Carson Wentz is too special to abandon. He can carry a team for a decade. He can turn his 2020 slump into a Hall of Fame career.
As long as he’s willing to be coached. And coached, he will be.
Doug Pederson made that clear Wednesday.
Pederson will ride Wentz hard this week. They will address the problems that have turned the 2017 NFL MVP favorite into 2020 LVP: Lost. Valueless. Pathetic.
Pederson will work on Wentz’s mechanics; on his recognition of defenses and blitzes; and on his decision-making, whether that means hitting the best receiver, protecting the ball as the pocket collapses, or throwing the ball away to avoid a sack and not risk an interception. Wentz leads the league in interceptions (15), total turnovers, (19), and sacks (50).
But that’s the past. Beginning this week, Wentz can start to build a strong future if he humbles himself. If, in Pederson’s view, he sees the game through different eyes.
“He has to embrace that too, right?” Pederson said. He sounded like a coach who has been sending this message for months. “He has to understand and kind of look at it that way in order for us to kind of work through this.”
He also sounded like a coach willing to humiliate his franchise quarterback if he believed the humiliation would save the player. Asked if Wentz might be deactivated behind new starter Jalen Hurts and No. 3 quarterback Nate Sudfeld, Pederson replied:
“We’ll see how this week goes.”
That was a clear message to his proud but pigheaded veteran.
Wentz has refused to evolve in his five seasons. He often plays as if the game is his individual showcase — that he is the only person capable of making winning plays. This is the height of selfishness.
He plays this way because owner Jeffrey Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman granted him impunity. The Eagles twice mortgaged their future to make him theirs, first trading a king’s ransom to draft him No. 2 overall in 2016, then paying a king’s ransom, a $128 million contract extension last year. The deal’s salary-cap implications make him untradeable through 2021.
And rest assured, Lurie won’t trade Wentz as long as he considers his team a “quarterback factory,” as Roseman unfortunately called it in April. And he’s right not to.
Only a handful of men who have walked this Earth have ever had Wentz’s gifts: He’s a 6-foot-5, 237-pound athlete who runs a sub-5.0 40-yard dash and can throw a 1-pound football faster than the speed limit. They have names like Elway. Favre. Roethlisberger.
Wentz is special.
The trouble is, he knows it.
And so he plays with no faith in his defense; with no thought to field position; and with little regard for the well-being of the biggest investment the Eagles have ever made — Carson Wentz. His machismo overrides his common sense, to whatever extent he has any.
If his career as an Eagle died last Sunday, its epitaph would read: “I’m not going to change my aggressive mentality. I’m not going to change who I am.”
He said this, exactly, after losing to the Seahawks on Nov. 2. He said this, approximately, in 2019, after his reckless, run-first instincts — he was a running back as a kid — led to his shredding his knee and fracturing his back. He says it all the time. It is ridiculous.
Wentz must learn to protect himself, to protect the football, and to protect his team’s chance to win games. For the moment, he actively loses them, just as his hero once did.
Wentz idolized Brett Favre, and while Favre was a hell of a player, Favre threw more interceptions and took more sacks than any quarterback in history. Maybe Wentz needs to find a different hero; this one already abandoned him.
The fix is easy. If Wentz changes his outlook, he can change his narrative. Pederson realizes that. Look, Pederson doesn’t want to bench Carson Wentz. He loves Carson Wentz. It makes him sad to bench him, the way it makes fathers sad to take away their sons’ car keys.
But Pederson realizes that, for the sake of Wentz, and for the sake of his football team, Wentz cannot be his quarterback. Not at this stage.
Pederson’s affection for Wentz led Pederson to leave the door cracked. If Hurts struggles, or if Wentz shows even a glimmer of coachability, Pederson will reinsert Wentz sooner rather than later.
Asked what Wentz needs to work on in practice the rest of the season, Pederson inexplicably pivoted to Wentz’s possible return: “I can’t predict what’s going to happen next week or the last three games.”
Asked directly if Wentz could return as the starter this season, Pederson didn’t say no: “I don’t have a crystal ball. I can’t predict the future, right?”
Maybe he can’t predict Wentz’s future, technically, but he does control it.
So does Carson Wentz.