Doug Pederson is a home run hire for the Jacksonville Jaguars, the right coach the franchise needs to get Jacksonville back to a winning organization. The Jaguars have been the laughingstock of the NFL for nearly a decade, a franchise that has won over six games once in a season since the start of 2011 -- an NFL worst 47-130 in that span (.266 win percentage).
Pederson's credentials are exceptional for a franchise like Jacksonville. He went 42-37-1 in his five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, winning two NFC East titles and taking the franchise to three consecutive playoff appearances (2017 to 2019). He turned the Eagles around in a hurry, becoming one of just 11 head coaches to win the Super Bowl in his first two seasons as a head coach.
Known for developing young quarterbacks, Pederson's arrival in Jacksonville will be vital for a young quarterback in Trevor Lawrence -- who is coming off one of the worst seasons for a No. 1 pick in NFL history. The first task for Pederson is developing Lawrence and making him an elite quarterback, which will define his tenure -- and the direction -- of the Jaguars franchise over the next decade.
Fortunately Pederson has been in this situation before.
Doug's quarterback history
Pederson was brought in as the Eagles head coach in 2016, tasked with the job of finding Philadelphia a franchise quarterback that could lead the organization for a decade. A former NFL quarterback himself, Pederson spent a decade learning the position as an understudy for Dan Marino and Brett Favre before getting his own chance to start for the Eagles in 1999. Pederson was brought in by then-Eagles head coach Andy Reid to mentor Donovan McNabb, holding the fort until McNabb was ready to take over as the franchise quarterback.
Reid gave Pederson another opportunity a decade later, hiring him as the offensive quality control coach and later quarterbacks coach of the Eagles from 2009 to 2012. Pederson was part of the braintrust that reinvented Michael Vick from a runner to a pocket passer, less than two years removed from prison. Vick finished second in the MVP voting to Tom Brady in 2010 as he threw for 3,018 yards with 21 touchdowns to just six interceptions and rushed for 676 yards and nine touchdowns.
Once Reid was hired as the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, he took Pederson with him and hired his former quarterbacks coach as offensive coordinator -- a well-deserved promotion for Pederson. In Kansas City, Pederson was tasked was continuing the development of Alex Smith -- who Reid and the Chiefs acquired from the San Francisco 49ers in the 2013 offseason.
Smith was a Pro Bowl selection in his first season with the Chiefs, completing 60.6% of his passes for 3,313 yards with 23 touchdowns to just seven interceptions -- improving his completion percentage and passer rating every season. The Chiefs were 30-16 in Smith's 46 starts with Pederson as his offensive coordinator, which led to Pederson getting hired as the head coach by the Eagles.
Take a look at the quarterbacks that Pederson turned around under his tutelage:
Michael Vick (2010)*
Alex Smith (2013)*
Alex Smith (2014)
Alex Smith (2015)
Carson Wentz's development
The Eagles traded up in a pair of separate deals from No. 13 to No. 2 in order to select Wentz as their next franchise quarterback. A raw talent form North Dakota State, Pederson was tasked with developing Wentz into that franchise signal-caller by having him sit and learn behind Sam Bradford in his rookie season.
The Eagles traded Bradford eight days before the start of the 2016 season, instituting Wentz as the starting quarterback despite playing just one preseason game. Pederson and the Eagles braintrust thought Wentz was ready, believing Wentz took a huge step in developing his mechanics and footwork in the five months he worked with Wentz.
White Wentz's 2016 season was rocky at times (62.4 %, 3,782 yards, 16 TD, 14 INT), the Eagles saw enough in an overachieving 7-9 season to believe Wentz was ready to take the next step towards the NFL's elite.
Wentz had a long delivery that Pederson, offensive coordinator Frank Reich, and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo strictly worked on throughout the 2016 season and the 2017 offseason. Wentz had an open shoulder and an unsteady base that affected his delivery, causing the ball to drop to his waist level -- resulting in bad habits.
Wentz had a smart football mind, so Pederson and the coaching staff worked on a quick release that offseason and utilized Wentz toward his strengths outside the pocket. Wentz was pinpoint in throwing the football on the run with power and a soft touch in his delivery, while also exemplifying excellent footwork in-and-out of the pocket.
