The Fall of Carson Wentz

The+Fall+of+Carson+Wentz

The year 2020 has been a rough year for all, but it has been an extremely tough year for Philadelphia’s sports teams.  The Phillies went 28-32 under their new manager Joe Girardi; the Flyers had a good season making it to the playoffs, but only to lose in the second round; and the 76ers played well during the regular season, yet fell apart in the first round of playoffs, getting swept 0-4 by the Celtics.  That leaves one Philadelphia team:  the Philadelphia Eagles.  The Eagles have come a long way from winning Super Bowl 52 back in 2017, with each year getting worse and worse, and finally reaching a level of disappointment that is unbearable for a team with as much talent as they have. The Eagles so far this season, on week 14, are 3-8-1, and are on a 4-game losing streak. Eagles fans, or “Phans”, are too ashamed to wear their Eagles merch and some have even burnt their jerseys. What went wrong?

The Rise of Wentz

In 2015 the Eagles went 7-9 and were in need of a quarterback, and they secured a first-round, second overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft.  The man of the night was Carson Wentz, who had gone to North Dakota State and helped them win two NCAA Division 1 Football Championship Subdivisions (FCS).  Although Wentz suffered an injury senior year, he was cleared to play in a few games before the championship game.  Wentz showed that he was still an outstanding Quarterback and worthy to be in the top five coming into the 2016 draft, and found his new home with the Philadelphia Eagles.

In the 2016 season, Wentz started with the Eagles for all 16 games and threw for 3,782 yards with a 62.4% completion rate, 16 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions.  The team went 7-9 again that year.  Wentz showed potential and talent in the coming years.

#11 Carson Wentz. Photo from bleedinggreennation.com

Many consider 2017 Carson Wentz to be the best version of himself as a quarterback. In 2017 Carson Wentz had 3,296 yards with a 60.2% completion rate.  He threw 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.  He led the team to an 11-2 record, but in week 14 he tore his ACL and was out for the remainder of the season.  Backup quarterback Nick Foles would build from Wentz’s great work, and the team finished the regular season with a winning record of 13-3, making them number 1 in the NFC East. Foles led the Eagles to their first Superbowl win against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 52.

This is the season everyone strives for, but it goes downhill from here.

After the Eagle’s very first Superbowl win, the “Phans” were wild and had high expectations for the following 2018 season.  The Eagles would sadly disappoint. Carson Wentz was not the starting quarterback until week three, allowing him extra time to heal from his ACL injury.  Wentz suffered injuries all season and a fractured vertebrae took him out for the rest of the season, causing him to miss the playoffs.  Wentz only played 11 games, and the team went 5-6 in the games that he played in. Wentz passed for 3,074 yards with a 69.6% completion rate. Nice. Wentz threw 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions.  The Eagles went 9-7 that year and lost the division to the Dallas Cowboys. The team had suffered injuries all year and never seemed to settle back into that Superbowl Champion rhythm they had in the previous season. They still made a playoff appearance in the NFC Wild Card game against the Chicago Bears, narrowly advancing due to a missed 53-yard field goal by Cody Parkey, named the “Double Doink”.  The Eagles were eliminated in the Divisional playoffs by the New Orleans Saints.  A disappointing season for the defending world champions. 

The 2019 season was the year of “we can win the Superbowl if Wentz stays healthy.”  Well, long story short, Wentz stayed healthy for 16 games and the Eagles kept their 9-7 record from last year that barely won the NFC East division.  Then in the Wildcard game against the Seattle Seahawks Carson Wentz got a concussion in the 1st quarter of the game, leaving 40-year-old backup quarterback Josh McCown to play the rest of the game.  The Eagles ended up losing that game 9-17, ending their season short of the satisfaction of being Superbowl champions once again. That season Wentz passed for a career-high of 4,039 yards with a completion rate of 63.6%.  Wentz threw 27 touchdowns with only seven interceptions.  The team was suffering an inconsistent rotation of wide receivers and offensive linemen, which added to Wentz’s decline.  Eagles “Phans” are disappointed, as year by year the Eagles continue to slip further away from holding another Lombardi trophy.

Now as the 2020 season is in progress, the Eagle’s slow decline from Superbowl champions has increased exponentially. The team is 3-8-1 as week 14 approaches. Wentz has been horrible this season, with 2,620 passing yards, a 57.4% completion rate, 16 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions.  Wentz is not the same as he was in previous years, as this year he has been horrible under pressure, and many of the 50 sacks he has taken this season have been his fault due to his inability to scramble, throw the ball, or simply step out of the way.  The Eagles have had a changing offensive line throughout the whole season, but Wentz’s inability to perform under pressure is a killer to this team.  Wentz has also struggled with being on target this year, as he overthrows the ball, then underthrows; it seems as if Wentz can never put just the right amount of air underneath it as he has done in previous seasons. Another explanation for the 3-8-1 season is miscommunication between Wentz and his receivers, as miscommunication and mishaps have continued to happen as recently as the last game.

