As Doug Pederson returns, how his legacy goes beyond Super Bowl to Eagles' 2022 success

PHILADELPHIA − Just in case you forgot, Doug Pederson was on a conference call Wednesday to remind everyone that he was the coach when the Eagles won the only Super Bowl in franchise history.

Of course, Pederson should mention the Super Bowl, which he did, unprompted, three different times. There's a statue outside of Lincoln Financial Field with Pederson and quarterback Nick Foles discussing possibly the most important play in Eagles history, the Philly Special.

"Obviously, I have a lot of fond memories there, and what we did in 2017 is something that we’ll always remember," Pederson said.

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It certainly beats Pederson's final season in 2020, when the Eagles devolved into a 4-11-1 mess. Pederson was fired a week after the season ended, franchise quarterback Carson Wentz was traded, and most of the team turned over.

But out of that mess came another legacy that Pederson should also be remembered for: the development of current Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts.

That will be evident Sunday when Pederson returns to Lincoln Financial Field for the first time this Sunday with his new team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, with a franchise quarterback of his own to develop in Trevor Lawrence, the top pick in the 2021 draft.

It's not that Pederson developed Hurts because, really, he didn't.

Wentz was the franchise quarterback back then. The offense was designed for Wentz, not for Hurts, who was a second-round pick in 2020, drafted primarily to serve as Wentz's backup. That is, when Hurts wasn't running gadget plays.

So when Wentz had by far the worst season of his career, Pederson had no choice but to insert Hurts for the final 4½ games.

None of that worked, of course.

Still, it became apparent that the Eagles were better off moving forward with Hurts, behind a new coach in Nick Sirianni who could tailor the offense to Hurts' skills, than they were sticking with Pederson and Wentz.

Pederson admitted that, too, saying everyone needed a fresh start. But he also said he saw something in Hurts two years ago that predicted the success he is having through three games this season.

The Eagles are 3-0, and Hurts is off to an MVP-type of start. He ranks fifth in passer rating at 106.5. He's completing 67.3% of his passes, a vast improvement from the 52% under Pederson in 2020, and the 61.3% last season under Sirianni.

"Everything that you’re seeing now is everything that we saw in him when we drafted him," Pederson said.

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson talks with starting quarterback Jalen Hurts as quarterback Carson Wentz (11) looks on during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson talks with starting quarterback Jalen Hurts as quarterback Carson Wentz (11) looks on during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Pederson mentioned the "developmental program" that he instituted during his tenure, where rookies and young players would stay after practice on Wednesdays and Fridays to get the reps that were going to the first-teamers in practice.

"He took full advantage of that, not only with the game planning and understanding the terminology, but with the players, throwing as many routes as he could," Pederson said. "That’s where I started seeing the work ethic in him, and how he was able to be the scout-team quarterback and make the throws he was making, and doing some of the things you’re seeing now as a starter."

But that ultimately rests on the quarterback.

And here, Hurts has taken full advantage, as Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen pointed out.

"I think just his mental makeup, his DNA, and how he goes about his business, it's so impressive," Steichen said. "It’s second to none. It really is. If he continues on this trend, it's going to be special.

"He doesn't leave the building. Like, this guy is here all day, every day. All he cares about is football. ... He never takes days off. I mean, he's always working."

Steichen gave two recent examples of Hurts working out in the weight room long after most of his teammates had left.

"He doesn’t stop. He’s relentless in everything he does," he said. "And it’s showing up. When you work like that, good things are going to happen."

Hurts said he has been doing that through high school and college at both Alabama and Oklahoma. So it's not something that Sirianni's staff or Pederson's staff created.

"I just think that it’s a part of me," Hurts said about the long hours. "This is my comfort zone, my safe haven, being here, being around the building, doing football. This is what I do. This is what I’ve always done, ever since I was a kid, being around the game."

There is another thing the Eagles have learned from Pederson's tenure. Wentz had his best season in his second season under Pederson, much like Hurts is having his success in Sirianni's second season.

Pederson said that's no accident. And really, it's something both Hurts and Sirianni have mentioned often as well.

"That’s one of the reasons why sometimes you block (an assistant) coach from leaving. You want stability," Pederson said. "And back then, I wanted stability around Carson Wentz. ... I didn’t want to lose those (assistants), not in Year Two. It’s way too soon.

"And so you saw the growth from Year One to Year Two, and that’s exactly what you’re seeing (with Hurts). ... Those are the things that are tangible that help sort of shape a young quarterback."

Pederson laid the foundation for Hurts' ascension. But even Pederson knows he can't take the credit.

"He prepared himself for this," Pederson said. "I just hope that we can do that with our guy Trevor Lawrence down here in Jacksonville."

Hurts wins monthly honor

Hurts was named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Month for September after leading the Eagles to a 3-0 record. Hurts completed 67.3% of his passes for 916 yards with four TDs and one INT. He's fifth among NFL quarterbacks with a passer rating of 104.5. Hurts also rushed for 167 yards, second among NFL QBs, and three TDs.

Hurts is the first Eagles' quarterback to win the monthly award since Wentz won it in October 2017.

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: As Doug Pederson returns, his Eagles legacy is more than Super Bowl