The Broad Street narrative has become one of the most intriguing storylines in the NFL this season. Some say Carson Wentz has fallen from grace in Philly, arguing Jalen Hurts should have been the starter weeks ago. Others believe Wentz has taken way too much heat for the ongoing Eagles debacle, and that head coach Doug Pederson or defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz should be dealt just as much if not more criticism.
No matter what side of the debate you are on, the situation unfolding in Philadelphia became one of the most talked about storylines heading into week 14. It is not a circumstance the Eagles are unfamiliar with. If the past decade has done anything for the Eagles besides bring a Lombardi Trophy to Philly, it has also tested the perseverance at the quarterback position for the Birds.
Setting The Stage
Wentz’s arrival in Philly in 2016 was met with much approval. Yet here we are, just a short seasons and one Super Bowl later, questioning Wentz’s future in midnight green. While I’m a fan of Carson Wentz, despite his performance this season, I recognize he’s treading on thin ice.
The stakes for Carson Wentz were extremely high. Coming into this season many understood that it was a make or break year for Carson, even Carson himself. The high from winning the Super Bowl is wearing off for Eagles fans, and their patience is wearing thin. Philly is a dedicated sports town that wants results and they want them now. Obviously the Eagles have not given the fans the desired results this season. With frustrations mounting, many Eagles fans are calling for some sort of change starting with the QB. Week 14 arrived and Eagles fans were finally going to be graced with a long awaited change.
The Eagles are currently 3rd in the NFC East and have the hardest remaining schedule amongst their division rivals. From the Browns to the Seahawks to the Packers and with Sunday’s contest against the Saints, this collage of heavy hitters proves to be yet another obstacle for the Eagles. Wentz has been gifted a very long leash this season. However, last Sunday against the Packers the Eagles finally caved and allowed Hurts to finish the game after benching Wentz.
First Dose of Hurts
The results were very exciting for Eagles fans. Down 20-3, Hurts sparked some life into a depleted Eagles team going into halftime. Although he couldn’t bring them back, he chaperoned an impressive nine-play, 73-yard drive after finding Greg Ward in the endzone. He also converted two fourth and long plays and showcased his ability to maneuver out of a collapsing pocket. Hurts’ entry into the game was the only interesting thing the Eagles had going for them overall. It was apparent the Eagles needed a breath of fresh air and that was the fresh air Hurts provided. He was named the starter heading into week 14, in a move destined to create an intriguing scenario.
Saints Come Marching In
Hurts’ performance on Sunday against the Saints was extremely impressive. If Sunday’s game is an early indicator of what Hurts can do, Eagles fans should breathe a sigh of relief. But I wouldn’t go so far as to crown him new sheriff in town just yet. It was still only his first career NFL start. The Eagles need to have more exposure to Hurts to clearly make a decision for the future of this team. They currently sit at 4-8-1. Hurts not only picked up his first win, but also kept the Eagles playoff hopes alive in a weak NFC East.
What Hurts Showcased
All eyes were on Jalen Hurts this week to see if he could revive this Eagles team. He did just that, as the team’s overall performance on Sunday seemed crisper. For one of the first times this season, the Eagles actually looked like a decent football team. Hurts completed 56% of his passes for 167 yards, a TD to Alshon Jeffery, and no interceptions. He looked comfortable in the pocket and proved he could be just as useful on the move. Hurts ran the ball 18 times for over 100 yards and did a phenomenal job avoiding negative plays.
All year long there seemed to be this problem with Wentz holding the ball too long. Instead of throwing it away, he insists on trying to make something happen which only leads to mistakes. Hurts is a much faster and more efficient option. He is a dual threat QB who can make you pay through the air or with his legs. I’m not saying Wentz can’t be useful on foot, but Hurts adapts more fluidly to an opposing defense. His speed, along with that of RB Miles Sanders, made the Saints defense have to second guess every handoff. This left big holes in the Saints D that the Eagles used to their advantage.
How This Can Play Out
There are a few ways this quarterback conundrum can work out. Hurts could continue to impress the front office, meaning Wentz may have to kiss his starting role goodbye. If Hurts has a mediocre end to the season, the quarterback role is a toss up. If Hurts has himself a Nathan Peterman clinic, then it’s safe to assume they won’t be looking to him to be the saving grace of the franchise.
Did The Plan Backfire?
This idea of drafting another QB to get the wheels moving a bit has not worked out for the Eagles as much as it has for other teams. When the Packers drafted QB Jordan Love in the 2020 NFL Draft, it was first reported that Aaron Rodgers wasn’t keen on the idea. If he felt in any way, shape, or form that his job was being threatened, he proved this season that he can still be the guy in Green Bay. What better way to spit in the face of the authority who potentially drafted your replacement then to go and play some of the best football of your career? Rodgers led the Packers to another win over the Lions on Sunday and clinched yet another NFC North title.
Competition doesn’t always breed improvement
Perhaps the Eagles thought this could benefit them as well, yet it seems that the decision to take Hurts in the second round has only made Carson Wentz crumble under pressure. Instead of lighting a fire under his behind, Wentz has played worse. He currently leads the league in turnovers and has consistently underperformed this season in critical situations.
In June of 2019, Wentz signed a contract extension through 2024. The deal is worth up to $144 million dollars, with $66 million guaranteed. The Eagles have laid all their eggs into the Wentz basket only for him to play like one of the worst QBs in the league. No team in any sport could even fathom the idea of dishing out over 100 million dollars to a backup.
Heading into week 15, it is obvious that Hurts needs to be the starter. He has injected life into the Eagles and is probably their best chance at securing a dub against yet another team with a winning record. If he could handle himself against one of the best defenses in the NFC, his starting role for Sunday against the Cardinals is a sure thing.
The Carson Wentz slander has to end, however. To say Wentz is not a good QB and has never been a good QB is insane. Without Wentz, there is no 2017 Super Bowl for Philadelphia. He got the Eagles to week 14 as a clear Super Bowl contender before tearing his ACL. After Nick Foles claimed the Super Bowl MVP, Philly fans have not looked at Wentz the same. Nick Foles was given two other starting QB roles, and let’s be honest, didn’t really light any major fires in Chicago or Jacksonville. He is simply a phenomenal QB under certain circumstances but far from a franchise QB.
Wentz comes back the following year, posts a higher QB rating in less than a full season. He set franchise records in 2019 and willed an injury-plagued team into the playoff picture. He took a cheap shot to the back of the head from Jadeveon Clowney that none of us would get up from. The narrative now has become that Wentz is no good and is too injury prone to win a ring he can claim as his own in Philly.
To make matters worse, the Eagles also passed up on WR DK Metcalf and WR Justin Jefferson in two consecutive drafts. This offers little to no help to Wentz, who had already been pinched in the weapons department. Instead, in 2019 they chose offensive tackle Andre Dillard who has been out the entire season with a bicep injury. In the 2020 draft, they chose Jalen Reagor, an under the radar receiver out of TCU, with star LSU WR Justin Jefferson still available.
Just a bad 2020
With very little help surrounding him on both sides of the ball, Wentz has been dealt a bad hand the past few seasons in Philadelphia and seems to be taking the brunt of the criticism. There have been talks about Wentz reuniting with his old offensive coordinator, Frank Reich, in Indianapolis. Reich is now the head coach, and with Philip Rivers heading into free agency following 2020, this may be a possibility. But I don’t think Jeffrey Lurie is willing to eat over 100 million in dead cap space anytime soon. Carson Wentz is just having himself a very, very, and I cannot stress this enough, very bad season.
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