The Jacksonville Jaguars should thank their lucky stars for Doug Pederson every day, but especially today.
On the same day the Jaguars are gearing up for a potential — if not likely — playoff run in Pederson’s first season with the team, the Denver Broncos ended Nathaniel Hackett’s tenure after just 15 games.
For the Broncos, it is a lesson in regret. For the Jaguars, it is a lesson in luck. Pure, unaltered, unattainable luck. The kind of luck that has changed a franchise.
Just go back 13 months ago and it is hard to forget that Hackett was arguably the leading candidate to be the Jaguars’ replacement for Urban Meyer. Hackett wasn’t the first head coach the Jaguars interviewed (that was Pederson), but he was one the ownership was clearly fond of after his first employment with the team saw him dial up plays in two playoff wins.
As a result, Hackett was the first coach the Jaguars scheduled the all-important second interview with during last year’s process. Shortly after the interview was scheduled, the Broncos moved in on Hackett and hired him, a sign that they knew the Jaguars would likely attempt to do the very same.
“We had a process. We ran the process, and we had great candidates, but Doug is our guy. During the time, we interviewed over ten candidates. Some of them — I mean, that really tells you the pool of candidates we had — got other jobs, and that was great,” Jaguars owner Shad Khan said at Pederson’s introductory press conference on Feb 5.
“But for me, this had to be exhaustive, but it had to be the right one. Some of the things that were really unique and different for me was to really get the insights of our players and insights of the alumni players. So they were — part of it, it took a little bit longer, but we wanted to get their insight who we were talking to and then allowed them an opportunity, obviously, to talk to some of the finalists.
Now, on the day after Christmas, the two teams’ fortunes could not be more different. The Broncos have no first-round draft picks, no quarterback, no coach, and, more importantly, no hope.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars are on pace to have arguably the best offense in franchise history under Pederson. They are one win away from an AFC South title and a home playoff game, and they have won just as many games since their Week 12 bye week as the Broncos have in 16 weeks.
Pederson is the answer to all of the Jaguars’ ailments of the past two decades. His coaching has brought a new energy to TIAA Bank Field, a new confidence to a locker room that was previously without it and, most importantly, unlocked Trevor Lawrence.
Hackett, meanwhile, will go down as one of the worst coaching tenures in NFL history.
Did the Jaguars know what they were doing when their process led them to hiring Pederson as opposed to Hackett? Maybe not. But at this point, with the Jaguars at 7-8 and a Week 18 win away from the playoffs, it doesn’t matter.
The Jaguars got lucky and dodged a bullet. As a result, they now have a coach who has a chance to cement himself as one of the best in franchise history after just one year on the job.
“I’ve said it a couple times, I think the staff and especially Coach Pederson has had belief in us, even when maybe we didn’t in the beginning,” Trevor Lawrence said last week.
“Things were crazy and I think him just having that confidence in us, we kind of realized we have something special here and we had to kind of figure out what we wanted to do before it got too late, we made adjustments and really started playing our best ball at the right time and it’s about getting better every week.”
Pederson has the Jaguars on track and, finally, feeling lucky.