Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Jaguars’ Doug Pederson gets incredible welcome back to Philadelphia, strong sentiment from Jalen Hurts

PHILADELPHIA — Doug Pederson did his best to downplay his homecoming to Philadelphia all week. But not even Pederson could ignore all he did for the Philadelphia Eagles franchise and all the people who played a role in him being responsible for the Eagles snapping a 57-year championship drought and capturing their first Super Bowl title. 

In the aftermath of the Jacksonville Jaguars‘ 29-21 loss to the Eagles, Pederson still tried to deemphasize his return to the stadium where there’s a statue that sits in the Pepsi Gate in the north end zone for the fans to see. When a coach does enough for a city, it’s hard to completely turn the page.

“At the end of the day, I have a job to do and get the Jags ready to play, but it was good to see a lot of people,” Pederson said after the game. “When you spend as much time here as we did, do the things we did, it was good to see a lot of people.”

From the players to the media, Pederson was beloved in a city starving for a Super Bowl championship. He certainly earned the respect of the players who suited up in midnight green for all five years when he was the head coach. Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham chatted with their former coach for several minutes before the game, giving him the same love he showed them during his time in Philadelphia. 

Jason Kelce was able to get Pederson’s Jaguars coat as a gift, something he proudly showed off in the Eagles locker room. The biggest compliment of all came from Jalen Hurts, who only played for Pederson for one season — albeit a special one. 

If it wasn’t for Pederson and his knowledge of quarterbacks, Hurts isn’t in a Philadelphia Eagles uniform. As the two hugged at midfield, Hurts had some powerful words for his first head coach in the NFL

“I told Doug, ‘I really appreciate you and have a lot of respect for you.’ And I told him, ‘I thank you because you’re the reason I’m here,'” an emotional Hurts said after the game. “I have a lot of love and respect for him. His way of coaching, his coaching style and the way he does things, the great things he’s doing in Jacksonville right now. 

“I have a lot of respect for him and I wish him nothing but the best moving forward.”

Pederson is embarking on a new chapter in his life with the Jaguars, a team that gave the Eagles all they can handle early in Sunday’s game. Jacksonville built a 14-0 lead in the pouring rain before Philadelphia shifted momentum, yet the Jaguars still had a chance to tie the game with under two minutes left. 

Five turnovers doomed the Jaguars, as Sunday’s turnover barrage was reminiscent of last year’s disastrous team. These Jaguars are .500 through four games and believe in their coach, confident his philosophy is going to change the culture in Jacksonville. 

“We feel like the underdog always and we’re always going to be the underdog,” Jaguars wide receiver Christian Kirk said. “And we’re just going to keep fighting to prove to ourselves that we can be the team that we know we can be. When we’re at our best, we feel like we can play with anybody.”

Sound familiar? That’s the underdog mentality that had the city of Philadelphia embrace Pederson. The mentality that earned Philadelphia a championship in just Pederson’s second season. 

That culture is now in Jacksonville. As the Eagles fans give Pederson an ovation that hasn’t been heard since Brian Dawkins faced his former team for the first time, Pederson can finally turn the page and create the same championship mentality in Jacksonville that he created in Philadelphia. The Eagles saw that Sunday.

“Obviously, you see what he’s doing with his football team. He’s doing a good job with this football team. That’s a tough team. That’s a good football team. He’s got them confident and believing,” Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said. “When I feel like a guy is a really good coach and has a really good team, I like to tell him. 

“Best compliment I can give is, ‘Hey, your team is really well coached.’ I like to pay that compliment to guys that I believe that about.”

The Jaguars are in good hands with Pederson. The results are coming, too. 

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