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Sielski: Do Eagles want to win a Super Bowl, or just make Wentz a star?

A small piece of news came out the other day that suggested the Eagles were mindful and appreciative of their history - if, being an idealistic sort, you were inclined to believe such things.

A small piece of news came out the other day that suggested the Eagles were mindful and appreciative of their history - if, being an idealistic sort, you were inclined to believe such things.

Buried in a hundred-plus-page packet of information distributed to those media members who will cover the NFL's owners meetings next week was this tidbit: The Eagles had proposed a change to the league's uniform policy. Under the policy, whenever players wear a team's third jersey for a game, they must wear "current, primary helmets," too.

For instance, when the Eagles don their black jerseys for a prime-time game, they have to continue wearing the same midnight-green helmets they always wear. By recommending that the league allow teams to use alternative helmets, the Eagles could, in theory, make their traditional kelly green uniform (and the uniform's matching headgear) their alternative jersey. (The NFL instituted a rule in 2013 mandating that each player wear only one helmet throughout the season - reportedly to cut down on head injuries - and the process by which a team gets an alternative jersey approved by the league is relatively onerous.)

An Eagles spokesman said Friday that, because there wasn't much support for the change around the league, the team had withdrawn the proposal. But the mere request, particularly its timing, was curious. Sure, it's an obvious marketing ploy to tap into the fan base's nostalgia to sell throwback jerseys. But the Eagles have been criticized throughout Jeffrey Lurie's 23 years of ownership for failing to give their past its proper acknowledgment and respect, and based on all publicly available knowledge, they had not offered such a proposal before. Why now?

At the risk of being banished to a grassy knoll for a meeting of the Bilderbergs, here is a possible two-word answer: Carson Wentz.

When people talk about the Eagles in Philadelphia - at home, at the office watercooler, on talk radio, in newsrooms - they spend a lot of time, maybe most of their time, talking about the team on a granular, strategy- and personnel-centered level. Around here, people care deeply about who the backup right tackle and starting weakside linebacker will be. They care about such matters more than just about any other populace cares about any other sports-related matter. (One example: After the Eagles' final preseason game last season, on Sept. 1 against the Jets, a New York sportswriter friend remarked that, during his drive down I-95 for the game, he has listened to both of Philadelphia's sports-talk stations. Both were heavy with Eagles chatter. "Don't you guys have a baseball team in this town?" he said.)

We talk and care so much about these topics that it's easy to forget what pro sports is really about: making money. Stop reading this column for a minute. Log on to the internet if you're not online already. Hop on and click on the link for "Top Selling Jerseys." Go ahead. I'll wait.

OK. Did you notice where Wentz's No. 11 jersey was in those rankings? As of 2:50 p.m. Friday, it was sixth. That's a pretty remarkable indication of Wentz's popularity, considering that he has just one NFL season under his belt and that his team finished 7-9 and hasn't won a playoff game in more than eight years. Now, think about it: What would be more popular than a midnight green Carson Wentz jersey or a black Carson Wentz jersey? Easy. A kelly green Carson Wentz jersey.

These things matter to NFL franchises and owners. They matter a lot. If you compare Wentz and, say, Tom Brady purely as quarterbacks - how they throw the football, how they read a defense - you're missing a major dimension of why Brady is so important to the New England Patriots and the NFL, and why the Eagles and Lurie would looooooove to have Wentz reach a similar cultural status.

"Brady's not really an NFL player anymore," said Matthew Futterman, author of the book Players: The Story of Sports and Money and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution. "He's more of a celebrity fashion figure who happens to play football. That's what the NFL has really sort of become. Quarterbacks are the people who everyone talks about and everyone wants to talk about. That's the star-making machine of the league right now."

The Eagles want to win a Super Bowl, no doubt. Lurie wants to win one. Howie Roseman, the team's executive vice president, wants to win one. But they have made it clear that they want to win a Super Bowl while doing everything they can to make Carson Wentz a star, and those two goals don't necessarily align perfectly.

Consider the Eagles' moves in free agency this year. Though Wentz is still on his relatively modest rookie contract (which is four years in length and could be worth as much as $26.7 million), the Eagles significantly increased their financial stake in his success with their acquisitions. They signed two wide receivers: Alshon Jeffery, who was regarded as the top-of-the-market player at the position, and Torrey Smith. They signed an offensive lineman, Chance Warmack, and re-signed another, Stefen Wisniewski. They even reportedly considered trading safety Malcolm Jenkins and two draft picks for another wide receiver, Brandin Cooks.

They still don't have an established starting cornerback on their roster. They don't have an elite pass rusher. They're counting on Beau Allen to replace Bennie Logan as a productive, full-time defensive tackle. They have a draft history that suggests that filling so many holes on defense will be, to put it mildly, a challenge. But they did everything they could to provide Wentz as many toys and blankets as possible.

So . . . those two goals. Which one looks like the Eagles' higher priority?