Opinion: Ex-Eagles coach Doug Pederson takes the biggest 'L' in Carson Wentz exchange
Sure, Jalen Hurts wins. Carson Wentz wins. Frank Reich wins.
The big loser? Doug Pederson.
You remember him — the guy bronzed alongside Nick Foles as a statue outside The Linc that pays homage to the “Philly, Philly” moment from Super Bowl LII, the high point of Pederson’s five-year tenure as Eagles coach. The guy who will never have to buy a beer in The City of Brotherly Love because he delivered that long sought-after championship.
The guy who was fired a little more than a month ago amid speculation that the breaking point involved his insistence that the team move forward with Hurts.
Look at the Eagles now. Moving forward with Hurts. And with Pederson replaced by an unproven coach, Nick Sirianni, who made a horrible first impression during his introductory news conference in late January.
Philly's switch to Hurts, whom Pederson inserted as the rookie starter to replace a struggling Wentz in the last quarter of the season, has the potential for greatness. With his opportunity, Hurts demonstrated a multi-dimensional spark that made it clear that Wentz — despite his whopping $128 million contract extension — was yesterday’s franchise quarterback.
Hurts, last year’s second-round pick, gets the chance to be the starter, with a whole offseason to prepare and apparently without the cloud of a QB controversy.
That Pederson wanted to go there might not have been good business salary cap-wise, but it was good business in the football-is-a-meritocracy realm.
Of course, in dumping Pederson following a 4-11-1 mudslide in 2020, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie insisted that the decision didn’t merely hinge on the quarterback conundrum. He said it involved multiple factors. But let’s be for real. It just had to pain Lurie to commit to a $128 million contract for a quarterback who was on the way out.
Maybe it was Pederson — whose fractured relationship with Wentz was reportedly a factor that led him to seek a trade — who had convinced Lurie to sign Wentz to the big deal prematurely, without much drama. Maybe that’s why Lurie kicked Pederson (42-37-1 overall) to the curb three years after winning a Super Bowl.
Pederson, wearing the Big L.
In any event, Wentz never returned to the MVP-level he enjoyed before blowing out his knee in 2017, and he floundered immensely (career-high 15 picks, career-low 72.8 passer rating) under Pederson’s watch in 2020. When the coach was fired, there was no need to crack a code. Lurie hailed Wentz as a major asset. He said “it behooves us” to get Wentz playing on an elite level again.
“I fully expect him to realize his potential,” Lurie said on a video conference call with reporters in early January.
Perhaps Wentz will reach his potential — only with Reich and the Colts, who gave up a third-round pick in 2021 and a conditional second-round pick in 2022 that could improve to a first-round choice.
See, Wentz wins.
Meanwhile, Lurie and his GM, Howie Roseman, will take a $33.8 million dead-money hit against the cap. Yep, they’re losers, too, as the cap money comes in a year when the cap was reduced, the minimum spending floor now $180 million to account for revenues lost during the 2020 season. If Hurts blossoms into a star while playing on a rookie deal (see Dak Prescott), it will ease only a portion of the sting from the Wentz contract. And let’s see whether the Eagles will move as quickly to ink Hurts to a long-tern extension down the road as they did with Wentz.
The Wentz money isn’t the only hit the Eagles are absorbing. Pederson, who won’t coach in 2021, is due two years of salary on a contract that was extended in 2018 at a rate that is probably at least in the $4 million-per-year range.
No, these Eagles moves haven’t been cheap. But we’ll see. If Sirianni, 39, who was Reich’s offensive coordinator with the Colts, turns out to be a gem — especially after the Eagles passed on hot coordinators including Eric Bieniemy, Todd Bowles, Brian Daboll, Leslie Frazier and Byron Leftwich — it will be chalked up as the cost of doing business. So much rides on Hurts’ development. But if that first impression was any indication, Sirianni lacks in the presence department.
Then again, when Pederson was hired in 2016, there were some who felt the Eagles had missed the mark — most notably, NFL analyst Mike Lombardi, who called him the worst hire in 30 years. Then two years later, Pederson delivered a Lombardi Trophy.
Now Pederson is like most coaches. Hired to be fired.
And the one with the Big L inextricably connected to Wentz.
Follow Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell