A broken record.
It’s the phrase Doug Pederson used when asked if Carson Wentz was amenable to correcting his tendency of holding the ball too long. The Eagles quarterback is in his fifth season, and yet there were multiple times in Sunday’s loss when he unnecessarily tried to extend a play and it hurt his team.
He has often made the argument that any potential bad from his aggressiveness can be outweighed by the good – and there have been spectacular moments – but there weren’t any examples Sunday in Washington. At this point in his career, he should know on most occasions when to push the pedal and when not to.
But maybe that message still needs to be hammered home – unless there is a disconnect. Which begs the questions: Are Eagles coaches delivering it forcefully enough, or is the 27-year-old quarterback incapable of change?
“I’m pretty aware of it,” Wentz said Wednesday. "Every case, every specific play is specific. It’s really case by case. There’s a time and a place to fight. There’s a time and place to throw it. There’s a time and place to just eat it and take the sack.
“I’m obviously not going to get it right 100% of the time. So it’s continually talking through it with Press [Taylor, quarterbacks coach], with Coach [Pederson], with everybody, and understanding you’re not going to get it right, you’re not going to be 100%. But how can we grow, how can we get better?”
If there’s a broken record in this equation, it’s Wentz. He’s essentially given the same response when interrogated since his rookie season. He appeared to make strides last season, especially late. He wasn’t forcing the situation as much or trying to play Superman.
Wentz, for the first time since 2016, played in all 16 regular-season games, although he did suffer a concussion early in the first round of the playoffs when he scrambled after a screen had been defended.
He might have altered his diet and added 13 pounds of muscle the last two offseasons, but there’s something even more detrimental to the Eagles than sacks or fumbles when he refuses to throw the ball away or fall to the ground: There’s the potential for injury.
He was sacked eight times and hit an additional six times by Washington. The offensive line’s struggles, both individually and as a group, were the main reason Wentz saw so much pressure. But several of the sacks and hits were the quarterback’s fault, and in other circumstances, he exacerbated the problem.
“We still have to continue to address him and to address those issues,” Pederson said Monday. “It’s part of the football game. We just have to keep talking that it’s OK to throw the ball away. It’s OK to dirt the ball on a screen pass.”
The Eagles' offensive coaching staff has changed some since Wentz was drafted. Frank Reich and John DeFilippo, respectively offensive coordinator and quarterbacks assistant, left after the Super Bowl-winning 2017 season. Both could be labeled tough-love coaches.
Wentz was younger, less established, and likely more open to constructive criticism. Mike Groh replaced Reich and Taylor followed DeFilippo. Groh was fired during the offseason. Taylor had the pass game coordinator added to his responsibilities.
Taylor, because his previous role as a quality control coach was less significant, and because he is only several years older, has been asked many times about challenging Wentz. He has said that he does when necessary.
After Sunday’s game, Wentz initially said that he didn’t think his holding the ball too long as the game unfolded "really made a difference.”
He added: "I think that’s just the mentality I have. I’m always trying to make the play and extend the play when it’s there to be made. Sometimes you make them, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes bad things happen, you take a sack.
“I got to do better and get rid of the ball when I can, but I’m sure my mentality on that front doesn’t change within a game or within a week.”
Wentz was able to avoid a sack the first time he was hit. He ducked a lineman and threw the ball at tight end Zach Ertz’s feet. But on Washington’s second sack, Wentz should have killed the play by throwing at tight end Dallas Goedert’s feet when a screen was busted.
He was hit later on the drive and briefly escaped, but as he was dragged down from behind, Wentz held the ball far from his body and it was punched out for a fumble. Luckily, center Jason Kelce was there to pounce on the loose ball.
Wentz’s 48 fumbles in the previous four seasons were the most in the NFL. He had another late in Sunday’s game, although at that point the Eagles were in desperation mode.
“I just can’t put the ball on the ground,” Wentz admitted. “I got to take care of it. Sacks might happen, throwaways are OK. I got to be able to lock that ball up and not put it on the ground anymore.”
Wentz’s worst moment, though, might have come in the third quarter at the Washington 22. Faced with third-and-7, and the Eagles ahead, 17-14, he dropped back and seemingly had no one open. He held the ball, held the ball, and held the ball until he was dragged down by three defenders at the 35-yard line.
Jake Elliott’s ensuing 53-yard field goal fell short.
Wentz was nearly flawless in the first 28 minutes. While he hasn’t been as dynamic as he was in his MVP-worthy 2017 season, he has become a more accurate passer and has been more successful at leading the Eagles from behind. He’s a more complete quarterback.
He’s not perfect and there were plenty of other ways he failed Sunday -- he tossed two interceptions that were partly his fault and sailed several passes high or wide of his intended targets. But his over-aggressiveness might be his Achilles heel.
“I do believe that we can continue to coach it better,” Pederson said. “You’re probably going, ‘Well, it’s a broken record,’ but it’s what we have to do. We have to continue to discuss and continue to talk with him about it.”