francisco 49ers to 2-14 in his final season.

Baalke also clashed with Jim Harbaugh, then hired back-to-back one-and-done coaches in Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly before his firing. He also oversaw the personnel decisions that contributed to this season's trainwreck under Meyer, so he's actually seen three straight head coaches only last a year.

Rather than that, Leftwich wanted the Jaguars to hire Arizona Cardinals vice president of pro scouting Adrian Wilson. When they didn't, he reportedly took his name out of the running earlier Thursday.

You would think choosing between an exciting coaching hire with legitimate ties to the team and a widely maligned general manager entering his second season on the job would be a no-brainer, but Khan's never been one for making the clear choice.

Pederson's No. 1 priority: Develop Trevor Lawrence

It didn't matter which coach the Jaguars hired, the primary goal was always going to be the same: develop Trevor Lawrence into the quarterback everyone envisioned when the team drafted him first overall out of Clemson last year.

It's safe to say Meyer was an abject failure in that regard. He was a failure in so many other ways, but Lawrence's performance might have been the worst. In 13 games under Meyer, Lawrence completed 58.2 percent of his passes for 2,735 yards with nine passing touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He would finish the season with an NFL-worst 17 picks.

Fortunately for Lawrence, Pederson has a better track record than Meyer with running an NFL offense, though that's not hard when the previous coach had no track record. Pederson had Wentz looking like a star at times in Philadelphia — it's easy to forget Wentz was getting MVP consideration before his season-ending injury in 2017 — but the second half of his Eagles tenure wasn't encouraging if you're a Lawrence advocate.

NFL has 3 vacant head coaching jobs remaining

With Pederson on board in Jacksonville, there are now three remaining head coaching vacancies: the Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints and Houston Texans.

Here's how the first five coaching vacancies were filled:

  • Chicago Bears: Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Matt Eberflus

  • Denver Broncos: Green Bay Packers offensive cooardinator Nathaniel Hackett

  • New York Giants: Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll

  • Raiders: New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels

  • Minnesota Vikings: Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell