Carson Wentz is a winner. He threw four passes, completed one, picked up three yards. But he’s a winner, and I won’t hear otherwise.
Wentz was injured on an awful, uncalled head-to-head hit from Seahawks DE Jadeveon Clowney. It was finally Wentz’s playoff moment to shine, the game he had earned with his gutsy play and improved risk management across the month of December. After two disappointing season ends, he finally had his moment to play in a playoff game he had earned — even if he didn’t win it or, or play that well, he got to a point he hadn’t been before.
And by the second drive, it was taken from him.
I can’t promise you that Carson Wentz was going to win the football game if he were in for Philadelphia — less than two months ago, he played the Seahawks in the same stadium, and lost by the same score. But when he was on the field, he was one of the best players on the Eagles offense, and without him, the unit generally fell inert, especially in the red zone.
Wentz grew up during this season, and deserves recognition for his improved play and characteristically clutch moments in late drives. He was a winner across the course of the 2019 season, and that makes him a winner in this playoff game that was largely created by his efforts.
My whole heart!
Josh McCown was overcome with emotion on the field postgame. Incredible— ESPN (@espn) January 6, 2020
My entire heart!
Very emotional press conference from Josh McCown following what might be his final NFL game. pic.twitter.com/OCyEEIz1qY— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 6, 2020
McCown wasn’t on this team to start the season — he wasn’t there for most of camp. A Nate Sudfeld injury brought, literally, the ultimate journeyman onto the roster — and yet McCown became family so quickly. By all accounts, McCown’s a top-flight dude who is, at the very least, experienced at quickly integrating himself into new locker rooms — and his first playoff start surely meant a ton to the 40-year-old.
With all of this said, McCown clearly enjoyed his time in Philadelphia and wanted to win the game, both for himself and for his team. The Eagles needed his veteran leadership, his insight into Carson Wentz’s play, and in their most dire moment, his play. While it was just too little to late, McCown gave his all, and deserves love for that.
Many hope that McCown returns to Philadelphia in a coaching role; count me among them.
While it wasn’t nearly the performance he put out last week for the Eagles, I continue to be impressed more and more with Scott’s performance. Sanders is the unique athlete, the highly drafted blue-chip recruit — but Scott is so tough to bring down on first contact, with that blend of slipperiness, contact balance, and surprising explosiveness on an instant’s notice.
Corey Clement had some good flashes in the pan for Philadelphia in 2017 — he was never able to hold on to a consistent role following the breakout season, though injury is mostly to blame for that. I don’t think Scott will fade into the same background. He’s too dynamic of a player to not maintain at least a small role as a third-down back and a returner. What a season for the practice-squader.
What remains to say about Doug Pederson? The culture in his locker room was attested to by McCown; the weekly adjustments to injury and opponent, the continual playoff berths and strong December records testify to.
Pederson never gets mentioned in Coach of the Year discussions — why, nobody knows. No coach has adjusted to more dire straits over the last few years, and so consistently found success. He modeled an analytics-based decision-making approach for the entire league. He does so much more than bring an offensive system to a roster of talent players — his team grows and shifts in each season, and he continues to win critical games despite improbable odds.
It didn’t happen on Sunday; that’s okay. The list of coaches you’d prefer to have over Doug Pederson is a one-hand list. As the entire NFC East and a quarter of the league cycles through new head coaches in the next month or so, remember that and be glad.
While Zach Ertz was technically healthy for this game, he clearly was playing gingerly, and rightfully so: playing a bad kidney is truly a dangerous game. Dallas Goedert, just as he was in the Week 17 game against the Giants, was the primary target of the passing offense. And again he delivered. Super high catch rate, good work in the intermediate areas of the field, punishing work as a blocker. When Ertz returns to full health, Goedert will remain a “starter” on the Eagles’ offense in terms of snap counts.
Fletcher Cox singlehandedly kept so many points off the board, it’s tough to really measure his impact on the game. Drive-killing TFLs, sacks with the Seahawks deep in Philadelphia territory. Cox was the best player on the Eagles’ defense all season, and on no night was that more evident than it was tonight.
If Cox isn’t the best defensive player on the roster, Malcolm Jenkins is — and even when Cox is the best defensive player on the roster, Jenkins’ ability on the defensive backfield relative to his teammates stands out as some of the most valuable play the Eagles see on a weekly basis. Jenkins was a contract holdout during camp, and turned out a characteristically reliable, consistent, and versatile season. He deserves new money and further trust from the organization.
The Eagles have won with a ton of screen routes in the passing game; their running game has been stronger than ever in the lead-up to this playoff game. The pivot of the entire system is Jason Kelce, who may have played his final game in an Eagles uniform this last night against Seattle. The three-time first-teamer on the All-Pro list considers retirement every year, it seems — and if he goes out, he’ll go out on top, as one of the best linemen in Eagles’ history. What a uniquely talented and fun player.
The 2019 Philadelphia Eagles
Was it a satisfying season? No, especially relative to preseason expectations. But with all the stumbling blocks of this season considered, you can’t help but look at a postseason bid and acknowledge the testament it offers to the coaching staff and front office, even for their moves that didn’t go the right way. I’ll throw them in the winner column, which may be an act of charity, but I’m feeling sentimental.
Absolutely nobody, everybody is great, nobody has done anything wrong. L.J. Fort is still on the team, all of the veterans are healthy and effective, the Eagles have actual starting cornerbacks, the coordinators don’t make weird decisions in super high-leverage situations, everything is fine.
Who’s Getting Fired
I have no solid feeling on who gets fired, if anybody, right now. I feel strongest that Jim Schwartz stays, in that his defense had an impressive end to the season and continues to keep games close when they’re at home. I feel next strongest that, if someone gets fired, it’s Mike Groh, the offensive coordinator. I feel least strongest that someone will get fired.
So that’s where we are.
What matters in Philadelphia is that the team continues to be aligned under the Roseman - Pederson - Wentz umbrella. They made significant coaching staff decisions in 2017 after the Super Bowl Brain Drain — now, with two years of further data, any coaches and personnel decision-makers who don’t work in concert with the mission of the franchise cornerstones need to be removed from the team.
Those are hard and long decisions, but now’s the time to start making them.