Where does Jaguars HC Doug Pederson rank among AFC South head coaches?

• How does Jaguars HC Doug Pederson stack up against his AFC South peers in the AFC South?
Jacksonville Jaguars v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jacksonville Jaguars v Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson will be hoping to get this team back near the top of the AFC South in 2024.

This will be Pederson's third season in Duval County and his eighth as an NFL head coach. He's the most experienced coach in the AFC South, but does that make him the best?

Here’s a look at the other coaches in this division and how they compare to the former NFL quarterback.

Jaguars HC Doug Pederson’s resume

Doug Pederson
Jacksonville Jaguars v Cleveland Browns / Jason Miller/GettyImages

When you come from the Andy Reid coaching tree, like Doug Pederson, you build up a strong resume that is appealing to NFL general managers.

Pederson spent most of his playing career holding a clipboard for various teams as a backup quarterback, retiring in March 2005. All of that time on the sidelines for NFL games did him well as he transitioned straight into a head coaching role at Calvary Baptist Academy. He guided the Christian high school football team to an overall regular-season record of 33-7.

His NFL coaching days began with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he came on initially as an offensive quality control coach on Reid’s staff and eventually rose to become assistant offensive coordinator. Pederson followed Reid to Kansas City in 2013 as offensive coordinator. Two years later, following a 1-5 start to the Chiefs’ 2015 campaign, he became the playcaller, and KC won 10 in a row.

That put him on the radar of general managers around the league, and Pederson returned to Philly in 2016 as head coach. In his second season, he guided them to their first-ever world title, introducing the famous “Philly Special” in a Super Bowl upset over the New England Patriots. He’d go on to coach the Eagles until he and the management team mutually parted ways in January 2021.

Pederson took a year off before becoming the Jags’ head coach ahead of the 2022 season.

Jacksonville won six more games in his first year in charge than in 2021. We saw a regression last season by missing the playoffs, though before the Cincinnati loss on Monday night, it didn’t look so bad.

Who are the other AFC South head coaches?

Outside of Pederson, the other AFC South coaches are much younger, with much less experience as the head honcho. Shane Steichen, DeMeco Ryans, and Brian Callahan have a combined total of two years of experience as an NFL head coach. Steichen and Ryan are 39, Callahan is 40, and Pederson is 56.

Brian Callahan is the new kid in the block in the AFC South
Head Coach Brian Callahan oversees offensive drills during Tennessee Titans practice at Ascension Saint Thomas Sports Park in Nashville, Tenn., Wednesday, May 29, 2024. / Denny Simmons / The Tennessean / USA

Callahan is the new kid on the block entering his first year on the job in Tennessee. Since 2010, the son of former Oakland Raiders head coach Bill Callahan has held various coaching positions, notably being a part of the 2015 Denver Broncos under Gary Kubiak that won the Super Bowl.

From 2019-2023, Callahan was the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals, helping Joe Burrow and co make the Super Bowl in the 2021 season while they were fifth in regular-season passing in 2022 (250 yards per game).

DeMeco Ryans took the Texans to the playoffs in his first season as the HC.
Jan 13, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans in a 2024 AFC wild card game against the Cleveland Browns at NRG Stadium. / Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Ryans proved he was ready to make the jump from coordinator to head coach in 2023. The former Assistant Coach of the Year with the 49ers helped the Houston Texans to a 10-7 record last season, a seven-win improvement from the previous campaign.

Shane Steichen is entering his 2nd year with the Indianapolis Colts.
Indianapolis Colts head coach Shane Steichen greets warming-up players during day #9 practice of Colts Camp, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023 at Grand Park in Westfield. / Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar / USA TODAY

Steichen navigated through a difficult start in 2023, losing franchise quarterback Anthony Richardson early on. However, the former Eagles offensive coordinator still guided the Colts to a 9-8 record, coming within a game of an improbable run to the playoffs with former Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew. Indy improved in numerous metrics last season despite being without Richardson and running back Jonathan Taylor for significant stretches.

How does Jaguars HC Doug Pederson stack up against his AFC South peers?

Pederson’s time in Jacksonville has similar parallels to the other head coaches in this division. When he became the Jags head coach, there was a lot of healing that had to be done and a team was coming off a disastrous season. Ryans could say the same thing: The Texans were a mess before his arrival. Steichen and Callahan were brought in for similar reasons, though neither had huge messes to clean up like Ryans or Pederson.

In the interest of fairness, I’ll base my rankings only on Pederson’s time in Jacksonville because otherwise, he may have an unfair advantage. He and Ryans have shown they can develop rookies quickly and turn losing franchises into winners. Steichen and Callahan’s case is that they’ve dealt with key injuries as coaches or coordinators and managed to keep their teams competitive.

Overall, I’d have Ryans as the top dog; coming from Kyle Shanahan’s coaching circles in San Fran, he’s learned how to get a team firing on all cylinders. Pederson comes next just because of how much he had to do to heal this team emotionally from the Urban Meyer scars and develop this group that showed little progress in 2021.

Despite the struggles, he was just a win away from the playoffs last season. Steichen grew as a coach, and I loved his aggressive play calling, though there were times I felt his overzealousness cost them, like in their opening game against the Jags. Callahan has a solid resume as a coordinator, but he doesn’t have enough credentials to go off.

There are many good things to like about those four and plenty of reasons for optimism with those coaches on the sidelines.

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