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NFL - US Sports: Can Pederson turn Jaguars' fortunes around?

02 July 2022 07:32:11 EST
Jacksonville Jaguars have appointed Doug Pederson as their new coach

The Jacksonville Jaguars were in possession of the league's worst record again in 2021, but have made significant changes in a bid to regain respectability.

Former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, 19.00 to be named NFL Coach of the Year, has been enticed back to football and the early signs in Duval suggest he'll bring the leadership they need.

Pederson is taking on a huge job, though, with Jacksonville facing a long road back from the doldrums in an era where few teams have been able to turn their fortunes around quickly.

Pederson's pedigree

In terms of which coaches were available and would have taken the position, the Jaguars could not have done any better than hire Pederson.

He's a Super Bowl-winning HC who outsmarted Bill Belichick in the biggest game on the planet with one of the most creative play calls in modern history - the 'Philly Special'.

Pederson didn't turn the Eagles into contenders overnight, though, as they finished with the same 7-9 record in his first season as they had done the year before.

He'd already pre-warned Philadelphians that it was going to be a long road back during his introductory press conference and gradually Pederson began to win the fans over.

Incumbent veteran QB Sam Bradford was traded after Pederson invested his belief in No.2 overall draft pick Carson Wentz. It seemed like a brave move at the time, but it paid off when Wentz led the Eagles to the NFC East title a year later.

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If beating the pre-eminent New England Patriots on the greatest stage of all wasn't enough, Pederson managed to do it with a back-up quarterback under center.

So it was to much surprise around the league when the Eagles forced him out after a 4-11-1 season that followed two more playoff appearances in 2018 and 2019.

Rejuvenation required in Jacksonville

In short, the Jaguars have landed a Super Bowl-calibre coach who has shown he knows how to turn a losing team around.

Pederson also returns to the league after a year's sabbatical fully refreshed and with a point to prove, so what can go wrong?

Well, Jacksonville's record when it comes to hiring has been epically bad ever since they parted company with their inaugural HC Tom Coughlin in 2002. Their next five appointments seemed to get increasingly worse until they reached a nadir with the decision to enlist college football legend Urban Meyer in 2021.

He lasted just 13 games, posting a 2-11 (.154) record, before Jaguars owner Shad Khan cut ties and to most in the organization it wasn't a moment too soon.

Meyer failed to engage with many of his players, so there is hope that their performances will be lifted by Pederson and his new staff.

Jaguars' job list is long

Pederson is an ex-quarterback with a mandate to help their second-year starter Trevor Lawrence realise his vast potential and so it makes sense that he's surrounded himself with coaches familiar with that role.

His offensive staff, particularly his offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator, have all had extensive experience coaching QBs and have also all played the position at some level.

Improving a defense that ranked 20th in the NFL overall, 17th against the pass, 24th against the run and 28th in points allowed per game should also be a priority.

The Jags were often unable to get off the field on third and fourth down, while their lack of playmaking ability was shown by their dead-last ranking for takeaways with just nine turnovers produced by the defense in all of 2021.

Follow the Bengals' blueprint

Jacksonville won't be the only team to have been encouraged by how the Cincinnati Bengals were able to go from a 4-11-1 laughing stock to Super Bowl nearly men in just over one year.

Virtually every franchise to post losing records last season will have broken down how Zach Taylor's team stunned the football universe by not only making the playoffs, but winning three postseason games.

Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville's 2021 No.1 draft selection, has the potential to be the next Joe Burrow if he can sort his reads out and develop some chemistry with his receivers.

The defense has to step up big time in order to make them into playoff contenders too and it's not as if the Jags, 2.05 to record over 6.5 regular-season wins, were losing too many close games last year - with only one of their defeats decided by a field goal or less.

But the Bengals showed it was possible and, with Pederson at the helm, hope springs eternal in Duval for more successful times ahead.

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