Good Lord: As Eagles teeter on the brink of disaster a la T.O. and 2005, Carson Wentz looks to the heavens | Marcus Hayes
As forces of discord swirl around his team, Wentz looks upward for strength.
When Carson Wentz seeks guidance, he doesn’t ask coaches. He doesn’t ask teammates. He simply bends his knee.
Wentz has been the subject of criticism three times in 10 months from unnamed teammates. He is the leader of a pedigreed team that is 3-4, and is getting worse. He was asked Wednesday:
“Who do you use as a sounding board when things aren’t going the way you want, and there are difficult situations internally? Who do you turn to for advice?”
He didn’t mention head coach Doug Pederson or backup quarterback Josh McCown, who have a combined 34 years of NFL playing and coaching experience. He didn’t say former teammate Nick Foles, a Pro Bowl player and Super Bowl MVP who, in eight seasons, has played quarterback for four teams and five head coaches. Wentz said, without hesitation:
“To God. I pray. I think we all need a lot of prayer. When things are struggling, I mean, I always just look up and remember there’s a bigger picture. And, obviously, my wife is always there.”
With all due respect, neither Jesus nor the former Madison Oberg has NFL experience.
We’re not doubting Wentz. It was a sincere response. Wentz’s life centers completely on his Christian faith. We’re not mocking Wentz, either. As he mentioned, we could all use a dose of devotion.
But Wentz’s reply, in the most trying period of his short career, was, at the very least, unusual, even for him. It was just the latest bizarre moment in a bizarre Eagles season that already is more bizarre than the “Dream Team” disaster of 2011.
Two weeks ago, Eagles starting linebacker Zach Brown called quarterback Kirk Cousins the “weakest link” in the Vikings’ offense. Two days later, Cousins roasted the Eagles for a season-high 333 yards, and the next day the Eagles cut Brown.
Last week, ESPN reported that an Eagles player criticized the front office for not trading for Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, and said that Wentz was making bad decisions on the field. Last year the same reporter, who has strong ties to No. 1 receiver Alshon Jeffery, filed a similar report. Jeffery on Wednesday declined to deny he was the anonymous source: “That was last week’s news.”
Also last week, during his Monday radio appearance, Pederson guaranteed a win in Dallas. The Cowboys profanely took exception both before and after the game, which they won by 27 points, their fourth straight win over the Eagles.
Pro Bowl tackle Lane Johnson, who never lies, told NBC 10 after the blowout at Dallas on Sunday that the Eagles lack discipline and punctuality both on and off the field — a sentiment center Jason Kelce expressed to me almost exactly a year ago.
Malcolm Jenkins, the team’s unquestioned leader, said Tuesday of the team’s improvement late in the 2018 season: “You had Nick Foles come in [at quarterback], and obviously, that changed a lot of what we did offensively." Foles, the hero of Super Bowl LII, replaced an injured, struggling Wentz in December, went 3-0, saved the season, and won a playoff game. Jenkins has been an unwavering supporter of Wentz, but, after 11 seasons, Jenkins has to realize his support for Foles might rankle, considering the strong feelings surrounding Foles’ departure to Jacksonville.
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox has been connected in a second imbroglio involving another man’s woman.
All that’s missing is T.O. The most vivid memory of the Eagles’ 2005 season involves Terrell Owens performing sit-ups in his Moorestown, N.J., driveway, but the 2005 campaign held several other intriguing issues. Like Owens, Brian Westbrook was involved in a contract dispute. Injuries crippled the roster: Westbrook, Donovan McNabb, Jerome McDougle, Tra Thomas, Hank Fraley, Lito Sheppard, and, of course, Correll Buckhalter. The Eagles’ record after four games was 3-1, just like these 2019 Eagles. The 2005 Eagles finished 6-10.
The 2019 Eagles are, remember, 3-4. They’ve lost two in a row. They play at 5-1 Buffalo on Sunday, then face the Bears (3-3), Patriots (7-0), and Seahawks (5-2).
A 3-8 start isn’t out of the question. You’d be praying, too.
Pederson said the team was “mad ... angry ... disappointed.” Cox, no longer wielding a shotgun and seemingly unshaken by the alleged attack at his home by the angry ex-boyfriend, agreed with Pederson.
But Brandon Graham, the second-longest-tenured Eagle -- he arrived in 2010, a year after Jason Peters -- admitted that this two-week span in 2019 has been stranger than anything else he’s witnessed in Philadelphia. That includes the Dream Team, the 2012 death of Andy Reid’s son Garrett and promotion (and quick dismissal) of offensive line coach Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator, and the 2013 arrival and the 2015 departure of Chip Kelly.
“Well, it’s been a crazy two weeks,” said Graham, who wasn’t aware of Wentz’s prayer comments, “but the way I look at it, when ‘crazy’ starts happening, that’s when it’s about to shape up for a brighter future.”
Wentz isn’t denying that discord exists. The locker-room climate features enough distrust and paranoia that Wentz has held discussions with significant players. The participants included, but apparently were not limited to, Jeffery, who is suspected of anonymously complaining to ESPN both last season and this.
“We’ve all had conversations,” Wentz replied when asked if he’d spoke with Jeffery in particular. “Everyone’s good going forward. ... Those all are in-house things.”
Wentz refused to specify who else he spoke with, or when, or what they talked about, and he brusquely dismissed the paying public’s interest in these “conversations.”
“You can have all the interest you want,” he said, leaning back. “Internally, we’re going to keep that stuff tight. And keep it tight going forward.”
Good luck with that. At least now we know what he’s praying for: No more knives in his back.
You can’t fault Wentz’s ecumenical bent. He rode his faith from high school obscurity to FCS (I-AA) North Dakota State to Pro Bowl status and, now, to a career that will likely earn him more than $150 million.
He firmly believes that if you’re looking for guidance, you go to God.
But if you’re looking for a circus, go to One NovaCare Way.