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March 16, 2021

Former Eagles coach Doug Pederson speaks about relationship with Carson Wentz for first time since firing

Pederson also reflected on his overall tenure as coach and how it so quickly unraveled in Philly.

Eagles NFL

It's been a while since we've heard from Doug Pederson, but that's not surprising since NFL coaches often disappear for a bit immediately following their firing, which is what happened to Pederson just about two months ago, following a disappointing 4-11-1 season that saw the team bench its starting quarterback and become the punchline in a joke of a division. 

For many, there was the belief that Pederson's ouster had more to do with his reported deteriorating relationship with quarterback Carson Wentz, who Pederson benched for the last four games of the season in favor of rookie Jalen Hurts (who appears primed to take over as the starter in 2021). 

Neither Wentz nor Pederson have spoken on the subject, but the latter finally broke his silence this week when he joined NBC Sports Philadelphia's Johnny Tarmac on his "Takeoff with John Clark" podcast. Here's a snippet of what Pederson said about his relationship with Wentz, which actually came toward the end of the interview but is likely what fans what to read about the most... 

Is there anything you want to clear up about what happened with you and Carson Wentz? There were reports that you guys didn't speak for a couple months and things like that. Is there anything you want to clear up?

"The only thing I will say — and I understand where Carson’s coming from because it’s difficult —when you’re the starter and things like this happen and you basically get benched. Our season wasn’t going the way we wanted it to go and it’s difficult. It’s difficult for any player to go through that. I did it with Nelson Agholor my first year. Obviously a different position and all that, but you’ve got to have the conversations, you’ve got to have the open-door policy, and you’ve got to communicate, and felt like we did that.

“I do believe that there's a little misnomer out there where Carson and I were on such bad terms. I've never felt that way. I’ve always felt like I was going to do the right thing for the Philadelphia Eagles, but yet I understand what he was feeling and what he was going through. I know there was frustration there. So I still have a lot of respect [for Carson]. 

"We drafted him five years ago to be 'the guy' and I'm excited to see what he does with the Colts now. And he has a fresh start too and I think that's something that players go through in their careers. They get opportunities to go other places, whether it's through free agency, whether it's through trades, you get cut one place [and] you get picked up another. It's just another opportunity, and I know that's what he's looking forward to. And I'm excited to watch his career moving forward."

Here's a bit more from Pederson's conversation with Clark, which actually started with a really cool father-son interview with Doug and his son Josh, who is a tight end and could be selected in next month's NFL Draft, before getting into the nitty-gritty. 

CLARK: Have you found some closure after everything's that happened?

PEDERSON: "You know what, I have, John. And obviously this business is a tough business, and we know that. I got into coaching — even when I got into high school coaching — it's about winning games and winning championships, winning state championship in high school or a national championship in college and obviously a Super Bowl in the NFL. And for me, you know, I was able to accomplish that in the NFL. I was able to accomplish that in a great city of Philadelphia and a place that I played, a place that I worked in my past, and obviously [a place] I became head coach for five years.

“From a closure standpoint, I just think about those great times, great moments I had in the five years. And Obviously, we had a rough season this past year and things didn’t go our way and the injuries and whatnot. But I don’t focus on that. I focus on the good times, the good things, the people I’ve met, the relationships that I have and still hold dear to my heart. That, to me, gives me closure on any decision that was made. Because I know that I can obviously hold my head up high. Very proud of what I did in the five years in Philadelphia, obviously bringing that organization and that city a championship.”

Jeff Lurie did say that you did not deserve to be let go. So, I gotta ask you, do you feel you deserved to be fired?

"You know, I would love to have had an opportunity to fix the season last year and get things back on track, and really turn that thing around because I feel like that's something that I could've done. And I understand where [Lurie's] coming from and the situation moving forward. Again, I just continue to focus on the positives and think about my time there. And if this was the time — obviously this was the time — for me to leave, well guess what, I'm going out on a high note, I'm going out on top, I'm going out as a Super Bowl winning coach in Philadelphia. Hopefully I'll be welcomed back in the city one day, and whether I'm coaching on the other sideline or just coming back to visit, I look forward to those moments."

Did it kind of come down to you standing your ground and standing up for coaches that you wanted to have on your staff?

"I've done that in my time there, and obviously I'm going to continue to always stand up for the guys that I want to surround myself with and try to put my best foot forward. I feel like as a head coach you should have that opportunity to have those guys around you. Because then it's on me, then it's my decision. If it goes south at that point, then that's something I have to live with. So I'm always going to stand up for those guys, whether they're coaches or players or front office people, because you want to surround yourself with guys that are loyal, guys that are going to have your back, guys that are going to stand up for you, because I'm going to stand up for every one of those players in that locker room, which I did for five years, and obviously my coaches are the same."

So when you guys won the Super Bowl three years ago and that party and everything, if I was to say that three years later, just three years later, you, Nick Foles, Carson Wentz would all not be with the Eagles anymore, you would probably tell me that I was crazy and that it would be shocking, right?

"Yeah, I would've said that three years ago coming off a Super Bowl win and obviously in '18 and '19 a couple of playoff appearances, you'd say you'd at least have a couple more years left to try to do it again and turn things around. But again, it's sort of water under the bridge. I have moved on from it. I'm looking forward to the next opportunity in my coaching career. I'm excited about [my son] Josh and this spring for him and supporting him — we're going to be at his pro day this week and just want to see some great things through him. 

"Listen, I've had such an outpouring of love and support and congratulations that that's what keeps me going, that what allows me to have that closure that you asked me about. From the fans, and even from people around the league that have reached out, that outpouring just goes to show you that for the last five years, we did things right. I'm going to continue to do that, believe in the things that I want to believe in and hopefully I get an opportunity to do that in the future."

Final question about the Eagles. Jalen Hurts — he only had four games to start but he is going to be QB1 now in Philly. Do you think he can be "the guy" here with the Eagles? [NOTE: This came immediately after the Wentz question that we snipped and put above.]

"You know, I think he can. He's got such a great — a lot like Carson — he’s got such a great leadership style. Guys really gravitate to him. His work ethic is second to none. I think the coaching staff can, if they’re patient with him and really teach and dial things in for him and really tailor the offense around his skill set, he’s going to have success. He’s a proven winner. He’s been a proven winner obviously in college at a couple of places he’s been. I know he can do that in the National Football League. He’s young but yet he’s eager. He’s going to outwork everybody on the football team. That’s just who he is. So again, he's another young player for the Eagles who I'll follow his career, but I think he'll have some success there."

This is just about an eight-minute segment of a much longer interview, so head over to NBC Sports Philadelphia to listen to the whole thing.

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