Maybe it is the quarterback.
Maybe the plays are there to be made.
Maybe the moments when it seems so easy don’t need to be so rare.
Dallas Goedert releasing off the line of scrimmage, planting his foot, and catching a pass across the middle for a 15-yard gain. Carson Wentz faking a read-option handoff and throwing a quick strike to the flat for a first down. The moments when it looks the way it should are the moments that remind you that this offense is missing something crucial. Football is not supposed to look as difficult as it does when the 2020 Eagles are playing it.
Maybe the responsibility belongs to the guy under center.
Wentz certainly isn’t making life easy for those of us who have spent the last two months defending him. With every inexcusable sack that he takes, with each of his throws that goes somewhere it shouldn’t, he whittles away at the benefit of the doubt that his physical ability grants him. At some point, a quarterback needs to do basic quarterback things or he becomes a liability. Against the Cowboys, Wentz did not do those things. And if the Eagles had been playing against any quarterback besides Ben DiNucci, it would have cost them a 23-9 win, and quite possibly their season.
I don’t think anybody will disagree with any of that. Even Wentz’s most ardent defenders acknowledge that he has developed a self-destructive habit of making two or three plays a game that are so monumentally ill-advised that they can cancel out any and all of the good that he does. The schism between Wentz apologists and the breakaway Folesite sect lies mostly in their divergent beliefs over the way to achieve salvation.
You will hear a lot of chatter about Jalen Hurts between now and the next time the Eagles take the field in a couple of weeks. But entertaining such chatter requires a wholesale rejection of a number of well-established truths about the Eagles' situations. Wentz isn’t going anywhere. Nor should he. The responsibility for fixing the Eagles' offense -- and, by extension, whatever role Wentz has played in the malfunction -- lies with the coaching staff alone.
Week 8 is no time to fire any football coach, let alone one who is less than three years removed from a Super Bowl title and has taken his team to three straight playoff appearances. It is not even a time to discuss the potential for such a move. The Eagles have eight games left on their schedule. They have won two in a row, and three of five, with their two losses coming against two leading AFC contenders who earlier on Sunday played each other nearly even. The odds place them as the overwhelming favorite to win their division. That’s not a bad floor, even before you consider the potential for exponential growth.
That being said, it is not too early to say that the clock on Doug Pederson’s tenure as Eagles head coach has begun to tick. There was simply no excuse for the performance his offense turned in on Sunday night. Not after a long week that gave him three extra days to prepare. Not with two of his best skill-possession weapons returning from injury. And especially not while facing a defense that is as soft as the one that the Cowboys have been running out there this season.
Less than a month ago, the Browns walked into Dallas and put up 500 yards. Last week, the Redskins churned out 397. On Sunday, against a historically awful opponent, the Eagles finished with a meager 222.
Wentz was a problem. He turned the ball over four times. Two were excusable. A fumble on what would have been a turnover on downs, and an interception on a deep throw to a single-covered receiver -- both were situational costs of doing business. The other two -- a fumble on a sack that he did not need to take, an interception on a desperation throw to a double-covered receiver in the end zone that seemed mostly an attempt to throw it away -- were the kind of things that he should have stopped doing weeks ago.
But the mistakes were not the only issue. For yet another week, the Eagles were a team without a rhythm, without an identity, without any consistent ability to scheme players open and get the quarterback in a groove with easy, high-percentage throws. The pass protection wasn’t great, but it was better than it has been for most of the season. The Eagles were simply an offense that did not know where to go with the football.
There is a talent issue on this team. John Hightower should not be on an NFL football field. With the exception of Travis Fulgham, the Eagles do not have a receiver who gives his quarterback any sort of confidence that he can make a play in tight spaces. But the more you watch this team, the more you confront the inescapable sense that there is something fundamentally wrong with the whole of what they are doing.
The head coach is the man responsible for diagnosing it, for fixing it, for using this next week to figure out what kind of offense this current group is best suited to be. He is also the man responsible for fixing the guy under center. Wentz has shown us he has the talent. He has, thus far, remained healthy. If Pederson can’t get him the rest of the way there, the Eagles are going to head into this offseason needing to find someone who can.