The changes led to Wentz being the front-runner for league MVP honors in 2017, before his season ended with a torn ACL and LCL. The Eagles were 11-2 when Wentz went down, as he set the franchise up to earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC -- and was a vital component toward Pederson leading the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title.
Wentz's change was transformational, and a major reason why Pederson earned another NFL head coaching job with a young quarterback.
Carson Wentz under Doug Pederson
2016 (rookie season, 16 games)
2017 (second season, 14 games)
How Pederson can turn Trevor Lawrence around
Lawrence's rookie season should just be thrown in the trash, a wasted year thanks to the dysfunction of Urban Meyer as head coach and all the turmoil he brought to the Jaguars organization. The numbers were abysmal for the No. 1 overall pick, who finished his rookie season completing 59.6% of his passes for 3,641 yards with 12 touchdowns to 17 interceptions (71.9 rating). Of the 31 qualified quarterbacks, Lawrence was 29th in completion percentage, 31st in touchdown percentage (2.0%), 24th in interception percentage (2.8%), 31st in yards per attempt (6.0), and 30th in quarterback rating.
Pederson is getting Lawrence at the right time, as the quarterback couldn't possibly play any worse than he did in his inaugural season. Lawrence handled his tumultuous rookie season with the leadership of a veteran, which will pay huge dividends toward working with Pederson this offseason.
The mechanics aren't the issue, as Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and Buffalo Bills safety Micah Hyde pointed out throughout the season. Lawrence one week was tasked into running an offense like Dan Marino -- and another week orcharisting the same offense by taking any checkdown imaginable. Lawrence had one of the worst wide receiver cores in the NFL and a head coach that simply refused to give the ball to his best playmaker in James Robinson (when healthy). Throwing to the likes of Jamal Agnew, Tavon Austin, and Laquon Treadwell didn't help matters much either.
The best way for Pederson to help Lawrence right off the bat is to pass over his vast knowledge of the position to the young quarterback. Installing a West Coast-based offense (like Pederson did in Philadelphia) will help Lawrence get into a rhythm early in games, improve his completion rate, and have a consistent game plan week-to-week. Just being an adult in the coaching room will help Lawrence reach his vast potential.
Getting Lawrence away from the heavy play-action and building a strong offensive line for him will immediately improve the young quarterback's game in 2022. Pederson will have a lot of shotgun for Lawrence (not certain yet if that's a good thing), but the offense will tailor toward his ability in zone-read with the run-pass option installed in the offense.
What to expect from Trevor Lawrence in 2022
The Jaguars have a projected $59.4 million in available salary cap space heading into the 2022 offseason, the second-most in the NFL. Jacksonville needs to rebuild the offensive line to protect its quarterback and give Lawrence better receivers to throw to in year two. Pederson's offense was second in the NFL in the usage of "12 personnel" (two tight ends) in 2020 (35%) and led the league in 2019 (52%). The Jaguars will have to improve at tight end if Pederson wishes to bring that formation to the Jaguars offense and help Lawrence have an option in the middle of the field.
Adding the run-pass option to Lawrence's game will aid to his strengths in reading a defense. Lawrence will also have a good option to hand the ball off in Travis Etienne, who can stretch to the outside and open up another part of the field. Etienne's pass-catching ability will be critical for Lawrence, a back Pederson will use to his strengths when he's on the field.
The big plays Lawrence was accustomed to at Clemson will return under Pederson, thanks to the use of the run-pass option and Pederson's willingness to extend the play and utilize Lawrence outside the pocket. The Jaguars had just 21 pass plays of 25-plus yards last season (27th in the NFL), a number that should significantly increase with Pederson's offense.
Lawrence's completion percentage will go up and his interceptions will decrease. The yards per attempt and touchdown percentage will also improve as a result of Pederson's West Coast-based scheme.
While the results may not all show in 2022, expect Lawrence to show significant progress toward the second half of the season -- and the quarterback to demonstrate the final product in 2023. Lawrence's development will take more than one offseason under Pederson, but he'll significantly improve as a quarterback over the next 18 months.
The best of Lawrence is yet to come. The Jaguars just have to be patient.