When it comes to the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback position, there’s just so much to unpack with the team benching Carson Wentz for Jalen Hurts. So much so that it’s taken me multiple days to wrap my head around it all. Let’s dive right in to some thoughts on the matter.
1 - I think the Eagles are making the right move
What’s there to be gained from Wentz taking snaps right now? He looks broken out there. There’s no reason to believe he’s going to benefit from playing through his struggles. The Eagles have given him plenty of time to break out of his funk and it clearly hasn’t happened.
Hurts hardly looked otherworldly great against the Green Bay Packers but he at least found a way to move the ball more effectively than Wentz did. The Eagles might as well keep him in and see what he can do down the stretch. It’s an opportunity for the organization to gather more information on their rookie quarterback.
2 - I think it’ll be pretty interesting to see how Hurts fares
Expectations should obviously be kept in check. Hurts is a rookie playing in an offense that’s had issues beyond the quarterback position. We could easily still see uninspiring scheming, poor offensive line, skill player struggles, etc.
But what if the offense suddenly looks ... improved? Not to where anybody is mistaking the Eagles for the Kansas City Chiefs, of course. But enough to the point where the offense actually looks functional and not flat out broken. What if it appears that Wentz, and not Doug Pederson’s much-maligned play-calling, was the biggest issue with the offense?
Playing Hurts potentially allows the Eagles to better assess who’s to blame for their offensive struggles.
3 - I think there’s reason to believe Hurts can have some success
Hurts made some real nice throws in Green Bay. It was refreshing to see the accurate downfield throws he made to Jalen Reagor and Greg Ward. Also nice to see him make some quick decisions in terms of taking off as a runner and getting positive yardage, taking what the defense gave him.
I don’t think Hurts is some elite prospect by any means. There were some throws from last week’s game that leave you wondering about his arm strength. He totally sailed a throw to a wide open Ward at one point. He might take off running a little too much.
But I also feel optimistic that he’s not some scrub. I was relatively encouraged by what I saw out of him in training camp this year. He had some real nice moments in the summer. By contrast, Wentz didn’t have a good camp and I wasn’t sure what to make of that at the time. Obviously should’ve been more concerned than I was.
4 - I think it’s interesting to think about the possible Hurts outcomes
I’m oversimplifying a bit here but here’s how I view the main three options.
HURTS PLAYS REALLY WELL — If he comes in an absolutely lights it up, the Eagles have to at least consider making him their new long-term starting quarterback. Right? And by “lights it up” I’m talking about looking like a total stud and the Eagles winning out. To be clear, probably not a likely outcome.
HURTS PLAYS MEH — It he looks merely “fine” then that doesn’t really move the needle. Hurts could very well look better than Wentz and yet not nearly good enough to replace him as a franchise quarterback. This is probably the most likely outcome.
HURTS PLAYS REALLY POORLY — Can’t write him off entirely given how the surrounding situation isn’t ideal. But the Eagles will at least know that he’s not the answer to their quarterback conundrum. I’d be surprised if Hurts looks flat out terrible and doesn’t have any positive moments.
5 - I think the Eagles are immediately more watchable
Watching Eagles games this year has felt much more like a chore than a form of entertainment. Now there’s at least some level of intrigue with Hurts playing. Such excitement won’t last long if he comes in and really stinks up the joint. For now, though, there’s actually some reason to tune in.
6 - I think it’s only fair to wonder what happens with Wentz
What’s next for No. 11? Does he find his way back on the field this season if Hurts struggles? If he the sure-fire Week 1 starter heading into 2021? Or does he have to win a quarterback competition? Do the Eagles try to move on from him this offseason?
Hard to say for sure right now. This thing could go a number of different ways.
7 - I think Wentz needs to be humbled by this benching
It’s become popular to blame Pederson for most of Wentz’s struggles. And it’s true that the head coach ultimately hasn’t been able to fix Wentz this season. But the quarterback is far from blameless in this scenario.
The reality is that Wentz needs to want to be fixed. And not just in the way he prefers it to be done.
Look, I have no doubt that Wentz wants to be playing better. But is he willing to be coachable? Because I think that’s an underrated issue at play here. And it shouldn’t be given all we’ve heard about him.
Let’s revisit the PhillyVoice report from January 2019:
But the true Wentz is more nuanced and complicated, with sources describing him as “selfish,” “uncompromising,” “egotistical,” one who plays “favorites” and doesn’t like to be “questioned,” one who needs to “practice what he preaches” and fails “to take accountability.”
