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How Carson Wentz has grown and what concerns remain moving forward

Insider insight on the Eagles’ starting quarterback.

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Philadelphia Eagles v Washington Football Team Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Carson Wentz has been under fire this week for his poor performance in Week 1. So, what better way to kick him when he’s down by giving a platform to the guy who wrote a hit piece on him back in 2019!?

Just kidding. That's obviously not the thinking here.

The truth is I actually planned on interviewing Joe Santoliquito of PhillyVoice (and elsewhere) BEFORE the Eagles’ season opener. I wanted to talk to Joe about his original Wentz story AND his new one that paints Wentz in a much more positive light. We wrote about the latter last week here at Bleeding Green Nation: “Some of the Eagles players that talked behind Carson Wentz’s back are now defending him.”

Scheduling issues on my part prevented me from interviewing Joe last week but I was able to catch up with him a couple days ago for a very interesting conversation. There’s talk about how Wentz has grown in addition to concerns that remain moving forward. I strongly recommend you listen to this entire BGN Radio special podcast by [CLICKING HERE] or streaming below:

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Some of the highlights include ...

HOW THE ORIGINAL STORY ACCIDENTALLY CAME TO BE

Joe talks about how he wasn’t seeking to badmouth Wentz as much as the story fell into his lap. He also details the story-writing process and his conversations with various sources and such.

CARSON WENTZ’S GROWTH

SANTOLIQUITO: “I am happy about one thing: that I know for a fact he read it, that Carson read it. And I know for a fact that Carson took it to heart. Good for him. And like I’ve said, behind his back, and I’d like to say it one day to his face, he deserves a lot of credit for turning around and addressing some issues that were there. And I’m happy for him, and I’m happy for the team, and I’m happy for the organization. […] Now what happened and how this ties in recently is this: that after the [Jalen Hurts pick in the 2020 NFL] Draft, three of those guys, three of those original guys, three very serious sources from that first story — who [originally] criticized Carson — came to me and said ‘Hey, man, he’s a bit of a changed dude. He’s accessible. I’ve had conversations with him that I’ve never had before.’ […] ‘His eyes were opened. And we turned a very negative situation into something positive. Carson deserves a lot of credit. And now this is finally his team.’ And that was the gist of the story that I wrote last week [ahead of Week 1]. That it was finally Carson Wentz’s team, that he’s taken over the leadership and the reigns of this team.”

This is all very encouraging to hear.

CAN CARSON ACCEPT TOUGH LOVE?

In addition to Joe’s original story, this topic notably came up in a December 2019 article by the Inquirer’s Paul Domowitch. Domo cited at least one NFL executive who thought that Eagles quarterbacks coach Press Taylor was going too easy on Wentz. Joe echoed similar concerns.

SANTOLIQUITO: “The other facts that still have to lie out there and still remain to be answered, is, can he accept coaching? He pushed back against Flip [former Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo], he pushed back against [former Eagles offensive coordinator] Frank Reich. And they’ve been public about that. And that was covered in my story. The other thing, too, that was covered in my story that seems to be forgotten is the fact that he pushed back against [former Eagles offensive coordinator Mike] Groh. Jeff McLane did a really nice piece at the beginning of the season. Some of the stuff I had in the January 2019 story was also covered by Jeff in Jeff’s story in terms of how Groh and Wentz did not see eye-to-eye. And they didn’t. Now, I used the term Wentz “bullying” Groh. I’m not backing off that. I still maintain that.

BLG: That leads me into a question, Joe. Does Carson have too much control? Is he not taking to coaching? And I think the answer is yes, to some extent, but what to extent? And also the Press Taylor relationship, you mentioned Flip, and Flip and Reich seemed to have some level of authority to get on him. I don’t know to what extent but it seemed like they did because they challenged him. And I just don’t know that he has that now. And I guess looking more insight from that on you.

