PHILADELPHIA — Former Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson looked up at the sky and with a smile called it divine intervention.
A snowstorm in North Dakota in March 2016 prevented 14 NFL teams from attending defensive lineman Carson Wentz’s pro day. The fewer eyes on her husband the better, he thought, and another sign that the stars were aligned to bring Wentz to Philadelphia.
The Eagles believed with all their might in capturing an elite quarterback in the franchise when they negotiated twice to select Wentz with the second overall pick in 2016. Wentz quickly confirmed those instincts by following up a promising rookie season with a massive assault on the league’s MVP in 2017.
Wentz has suffered serious setbacks in his career, starting with a tear in the ACL/LLC in December 2017. The following season he suffered a stress fracture in his back and at the end of the year he was thrust into the spotlight when a news report came out portraying him as a selfish teammate.
But against all odds, the eagle-eyed organization continued to believe in him. Even after quarterback Jaylen Hurts was eliminated in the second round last April, people are convinced that Wentz will bring the next Super Bowl to Philadelphia, and that one day, God willing, they’ll all be there when Wentz makes his speech to the Professional Football Hall of Fame.
It feels like a dream world right now, as the intimate relationship between Wentz and the Eagles ended Thursday when Philadelphia sent Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts for a third-round pick in 2021 and a second-round conditional pick in 2022 that could turn into a first-round pick, according to ESPN NFL analysts Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen.
Extraordinary circumstances, dubious management and dangerous decisions collided in 2020, leading to dysfunction, bruised egos and, finally, the dissolution of the alliance between quarterbacks and franchises that had started so promisingly, but then spiraled dramatically out of control.
Where it all went wrong
The Bread Project will go down in history as the beginning of the end for Wentz in Philadelphia.
The Eagles selected quarterback Jaylen Hurts (right), who finished 53rd in last year’s draft. Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
That was certainly not the Eagles’ intention. The front office didn’t believe a rookie – even one as dynamic as Hurts – would have an impact on a Pro Bowl player’s position in Wentz. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman thought they were making a smart investment at a crucial position in football.
But communication with Wentz about the decision has not slowed, some say, and a bumpy 2020 season has added to the friction.
With the Corona virus having shortened the offseason, the 28-year-old Wentz didn’t have much time to work his magic with his new and young wide receivers. Injuries followed for the Eagles’ playmakers, and the offense was never in tune. Wentz contributed a lot to that. He’s been everywhere for weeks, since his mechanics.
There was a sense in his struggles that Wentz wasn’t being held accountable on the same level as his teammates – a feeling that was no exception in the 2020 season, as evidenced by a recent statement from former Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who said the organization wasn’t helping Wentz by trying to protect his ego or really protect him as a player, rather than keeping him – like any other player – effective and realistic in what he needed to improve.
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When Wentz received Pederson’s resignation, it was not well received. Pederson stripped Wentz of much of his control of the offense as injuries and losses piled up, the source said, causing Wentz to lose confidence in the coach and his system. Some of Wentz’s skepticism about this project was justified. The offense is sorely lacking in personality and creativity. But his absence affected the results, which didn’t please everyone in Orlov’s locker room, according to a source.
At the same time, Hurts was playing more and more on the scouting team and interacting organically with his teammates, something Wentz has sometimes struggled with since turning pro.
Team spirit assured Wentz that he had nothing to fear in Hurts’ lineup, but there was disagreement with the quarterback, mostly because of Wentz’s poor play. Wentz was eventually benched in the Eagles’ loss against Green Bay in Week 13 and his confidence in the Eagles and Pederson was damaged beyond recognition. Pederson’s firing and the hiring of Nick Sirianni last month have not convinced the fifth-year quarterback that staying in Philadelphia is the best path for him.
Where eagles from here go
Opinions were divided on the building at 22 Hurts St., out of Oklahoma City, but it had strong supporters, the most important in Lurie, according to some sources.
Stephen A. Smith reacts to the Colts’ trade for Carson Wentz.
He became a spark in the Eagles’ offense when he took over the role of starter for the final quarter of the season. He calmed down a bit at the end of the game, finishing with a 52 percent completion rate and six touchdowns on four interceptions while running for 354 yards and three scores. Sirianni said he was very happy to be working with Hurts.
We studied him last year, he had an excellent academic record. This year he has made a few key shots where he played well, Sirianni said.
It hurts enough, as a beginner, to take a serious interest in it at first. The question is whether the Eagles will support the veterans and provide injury insurance, or whether they will add real competition.
Philadelphia has its pick of No. 6 in April’s NFL draft and must decide if selecting candidates like BYU’s Zach Wilson, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance or Ohio State’s Justin Fields is a wise decision or if it will spark another sticky quarterback controversy in Philadelphia.
Mistakes were made with the Eagles handling of the Wentz situation and their long term plan at QB is now up in smoke.
They need to scrutinize themselves to make sure they don’t get to that stage again.
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