Journalism might be history's first draft, but aggregation is what people remember. It wasn't long into Doug Pederson's first news conference of training camp that he confronted this reality. It came in the form of a question that referenced a recent interview in which he'd tangentially compared the talent on his current roster to that of the great Packers teams of the early to mid-'90s. The questioner wondered whether that lofty evaluation meant Eagles fans would be justified in expecting a playoff berth out of the coming season.
"Did you listen to the rest of the quote?" Pederson responded with a rhetorical bristle.
Whatever the honest answer, it didn't really matter. This is the time of year that fans across the NFL spend talking themselves into outsize beliefs, a process that in these parts tends to result in expectations that are at least an order of magnitude too great. Anytime a coach or player jumps on board, the headlines are more for posterity's sake. It is only after the season has rendered those expectations misplaced that we retrofit the Vince Youngs of the world with the blame for what in reality was a region-wide delusion. And, hey, that's OK. The season's a lot more fun when you believe.
For the head coach's sake, the pertinent question is less about the expectations of Eagles fans than those of his boss. One year after Jeffrey Lurie hired Pederson away from the Chiefs, Lurie's evaluation of the talent his general manager has assembled is a significant variable in determining what will constitute progress.
In public comments, the executive branch has indicated that it views this past offseason as part of a larger picture, a continuation of an ongoing rebuilding process that began with the jettisoning of Chip Kelly and the deconstruction of his roster.
In some respects, its words matched its actions. The team avoided the temptation of drafting for immediate need in a cornerback-rich draft, spending its second-round pick on a player whose ruptured Achilles' will greatly reduce the chance that he makes a meaningful contribution this season. The Eagles followed the Sidney Jones selection with another upside pick at the same position, nabbing the long, strong, broad-shouldered Rasul Douglas in the third round. In the fourth came running back Donnel Pumphrey, whose skills have some overlap with incumbent Darren Sproles'.
Yet the offseason also included a conspicuous series of moves whose dividends will be expected to pay out in the present.
In signing Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and LeGarrette Blount, the Eagles moved aggressively to address their three most glaring deficiencies on offense. On paper, Jeffery is the kind of wide receiver who makes coaches and quarterbacks better, a 6-4, 230-pound athlete with a long track record of coming down with contested passes that, over the last two years, Eagles quarterbacks would not have even thought of attempting. Smith brings the straight-line speed the Eagles offense has lacked since Kelly cut DeSean Jackson, while Blount gives Pederson the dependable first- and second-down ballcarrier he could have used in a number of pivotal situations last season (goal-to-go in Baltimore, for instance).
The impact of this trio of additions was what led Pederson into bulletin board territory last week, resulting in a moment that one suspects was mostly a product of his rushing to arrive at his actual point. Asked whether the Eagles have the talent to win big, the coach attempted to use the Packers' back-to-back Super Bowl teams as an example of the difference between the whole of a team and the sum of its parts.
"You're capable … I look back at my time in Green Bay as a player when we were making those playoff runs and those Super Bowl runs there, and do we have as much talent on this team than we did then? We probably have more talent, right?" Pederson said. "But we also had a lot of talent in  here, and where did that get us?"
Eventually, it got Andy Reid fired, which may or may not have been part of the point Pederson was trying to make. Unclear is what Pederson needs to accomplish to avoid a similar fate. Given the short-term nature of the contracts given to Jeffery, Smith, and Blount — each signed for one year, as did defensive tackle Tim Jernigan — the Eagles are clearly expecting this season to yield some level of results. But even if Jeffery stays healthy, their receiving corps still might rank second-to-last in the division. How good does Lurie think his team should be?
In some respects, Pederson was a victim of expectations before he even arrived, his hiring preceded by a slow drip of reports about the Eagles' interest in others. Whatever the reality, the club's dalliances with Adam Gase and Ben McAdoo fed the perception that Pederson was something other than a first-division coaching candidate, that he was more a product of circumstance than merit, that his chief qualifications were his proximity to Reid and his willingness to take the job.
Fair or not, a narrative once in motion can be difficult to overcome, given its purveyors' interest in seeing their initial reactions confirmed. Thus, while most fans and media interpreted Carson Wentz's rookie performance as confirming his NFL legitimacy, they gleaned something far different from the man who coached him and called the plays.
It's worth noting that the Eagles' 367 points ranked 16th in the NFL last season, ahead of Gase's Dolphins and McAdoo's Giants, both of whom featured quarterbacks with at least four years of NFL starting experience. Plenty of other metrics paint a picture less kind. The point, more so, is that any evaluation of Pederson requires a two-pronged approach. Wins and losses matter, as do time management and fourth-down decisions. But Pederson's most important duty is still the development of Wentz. There are a lot of potential outcomes in which the quarterback improves but the Eagles do not win. That's a preferable scenario to the inverse, provided the Lombardi Trophy is the goal.