SANTOLIQUITO: “They did challenge him. And at times — well, many times, he didn’t like it. He was reluctant. And that’s good, that’s a good relationship. He pushed back against it but — an this is an interesting thing, Brandon. You’ve been around this team. You’ve been around Doug. You’ve been at these postgame press conferences and the day-after pressers. And think about this: if you think about the many, many times that Doug Pederson would say: ‘Carson has to trust the offense. Carson has to trust the offense.’ Do you remember those times? And he said them many, many times. […] Carson’s greatest strength is also his greatest weakness. His stubborness, his willingness to try to push that square peg through a round hole, makes him who he is. But also his stubbornness and his willingness push that square peg through a round hole also leads to what happened on Sunday, two interceptions.”

“I don’t know if a good buddy [like Taylor] 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 …”

[...]

BLG: […] There needs to be pressure, there needs to be stakes. It just seems like there’s none of hat. It seems like there’s no accountability.

SANTOLIQUTIO: “Great perception on your part. As one of the key pieces, one of the major sources of my original story put it to me, and I know I told you this. Carson has the line to the bat phone. Jason Peters has the line to the bat phone. Meaning, if they wanted to, they’re the ones —

BLG: Doug Pederson does not have that same line, apparently.

SANTOLIQUITO: “That’s it. And I found the infrastructure story of Jeff McLane a couple weeks ago very, very interesting about that. That Jeff Lurie has far more power [in terms of involvement] than people want to admit. […] So when you take away a little voice from the powers that be, and in this case, Doug Pederson, there could be infrastructure problems there. I can speculate, I can only go by what I was told. Again, the story’s going to be two years old. But I won’t forget that. ‘Joe, he has a direct line to the bat phone.’ And Carson can pick that bad boy up. And people pushed back against me: ‘Oh, he doesn’t have that much power. He’s only in is second or third year as the quarterback. He doesn’t wield that much power.’ Well, we both know that he does. That he does wield that much power.”

DOUG PEDERSON’S STANDING

SANTOLIQUITO: “And the shame of [Wentz’s power] is that you have someone like a Doug Pederson — and I was told this recently about Coach Pederson. Everybody likes him in the league. Everybody respects him in the league. Doug runs a very relaxed team. Doug expects men to be men, he expects these men to be mature, and Doug is very, very well liked. But I don’t know — and Doug is also very, very respected. But he may have more respect outside the building than he does inside. It’s speculation on my part but it’s just a feeling that I have and it’s a shame because what may eventually — and I stress “eventually” — cost Doug Pederson his job is that very fact, that he’s trusted his players to be men and act like men. Like a college professor, for example, you’re expected to go to class. You’re not the little kid anymore that needs the pep talk. Now, Doug will go after guys with the best of them. When he raises his voice and when he goes after it, he has that kind of respect. But when you have a situation where you’re kind of cut down at the knees within, you’re running a shop and you have a star worker and you’re the foreman, and that star worker bypasses you to speak the owner and says this is the way I want to run the conveyor belt, sometimes there’s a problem with that. And there could be a problem here. It’s something to think about.”

What Joe had to say about Pederson made me think about what Tony Pauline recently said about the Eagles’ head coach: “There are some rumblings from people inside the league who I spoke with earlier this week who feel that Doug Pederson may have reached his limit. Doug Pederson may be stressed out a little bit. Basically, it’s not going to get any better for Doug Pederson.”

Between Pederson not being able to fully pick his coaching staff (see: the Groh and Walch situation) and seemingly having less power than Wentz, is the Eagles’ head coach growing frustrated?

PARTING THOUGHT

SANTOLIQUITO: “Millions saw it, millions read it, but one person definitely saw it, and one person definitely read it, and one person kind of took it to heart. And he deserves credit, he deserves the accolades for that. Now he needs to take another introspective look at himself and see the things that he’s done wrong. And, again, my biggest thing with him is that he needs to accept coaching and he needs to be coached harder than he’s coached.”