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January 15, 2023

Doug Pederson's greatness should've never been in doubt

Doug Pederson's playoff magic continues to play out in Jacksonville.

Wild Card Weekend when the Eagles are on a bye is a stress-free time for Philadelphians. NFL fans were treated to an instant-classic game on Saturday night, as the Jaguars rallied back from a 27-0 defect to beat Chargers 31-30. It's the third-biggest comeback in playoff history. 

In the hands of a lesser coach, that Jacksonville team would've rolled over and died. Fortunately for Trevor Lawrence and all of Duval County, however, the Jaguars have Doug Pederson. 

Pederson guided the Jags through this wild comeback, channeling the best parts of his Eagles run, being uber-aggresive and generally running laps around Chargers head coach Brandon Staley, who may be searching for a new job in the next 48 hours. 

While neither reaches the stratosphere of the Philly Special from his Super Bowl win with the Eagles, Pederson dialed up two calls in Saturday's win that will be etched into Jaguars lore. 

First came after the Jaguars scored their final TD of the night, making things a 30-26 game. Conventional wisdom said to kick the extra point and make it a three-point game so that a later field goal could fully tie things up. Chargers Pro Bowl defensive end Joey Bosa, however, was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after that Christian Kirk touchdown. Pederson chose to enact that penalty on the point-after attempt, moving the ball to the one-yard line in order to make it a two-point game with a successful conversion. A leap and stretch of the football over the goal line by Lawrence later and it was a two-point game:

So many people in the NFL coach to "not lose". Pederson coaches to win. 

The energy down in Jacksonville was wild after that, that crowd filled 68,000 Jason Mendozas going into a frenzy. The Jags' D forced a three and out, giving Pederson and the offense the ball back with a chance to nuke the clock and kick a game-winning, not a game-tying, field goal at the end of regulation. 

 The biggest moment of the night for Pederson was a fourth and 1 call. During his time as the Eagles' head coach, Pederson had legitimately revolutionized the way teams went for it on fourth down, putting trust in their players and playing the percentages. It's fitting that this fourth down move, instead of opting for a risky 58-yard field goal, set up a game-winning chip shot:

Three players lined up as running backs? Running outside to Travis Etienne for a 25-yard game? Pederson zagged while other teams zig for on these "Bush push" QB sneaks. 

An ensuing 36-yard field goal from Riley Patterson gave the Jaguars their first playoff win in five years:

It was a total masterclass from Pederson, who has strangely gotten this reputation as a stooge whose accomplishments don't match the man. To say that's off base would be an understatement. 

In seven career playoff games, Pederson has been the underdog six times. He's 5-1 overall and 6-0 against the spread. Count this dude out at your own risk. 

So, the elephant in the room... 

Should the Eagles have regrets here over letting Pederson go? No. Things grew stale at the end of Pederson's tenure in Philly, though I do say that had more to do with the quarterback and poor roster construction from the general manager. Fresh starts are needed.

Andy Reid wouldn't have .772 winning percentage over the last 10 years if he stayed with the Birds. Change was needed for Reid to reinvent himself. It appears that's happening for now for Pederson in his post-2020 glo-up, to say nothing of the job Nick Sirianni has done over the last two seasons. 

Still, I continue laugh in the face of the "It was all Frank Reich!" comments I've heard over the last half-decade. Why the rush to discredit the guy who dropped 41 points on the greatest defensive mind of all time with a backup quarterback? It was weird, as a section of the Eagles' fan base came off as ungrateful for the heights that Pederson's 2017 Super Bowl brought. Maybe Pederson never acted or looked like the ideal Philadelphia coach, but banners fly forever and the one that hangs at Lincoln Financial Field continues to go strong. 

Next up for a Pederson? A likely divisional round matchup with with Big Red and the Chiefs. The narrative writes itself. 

I'm just throwing it out there... I grabbed an Eagles-Jaguars Super Bowl matchup bet on New Year's Day at +900. 

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