Wentz, according to sources, created friction within the offense.
This was different in 2016 and ‘17 under former Eagles coaches Frank Reich, now the Indianapolis Colts’ head coach, and John DeFilippo, the new Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator, because they would rein Wentz in and stop him from going off-point, sources said. Reich and DeFilippo are two respected, entrenched NFL coaches who have experienced success. They forced Wentz to run the Eagles’ offense, a Super Bowl-winning offense that scored 41 points in the biggest game in franchise history and outdueled all-time great Tom Brady.
Ask yourself who had the better season: Wentz (279-for-401, 3,074 yards, 21 TDs, 7 INTs, sacked 31 times) or Andrew Luck (430-for-639, 4,593 yards, 39 TDs, 15 INTs, sacked 18 times)?
The Colts’ offense nearly mirrored the one run last year by the Eagles.
According to multiple sources, Wentz tended to “complicate” the offense. He didn’t let it come organically, as Foles did. According to one source, Wentz could “complicate 2+2.”
Reich and DeFilippo stressed to Wentz the importance of sticking with the play that was called — a completed pass was there waiting. When Wentz deviated from that, it was sometimes met with bad consequences, like an interception or a sack. When Wentz trusted what Reich and DeFilippo called, it led to an MVP-like season that produced an Eagles’ single-season franchise record 33 touchdown passes and an 11-2 record in 13 games.
Pederson, Reich and DeFilippo were the perfect storm of coaches. Each had their strengths, and each complemented one another.
With Reich taking the top job with the Colts and DeFilippo joining the Vikings this season, the Eagles’ offense was going to be pretty much the same, or so the players thought. There was one major exception: Wentz didn’t want to run many of the concepts, because he felt that was “Foles’ stuff,” sources said. But as anyone who watched the Eagles could see, Foles and the Eagles’ offense was successful running their “normal stuff.”
Let’s also revisit my conversation with Joe Santoliquito on BGN Radio earlier this year:
“I don’t know if a good buddy can also be your coach. There is no secret here. The media knows this, and the fan base knows this. That Press Taylor and Carson Wentz are buddies. They’re pals. And the last time I looked, if I’m running a business, I don’t care if it’s a professional football team or a professional tiddlywinks. If I have a superior over me or I’m the one that’s a superior, I’m going to turn around and say ‘You’re going to do what I say.’ Or we’re going to work as a collaboration, we’re going to work together, and we’re going to collaborate. But you’re going to follow my lead. And if I find you out of line, I’m going to kick you in the tail. I’m going to turn around and make sure you’re on point. And when [Wentz] had not one but two guys kicking him in the tail in that 2017 season, we saw the results. We saw him bend, we saw him become flexible, we saw him accepting — sometimes reluctantly, but still accepting — coaching. And that’s an issue. And it’s a major issue. He’s not going to get any better unless he’s willing to turn around and take hard coaching. Really good story last year, Paul Domowitch does a fantastic job. If you remember that story of hard coaching, can Carson accept hard coaching? And again it goes back to what I wrote back in January of 2019. So far, the history doesn’t show it. The history doesn’t show he’s able to accept hard coaching, that he’s able to accept that harsh criticism.”
“There’s also something else here. And we’ll just say a little bird very recently whispered into my ear. Who has a lot of intimate knowledge on what goes on in that building and what goes on in that quarterbacks room. Doug Pederson took a lot of blame for that [Week 1] loss and play-calling on Sunday. And he has to accept a certain level, a certain percentage of that. But most of the percentage of that play-calling has to fall on 11. He’s the one that’s calling the plays at the line of scrimmage. He’s the one calling the offense. I don’t know exactly the percentage of what he’s calling, of what Doug’s calling, but [Wentz] is calling a lot of that offense. And Carson’s view of this offense — remember, Doug started to mold the offense what towards Carson likes. And, again, we’re talking five years here. This pretty much Wentz’s offense. This is speculation but strong, strong, strong support that Wentz kind of wants to run this in the sense that, for example, when Peyton Manning was with the Colts and then was with the Broncos, that was Peyton Manning’s offense. And I strongly believe that this is — it’s Doug Pederson’s play design, Doug Pederson is one of the best play designers in the NFL. And Doug, 4th-and-1, that’s Doug’s call. Doug Pederson makes those calls. But in terms of walking up at the line of scrimmage, calling the plays at the line of scrimmages, running some fake cadence … Again, I don’t know the exact percentage. But there’s a hell of a lot of plays being called by Carson Wentz. And that play selection’s being done — well, for example, Doug may call a play. Carson doesn’t like it. And Carson will call his own play. Again, I don’t know the percentage of that, but if you watch that [Washington] game closely on TV, you’ll notice 11 making a lot of calls at the line of scrimmage and they are his calls. So when you turn around and you want to point a finger at Pederson, and play-calling, and things like that, it might be an idea to take that step back and take a broader look at who may actually be at fault here. So, guess what, if Carson throws for eight touchdowns and 555 yards against the Rams? He deserves the credit. But when you throw two interceptions and you struggle …”
The TL;DR version is that Wentz needs to be more amenable to coaching. Maybe getting benched will be a wake-up call for him in that regard. Maybe the Eagles hire a new head coach who’s able to be tougher on Wentz. Or maybe he’s just who he is and he’s not changing.
