What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
Today’s Take: Blaming Carson Wentz for what’s wrong with the Philadelphia Eagles is seriously dumb. The only thing dumber would be getting rid of him.
NOTE: For purposes of full disclosure, I’m a life-long Philadelphia Eagles fan…as you could tell by how often I’ve written about them. I’m also quite likely to be the first person outside of his family to have a Carson Wentz jersey.
That notwithstanding, I’m here to “call them as I see them.”
The Argument: What a difference a year makes. Just about this time last year, the Philadelphia Eagles had just beaten the New York Giants to end their season at 9-7, which isn’t great but it was good enough to win the NFC (L)east and lock down the 4th-seed in the playoffs.
Not even twelve full months later, the Eagles are most likely going miss the play-offs for the first time in four years, and as the “lame-steam” sports media is prone to do, a huge exercise in finger-pointing and a completely ginned-up quarterback controversy has broken out.
But by focusing exclusively on the the struggles of Carson Wentz, and consequently over-looking some crucial facts, the blow-hacks at ESPN even have some ardent Philadelphia Eagles thinking it may be time to wave good-bye to Wentz.
That’s not going to happen. If it does, it could be the worst personnel move this team made since drafting Mike Mamula. The classic “Workout Warrior,” the Eagles’ fell for the con-job perpetrated by the media who was enamored with the Boston College defensive end’s “pure athletic skill.” Mamula’s draft combine workout were so legendary he became his own slice of Philadelphia mythology.
How could the Eagles not draft a guy who could bench press New Jersey? How could the Eagles not draft a guy who could jump over William Penn’s hat on top of City Hall? And how could the Eagles not draft a guy who could run from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh fast enough to avoid the toll collectors on the Pennsylvania Turnpike?
Easy. Because the one thing Mamula couldn’t do was get anywhere near the guy with the football. You can see him now on State Route 38 begging for change near the Cherry Hill Mall.
But I digress; this is about Carson Wentz. But there’s a common thread here. In both the case of Wentz and Mamula, there’s a “herd mentality” rushing to buy the proverbial “bag of magic beans.” As a Eagles fan myself, I completely understand how this happens; this team’s “Super Bowl Hangover” has now lasted for three years.
There’s an old saying in the National Football League about quarterbacks getting too much credit and taking too much blame. I’m not sure where there’s credit to be had for the performance of the Eagle offense, but there’s no fucking way the blame belongs all on Carson Wentz.
Let’s look at some cold, hard facts. Start with last season when this team was 5-7 and down two scores late in the third quarter against the New York Giants. On top of that, the Eagles were coming off a terrible road loss to a then-awful Miami Dolphins team. What Wentz did in the following for games was nothing short of miraculous.
His performance led to talk that he should be considered for the league’s Most Valuable Player award given what he did with the most rag-tag group in all the NFL. Guys like Patrick Mahomes and eventual MVP Lamar Jackson had the luxury of being at the controls of complete offenses.
Wentz was landing an airliner with a wing on fire.
Think about it. Wentz had to overcome a team with tendencies to roll-over and gag away games it needed to win (see the aforementioned loss to the Dolphins) and had to do that with a seemingly crushing number of injuries to “skill position” players and across the offensive line. Don’t forget, last year’s Eagles made the play-offs playing guys on offense who came straight from the practice squad. After all, it’s not like he’s pre-injury Dak Prescott; the Cowboys gave him an offense loaded with prime talent and he did nothing with it.
In Wentz’ case, notice that we aren’t talking about ancient history…we’re talking about last fucking year. How does a guy go from a potential (albeit long-shot) MVP candidate to being run-out of town in less than twelve months? Because he’s taking the blame for three major factors things he can’t control.
For the previous three seasons, too many Eagles fans have put their collective heads in the sand and ignored the fact this team has been consistently deteriorating from the peak of being Super Bowl champions, dropping to an increasingly mediocre “barely-making-the-playoffs” squad, ands right now…they are just plain bad. Worse yet, they have absolutely no depth; they’ve already been playing guys from the practice squad for a year now.
That lack of depth exacerbates this team’s injury problems. Worse yet, too many of those injuries involve some “usual suspects.” How many times in the last five years have Jason Peters and/or Lane Johnson been on the injured list? Do you think the fact that both starting tackles are routinely hurt has something to do with Wentz spending the last three years getting beaten like a snare drum?
Better yet, what was the team’s response to this? They moved Jason Peters to guard, where he’s shown he can no longer stop a pass rush…he can’t even break up a girl scout cookie sale.
This brings us to point #2.
Coming into the season, it was clear the primary offensive philosophy was going to be a pass-heavy approach. The goal was to set up the deep ball to the likes of Alshon Jeffrey or DeSean Jackson. A major part of that was to have an at least respectable running game, so that play-action could be used to buy time for receivers to run deep routes. Again here’s where the injury bug should have forced some re-tooling of the plan, but head coach Doug Pederson is either unwilling or unable to do so. Couple this with the offensive line woes, and it should be obvious why even with the best efforts of Miles Sanders et al., Philadelphia hasn’t even a semblance of an effective running game.
While I have heard some rumbles aimed at Pederson regarding the play-calling, there’s two things which aren’t being said.
First, in a bit of foreshadowing, there’s really not been any discussion of how the play-book given to Jalen Hurts was the “Reader’s Digest Condensed Version” (Do those still exist? Am I that fucking old?).
