PHILADELPHIA — The Eagles fired coach Doug Pederson on Monday, ending a partnership that delivered the first and only Super Bowl title in the city’s history.
Pederson was expected to remain as coach despite a 4-11-1 finish this season. But multiple meetings with team owner Jeffrey Lurie over the past week left his boss unconvinced that Pederson had a sound vision for how to address the myriad issues facing the team, sources said, from navigating the Carson Wentz situation to fixing an offense that finished 26th in scoring (20.9 points per game) and 28th in passing yards (207.9 yards per game) in 2020.
Lurie explained the decision to move on from Pederson during a video news conference on Monday.
“My first allegiance is, what will be best for the Philadelphia Eagles and our fans for the next three, four, five years. It’s not based on does someone deserve to hold their job or deserve to get fired; that’s a different bar,” Lurie said.
“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 said the decision to move on from Pederson was not specific to Wentz or one position group, focusing instead on the regression of the offense overall in a season during which the NFL set a record for points scored. Lurie did not commit to Wentz returning next season but suggested the new coaching staff would work with the QB to get him back on track.
“I don’t think any owner should decide that. Carson, to me and to I think virtually everyone in our organization, is a quarterback that in his first four years was in many ways elite, comparable to some of the great quarterbacks the first four years in the league. The fifth year, obviously not satisfactory for whatever reasons, there are probably multiple reasons for that,” Lurie said.
“I think the way I look at it is, we have an asset and we have a talent. He’s a great guy. He wants nothing but to win big and win Lombardi trophies for Philadelphia. This guy is tireless. He has his heart in the right place. He is really dedicated offseason, on-season. He’s just what you want. And it behooves us as a team with a new coach and new coaching staff to be able to really get him back to that elite progression where he was capable of, and understand at the same time that there have been many quarterbacks in their fourth and fifth year, if you trace this, you can come up with many, many quarterbacks that have a single year where it’s just, ‘Whoa, the touchdown-to-interception ratio is not what you want.’ And we’re talking some great ones like Peyton and Ben and guys like that.”
“So I take more of a longer view of this was not the best season for our offense,” Lurie continued. “It was a poor season. And we also had a poor season from Carson, in terms of what he’s been able to show in the past; very fixable, and I fully expect him to realize his potential.”
In a statement released through the Eagles, Pederson said it was “an absolute honor serving” as the Eagles’ head coach.
“As difficult as it is to say goodbye, I will always look back on my time here with appreciation and respect,” he said. “… The memories we made here, together, will always have a special place in my heart. To the City of Philadelphia, thank you for embracing me and this team. I truly appreciate that passion you bring every single day — at home, on the road, and in the community. No matter what, you were always right there with us. 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. There is no better example of that than when we celebrated the first Super Bowl Championship in Eagles history together with our city. That is a memory we will all cherish forever.”
Lurie also wasn’t sold on Pederson’s plans regarding his coaching staff, sources said. Pederson pushed for passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach Press Taylor to be elevated to offensive coordinator rather than bringing in a more established candidate. The issue of how to fill the void left by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who plans to take the year off from football in 2021, also was unresolved.
Wentz regressed dramatically in his fifth year and was replaced in the lineup by rookie Jalen Hurts for the last quarter of the season. Wentz planned to ask for a trade in the offseason because his relationship with Pederson was fractured beyond repair, league sources previously said. The trust issues between the two work both ways, sources said, despite Pederson recently saying that his relationship with Wentz was fine.
Pederson’s firing significantly increases the chances of Wentz staying in Philadelphia, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
Sources describe an Eagles offense in 2020 that lacked an identity, in part as a result of a sizable and mismatched group of assistants and consultants brought in last offseason who struggled to get on the same page. The absence of a central vision for what the offense should look like made quarterbacking an uphill climb, and all the voices created a cacophony for Pederson and Wentz alike, sources said.
As for Hurts, a second-round draft pick in April, there wasn’t firm clarity from Pederson on whether he had a sense that the franchise had its quarterback of the future if the Eagles should move on from Wentz. The handling of the season’s final game, in which Hurts was pulled in favor of Nate Sudfeld in a 20-14 loss to Washington, also left questions about whether Pederson had lost his players’ confidence.
Tight end Zach Ertz, however, tweeted “love you coach” after news of Pederson’s dismissal was announced Monday. Safety Rodney McLeod also wished Pederson well via Twitter.
Love you coach pic.twitter.com/1TmhVI0ROz
— Zach Ertz (@ZERTZ_86) January 11, 2021
Wishing my man Dougie P nothing but the best in the next phase of his life. Great coach who never blinked during our toughest moments over the past 5 seasons. Most importantly made history in Philly!! First HC to win it! SB 52 Champs. Best of luck
— Rodney McLeod (@Rodney_McLeod4) January 11, 2021
Pederson became just the eighth NFL head coach to win a Super Bowl within his first two years at the helm when the Eagles beat the New England Patriots to capture the Lombardi trophy during the 2017 season. That was the first of three straight playoff appearances for the Eagles under Pederson, before the wheels came off in 2020. He compiled a record of 46-39-1 over five seasons with the Eagles, including four playoff wins.
Lurie said Monday he expects Eagles assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley to be among the candidates to replace Pederson, calling him “a great representative of the Eagles” who “knows our values.”