8 - I think Wentz shouldn’t be viewed as a scapegoat
There are many issues with the Eagles’ offense, yes. But you can’t act like a $128 million quarterback playing like one of the worst players in the NFL at his position isn’t the biggest issue.
If Wentz was playing well, would he not be getting all the glory? I think he would. It’s only fair, then, that he gets a large portion of the blame when things go wrong.
Along these lines, I’m tired of this idea that the Eagles have entirely failed Wentz. I actually do believe there’s some truth to that! They’ve given him some of the worst wide receiving corps to deal with and drafting Hurts definitely didn’t help him. But, again, Wentz is also culpable for his shortcomings. He’s failed himself in some ways. He’s not some innocent victim.
9 - I think it’s legitimately possible that Wentz gets traded
I can’t say it’s the most likely option given that trading Wentz creates $33.8 million in dead money with only $852,928 in cap savings. But I wouldn’t say it’s impossible. Over The Cap did a good job of outlining this possibility:
This represents significant savings for Philadelphia if they can move on. Trading Wentz saves the Eagles $25.4 million in salaries that would be paid in 2021 and $15 million in salary that would become guaranteed in 2022. While the overall situation is still bad (they would have paid Wentz an extra $29.6M more than if they just let his rookie deal play out) the optics would be much improved if they made this move.
The question is would anyone trade for Wentz? While the Wentz contract averages $32 million a year its important to remember that the Eagles paid a good chunk of that money already. For a team trading for Wentz the contract would work out to be four years, $98.4 million or $24.6 million a season. The first two years of that contract would basically be guaranteed and the remainder would be in the control of the team that trades for him. The cap figures on the contract would be $25.4 million, $22 million, $25 million, and $26 million.
To put the numbers in perspective those cap figures in 2021 and 2022 would rank 11th and 13th in the NFL. The contract value would be in line with Teddy Bridgewater ($21M a year, $42M over first two years) and Nick Foles’ Jaguars contract ($22M a year, $46.625M a year) so it is perfectly fine for someone likely considered a low level starter if he was a free agent.
I don’t believe it would cost much. Primarily you are giving the Eagles financial relief by trading for him. I don’t think the Eagles would kick in money (that defeats the purpose) nor would they send over a pick (they can sell that they can handle the deal in 2021 and move on in 2022). The Bears gave up a 4th round pick for Foles who was benched for Gardner Minshew so I would imagine the cost would be a 3rd here plus conditionals. That’s good for someone who just last year was considered a good signing at $32 million a year.
If Hurts looks good and the Eagles can get a worthwhile return for Wentz in a trade, they’ll have to consider it. There might actually be a strong market for No. 11 if he’s truly thought of as highly around the league as some have indicated.
Even if Hurts doesn’t look so good, the Eagles still might want to consider moving on from Wentz. They currently have the league’s least flexible roster due to their poor cap situation. It’s not like they’re going to be able to pay to surround Wentz with more help. He might not be salvageable in this specific environment and it might be best for the Eagles to start anew at general manager, head coach, and quarterback.
I think it’s understandable to be hesitant to give up on Wentz. It would really suck to see him go succeed elsewhere. There’s absolutely risk in moving on too soon.
But there’s also risk in holding on to him. If the Eagles keep Wentz on the roster past the third day of the 2021 league year, the team’s commitment to him is furthered with $15 million of his 2022 base salary becoming fully guaranteed. And if Wentz struggles next year, he’ll have way less trade value after two straight poor seasons.
