Carson Wentz may not be playing on Sunday, but the Eagles would not be here without him. This is the third in a series of six developments that have put the Birds on the brink of a Super Bowl title.

Part III: Drafting Carson Wentz

With the coaching staff turned over after firing Chip Kelly, and Howie Roseman back in charge of buying the groceries, it was time for the Eagles to start work on the 2016 season, the 56th since the franchise last won a championship.

Sam Bradford was the nominal starting quarterback, but his unpredictable health created more questions than a group of 7-year-olds out on a class trip. He had missed most of 2013; all of 2014; and, at that point, was 25-37-1 as a starter and was turning 29 in November.

But then workouts for the Senior Bowl began in late January, and the Eagles' brass saw their future in Carson Wentz. As the only FCS quarterback invited to play in the important all-star game, Wentz was an unknown commodity.

The Eagles aggressively moved up in the draft in order to take North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz, shown here engineering an upset of Iowa State during his junior year.
Charlie Neibergall / AP
The Eagles aggressively moved up in the draft in order to take North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz, shown here engineering an upset of Iowa State during his junior year.

Roseman traded up from No. 13 to No. 8 and then from No. 8 to No. 2 to get into position to take either Wentz or Jared Goff. The Rams had the No. 1 pick and also needed a quarterback. The Eagles would take whichever player the Rams did not. The Eagles were hoping for Wentz.

The Rams had just bolted St. Louis to move back to Los Angeles and absolutely needed to get this pick right. They chose Goff, from the University of California rather than the FCS kid. The Eagles snapped up the redhead from North Dakota State.

"He's got incredible grit and fortitude, and he fits into this city," Pederson said. "He's a blue-collar quarterback. He'll be embraced for his passion and his work ethic and his knowledge of the game."

Bradford, signed Feb. 28 to a two-year contract that really was a one-year deal because the team had excessive leverage, was unhappy with his long-term outlook with the Eagles and held out of offseason workouts. Chase Daniel was signed to back up Bradford. Even with Bradford's disgruntlement, it initially appeared unlikely that Wentz would be active on game days. But that changed quickly when Minnesota found itself with a gaping hole at quarterback less than two weeks before the 2016 season opener after Teddy Bridgewater's massive knee injury.

"I've always felt that whenever Carson got his chance — whether it was next year, or Game 3, or Game 10 — I've always felt he would be ready," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said during the week before Wentz's debut. "Or Game 1."

Reich has a lot to lose with this sort of endorsement. What if Wentz turns into Ryan Leaf? Reich will never be allowed into another predraft meeting.
Reich has a lot to gain, too. If Wentz puts up numbers like Cam Newton (a much better comparison, by the way), then Reich will receive much of the credit.

Climbing for Carson

Eagles' trades prior to the 2016 NFL draft:

  • To go from No. 13 to No. 8: The Eagles traded LB Kiko Alonso, CB Byron Maxwell, and the No. 13 pick to Miami for the No. 8 pick.
  • To go from No. 8 to No. 2: The Eagles traded No. 8, No. 77, No. 100, a 2017 first-round pick, and a 2018 second-round pick to Cleveland for the No. 2 pick and a fourth-round pick in 2017 (which eventually was used to trade up for Donnel Pumphrey).

"It's a hard pill to swallow — we understand that. It's a tough price to pay," Howie Roseman said of moving up. "… We have some time to prepare for the losses."

The series

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