Wentz has never found “his man” this season. With an injured roster and an underperforming quarterback, the Eagles have not had their perfect quarterback-receiver duo as they have had in seasons before. Zach Ertz and many receivers have been on and off the injured list this season, making it hard for Wentz to find “his man”, as he has done in previous years with Ertz.   

Hurts v Wentz

#2 Jalen Hurts talking to #11 Carson Wentz. Picture was taken from skysports.com

With all the problems that Carson Wentz is experiencing this season, is he the man for The Eagles?   Quarterback Jalen Hurts was the Eagle’s second-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft, 53rd overall pick.  Hurts was a quarterback from the University of Alabama, but transferred to The Oklahoma Sooners his senior year.  At Oklahoma, Hurts threw for 3,851 yards with a completion rate of 69.7%.  He racked up 32 touchdown passes with 8 interceptions.

Hurts was a great quarterback in college, and many want to see him make a name for himself at the professional level. For most of the season, Hurts has been on the bench watching the older Wentz show him how it’s done — losing, that is.  Wentz has severely underperformed this season, and it brings up the question: should Jalen Hurts be the Eagles quarterback?  Eagles “Phans” have been wondering this all season, with some wishing for it.  With Wentz, head coach Doug Pederson knows that he has talent, a talent that enabled the Eagles to get to Superbowl 52 just a few seasons ago.  

But Hurts, who showed fantastic skill and talent in college, is a rookie that will make mistakes and have his “welcome to the NFL” experience.  Hurts has only gotten a few snaps a game, usually, quarterback run intended plays or a handoff to a running back.  Hurts has not shown what he can do as a starting quarterback yet this season. 

Rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts passing the ball. The photo was taken from phillyvoice.com

Hurts got to prove himself in last week’s game as the Eagles took on a hot Greenbay Packers team.  As usual this season, Wentz was not getting the job done, throwing for only 79 yards in the third quarter. The Eagles were down 3-20 in the fourth quarter against a momentous Green Bay offense led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers.  The Eagles made a bold move to put Jalen Hurts in the game and to bench Wentz for the remainder of the game.  Hurts threw 109 passing yards with a low completion rate of 41.67%.  He rushed for 29 yards.  The rookie threw an amazing 73-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Jalen Reagor for Hurts’ first touchdown in the league.  Hurts also had 1 interception on that night.

Starting quarterback?

Jalen Hurts played well considering it was only one-quarter of the game.  He led 2 drives that resulted in a touchdown in comparison to Wentz that only led one drive to score a 52-yard field goal by kicker Jake Elliott.  Going into week 14, Pederson must be wondering what the outcome of the game could have been if Hurts played all 4 quarters.  Hurts barely had time to settle into the game and once he started to get a rhythm going he led the Birds to score 14 points in the fourth. 

But there are complications to starting the rookie over the veteran.  Wentz just signed a four-year contract extension for $128,000,000, and the Eagles would have to pay Wentz around 60 million dollars for the 2021 season if they cut him.  It is very likely that Wentz will be an Eagle for one more season so that the Eagles do not throw $60,000,000 down the drain, and having a rookie start over the 4-year veteran could throw some chemistry off in the organization. The relationship between a quarterback and their team is almost like a marriage, and starting Hurts would be as if the Eagles are cheating on Wentz. The relationship between a quarterback and their team is almost like a marriage, and starting Hurts over Wentz would be as if the Eagles are cheating on their multi-million dollar Carson Wentz. This could lead to an unhappy Wentz, which could ruin the team atmosphere.  

Final decision 

Head Coach Doug Pederson is the man who gets to make this decision.  Many are thinking, “What do the Eagles have to lose?”  A game that could very well be lost by Wentz, and upsetting him is what is on the line. Wentz is already under a lot of pressure, as he takes accountability for the poor performance of the team this season. 

Carson Wentz sitting on the bench. The photo was taken from The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Adam Schefter tweeted,” Eagles’ HC Doug Pederson is naming Jalen Hurts his new starting quarterback and the rookie will start Sunday vs. the New Orleans Saints, sources tell @mortreport and me. Carson Wentz now will backup Hurts.” at 1:35 PM on December 8th, 2020.

Pederson went with something new, something that will give “Phans” hope.  Wentz is experiencing a dip in his playing career, and at the end of the day, the Eagles want to win.  The people of Philadelphia want to win.  They do not care about who the quarterback is, they do not care if somebody’s feelings get hurt, they want a win and they want a winning team that will bring back a trophy to the streets of Philadelphia. 

Hurts will take on Saints quarterback Taysom Hill on December 13th, and that will show how good Hurts really is, and who should be the Eagles quarterback for the remainder of the season and thereafter.  Only time will tell if Hurts is the answer to the Eagle’s problems and if the team morale will be impacted by the benching of Wentz.