Add Jordan Matthews to the list of people to publicly stick up for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz this offseason. The impending free agent wide receiver had the following to say when asked about the scathing PhillyVoice report that emerged in January, via SiriusXM NFL Radio:
“Everybody knows where I stand on Carson. Everybody knows he’s one of my great friends. And so, people would know that any type of slander to a guy of his caliber is going to honestly be a reach. We’ve got enough people out here doing it completely wrong.
And so for there to be any speculation that this guy is not going out there, trying his best to be the best leader, best football player, best quarterback for this team … I would think that would be completely misguided. I also think that some of the quotes that were, I guess, in that article — I don’t think they were well thought out or very measured, only because when you’re playing through injury, when you’re coming back off of a season where you don’t get to play in the playoffs, and all this stuff … if there’s any slip in character from somebody of Carson’s caliber, I think there should be some grace applied. I think that that should be the type of posture everybody should bring to somebody like that. Cause this dude is the face of a franchise. You think about the weight and the pressure that is on his shoulders every single day. And to miss out on being that leader and being in that position and then to come back [from injury] and go right into it but also have to play through pain? I think there should always be some grace applied to anybody, but definitely somebody in that position.
But just reading it [the PhillyVoice report], obviously it was definitely a stretch. Even when you read the article, it feels like you’re reading a scary story you would read to your kid. It seemed like such a stretch. So I think the second Carson goes out there, they’ll play the Rocky theme music, he’ll start balling, it’ll all be forgotten.”
Ah, I can already anticipate some responding to this article with: “JMatt and Wentz are best friends, what else did you expect him to say?!”
The key thing I wanted to stress from JMatt’s interview — as you can already tell from the headline of this post — is the concept of grace. On the whole, I don’t think we properly realize how tough the past 14 months have been on Wentz. Pardon me for being so self-referential but what Matthews said reminds me of something John Stolnis and I discussed on a BGN Radio podcast last month.
GOWTON: I think one thing that might be important to note here is that — re-reading the [PhillyVoice] story and processing it more and talking to people more — it sounds like Carson was almost a little bit different last year, this past season, 2018. […] I think that might be something we’re overlooking, just how hard it was on Carson in 2018 to have this amazing season in 2017, be like the MVP of the league, and then all of a sudden be like chopped liver because everyone loves Nick Foles, and you’re kind of an afterthought. I guess, for us on the outside looking in, it’s kind of really easy to bypass that and be like ‘Oh, that doesn’t really matter, it’s not a factor.’ But then it’s another whole thing to be Carson Wentz and and to feel that.
STOLNIS: Well, that’s why I made such a big stink about the shrine, the Nick Foles shrine [in Chris Long’s locker.] And I got some heat online about that because I tweeted out how I thought the shrine was ridiculous, and how if I was Carson Wentz, that would’ve rubbed me the wrong way. And I did hear from a couple of people — who know Carson Wentz a little bit, who are familiar with people around the league, who people would know — who were telling me I wasn’t wrong. And I know Chris Long tweeted out a response [to me] with the white guy [gif] doing the slow blink and that got a million likes and I basically had to jump off Twitter for about 12 hours, but I think that there was something to that. I think that’s why it rubbed me the wrong way, because if I was Carson Wentz, for exactly the reasons you just mentioned, it would have rubbed me the wrong way, because last year was supposed to be Carson’s year to do it, and it really — not because of Nick Foles’ fault — it got taken away from him.
GOWTON: Mhm. And just think about how much easier Nick Foles has it in the sense of, if Nick Foles fails, it’s like ‘OK, so what? He’s the backup.’ You know what I mean? There’s [none of] these columns: ‘Nick Foles is a total failure.’ No. That’s part of what being the backup quarterback is, the luxury that comes with that. It’s always, the cliche is that they’re the most popular player on the team. Because there’s no pressure with them. And with Carson, it’s the exact opposite. The Eagles traded up to No. 2 [by using] a lot of draft capital to get this guy. From the jump, there have always been expectations on this guy. Like, ‘he better be worth it!’ You know what I mean? So, that pressure has always been on him, and now it’s even more. And he even admitted to it in the locker room after the season, how Nick Foles having the success he did puts even more pressure on [him]. Because now he has to emerge from that shadow of Nick Foles and separate himself. I just think that’s tough.
The pressure on Wentz heading into 2019 will be lessened in the sense that Foles will be gone and he doesn’t have to worry about looking over his shoulder.
With that said, there’s still plenty of pressure on Wentz to prove he can stay healthy and play better than he did last year (which honestly wasn’t even that bad).
This upcoming Eagles season is a huge one for No. 11. It’ll be fascinating to see how he responds to the pressure this time around.