The rookie wowed ’em again Monday night. Composed, in charge, unfazed by inexperience. He marched into Soldier Field, grabbed a win against the Bears and announced his presence with authority.
No, not that rookie. Hey, Carson Wentz was brilliant. Again. There will be plenty of stories this week aptly praising No. 11.
But let’s give due to that swashbuckling first-year head coach Doug Pederson, now 2-0 and seeming to be the leader we’ve long yearned for — but sure didn’t expect.
For a second game, Pederson proved to be gutsy, innovative and in charge. You saw it in the first drive — a no-huddle, empty-backfield series where the coach trusted his young QB to handle new challenges.
That drive stalled, fourth-and-2 at Chicago’s 28. But for the second straight game, Pederson went for it. Wentz threw a 9-yarder to Dorial Green-Beckham to keep it going, and the Eagles ended up taking a 3-0 lead.
When he was miked up during last week’s Cleveland game, Pederson explained to offensive coordinator Frank Reich his theory of going for it on fourth down: “It does something to the psyche of the defense. One, it’s good for our team, but they’re like … damn.”
A confidence crusher for the other team, Pederson has now gone for it on fourth down four times in the first two games. He’s made all four. That’s what we thought we were getting — but never did — under Chip Kelly.
Let’s be honest. Doug Pederson was the coach none of us wanted after Kelly was axed. He was viewed as a dull incarnation of Andy Reid. There was no fondness from his playing days here. He had never been a head coach above high school. And, as offensive coordinator of the Chiefs, he took the blame for the bumbling clock management in last year’s playoffs.
But the Doug we’ve seen is nothing resembling those low expectations. So far, at least, he’s a master of innovative play calling, like the sneaky screen pass to Nelson Agholor that moved the chains during a third-quarter touchdown drive. And, unlike his mentor, Pederson has been a master of time management through the first two games. Even with a rookie quarterback, he has not had to waste a timeout.
This will all be tested. The Eagles, impressive as they’ve been, may have opened with their two easiest matchups of the season. The Steelers come to town Sunday, and they are formidable. It’s easier for any coach to be ballsy against a bad team than it is against one that sends Antonio Brown down the seam.
Regardless, even if the next game is a blowout loss, the rookie coach appears to be a revelation. Already, he’s built great confidence in his young quarterback, his team and the fan base. And teams scouting the Eagles see they have much more of a challenge than they likely expected.
I though Doug Pederson was going to be vanilla. Turns out, he’s much more complex than that.