Eagles football is almost here. The waiting is almost over. The season and the future starts tomorrow. This week has seemed like a blur. Let’s stop for a moment and review.
Carson Wentz couldn’t ask for a better opponent for first start. The Browns defense was awful last year and is starting five first or second year players. Other than Joe Haden, their secondary has 14 career starts. If he’s healthy Haden is good, and they have a few interesting pieces, but as a whole it’s just the defense you want your rookie to start against. And he’ll have, maybe for the only time all year, the team’s first choice offensive line to block for him. Jordan Matthews, the team’s best WR is healthy, as is Ryan Mathews, a pretty good running back when he’s available. A third of the Browns roster is rookies, so the already strong special teams on the Eagles should have an even bigger advantage. And the despite Jim Schwartz not caring about feeling like he has to help Wentz out, the defense should keep Browns offense in check, though Hue Jackson has consistently gotten blood from a stone as a play caller. On paper this is the worst team the Eagles face this season, and that probably factored into the decision to start him immediately. But of course, games aren’t played on paper.
Even Greater Expectations?
As much as we are all hyped to see Wentz in action, our excitement seems pale in comparison to the Eagles coaching staff. Look these quotes about last year’s #1 and #2 picks in the draft around the time they were named the starter:
“Jameis Winston will be our starting quarterback, he’ll take the first reps tomorrow,” Smith said. "We’re excited about that.”
Smith continued, “A lot of things go into that (decision). We’ve had a lot of evaluation of him. It’s where we feel like he is. We brought him here to be our quarterback and we feel that he’s ready to take this next step.”
The last thing Whisenhunt wants to do is to clog Mariota's mind with too much information, eliminating the athletic Heisman Trophy winner's ability to play naturally.
"I think the element of him being able to extend the play and move adds a lot, so that's what we have to work through," Whisenhunt said. "You just don't want to get to a point where you're not allowing him to play fast because that's certainly one of his best assets."
These are boilerplate quotes. You could change the names and recycle them year after year. Take the next step, we’re excited, don’t want to give him too much, blah blah blah. The coaches weren’t wrong to make such statements, Winston and Mariota had enough pressure already, though interestingly both coaches got fired.
Now compare that to what Doug Pederson and Frank Reich said this week on naming Wentz the starter:
“It's funny because the offense that I brought is pretty similar to his abilities.... there hasn't been any shifting of gears or anything."
"I felt when we evaluated him that he was already [ready to start]. I wasn't always 100% with coach Pederson's plan but I thought it was a great plan."
"Some guys just have it. It doesn't matter what level you played on. But he's like anyone else he has to go out and prove it.”
"If there are 5 to 7 key boxes you're looking to check off for a guy to be an elite QB he checks all the boxes. He scores 9 or 10 on a lot of those boxes."
"There's no doubt in my mind he's ready to play.”
These are not your usual lines made about rookies. Winston and Mariota were being talked about as needing the playbook installed incrementally. Pederson not only thinks that Wentz can fairly seamlessly fit into his offense, but that Wentz also gives them an even bigger playbook to run with his running.
Frank Reich sounds like he wants Wentz to marry his daughter. These guys have been around Hall of Famers and MVPs, so it’s not like they haven’t seen the real thing before. They aren’t downplaying expectations, if anything they’re raising them. And they’re otherwise pretty ho hum guys who aren’t given to hyperbole.
What a week it’s been
Sports writers, and I guess technically I’m one, love parallels. We were all set to draw up a lot of comparisons between the 1999 Eagles and the 2016 Eagles. A new head coach from a productive coaching tree. A QB with #2 overall pick who would sit to start the season. We didn’t know it at the time in 1999 but the team brought in a top flight defensive coordinator to take a good core of players and make them great, and they’ve done that in 2016. There were more if you squinted, but the general ones were too easy to pass up, because the Eagles are unabashedly trying to replicate the Andy Reid era.
Teddy Bridgewater’s unfortunate injury and Carson Wentz’s development meant the Eagles were able to part with Sam Bradford, throwing the whole narrative off. A new era was quickly ushered in, and it’s led to a palpable excitement with the fans. This is one of the most anticipated starts to the season in a while, especially when you consider that fans would by and large be accepting of a 7-9 season. Change is here.
It’s a little like BGN. We’ve got a new QB and head coach in Adam and myself and like the Eagles and Wentz we’re excited for the present and the future (that’s three parallels in one sentence). We thank you for all the kind words you’ve given us in the comments and on socials media (that’s the plural of social media, right? Like Attorneys General or Surgeons General?), and for being a great community.
And we’ve got BGN Radio making it’s WIP debut today, make sure to check it out, you could win a pair of tickets to the season opener! Big week for the brand. Big week for the Eagles.