FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — When Joe Douglas was introduced as general manager of the New York Jets, he thanked a dozen people from his past, including Doug Pederson. He mentioned Pederson alongside a handful of members of the Philadelphia Eagles’ organization, saying we will forever be remembered in the history of professional football – in reference to their Super Bowl title in February 2018.
There is no doubt that the championship band is strong. We’re about to find out how strong it is.
Pederson is looking for a job after being fired by the Eagles on Monday; Douglas is looking for a coach after the 2-14 disaster that led to Adam Gase’s ejection. Under normal circumstances, that would be a no-brainer for the Jets. They have a coach who has won Super Bowls (the Jets haven’t had one since Bill Parcells) and he happens to be a very close GM.
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The fact is that these circumstances are not trivial. Pederson was hit hard in Philadelphia, which was overshadowed by his controversial decision to recruit quarterback Jalen Hurts in Week 17. It fuels the accusations of tanning, and it’s not the kind of stink that comes easily from it. He’s going to be on the New Jersey Turnpike when he’s hired by the Jets, who don’t need another retread to explain what went wrong with the previous job (see: Gase).
The Jets can do better than Pederson. They interviewed New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Arthur Smith and Tennessee Titans high school coach Aaron Glenn on Monday, bringing the total number of known candidates to nine. In my opinion, the most qualified candidates are San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who has received serious interest from the Los Angeles Jets and Chargers, as reported by ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio.
Will Douglas contact Pederson? It would be no surprise if he wanted to discuss the position. After all, they spent three years together. Douglas, who last week said he was looking for a great partner, has a good relationship with Pederson. But it’s premature to say that Pederson’s sudden rise means he’ll jump to the top of the Jets team. He is currently being discussed as a backup candidate. According to Paolantonio, Pederson also wants to spend time thinking about his future and whether he wants to be a coach in 2021.
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Pederson beat New England and coached Bill Belichick to Super Bowl LII with a backup quarterback (Nick Foles), and he made the playoffs three seasons in a row – these things don’t happen by accident. But there were too many red flags last year to anoint him as the Jets’ savior. The Eagles went 4-11-1 in a terrible NFC East Division, quarterback Carson Wentz dropped significantly, and the relationship between Wentz and Pederson deteriorated somewhere along the way. And then, of course, there was the debacle of Week 17, when it looked like Pederson had left his team.
Two years ago, the Jets made the mistake of hiring Gase right after he was fired by the Miami Dolphins. Trying Pederson again would be the definition of delusional. Retired coaches often need a year off from the crucible of work, time to decompress and take stock. Pederson could use a break, especially after a few months in Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, the Jets will continue their research and likely narrow their focus this week and re-interview their key audiences (in person). So far, the interviews are virtual. As promised, Douglas cast a wide net and communicated with both hot (Saleh and Daboll) and emerging talents (Glenn and Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley).
He can’t be wrong about Saleh or Daboll, who can’t be hired until the bills are paid. Saleh is a well-known presenter with an energetic and optimistic personality, as is Pete Carroll, one of his mentors. He would be the anti-gas, someone who would shake up the whole team. Daboll has a successful pedigree (five Super Bowl rings as an assistant with the New England Patriots) and impressive DNA (Nick Saban from Belichick and Alabama). He was also praised for his work with Bills quarterback Josh Allen. It’s important for the Jets, who need someone to fix Sam Darnold or marry a rookie.
Douglas has an important decision to make. If he’s smart, he’ll put his friendship aside and give up Pederson.