As Doug Pederson returns, his Eagles legacy is more than the Super Bowl


PHILADELPHIA — Just in case you forgot, Doug Pederson was on a conference call Wednesday to remind everyone that he was the coach when the Eagles won the only Super Bowl in franchise history.

Of course, Pederson should mention the Super Bowl, which he did, uninvited, three times. There’s a statue outside Lincoln Financial Field featuring Pederson and quarterback Nick Foles discussing perhaps the most important game in Eagles history, the Philly Special.

“Obviously I have a lot of great memories there, and what we did in 2017 is something we will always remember,” Pederson said.

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That certainly beats Pederson’s last season in 2020, when the Eagles turned into a 4-11-1 mess. Pederson was let go a week after the season ended, franchise quarterback Carson Wentz was traded, and most of the team turned around.

But out of that mess came another legacy that Pederson should also remember: the development of current Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts.

That will be evident on Sunday when Pederson returns to Lincoln Financial Field for the first time this Sunday with his new team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, with his own franchise quarterback to be developed in Trevor Lawrence, the first pick in the 2021 draft.

It’s not that Pederson developed Hurts, because, really, he didn’t.

Wentz was the franchise’s quarterback at the time. The offense was designed for Wentz, not Hurts, who was a 2020 second-round pick drafted primarily to serve as Wentz’s backup. That is, when Hurts wasn’t running gadget games.

So when Wentz had by far the worst season of his career, Pederson had no choice but to insert Hurts for the final 4½ games.

None of this worked, of course.

Still, it became clear that the Eagles would be better off moving forward with Hurts, behind a new coach in Nick Sirianni who could tailor the offense to Hurts’ skills, rather than sticking with Pederson and Wentz.

Pederson also admitted this, saying everyone needs a fresh start. But he also said he saw something in Hurts two years ago that predicted the success he was having through three games this season.

The Eagles are 3-0 and Hurts is off to an MVP-like start. He ranks fifth in the passer rating with 106.5. He completes 67.3% of his passes, a big improvement from 52% under Pederson in 2020 and 61.3% last season under Sirianni.

“Everything you see now is everything we saw in him when we drafted him,” Pederson said.

Pederson mentioned the “development program” he instituted during his tenure, where rookies and young players would stay after practice on Wednesdays and Fridays to get the reps that went to first team mates in practice.

“He took full advantage of it, not just with game planning and understanding the terminology, but with the players, throwing as many lanes as he could,” Pederson said. “That’s when I started to see the work ethic in him, and how he was able to quarterback the scout team and make the throws that he was doing, and do some of the things that you now see as a starter.”

But that ultimately rests on the quarterback.

And here, Hurts took full advantage, as Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen pointed out.

“I think his mental makeup, his DNA and the way he runs his business, it’s so impressive,” Steichen said. “It’s second to none. It really is. If he continues this trend, it’s going to be special.

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson stands on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022, in Atlanta.  (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

“He doesn’t leave the building. Like, this guy is here all day, every day. All he cares about is football…He never takes days off. I mean, he works still.”

Steichen gave two recent examples of Hurts training in the weight room long after most of his teammates had left.

“He doesn’t stop. He’s relentless in everything he does,” he said. “And it shows. When you work like that, good things are going to happen.”

Hurts said he did this in high school and college in Alabama and Oklahoma. So it’s not something the Sirianni staff or the Pederson staff created.

“I just think it’s part of me,” Hurts said of the long hours. “It’s my comfort zone, my haven, being here, being around the building, playing football. That’s what I do. That’s what I’ve always done, since I was a kid , be around the game.”

There’s another thing the Eagles learned from Pederson’s tenure. Wentz had his best season in his second season under Pederson, much like Hurts is enjoying his success in Sirianni’s second season.

Pederson said it was no coincidence. And really, that’s something that Hurts and Sirianni have often mentioned too.

“That’s one of the reasons why you sometimes prevent (an assistant coach) from leaving. You want stability,” Pederson said. “And at the time, I wanted stability around Carson Wentz… I didn’t want to lose those (assistants), not in 2nd year. It’s way too early.

“And so you’ve seen the growth from year 1 to year 2, and that’s exactly what you’re seeing (with Hurts)… It’s the things that are tangible that kind of help shape a young quarterback. -back.”

Pederson laid the foundation for Hurts’ rise. But even Pederson knows he can’t take credit for it.

“He prepared for this,” Pederson said. “I just hope we can do that with our guy Trevor Lawrence here in Jacksonville.”

Contact Martin Frank at Follow @Mfranknfl on Twitter.


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