Of course, Carson Wentz doesn’t want to be the Eagles’ backup; it’s unlikely, too | Jeff McLane
It’s difficult to see Wentz and Jalen Hurts coexisting in the long run.
Carson Wentz last spoke to the media on Dec. 6 in Green Bay after he was benched for Jalen Hurts. The Eagles quarterback answered nine questions over approximately six minutes and made it clear that he didn’t agree with coach Doug Pederson’s decision.
“It’s frustrating as a competitor,” Wentz said then. “Just the personality that I have, I want to be the guy out there.”
On Sunday, ESPN reported that Wentz wasn’t “interested in being a backup quarterback and would want to move on from the Eagles” if Hurts remained the starter. The report also said that the 27-year old wasn’t “pleased with the way events have unfolded in the organization.”
While Wentz’s displeasure doesn’t exactly qualify as hard news — especially since he said as much two weeks ago — that he would already be willing to project to next season does take his public comments one step further.
But nowhere in the report does it state Wentz wouldn’t be willing to return if the job were up for competition. And it’s unlikely the Eagles would declare Hurts their starter for 2021 based solely upon how he performs the rest of this season. Pederson, when asked if four games would be enough to evaluate the rookie, said yes … and no.
“I think you have a good idea. Obviously, we haven’t had a full body of 16-plus games, a preseason,” Pederson said Monday. “We really don’t know necessarily. … It is a little bit of a small sample size to really probably make that determination, overall.”
Pederson did confirm the obvious: that Hurts would be his starter for Sunday at the Cowboys. He wouldn’t go so far as the rest of the season, but it’s a foregone conclusion barring injury. Hurts has performed better than Wentz in two starts and the team, overall, has responded.
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Wentz, meanwhile, has become a punching bag for some, and not just because the Eagles offense has improved under Hurts. The ESPN report certainly doesn’t reflect well on the quarterback, nor the timing, but it’s quite possible he had no inclination it would surface.
Wentz, through an Eagles spokesman, declined to comment. While it might make sense for him to address the report, perhaps with a statement, he may want to avoid giving the story further life.
It is clear that he would rather allow his actions and the testament of others to speak for how he’s handled his demotion. Pederson, Hurts, and several players have said that Wentz has been the embodiment of a professional. He has been engaged on the sideline during games.
But it would be only human for Wentz to wonder where he stands with the Eagles. The franchise likely doesn’t know, either. Owner Jeffrey Lurie still has decisions to make on Pederson and general manager Howie Roseman. If he doesn’t know who’s leading his team next year, how could he possibly know Wentz’s future?
Lurie will obviously have a say on the quarterback this offseason. Asked Monday if the owner and Roseman had any influence in his recent decisions, Pederson said they had “absolutely none.” But to believe that they weren’t involved or least part of the conversation would be subject to reason.
That doesn’t mean they have a horse in the race. Wentz’s struggles this season were an indictment of the four-year, $128 million contract the Eagles gave him just 18 months ago. And Hurts’ early success doesn’t absolve them from using a second-round draft pick at the expense of their franchise quarterback.
The Eagles didn’t draft Hurts because they didn’t believe in Wentz.
“Nobody is going to be looking at a rookie quarterback as somebody who’s going to be taking over for a Pro Bowl quarterback,” Roseman said after the pick, “a guy who’s been on the cusp of winning a MVP.”
That Roseman didn’t see the possibility was a blind spot, but it had nothing to do with doubts about Wentz. He saw value in drafting Hurts at No. 53, both as a backup in case of injury and as a possible starter to develop for the future or to flip.
The Eagles deserve credit in their evaluation of Hurts. The pandemic kept them from seeing him in practice until August, but they immediately liked what they saw and slotted the rookie ahead of Nate Sudfeld in a matter of days.
Wentz was up and down throughout training camp. And then he suffered a lower-body soft-tissue injury and missed the last week. Hurts didn’t dress in Week 1, but the loss at Washington led to his activation and usage on three plays the next week.
Pederson, whether he sensed unease from Wentz or was projecting, kept Hurts’ involvement to a minimum despite its early success. He also kept the starter on the field even though it gave Hurts one less plausible receiver.
Wentz’s struggles, meanwhile, continued to mount while Hurts’ development in limited practice snaps was evident. Pederson fought a switch knowing the seismic impact it would have, but other Eagles evaluators were predicting by November that Hurts supplanting Wentz “would happen naturally,” according to one team source.
Hurts appears to have the makings of a starter, perhaps a quality one, but it’s far too early to make definitive statements. If the Eagles were to commit to him for next season, it’s unlikely they would keep Wentz as a backup, even if they have to take the substantial salary cap hit from a trade.
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There is obvious enthusiasm for Hurts’ potential, but it shouldn’t cloud the fact that this season has been dreadful and next season appears dubious. The Eagles’ roster is old and expensive, it lacks established youth, and the cap situation is less than ideal even with Wentz returning as the starter.
And most troubling is that they still have two question marks at quarterback and a dynamic that has already hindered one season.
“This is a situation,” Pederson said, “where it’s not Carson versus Jalen or Jalen versus Carson.”
But it’s difficult to see there being a coexistence. Wentz, or at least those apparently representing his interests, see it the same way.