<
>

Catching up with former Eagles coach Doug Pederson on his future, what he sees in Jalen Hurts

Former Eagles coach Doug Pederson sees a lot of similarities between QB Jalen Hurts and Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire

PHILADELPHIA -- Midway through his phone conversation with ESPN on Monday, former Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson had to jump off the call to deal with a more pressing matter: a water leak on his property in Jupiter, Florida.

"I've got this pump system on my house that pumps things to the street," said Pederson, the only Super Bowl-winning coach in Philadelphia's history. "And so I'm thinking that maybe that pump, I don't know, there's something going on."

For his entire adult life -- 14 years as a professional quarterback, and another 16 years as a coach -- football has been the focal point. This time of year he'd typically be grinding away on opponent film and fine-tuning game plans and preparing for a playoff push. Instead, he's spending time with family in town for the holidays and taking care of business on the home front.

After being let go by the Eagles on Jan. 11, Pederson, 53, decided to take a year off to recharge and recalibrate. The moment he chose to slow down, however, life hit him hard. Less than two weeks after Pederson was fired, his younger brother, Craig, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Pederson immediately flew back to Philadelphia from Jupiter to connect Craig with some of the top physicians in the city. He shuttled him and his wife back and forth from the hospital and met with doctors. He got to spend the kind of time with his brother over the ensuing months that he wouldn't typically be afforded.

Craig died in October at the age of 51.

"For me, football didn't even matter anymore. At that point, it was all about my brother, and just how precious life is, and how fast things can change," Pederson said. "It was a moment where you really stop and think, like, I love football and hopefully I get to get a chance to do it again. But life and family and friendships mean a heck of a lot more."

There was plenty of good over the past year, too. Pederson and his wife, Jeannie, welcomed their first grandchild -- Brodie -- in February. Their oldest son, Drew, got married in July. Doug was around for all of it.

With a fresh perspective and his batteries recharged, Pederson is ready to jump back into the game. And the timing might be just right. There's some early buzz around his name as a head-coaching candidate, including in Jacksonville, where the Jaguars happen to be in the market for someone who knows how to establish a culture and work with young quarterbacks.

In a wide-ranging interview with ESPN, Pederson offered his thoughts on his former quarterback Jalen Hurts, the decision facing the Eagles franchise this offseason, Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence and what he's looking for in his next job:

What Pederson sees in Hurts

Pederson was coach of the Eagles when they selected Hurts in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft, less than a year after handing Carson Wentz a four-year, $128 million contract extension.

Pederson said he tries not to compare players, but the first person who came to mind when he was evaluating Hurts was Russell Wilson.

"From an athletic standpoint, from a throwing standpoint, his mobility," Pederson said. "I had a chance to work Russell out when he was at Wisconsin, and felt at the time, Russell was gonna have a lot of success in the NFL, which he did, and he got on the right team. He's done extremely well. And I initially thought when I was studying Jalen, I kind of saw the same things.

"You see similar movements in the pocket, you see similar throwing, the stature is about the same, so, it's just a lot of similarities that way between those two. Can Jalen be a Russell Wilson? I mean, that's obviously up to Jalen to do that, but I think if he continues to work and the type of person he is, I think he can have that type of career."

Pederson still watches the Eagles from afar and said he has been "impressed with [Hurts'] growth in Year 2" and that Hurts "has done a really nice job leading that football team." He noted Hurts' next-level work ethic and desire to improve when rattling off his attributes.

Still, Pederson did not shoo away the idea of using one of Philadelphia's three first-round picks on a quarterback this April when asked for his perspective on the Eagles' upcoming offseason.

"They'll have to evaluate their goals and their needs and the things that they want as a football team," he said, "but you know, one of the philosophies I've always had is you got to keep looking at the quarterback position, and possibly drafting one if one is there, because eventually, somebody's gonna stick."

'I'm putting a plan together'

Pederson took a break from coaching, but football has remained part of his routine over the past year. He watches college and pro tape from his home office in Jupiter, marking down plays and situations that catch his eye so he can go back and study them. Pederson said it's been nice to view things with "calmer eyes" and use the process to grow as a coach without having to worry about the game plan.

He took note of the surging number of fourth-down tries across the league -- a trend he and the Eagles helped kick-start -- and said "that's something we'll definitely take a look at" should he return as a head coach in 2022.

"I'm putting a plan together. I want to definitely get back in and head coach again," he said. "I think that I can still do that and be successful and try to help an organization win."

Pederson has been busy formulating a list of candidates to fill out his coaching staff should he land a gig.

"My name has been thrown around a little bit with some of the teams [who could have openings] and obviously Jacksonville because it's, I guess, the freshest on everybody's mind. But just [looking for] another opportunity to get back in the league, to get back in the NFL to lead a group of men, is my passion and my goal and kind of what I'm focused on right now."

The ideal landing spot

Beyond the Jaguars, other teams that could have head-coaching vacancies include the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings and Las Vegas Raiders.

Pederson said ideally, the team he would take over would have a well-stocked, "medium-age" roster that he could help grow. He said a young quarterback was "not a prerequisite," but he likes the idea of being able to develop a quarterback. With all the speculation about the Jaguars job, he was asked for his thoughts on Trevor Lawrence.

"Obviously athletic," Pederson said. "You see the same things with young quarterbacks with anticipation, trying to get away with sometimes doing too much. But then you see those 'wow' plays with him, whether he's escaping the pocket or he throws an accurate ball down the field. I think about Carson his first year and how he was able to do some of those same things. Tough kid ... and another one that I think can have a bright future."

Pederson posted a 42-37-1 record over five seasons with Philadelphia that included three consecutive trips to the playoffs from 2017 to 2019 and a Super Bowl title. The Eagles were the only team to interview Pederson, the former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator, in 2016. He thinks he can "maybe be a little more selective the second time around" given what he has accomplished in the league.

"And like in '16, a place where you can go and establish your culture and establish your footprint on an organization," he said. "And, hopefully, with my track record and résumé with winning a championship and being in the postseason three out of the five years, speaks volumes. That's something that I can obviously offer a football team, and that's what I'm looking for."