Doug Pederson stomped his feet. He held his breath until he turned blue. He did everything short of taking his toys and going home.
Why was Pederson so sputtering mad on a lovely Sunday morning? Because NFL.com reported Saturday that Carson Wentz would not start in the opener Thursday against the Falcons.
And, perhaps, because NBC Sports Philadelphia consulted with Wentz's knee surgeon, Dr. James Bradley, who advised caution (philly.com contacted Bradley, but the Eagles have since muzzled him).
How mad was Pederson? So mad that he wouldn't even talk about it:
"I appreciate ya'll puttin' words in my mouth this week. Therefore, I'm not gonna discuss it."
Um … Words in your mouth?
"You saw the reports." But … "Next question." But … "Next question." But … "Next question. I'm not answering the question."
What's the point of delaying the announcement?
"Exactly. What is the point of this? It's my decision."
So, is Carson cleared for contact?
"He is not. Not yet."
So … er … doesn't that mean he won't play?
"We've got a lot of days left."
Tomorrow you'll have 3 days left. That's enough time to prepare your starting quarterback for the Falcons?
Yes, we will.
So much for "emotional intelligence."
Doug Pederson is usually a paradigm of patience and class. That's why, after this bush-league exchange, the assembled reporters were stunned. In fact, veteran scribes couldn't recall any coach making so much out of so little.
He wouldn't dish on the starting QB, but there's a bigger question now:
If the head coach is this tightly wrapped before Game 1, how does that translate to the locker room? To the practice field? To the game?
Well, after a particularly taxing practice under an unexpectedly hot sun, the players took joy in hearing about Pederson's snippy exchange with reporters. He has not been testy with them, several said, though they were warned not to divulge which quarterback would start.
"I know," said right tackle Lane Johnson, but Johnson keeps secrets about as well as a White House cabinet member. He didn't dare dish this time, though, under penalty of a fine … or worse: "If I say who it is, I'll get my ass chewed. … You may get a damn spanking. You may get a fine. I don't want either."
Well, the players aren't tight.
Pederson is a different story. His tantrum at a routine Q&A in response to routine questions underscored how much pressure the Eagles are under to mount a respectable defense of their first Super Bowl title. you might be testy, too.
Pederson's first-team offense failed to score in the preseason. Nick Foles, the team's backup who guided the team through its final six games and won the Super Bowl MVP, looked terrible. Wentz, who blew out his knee Dec. 10, did not play. Neither did top receiver Alshon Jeffery, who had shoulder surgery, or Jason Peters and Darren Sproles, who are old. Receiver Nelson Agholor didn't play in a game, either, and running backs Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement were limited.
Also, Pederson lost offensive coordinator Frank Reich, now the head coach in Indianapolis, and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, now the OC in Minneapolis.
So, yeah, Dougie Fresh, usually relaxed and rational, is a little wound up.
His apparent anxiety doesn't excuse the bush-league responses he gave to completely mundane questions. Then again, Herm "You play to win the game" Edwards:
Dennis "They are what we thought they were" Green:
And everyone's favorite, Jim "Playoffs?!?!" Mora:
These were generally rational men, too. Everyone has a breaking point, but these were postgame meltdowns. Apparently, Pederson's breaking point is Game Zero.
To review: This bizarre press conference happened because the publishing wing of the NFL published secret information Pederson wanted kept quiet. Information that doesn't seem all that secret. Information Pederson did not deny.
The obfuscation seems pointless since Pederson admitted that this week's starting quarterback will get most of the repetitions with the other starters. All 53 players, the practice squad, the coaching staff and the support staff will witness these reps. The press and their constituency — you, the paying public, who buys tickets and pays cable bills and makes bets — will find out sooner or later.
Pederson insisted that letting the Falcons know on Sunday whether it would be Wentz or Foles on Thursday would compromise the Eagles' competitive advantage, though Falcons coach Dan Quinn said his team would prepare for the Eagles' "offense," not Wentz or Foles in particular.
"I don't want to put my game plan out there for everybody to see it," Pederson said.
That might make sense normally, except no one expects this Carson Wentz, encumbered by a brace with no preseason reps, to resemble MVP-caliber Carson Wentz who threw 33 touchdowns vs. seven interceptions in 13 starts last season. The Eagles will be lucky if Wentz becomes that player by this time next season — that mobile, elusive, fast, strong passer who throws darts and missiles in full gallop.
Maybe that's what has been eating Pederson. He later doubled-down on his preposterousness when he suggested that the fact that so many key offensive players played little or not at all in the preseason was meaningless.
"They've practiced all training camp," he said. "Why do they need to be in a game?"
So they can play at full speed. So they can get accustomed to getting hit. So they can recover.
"Practices are a lot tougher sometimes than games are," Pederson insisted.
Well, if that were true then no starters would ever play in any preseason game. You don't Just Add Water to an NFL team.
Perhaps this was all a ruse. Perhaps Pederson sees a complacent team that needs a rallying cry, and he wants that rallying cry to be, "It's us vs. the Media!" even though the media that did the reporting drinks from the same pool as him. These no-one-likes-us Eagles adore rallying cries. Consider: The Birds took umbrage with oddsmakers on their road to the Super Bowl and even bought dog masks to mock their continuous underdog status. Maybe this week they'll start wearing battered fedoras and ugly ties.
Maybe Pederson is genuinely worried about complacency, and maybe he's not alone. He and his players committee decided to remove the Super Bowl sign from the locker room last week.
It probably isn't a ruse. Pederson was similarly prickly eight days ago, after Foles led the team to a 5-0 loss at the Browns. Yes, it was preseason, but come on, it was the Browns.
The Falcons are a much sterner test, and though they lost, 15-10, at Philadelphia in the divisional playoff round in January, the 2017 Eagles won't be playing them. No one knows what the 2018 Eagles will be.
"We'll find out a lot about our football team this week," Pederson said. "It's different. The whole thing is different.'