Doug Pederson lost his job less than three years after he led the Philadelphia Eagles to the franchise’s only Super Bowl title.
Pederson was 42-37-1 in five seasons. He guided the Eagles to two division championships and three playoff appearances before going 4-11-1 in 2020.
Owner Jeffrey Lurie made the decision after meeting with Pederson last week and again Monday.
“Very few people probably after success deserve to lose their job,” Lurie said. “This is much more about the evaluation of whether the Eagles moving forward, our best option is to have a new coach and that’s really what it’s about. ... He did not deserve to be let go.”
Pederson had two years remaining on his contract. Lurie said he wouldn’t be surprised if another team hired Pederson before the end of the week.
“Although I am disappointed that this chapter of my career has come to an end, I am extremely proud of what we accomplished together,” Pederson said in a statement.
“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.”
Pederson’s loyalty to his coaching staff and frustration with the front office’s interference became a major issue, according to a person familiar with the decision who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the conversations. The person also said Pederson and general manager Howie Roseman weren’t on the same page regarding many personnel moves, including draft picks and use of veteran players.
The team’s draft failures in recent years from taking wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside over DK Metcalf in 2019 to selecting wideout Jalen Reagor one pick before Justin Jefferson in 2020 contributed to the offence’s struggles along with numerous injuries and quarterback Carson Wentz’s poor performance.
Ultimately, Lurie chose Roseman over Pederson.
“I have real confidence that our football operations, led by Howie, can not only repeat the performance of 2016 until now, and once again, create a dominant football team that can really maximize every aspect of its potential,” Lurie said.
Lurie indicated Pederson wasn’t on board with rebuilding.
“It’s a transition point and we’ve got to get younger and we have to have a lot more volume of draft picks and we have to accumulate as much talent as we possibly can that is going to work in the long run with a focus on the midterm and the long term and not on how to maximize 2021,” Lurie said. “And it’s almost not fair to Doug, because his vision has to be: what can I do to fix this right away and what coaches can I have that can help me get to a smoother 2021?”
Pederson benched Wentz for the final four games after the quarterback had the worst season of his five-year career and started rookie Jalen Hurts. Pederson had said repeatedly he was confident he could fix Wentz and get him back on track.
He won’t get that chance now.
Wentz’s $128-million, four-year contract kicks in this year and he knows the Eagles control whether to keep him or trade him. Wentz has been taking time away to reflect on his situation before meeting with the team to discuss his future, a person close to the situation told the AP last week. Wentz was frustrated with his season and unhappy that he got benched, but he had no input into Pederson’s firing, two people said.
“Carson and Doug got along way better than people think,” a teammate told the AP on Monday. “That stuff got exaggerated.”
The player spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss private conversations.
Wentz hasn’t spoken to reporters since Dec. 6. He didn’t immediately return a phone call from the AP on Monday.
Pederson was a starting quarterback in Philadelphia in 1999 and later served as an assistant coach under Andy Reid with the Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs. The Eagles hired him in January 2016 after abruptly firing Chip Kelly a month earlier.
Pederson led the Eagles to a Super Bowl victory over New England in just his second season with backup quarterback Nick Foles filling in after Wentz was injured. Pederson and Foles again led the Eagles to a playoff win the following year after Wentz went down late in the season.
“He’s a close friend, he’s a family friend and Doug is family to me,” Lurie said.
Pederson was heavily criticized for his decision to replace Hurts with third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld in the fourth quarter of a 20-14 loss to Washington in Week 17. Washington’s victory cost the New York Giants the NFC East title. The loss gave the Eagles the sixth overall pick in the draft instead of the ninth.
“Nothing to do with it whatsoever,” Lurie said when asked if Pederson’s decision in that game factored into his dismissal.
Several Eagles showed their support for Pederson on social media after the news broke.
“Doug is a great coach, a great guy, a great man,” running back Boston Scott told the AP. “He’s the type of guy that will open his house up to you. He’s a man of faith and I’ve always respected that about him. Every Saturday before games, I see him in chapel and that’s where I truly believe it starts. I think that he’s a true leader. Regardless of what the situation was like this season, he continued to bring energy, continued to bring the juice and he continued to be there for us so I have a lot of respect for him.”