It was hard to decide which Doug Pederson announcement was more unsettling Monday.
First, there was Pederson’s admission that he should have just gone for it on fourth-and-12 from the Cincinnati 46, instead of punting to preserve a 23-23 tie with 19 seconds left in Sunday’s 10-minute overtime.
“It’s a situation where you take the shot,” said Pederson, whose hallmark has been aggressiveness. “And I learned from it, and I’ll move on.”
This brought the Eagles coach’s thinking more in line with that of his fan base, but unlike Pederson, the rest of the Delaware Valley didn’t require a good night’s sleep to conclude that trying to win would have been a good way to go.
The fear that failing to convert, and giving up field position, would somehow have allowed the Bengals (12 net OT yards on 12 snaps to that point, no timeouts left) to kick a game-winning field goal was not all that realistic, in the circumstances. It also disrespected an Eagles defense that had sacked Joe Burrow three times in overtime, eight times overall.
Ideally, the coach should be ahead of the fans in such matters.
Second, there was Pederson’s musing that he might need to “unclutter” the mind of his fifth-year franchise quarterback by running a more up-tempo attack, that allows fewer options and less time to think.
"Where players don’t have to think, right? They just react,” he said.
Pederson, who said he won’t consider handing off play-calling duties, said he would “take a look at the game plans and make sure there’s not a lot of, maybe, moving parts or things that from a quarterback’s perspective that he’s got to get us in and out of. … Somehow help him to free up his mind and let him play.”
This would be more palatable if the coach were starting, say, rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts, who couldn’t be expected to process everything going on around him. But Carson Wentz will be making his 60th career start Sunday night at San Francisco.
There is no thought of that situation changing, by the way. “You don’t go there,” Pederson said on his weekly WIP-FM 94.1 radio appearance Monday. “Carson’s our quarterback.”
Hard to see how it could change, a year after Wentz signed a $128 million contract extension. The Eagles, already farther over the projected 2021 NFL salary cap than any other team, would add about $33 million to their 2021 deficit if they traded Wentz before June 1, 2021, according to Spotrac.com. After June 1, they could save about $16 million in 2021 cap room by trading Wentz, but they would be pushing nearly $25 million in dead cap money into 2022.
Then there is the fact that we’re talking about a QB who has proved that he is capable of being among the league’s best, and is all of 27 years old. And that no one has any idea if Hurts can be an NFL starter. And that the 0-2-1 Eagles are a half-game out of first place in the NFC East.
But that doesn’t mean that Wentz’s mistakes aren’t alarming. A month ago, Eagles senior offensive adviser Rich Scangarello said of Wentz: “Carson, he’s an elite processor in my opinion, both pre-snap and post-snap. He’s able to do a lot of things because of it. That’s what separates him to me from a lot of people in this league.”
Now the coaches think the answer might be to unplug the processor, with Wentz lugging around a 63.9 passer rating, worst in the NFL among starting quarterbacks, along with six interceptions and just three touchdown passes, while averaging all of 5.6 yards per attempt.
Pederson was asked if this was where he expected to be with Wentz, in Year 5.
“I think you’re always learning. I think you’re always growing,” Pederson said. “I don’t think anybody gets to the point where they’ve got things completely mastered, so to speak. Even some of the top quarterbacks would say that, and they’re constantly, I think, getting better.”
When Wentz spoke after Sunday’s game, he acknowledged that he isn’t playing well, and vowed to improve. But he also said: “You’re going to miss a couple [throws] and you’re going to make some plays. Things happen.”
This is Philadelphia, where dispassionate rationalizations don’t go over real well. When explicating failure, weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth are much preferred.
You don’t get that from Wentz, and you don’t get any true explanation of how he can throw an interception to the wrong side of his favorite, most familiar target, Zach Ertz.
“I have to be better,” Wentz said Sunday. “And I know that, and I will be. I’ll learn from it. That’s really all I can say.”