Doug Pederson’s firing Monday was good news for Carson Wentz and not-so-good news for Jalen Hurts, Troy Aikman said.
The Fox Sports analyst and Hall of Fame quarterback was a guest on the Michael Irvin Podcast on PodcastOne, which drops Thursday morning. He said he spoke with Pederson after he was let go by the Eagles.
Aikman said he gathered from his conversation with Pederson that “a difference of opinion in how they were going to move forward with the quarterback position” played a role in his firing.
“Jeffrey Lurie has paid a lot of money to Carson Wentz, and they’re on the hook with him, and can’t get out of that contract right away,” Aikman told Irvin, his longtime friend and former Cowboys teammate.
“It’s my belief that Doug Pederson felt that Jalen Hurts probably [should be] the quarterback going forward. But how does that mesh [with Wentz’s contract situation]? I believe it all came down to how they’re going to handle Carson Wentz.”
Pederson benched Wentz in the second half of the Eagles’ Week 13 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Hurts replaced him and started the final four games. The Eagles won just one of those four.
Lurie was asked during his Monday videoconference whether Pederson’s fractured relationship with Wentz played any role in the coach’s firing. This was his long and winding response:
“This kind of decision has probably multiple, multiple variables. But it’s not based on a quarterback or a particular position group. Certainly, you have to look at the regression of our offense. This is a league that scored the most points ever in 2020. It’s a league that started to not call offensive holding penalties and offensive pass-interference penalties. And yet, we were, I think, 21st in offense.
“I look more at the whole picture. It’s not about a particular player or a particular group, and that’s true for going forward. I think you all know me. I put a heavy emphasis on wanting to have an elite offense. If you want to be a dominant team, you need to be a top offensive unit. I didn’t see … it’s hard for me to project that at the moment.
“But it’s multiple variables. I don’t want you to think that there’s one possible explanation for a change in head coach. It’s way more complex than that.”
Pederson wanted to make 32-year-old passing-game coordinator/quarterbacks coach Press Taylor the team’s offensive coordinator on a restructured staff. Lurie was vehemently against that, because, well, why would you give a promotion to the passing-game lieutenant of an offense that finished 26th in scoring, and the quarterback he’s supposed to be responsible for has been regressing at an alarming rate.
Wentz finished 34th in passing this season with a 72.8 rating. The only quarterback in the league with a lower rating was the Jets’ Sam Darnold (72.7). Wentz led the league in turnovers (19) and was tied with Denver’s Drew Lock for most interceptions.
He finished 33rd in yards per attempt (6.0), was sacked a league-high 50 times, and had the league’s second-worst completion rate (57.4%).
Aikman acknowledged that a quarterback typically gets too much of the blame when an offense struggles and too much of the credit when it’s doing well.
He is aware of all of the injury problems the Eagles dealt with on offense this past season. But he said Wentz still needed to play better. And he pointed out that Wentz hasn’t played well for a while.
“It wasn’t just this year,” Aikman said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Carson Wentz play at the level he needs to play at, or any quarterback needs to play at.
“I always felt the weaknesses of a team ultimately run through the quarterback, and the quarterback is the one who gets exposed for inefficiencies within a football team,” Aikman said. “So when you’re not being protected, and you’re not getting guys open, the quarterback then bears the brunt of those criticisms.
“But the franchise quarterback cannot compound the problems. And Carson was compounding the problems with the way he was not protecting the football.
“It’s going to be a project for whoever becomes the head coach to see if they can get him back and playing at a high level.”