In his last press conference over the weekend, just a day before relenting to announce his starting quarterback, Eagles coach Doug Pederson said he was upset with the local media for putting words in his mouth.
Well, someone had to.
It isn't that Doug has lacked for words when he addresses and informs the fan base through the routine question-and-answer sessions that are part of his job responsibilities. There are always plenty of words. Sometimes the words chase themselves around in a circle as he searches for an exit door from the question, a way to put a period on the end of the thing without actually coming to a conclusion.
This summer — with all due apologies to the thrilling competitions for the fourth-string jobs at other positions — the only story of interest and import to fans, the media and the organization itself, for that matter, is the one concerning quarterback Carson Wentz. How is his rehab going? When will he play? Will he return before midnight strikes and Nick Foles becomes a pumpkin-tossing footman once again?
No one needs to tell Doug Pederson how important the starting quarterback position is to a football team. It is so important that Pederson got the opportunity just 17 times in a 10-year NFL career, with all those chances coming either as a short-term babysitter for the Eagles or as fill-in for the injured first-stringer in Cleveland. He was 3-14. The position is so important that nothing matters as much to an organization as who is entrusted with the job, and it was rarely Pederson during his playing career. (Admittedly, at his other stops, it was probably going to be hard to beat out Dan Marino and Brett Favre.)
Nevertheless, the fact there have been questions about Wentz and his comeback from ACL and LCL surgery isn't much of a shock. Wentz looked great at the start of training camp, did some 11-on-11 stuff, then was backed off dramatically, then returned slowly to the full practices, and all the while kept up the steady mantra of having as his goal being ready for the opener.
The suspicion now is that the team never intended to put Wentz back out there so quickly, but didn't want to bum his high. As long as Nick Foles had a healthy arm, he was going to start at least a game or two. Doing anything else with your franchise quarterback wouldn't be prudent.
But along the way, Pederson had to endure the endless reading of tea leaves. What did those reps in today's shells and shorts practice mean? (Nothing.) What are Nick's chances of outright winning the job? (Less than nothing.) What is absolute Kelvin? (In Celsius, 273 degrees less than nothing.)
Saying very little while using a lot of words isn't as easy as it sounds, but Doug hung in there without being too bitey for a long time. My favorite answer followed a question about whether doctors examined Wentz after the exhibition game against the Patriots. Wentz didn't play, of course, but did go through an extensive warm-up before the game.
"They did not. I mean, they didn't specifically just examine — they examine him every day. It's not just one specific day. They do examine him, and this is all part of the plan to get him back into some 11-on-11 drills now," Pederson said.
So, yeah, try dancing on the head of that pin for six weeks and see if your temper frays eventually.
Doug lost the ability to dodge the question in the last week. The team would have to put together a game plan for the Falcons, and the starting quarterback would have to get most of the reps. Even with closed practices, that is the end of secrets.
Pederson said he would know the identity of the starter by last Friday — echoing Andy Reid's famous "me to know, you to find out" challenge — but someone in his own organization leaked to the NFL Network the confirmation that Foles would start. Maybe Doug signed off on that; maybe he didn't. (The idea that keeping Atlanta in the dark could be a benefit is the sort of thing coaches like to say, but the reality is that the Eagles offense doesn't operate that differently with Wentz, with the exception of being a lot better.)
Before officially crowning Foles on Monday, the whole game of hide-and-seek finally got to Pederson. He lost it on Sunday, apparently peeved he had been quoted accurately the week before. He said he would privately know the starter on Friday, and that's what people reported.
"First of all, I appreciate y'all putting words in my mouth this week," Pederson said. "Therefore, I'm not going to discuss it."
This guy had a lot more tolerance before he won a Super Bowl, I can tell you that. Perhaps a ring and a contract extension have altered the dynamic. But what's he getting all tiffy with us for? We didn't break anything but his patience.