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Weapon X Mailbag: Why do backup QBs make Doug Pederson look like an elite coach?

Plus: who are the 2021 wide receivers?

New Orleans Saints v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Enjoying an Eagles game felt like a forgotten feeling from a long ago dream. I missed it. The win made for some spicy questions this week. Let’s get at ‘em!

@DingusFrisky: Why do the backup quarterbacks make Doug Pederson look like an elite level head coach but Carson Wentz makes him look worse than Chip Kelly’s 3rd year?

Loaded question. Good one to kick things off. Carson Wentz certainly made Doug Pederson look good in 2017 and sporadically in both 2018 and 2019. Pederson truly had Wentz looking like an MVP and potential the future face of the league at one point in time.

But, yeah, I get what you’re saying. The record speaks for itself. The Eagles are 11-3 (11-2 if you throw out a meaningless Week 17 game during the 2017 season) with backup quarterbacks under Pederson. That includes four playoff victories, a win against the eventual NFC champion Rams in 2018, a win over the 2018 AFC South champion Houston Texans and a win against a Saints team on Sunday that people had penciled in for a Super Bowl trip.

Sheesh.

These haven’t been cupcake victories boosting this win-loss record. These are some of the biggest games in Eagles history and many of my favorite moments with this team as a fan.

It feels as if Carson Wentz is the offense, whereas when Nick Foles and Jalen Hurts run the offense. A coach should run the type of plays that their quarterbacks like to run, but to a point, especially in this case with the Birds and Wentz, it can go awry.

It speaks to the power that Wentz wields within the organization:

This is typically the case whenever a backup quarterback comes in though. It’s not necessarily unique to Wentz. Backup signal-callers have little standing to go freestyle mode and call their own shots. They run a coach’s offense to a tee, leaving the impression that the offense is a bit more smooth, more in rhythm, more textbook.

Don’t just listen to me, a guy writing this from his couch wearing Kappa joggers and drinking an Aha green tea seltzer. Take it from Eagles legend Brian Westbrook:

Doug Pederson is a great coach. He’s creative. He’s a deft play-caller. His mesh concepts, something that Wentz seemingly doesn’t like to run given how frequently they’ve been used with him in the lineup, carried the team during their Super Bowl run and proved integral in their win over New Orleans.

Carson Wentz, like many aspects of this organization, has been a problem in 2020. He’s unlucky in a sense that he’s been backed up by talented QBs in Foles and Hurts when he’s come out of the lineup, but, ultimately, he has done himself few favors this season.

Hurts, at this moment in time, is a more competent quarterback than Wentz. That may not ring true for the future, but it’s the simplest solution for why Hurts flashed in an encouraging performance whereas Wentz has raised concerns about his game weekly.

There’s also an aspect to me that the other players on the team sort of know they need to pick up the slack when the main dude goes out, no? I have no insight into NFL locker room dynamics and am not proclaiming to know anything specific here, but it feels like a normal human emotion, regardless of whether Wentz and Hurts are the subjects at hand.

TLDR: Pederson has always been a good coach, the Eagles have had good backup quarterbacks, the Eagles have had other good players, Wentz has been bad this season.

@KickPushEmoji: If the Eagles make the playoffs by some miracle with Hurts starting, what does the QB room look like next year? Same top 2? Carson gone? Jalen gone?

I talked about this in last week’s mailbag when someone asked what Hurts had to do to make himself the clear QB1 for 2021. I half-jokingly said that he’d need to win out, win the division and win a playoff game, but now I’m left thinking that’s not as impossible of an outcome as I once believed.

We can do all the crazy fake trades we want in our minds, in the comments or on Twitter. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s fun. I do it all day long, but the Wentz trade would realistically need to happen within the first three days of the league year (beginning March 17, 2021) for cap purposes. That doesn’t feel quite like enough time for the Eagles to fully exhaust their options, especially with one that has such franchise-altering capabilities.

I stand by that if they somehow win this mess of a division and then pull a playoff win out of nowhere, how do you really tell Hurts he can’t start Week 1? This isn’t journeyman Nick Foles doing some late-season magic. It would be an Uber-talented 22-year-old QB.

If they make the postseason, but get smoked immediately it would probably be called a “quarterback competition” next summer as a farce when it’s really Wentz’s job the whole time.

Right now, I’m expecting the quarterback room to be Wentz, Hurts and a Day 3 pick rookie. Maybe I’ll be changing my tune here next week if the Birds somehow stomp the Cardinals (fake Birds).

@SwanRon42749513: When and why is Jalen Hurts going to drop a deep bomb to Reagor against the Seahawks?

**checks the Eagles schedule**

Uh, I’m guessing you meant the Cardinals?

The next time the Eagles could play the Seahawks would theoretically be Wild Card Weekend, so in this wild scenario, I hope it’s on the first place of scrimmage for a 75-touchdown in Hurts’ playoff debut.

@lwrncjones: Who are the Eagles’ wide receivers in 2021? Part two: who will be the leading receiver?

Good question from my guy Larry. Is there anyone who’s on the team now that’s a lock for next year other than Jalen Reagor? What a pitiful positional group Howie Roseman has assembled.

Here’s my guess: Jalen Reagor, Day 1 or Day 2 pick rookie, Greg Ward, Quez Watkins, Day 3 pick rookie/UDFA guy.

There could be another spot there for Travis Fulgham, who’s inexplicably fallen out of favor with the Eagles, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who would give the Eagles a marginal dead cap number if he were cut (but every cent could be valuable with how effed their cap is...) or another training camp body.

Not very exciting, huh?

@alex252: We’re back on that cycle of getting excited about a QB, only to find out that the QB can at best get us into wild card contention for a few years, aren’t we?

That’s just kind of the cycle for the vast majority of teams though. Teams draft young quarterbacks, attempt to surround them with talent, have a couple playoff or near-playoff seasons with the NFL’s inherent parity and then eventually have to decide whether they want to continue on with this path of mediocrity or make a shift.

It’s a pain in the ass to endure as a fan, but it’s the formula delivered a Super Bowl trophy and the one that brings the best possible opportunity to find a franchise quarterback. Maybe Wentz can be The Guy again. Maybe Hurts can be The Guy. I have some doubts about either of those things occurring, but this is just a “welcome to the National Football League” situation.