It could be that Sunday's opener against the Cleveland Browns was the equivalent of a soothing, warm entry into the shallow end of the NFL pool for Doug Pederson's debut as head coach of the Eagles.
The water gets deeper and colder eventually, and there will be blood in the water and sharks all around, but those are worries for another day. Pederson and the Eagles swam steadily through the Browns on Sunday, not missing many strokes as they did. The headsets worked, the plays were called quickly, there were no timeout glitches. Pederson, his salt and pepper hair spiking through the visor, operated the game like a veteran coach who had done this many times before. Around here, you don't take that for granted.
Before the 29-10 win, Pederson shared a joke on the field with Carson Wentz, the rookie whose future is tied so closely to his own. Someone asked if that was to calm down the quarterback and Pederson said it wasn't necessarily about Wentz.
"I don't know if it was more for me or for him. My nerves were a little high as well," Pederson said. "I was a little jittery going out . . . and once the ball was teed up and kicked off, it was business as usual."
And, as far as the business went, it was a good day at the office. A lot of that has to do with the Cleveland Browns, who appear to be headed for another season of fishing without a hook. They didn't show much on either side of the ball - and special teams were no bargain, either - but the Eagles were in that equation, too.
The defense hectored and hemmed in quarterback Robert Griffin III all afternoon. Only two of Cleveland's 13 drives lasted more than five plays. On offense, the Eagles were able to run the ball, and that opened up all the short and intermediate play-action passes that are the backbone of a traditional West Coast offense.
The signature play of the day was the 35-yard touchdown to Nelson Agholor, on a pass that was dropped from the sky as if guided by GPS. But Wentz, who had 22 completions, had only three pass plays that went for 20 yards or more. It was a clean, efficient game that didn't require many risks and it was orchestrated by the guy in the visor with the pregame jitters.
"Going into a game, I'll script 20, 30 plays that are first- and second-down thoughts," Pederson said. "And then once you get past that, as a play caller, you're going to continue to script plays. I have these cards on the sideline that I continue to put drives together and plays together based on the information that not only are we getting from the defense, but from the coaches upstairs and on the sideline. You're constantly putting drives together, so you never get stuck. You never want to be in a position not to have a finger on a call."
On the opening drive of the game, on that very first script card that Pederson had been crafting for Wentz for only a week or so, he called two running plays right out of the box. They had pass options attached, but they were running plays and that's what Wentz stayed with. Things opened up from there, and the drive ended with a nice pass into the corner of the end zone for Jordan Matthews. The whole game was similarly balanced, with slightly more passes than runs in the first half, and slightly more runs than throws in the second half, when the Eagles had established a decent lead. If an opener with a rookie coach and a rookie quarterback can be called "methodical," this was it.
"I wanted to get [Wentz] and the offensive line settled into the football game," Pederson said. "We wanted to get him in there comfortable, get our offensive line sort of rolling off the ball and eventually build up to some more down-the-field stuff."
Pederson, obviously trusting in his defense, elected to have the offense go for it on fourth and 4 at the Cleveland 40-yard line midway through the third quarter with the Eagles leading 15-10. As well as Donnie Jones was punting, Pederson could have backed up the Browns and played a less risky game, but he put faith in his team to do a little more than that. Wentz, in the face of an all-out blitz, hit Zach Ertz for the first down, and, on the next play Pederson dialed up the sideline go-route for Agholor.
"I was in that mode. I wanted to stay aggressive," Pederson said.
That's the way he's going to try to coach it here. Push it when things are rolling and send a 327-pound fullback onto the field when you need a few tough yards to put away the game. Pederson did that with defensive tackle Beau Allen at the end, just minutes before everyone shook hands and agreed that it was a good day for the two rookies.
There is also a deep end of the pool, but, based on one forgiving afternoon, Doug Pederson isn't worried about being over his head. He has the headset and the play cards and the confidence that his gut will lead him in the right direction.
He also has the quarterback who just might be able to keep everyone afloat, and that won't hurt, either.