Less than three years after leading the Eagles to their first Super Bowl championship, Doug Pederson’s Eagles coaching career is over.
Owner Jeff Lurie fired Pederson Monday in the wake of a miserable 4-11-1 season. The Eagles have won four or fewer games three times since Jeff Lurie bought the team - 1998, 2012 and 2020 - and Lurie fired the head coach each time.
Only three teams in the Eagles’ 88-year history have lost more games.
"I have known Doug and his family for more than 20 years and they will always be family to me," Lurie said in a statement. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and everything we have accomplished together over the last five seasons. Everyone in the organization understands the type of man and coach that he is, and how much he means to all of us as well as the City of Philadelphia. We all look forward to the day he will be inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame as a Super Bowl-winning head coach, and we are confident he will have success with his next team.
"But as the leader of this organization, it is imperative for me to do what I believe is best for everyone as we look ahead to the future and move into our next chapter. I know that we have work to do to get back to where we want to be, but I also believe that we have an exceptionally strong group of people in this organization who can help set us up for future success."
Pederson is the first NFL coach in nearly half a century to be fired less than six years after winning a Super Bowl. Don McCafferty led the Colts to the Super Bowl V championship after the 1970 season but was fired five games into 1972 when he refused to bench 39-year-old Johnny Unitas in favor of Marty Domres.
He’s also the second Eagles coach in franchise history to be fired within a year of reaching the playoffs. Buddy Ryan was fired by Norman Braman after the 1990 season despite taking the Eagles to the playoffs in 1988, 1989 and 1990.
Lurie has hired four head coaches since buying the team from Norman Braman in 1994. All four have won 10 games and reached the postseason by their second season.
The Eagles went 42-36-1 in five years under Pederson, and his 42 wins are 5th-most in franchise history, one fewer than Ryan.
Only Andy Reid (14 years), Greasy Neale (10 years) and Dick Vermeil (seven years) coached the Eagles longer than Pederson.
This is the first time the Eagles have failed to win 10 games under the same head coach three years in a row since Marion Campbell was the head coach in the mid-1980s.
Other than the Super Bowl season, the Eagles were 29-33-1. But in 2017, they went 13-3 and roared through the playoffs and then toppled the greatest coach and quarterback in NFL history, winning Super Bowl LII against the Patriots 41-33 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
It was the franchise’s first championship since 1960.
But it’s been a steady decline since then.
The Eagles won a playoff game in 2018 and reached the playoffs last year but after a 3-4-1 start this year lost six of their next seven games, dropping out of the tepid NFC East playoff race with a 20-point loss to the hated Cowboys in Week 16.
Since winning the Super Bowl, the Eagles are 22-25-1 and 1-2 in the postseason.
Pederson’s fifth season was marked by repeated bizarre in-game decisions, consistently dubious play calling, continued under-utilization of Miles Sanders and a very good running game and the mysterious decline of Carson Wentz.
It was Pederson’s inability to get Wentz back to his form of the last few years that created the tension that ultimately led to his dismissal.
Wentz struggled all year and Pederson finally benched him for rookie Jalen Hurts in the third quarter of a Week 12 game against the Packers.
According to reports, Wentz believes his relationship with Pederson is beyond repair, and it sure looks like it ultimately came down to Lurie choosing between Wentz, the one-time Pro Bowler, and Pederson, the one-time Super Bowl winner.
For Pederson’s firing to come eight days after the season ended is unusual, but it’s been an unusual season all around.
Lurie and Pederson reportedly met two days after the season ended to discuss Pederson’s future, but Lurie didn’t make the final decision to change coaches for another six days.
The last Eagles head coach who was fired more than two days after the end of the season was Joe Kuharich, who led the Eagles from 1964 through 1968. He wasn’t fired until the following May, after Leonard Tose bought the team from debt-ridden Jerry Wolman.
Lurie has been clear in the past that it’s very unlikely he would ever hire another defensive coach as a head coach, something he last did with Rhodes in 1995.
If the Eagles hire from the inside, which they last did in 1991 with Kotite, who had been Ryan’s offensive coordinator, running backs coach and assistant head coach Duce Staley would be the most logical candidate. Staley led the team this summer when Pederson was sidelined with COVID-19.
Among the hot outside candidates this year are Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka, Ravens quarterbacks coach James Urban and Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady.
Bieniemy played for the Eagles in 1999 and holds the same position under Reid that Pederson held when Lurie hired him in 2016. Kafka was an Eagles draft pick in 2010, and his position coach with the Eagles was Pederson. Urban spent 2004 through 2010 as an offensive coach with the Eagles under Reid.
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