This is to say that I don’t think keeping Wentz is an absolute no-brainer. It’s probably the route the team will choose to take because they’ll think a new coaching staff can fix him. I’m just hesitant to believe that’ll DEFINITELY be the case.
10 - I think Doug Pederson should have a chance to save his job but I’m not counting on it to happen
I think the writing is already on the wall for Doug. Barring Hurts looking like an MVP-caliber player and the Eagles winning their final four games, I think Pederson will be gone after this season.
I’m fine with the Eagles moving on from Pederson if they’re cleaning house altogether. Meaning, Howie Roseman is also a goner.
But if the offense suddenly looks better with Hurts under center and it appears that Wentz was truly the biggest problem, well, it’ll be sad to see the franchise’s only Super Bowl-winning head coach go out the door.
BGN’s Dan Klausner recently phrased the Pederson-Wentz dynamic in an interesting way:
What’s more likely, the guy who helped design an offense on the fly for a backup QB and outcoached Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl, then held together devastatingly injured teams the next two seasons and rallied them both in December to playoff berths ... that guy completely sucks all of a sudden, OR the QB who’s always exhibited troubling flaws that scream potential disaster and has been notorious uncoachable, he’s unraveled?
Again, the argument isn’t that Pederson has been good this year. He hasn’t. He deserves a lot of blame. But he hardly deserves all the blame. I’d argue he’s taken a disproportionate amount for how this season has gone.
11 - I think people are driving me nuts with the “Why didn’t Doug do this for Carson?!” reactions to this tweet
Doug Pederson on Jalen Hurts' biggest challenge Sunday: "In order to get him success you gotta attempt and try to establish a little bit of the run game, and he can be a part of that." Mentioned "easy completions," like quick game, screens. Says his job is helping Hurts there.— Geoff Mosher (@GeoffMosherNFL) December 9, 2020
Uh, did you not see the first drive of the Seattle Seahawks game? Where Wentz threw late to Richard Rodgers on what should’ve been an easy completion? And then threw wide of an open Greg Ward on a simple slant?
This was an incompletion. pic.twitter.com/ww3GNzeuC2— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 2, 2020
I also distinctly recall the Eagles trying to establish the run early against the Packers and Cleveland Browns. And the quarterback still didn’t play well in those scenarios.
It’s interesting how outrage is directed at Pederson for not treating his fifth-year, $128 million quarterback like a rookie ... as opposed to Wentz drawing ire for needing to be treated like one.
12 - I think too many might be in flat out denial about Wentz
I promise you I’m not trying to come off like a Wentz hater, which you most certainly will accuse me of being, in this piece. Long-time BGN readers will know that I’ve always been pretty pro-Wentz. I’m legitimately bummed he’s reached this point.
But I just think some of the excuse-making and blame-shifting has gone too far. I think some people are in total denial about Wentz’s outlook.
One thing that really bothers me not only about sports fandom but society in general is that people often choose to believe only what they want to believe. Sadly, objective truth might be valued less than ever. And, to be fair, I’m guilty of this as well. I think everybody is to some extent.
My point is: because you want Wentz to be fine in the long-term doesn’t mean he will be! For the Eagles’ sake, I hope he is. It’s just far from a foregone conclusion.
13 - I think Howie Roseman needs to be gone no matter what
Hurts playing well should be able to save Pederson but not Roseman.
If Hurts has success, it’ll be at the expense of the general manager’s very large investment in Wentz. And that’s a problem considering Wentz’s cap impact prevents the Eagles from benefiting from one of the NFL’s greatest advantages: a quality young quarterback on an inexpensive rookie deal.
Around the time of the Hurts selection, we wrote about how it was a dumb pick. Not so much because of the player evaluation but the reasoning behind it. If Hurts plays well, the Eagles will be benefiting from a bad process leading to a good outcome.
Even if we allow that Roseman does deserve credit for Hurts, there’s so much rot elsewhere on the Eagles’ roster that it’s obviously time to move on from him. There should be no faith that he can build this team back into a serious championship contender.
14 - I think you should listen to these BGN Radio podcasts about the Eagles’ QB situation
Lots of quality audio content that you should check out.
Visceral reactions in this emergency podcast featuring me and Benjamin Solak:
More in-depth analysis in this BGN Radio episode featuring me and Jimmy Kempski:
Focusing on being excited about Hurts in this From the Bleachers podcast featuring Shamus Clancy:
Forecasting Hurts’ first opponent and even more opinion about Wentz in this Eye On The Enemy podcast from John Stolnis: