It was the day Doug Pederson had been waiting for since he was hired by the Philadelphia Eagles on January 18, but back then he never could have imagined the circumstances leading up to his first regular season game as an NFL head coach.
Both personally and within the organization, a tumultuous week meant Pederson needed to keep himself mentally in check. His father, Gordon, passed away on September 2 and the following day his starting quarterback Sam Bradford was traded, leaving the job to a rookie in Carson Wentz with only one preseason game of experience under his belt.
With so much happening in such a short period of time, coming to the office each day, preparing for the Browns and honing in on his team's game plan helped the coach navigate the difficulties life had thrown his way. He directed all his energy toward unifying the team and the result on Sunday was exactly what he had hoped for.
That evening, Pederson left an electric Lincoln Financial Field with much to be proud of as the Eagles beat the Browns.
"It was a tough week losing my dad on the Friday before and then the trade with Sam, going in with a rookie quarterback – I mean, there was a lot of emotion going on right there," Pederson said. "The beauty of this business too sometimes is getting back on the practice field and getting back in the building and just putting your full attention back into football and getting not only yourself, but your team, ready to go for a game on Sunday."
In the days prior to the season opener, the rookie head coach had a flood of well wishes sent his way. He spoke to a slew of people, including former Eagles and current Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, but chose not to seek out advice for what to expect come kickoff.
Eagles players left their mark on their best photos from the Browns vs Eagles season opener. Check out these Signature Moments.
Pederson instead decided to rely on his own past experiences as both an offensive coordinator in Kansas City and an NFL quarterback, using his usual tactics to stay relaxed. Calm and collected during pre-game, the head coach felt confident his team was going into a good situation against Cleveland. The players had prepared well and he'd done his job by ensuring they understood what was to come.
When the clock hit 1 PM on Sunday, the head coach was able to enjoy the experience, including the powerful pre-game ceremony honoring those who lost their lives during the September 11 attacks. Holding the edge of a full-field flag next to Vice President Joe Biden with a trumpeter playing the National Anthem, Pederson took in a moment he knows he'll always remember.
The other part of that day he won't forget? The 29-10 victory.
"The national anthem and Joe Biden, the Vice President, standing right next to you, you don't get to do that every day. Just to see the crowd, the flag and the flyover, that'll obviously be something you'll never forget," Pederson said. "Then just winning the game, winning this football game and watching our guys play and perform, the excitement that they had in there in the locker room after the game, you'll always remember it and your first win."
Although he was awarded the game ball by Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie in the locker room, Pederson didn't want to take all the credit for the team's performance. As he explained in his own post-game speech, it took every coach and every player to come away with that first win.
And, as the Eagles look to accomplish even greater feats during the 2016 season, they'll do so not just as a team, but as a family.
"We spend so much time together, coaches and players, that that's the bond you have to have," Pederson said. "In order to be successful down the road, especially if you want to get yourself into the postseason, you've got to play that way and coach that way. Everybody's got to be on the same page and that's why family is a great way to describe what a team is all about."