Carson Wentz might not be Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson or Russell Wilson or Tom Brady, but at least he isn’t Michael Vick.
No matter how badly Michael Vick wants him to be.
Vick is the most talented quarterback in NFL history. Not coincidentally, Vick is the biggest waste of potential in NFL history. On Monday, as a guest on FS1′s Speak For Yourself, Vick offered the most outrageous opinion concerning Wentz yet. Vick said that Wentz will never succeed, based on the illogical rationale that Nick Foles did succeed:
“He will fail in Philadelphia. ... The bar has been set so high by Nick Foles. Regardless of when he came in, [Foles] did what he did and won the Super Bowl. The ceiling has been set. Along with Carson Wentz’s character, which has been questioned by his teammates and the public, it just makes it difficult for him. I think he’s fighting an uphill battle, week in and week out. To win, to be a good teammate. It’s a lot. It takes a lot from you to handle that responsibility. ... You got a guy in Nick Foles who is probably going to go down as one of the greats of all-time in Philadelphia history, and you have to chase that. That’s difficult.”
Philadelphia long pined for a cerebral, athletic, strong-armed, high-character passer who might lead its beloved Eagles for a decade or more. It underappreciated Donovan McNabb. Now, it has Wentz.
Wentz said Wednesday that he’s ignored all of the noise: “I don’t really get caught up in what people say," though he acknowledged that the team’s two offense-depleted losses “start with me.”
Wentz might stink in the moment, but that’s easily explained. It’s not the ghost of Nick Foles, unless that specter took nine games to decide to start haunting Wentz, because until the bye week, Wentz played superbly. Don’t blame history. Blame the schedule.
Tom Brady and Russell Wilson, the two best quarterbacks not named Aaron Rodgers, just brought their combined seven Super Bowl rings and their top-rated teams to Lincoln Financial Field. Wentz happened to be lacking two of his top three weapons, receiver Alshon Jeffery and running back Jordan Howard, and Wentz knew that a win over either the Patriots or Seahawks would vastly enhance the Eagles’ playoff chances, so Wentz tried to “make plays” instead of making the play in front of him. Eagles coach Doug Pederson realizes this. That’s what he’s been telling Wentz.
“The biggest thing is ... you’ve got to let the offense work. Trust your offensive line. Even trust your defense,” Pederson said Wednesday. “You don’t have to go into a game looking for plays. Searching for plays. Let the plays come. Let them unfold.”
That’s it. That’s all.
“I need to be more decisive,” Wentz agreed, then dismissed miscommunication between him and his revolving supporting cast: “I need to be more proactive.”
He’s accountable, he’s prepared, he’s dedicated. What more could you ask for?
So, relax. Take a breath, loosen your belt, and thank the football gods that Carson Wentz is not Jared Goff.
Even though, lately, it’s been hard to tell them apart.
Still, saying that Wentz played poorly in the last two games is not the same as saying Wentz is a poor quarterback. Quarterbacks slump.
Wentz has posted a passer rating of 71 or worse once this season. Brady’s done it three times. By his third season, when he was 25, Wentz posted two seasons with passer ratings above 100; Brady didn’t crack 100 until his seventh season as a starter, when he was 30. Wentz’s rating stands at 89.6 this year. Brady’s average his first six seasons: 88.4.
The more-appropriate comparison always has been Ben Roethlisberger, big and mobile and strong-armed. After his first Super Bowl win, Big Ben was a big bust in 2006, when he led the NFL with 23 interceptions (not to mention offseason motorcycle accidents and emergency appendectomies). That season, Roethlisberger was throwing to Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes, while Pro Bowl running back Willie Parker gained more than 1,700 yards from scrimmage with 16 total touchdowns. Carson Wentz has thrown 20 interceptions in his last two seasons, with a supporting cast that better resembles Montgomery Ward, Sherlock Holmes, and Sarah Jessica Parker.
He has his virtues.
Now, before you begin the “they should’ve kept Nick” debate, realize that, down in Jacksonville, Doug Marrone is considering benching Foles. He’s already cursed him with the “best chance to win right now” non-endorsement.
Foles won the Super Bowl as a relief pitcher two years ago, but without Wentz’s MVP-caliber season there is no Super Bowl, because the team that Foles inherited wouldn’t have been 11-2 and held home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Similarly, without Wentz there are no 2018 playoffs, because, after two games, Foles had (again) been undressed for what he always has been -- a modestly talented quarterback who is wildly streaky and needs more protection than the last turkey in the pen.
Wentz is also tougher than grandma’s white meat.
He’s played with a shredded knee, a fractured back, and, on Sunday, with a throwing hand swollen the size of Joel Embiid’s ... ego. The most compelling image of the season: Wentz warming his hand by holding it next to the flamethrower contraption on the sideline in a desperate attempt to keep Josh McCown off the field.
Still, incontrovertibly, Wentz lost. He lost because he played the worst game of his career; this, just one week after playing his worst game of the season to date.
Does he stare down receivers? Yes. Does he ignore the easy outlet passes in the flat? Yes. Does he favor his tight ends? Yes. Does he hold the ball too long and too carelessly? Does his footwork deteriorate after he gets popped a couple of times? Does he overrate his ability to escape and -- after being caught from behind repeatedly by 300-pound defensive tackles -- does he think he’s faster than he is? Yes, yes, yes, and good lord, yes.
Wait. Where were we? Oh, right:
For all of those shortcomings, Wentz is still a franchise quarterback. These baseless projections and high-profile failures will be good for Wentz. The grumbles from the locker room both last season and this were not without merit. Wentz could use a large dose of genuine humility. But then, can’t we all.
There are plenty of other gifts Philadelphia has been given. Some are local: Ben Simmons hit a three. Some are universal: Duke lost.
But the greatest gift any NFL town can receive is a quarterback who gives his team a chance to win. Even at his worst, Wentz at least does that.