J.D. Drew and Scott Rolen will be saints in Philadelphia before Carson Wentz’s sins are forgiven.
Wentz, the highest-paid player in Eagles history, reportedly is forcing the team to trade him — after he cashed the biggest checks, and after he played historically poorly, and after the franchise has accommodated almost every whim.
Don’t blame Howie Roseman. Don’t blame Jeffrey Lurie. Don’t blame Doug Pederson.
The Eagles will spend their 2021 season in NFL purgatory because the most important and most expensive person in team history reneged on his word. Wentz played badly, blamed everyone but himself, crippled the franchise on his way out of town, and torpedoed his trade value with his horrid quarterbacking and his indirect bellyaching.
Still, somehow, Wentz has defenders. Cults cannot condemn their leaders.
His defenders will claim that Roseman, the general manager, failed Wentz in the front office, which is true to some extent. They will claim that Pederson, the former coach, failed him on the field, which also is true, to some degree. They will claim that Lurie, the owner, failed him by not firing Roseman and, after firing Pederson, by hiring unqualified replacement Nick Sirianni — all of which is sort of crazy, but whatever.
Those claims are sad. Roseman, Pederson, and Lurie, at every turn, didn’t just bend over backward to accommodate Carson Wentz, they bent over forward, and sideways, too. They began these contortions even before Wentz arrived.
How has Wentz repaid them? With treachery. With petulance. With a fractured locker room, a shattered balance sheet, and no viable replacement.
This would be so much worse than Drew or Rolen. The Phillies gambled and lost when they drafted Drew with the second overall pick in 1997 -- a stupendously stupid strategy considering his agent had warned before the draft he wouldn’t settle for less than $11 million, about $8 million more than the Phillies were willing to pay. Rolen declined to sign an extension because the cheapskate Phillies wouldn’t assure him they would invest in their own future.
Wentz? He would be abandoning a group of teammates who defended and supported him through three consecutive seasons in which his character was assailed by other teammates. Come to find out those assailants were right.
Carson Wentz is anti-Philadelphia in every possible way: soft, selfish, and stealing money.
He betrayed this franchise and this city like no athlete before him. Neither Drew nor Rolen left this sort of wreckage in their wake, but when their teams visited Philadelphia they were pilloried with boos and, in Drew’s case, was the target of thrown batteries — unthinkably boorish behavior, inexcusable and inappropriate.
But it happened.
In June of 2019, the Eagles gave Wentz a four-year, $128 million contract extension, $107 million of it guaranteed, both franchise records. He played well enough in 2019 as the team suffered massive injury issues, but when injuries hobbled the team in 2020, he was the worst quarterback in the NFL. His 15 interceptions matched the league lead despite Wentz starting only 12 games.
After that regression Wentz should have hiked up his trousers, rolled up his sleeves, and started to earn that money. He should have begged his teammates for patience and dived into a rebuild, a reboot, a total reconstruction of his mechanics, with some sports psychology thrown in. He should have thanked the fans for their support and set up daily autograph sessions at Lincoln Financial Field; after all, they’re the ones who paid for the nearly $40 million he took home in 2020.
Instead, with minimal accountability and maximum entitlement, he chose to run away. Wentz leaves the Eagles a $34 million salary-cap millstone around their neck, an assurance they will drown next season.
It’s hard to say for certain why Wentz wants out, if in fact he does. Different reports indicate different reasons, and Wentz hasn’t spoken publicly in more than eight weeks, preferring to let transparent sources voice his discontent — which assures him deniability but paints him yellow. We can only guess.
He appeared to resent Pederson when the coach benched him, though Pederson should have done so weeks earlier. Wentz appeared to resent Roseman’s ham-handed roster moves, particularly worn-out wideout DeSean Jackson, raw rookie Jalen Reagor, and uninterested No. 1 target Alshon Jeffery. Wentz appeared to resent Lurie’s endorsement of Pederson’s decisions and Roseman’s transactions, especially the ones that involved Jalen Hurts.
That’s a whole lot of resentment for a man nicknamed Ginger Jesus.
It is resentment misplaced.
Roseman and Pederson drafted Hurts with a second-round pick to be the backup of the future for Wentz — an insurance policy if Wentz was injured in the next four years. Nate Sudfeld was on the roster to serve as Wentz’s immediate backup, which is the role Sudfeld served in Game 1, before Hurts surprised the coaches and overtook Sudfeld.
Wentz should have been grateful that Hurts was on his team. Why?
Because Nick Foles was the obvious better choice.
Foles, the popular Super Bowl LII MVP, had flopped in Jacksonville. The Bears snagged him at a reduced salary for a conditional fourth-round pick — completely affordable for the Eagles. But they didn’t pursue Foles, one team source said, because they were worried about Wentz’s psyche.
That psyche was far more fragile than they imagined.
If Wentz wants to leave because he thinks Roseman can’t build a roster, then he must feel like Groucho Marx:
“I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”
Because Wentz would have been Roseman’s biggest mistake.
Nearly every major move the Eagles made after firing Chip Kelly was made to facilitate the acquisition, comfort, and development of Carson James Wentz. It began before they traded a massive amount of assets — two first-round picks, a second-round pick, a third- and a fourth- — to move up six spots and take Wentz with the No. 2 overall pick in 2016.
Lurie and Roseman demanded a top-quality offensive coaching staff with pedigrees as quarterback developers, preferably a staff with “emotional intelligence.” Pederson and coordinator Frank Reich filled that bill, so they were hired in January of 2016.
Since then, the Eagles either acquired and/or extended: right tackle Lane Johnson, right guard Brandon Brooks, left guard Isaac Seumalo, No. 1 receiver Jeffery, speed receivers Jackson and Reagor, tight end Dallas Goedert, center Jason Kelce, left tackle Andre Dillard, and running back Miles Sanders. It went beyond players.
At the end of the 2019 season, the Eagles fired offensive coordinator Mike Groh, with whom Wentz often clashed.
And, of course, at the end of the 2018 season, they chose Wentz over Foles.
This, though Foles had won Super Bowl LII, then won another playoff game the next season, playing in place of Wentz because Wentz’s 2017 and 2018 seasons ended early due to knee and back injuries that cast a shadow over his future.
The Eagles bet on Wentz’s future. The Eagles showed loyalty. The Eagles showed faith.
Carson Wentz, of all people, has none.