PHILADELPHIA - In a game of high-stakes chicken played out in South Florida, Jeffery Lurie didn't blink and fired Eagles head coach Doug Pederson less than three years after winning Super Bowl LII, the organization's only championship in the modern era.
The move was unprecedented.
Over the past three decades, only four Super Bowl-winning coaches have been jettisoned and all of those were given far longer shelf lives than Pederson was allowed by Lurie.
The last was now-Dallas coach Mike McCarthy, who was fired by Green Bay eight years after guiding the Packers to the Lombardi Trophy. Prior to that Jon Gruden was given six seasons after his SB win in Tampa, Brian Billick seven years in Baltimore, and Mike Shanahan a decade in Denver.
The disconnect with Pederson was an insistence on a coaching staff that didn't meet the necessary requirement of change when it came to Lurie's vision. The former coach wanted to elevate Press Taylor to offensive coordinator, Andrew Breiner from passing-game analyst to quarterbacks coach, and Matt Burke or perhaps Cory Undlin, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, to defensive coordinator.
The real sticking point was Taylor, a young coach that Pederson trusts and looks at as a protege.
Semantics are important here in the statement released by Lurie and the Eagles.
"I have spent the last few weeks evaluating everything from this past year and looking ahead," said Lurie. "We are all very disappointed with the way our season went and eager to turn things around, not just for next season but also for the future of the franchise. Coach (Doug) Pederson and I had the opportunity to sit down and discuss what that collective vision would look like moving forward.
"After taking some time to reflect on these conversations, I believe it is in both of our best interests to part ways."
According to a former Pederson staff member, the head coach had reached the end of his rope when it came to the meddling with his coaching staff, a sentiment that started to boil last January when Pederson was ultimately forced to fire two members of his staff he didn't want to, offensive coordinator Mike Groh and receivers coach Carson Walch.
When the idea of his decisions being vetoed surfaced again Pederson didn't exactly go into the meeting Monday with the intent of lobbying for his job.
Pederson is expected to have other options, starting with the New York Jets where former Philadelphia personnel executive Joe Douglas is the GM. Teams looking to hire coaches right now are deep in the hiring process, however, so it's conceivable Pederson will have to take a year off before getting back into the game.
As for Lurie, he comes across like a micro-manager, something he denied at an afternoon press conference, and his next head coach will likely come from a pool of first-timers willing to accept concessions when it comes to listening to the owner and GM Howie Roseman.
What's perhaps most troubling is that Lurie did not give the coach who won the Super Bowl the same benefit of the doubt he once afforded Chip Kelly, whose demands were actually much greater in the form of personnel power over Roseman, Lurie's most trusted employer on the football side of the organization.
"I think it was a necessary way to go to find out if Chip was the right guy," Lurie said after Kelly flamed out dramatically."Let him be responsible for all the decisions that he wanted to inject and make. No question I have that it was the right way to dissect if Chip was going to be the right guy going forward or not.
"We dissected it and decided with all of the great things he brought, he wasn’t the right person going forward. And it was helpful for him to be accountable for those decisions so we could move on in a great way.”
Why did Kelly get the rope on personnel and Pederson was summarily swatted asking for much less despite the beefier resume?
The answer is simple.
In Lurie's mind, Pederson was always a third choice with no other options, always the joystick, a vessel for the owner and Roseman. The coach was in many ways a victim of Lurie's pendulum swinging back toward a first-time coach with little juice doing what he was told.
The minute Pederson thought he was more than that, he was gone.
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Tuesday and Thursday on "The Middle" with Eytan Shander, Harry Mayes, and Barrett Brooks on SportsMap Radio and PhillyVoice.com. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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