But for the real “turd in the punch-bowl,” as an Eagles fan who now lives in Indiana I see something nobody really wants to admit. To me, it’s pretty clear to me a crucial difference in the Eagles’ offense between 2017 and today is the loss of Frank Reich.
While I’m not a fan, thanks to the combination of Lucas Oil Stadium being an hour from my front door and the NFL’s “Soviet State Media” approach to regional television, I see the Indianapolis Colts every week. That means I can tell you first-hand the Colts’ offense under Reich is not only everything the Eagles’ offense used to be…and everything it can’t do now.
Despite the loss of Marlon Mack (their “bell-cow” running back) in the 1st quarter of the 1st game of the season, the Colts adjusted and still have an effective rushing attack. Quarterback Philip Rivers is beyond immobile; he’s such a statue the fact Lucas Oil Stadium has a roof is the only reason they don’t spend Mondays cleaning pigeon shit off him. Yet, the Colts protect him to the point where they can work the ball downfield via the seams to the tight ends, and they can rip the top off a defense when needed…because they can sell play-action.
It’s not the worst thing that the Eagles made the switch from Wentz to Jalen Hurts. It’s not even the worst thing that happened was Philadelphia won Hurts’ first start against arguably the best team in the NFC, the New Orleans Saints.
In no time, that victory gave the anti-Wentz dilcues in the fanbase the ticket they needed to board the train headed for “Our Next Savior City.” What that means is ever since the debacle of Super Bowl XV against the Oakland Raiders in New Orleans, Eagles’ fans thirsted for victory…which means we have a long history of tossing quarterbacks aside for “the next best hope.”
We can argue about the circumstances of that Saints’ game all day long, the point is that game established Hurts as the “next great hope.” Eagles’ fans may want to take a few Tylenol before you read any further…this stroll down memory lane might hurt a bit.
Going from Ron Jaworski to Randall Cunningham made sense; “Jaws'” tank was pretty close to “E” by then. Likewise, the move away from Cunningham made sense; he was never the same after the knee injury in Green Bay on Opening Day 1992 (by the way, I still want Bryce Paup killed for that…but that’s another story). The loss of Randall Cunningham led to what I call the “Era of Despair” in which the Eagles wandered the football desert looking for a quarterback. Just look at some of the heaps The Eagles trotted out under center… Jim McMahon, Jeff Kemp, Brad Goebel, Ken O’Brien, Bubby Brister, Rodney Peete. Bobby Hoying, current head coach Doug Pederson, and both fucking Detmers (Ty and Koy)…
I know I’m taking the long way around here, but it matters because it explains the inexplicable. The genesis of what’s happening today came on that Super Bowl Sunday in 1981, it hit full bloom in the aforementioned “Era of Despair,” and now it’s approaching a full-on maturation of stupidity.
The relationship between Eagles fans and their quarterback is like a girl whose boyfriend has a wandering eye. Everything is fine until a girl with bigger boobs and/or a nicer ass comes along.
There’s no better way to explain fickle nature of the attitude Philadelphia fans have towards their quarterback. What else explains Eagles fans who booed the selection of Donovan McNabb on Draft Day 1999 after having lived through the “Era of Despair” and understanding what was available for quarterbacks in that draft? Realizing they could have ended up with Akili Smith, Eagles fans then spent almost a decade revering McNabb, then couldn’t wait to run his ass out of town.
If that weren’t enough, do you remember who replaced McNabb? I won’t blame you if you don’t because it didn’t last long; Kevin Kolb was the next “savior” for a grand total of 19 games…and only seven starts. Then came the 42 Michael Vick starts, which was really an exercise in “the law of diminishing returns” after his four touchdown performance in Week 9 2010 at Washington.
From there comes what I call “Era of Instability.” This resulted from another Eagles’ failure to find a quarterback, then fucking everything up when they found one. This era features wastes like Vince Young, Mark Sanchez, and Sam Bradford. Worse yet, the Eagles traded the one quarterback in this era who didn’t suck out loud.
I love how the victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl 52 made Eagles fans forget all about the first Nick Foles administration in Philadelphia. Nobody remembers 2013 when Foles threw 27 touchdowns against 2 interceptions. The Eagles’ rewarded that by failing to protect him, blaming him for the beating he took, then engineering the deal that sent him to the then-football backwater of St. Louis.
In return, the Eagles got Sam Bradford. If there was ever a time for a good case of “repressed memory syndrome,” it would be Bradford’s time in Philadelphia. To be fair, Bradford did the best he could behind yet another ineffective Eagle offensive line, but watching him running designed roll-outs on knees made out of peanut butter was nothing short of painful.
As it happened, the Minnesota Vikings found themselves in desperate need for a quarterback, and for once rather than being the buyer, the Eagles got to sell the “bag of magic beans.”
Once the Eagles selected Carson Wentz with the second-overall pick in 2016, Sam Bradford and his god-awful contract became expendable…and the Vikings were willing to buy. Since then, in 68 career games, Wentz has amassed a 62.7 completion percentage, 16,811 passing yards, and 113 touchdowns against only 50 interceptions.
Going back to the theme of “just last year,” Wentz completed 63.7% of his passes for 4,039 passing yards, with 27 touchdowns and only 7 picks. Again, that was the performance which has some talking about Wentz deserving the MVP award given he had a completely make-shift offense around him. What it comes down to is the Eagles re-created that “lunch-meat” offense, and Wentz is being made the scape-goat because he hasn’t been able to repeat last year’s miraculous performance.
On top of all that, go back and watch every snap of Eagles’ offensive football this season before the quarterback switch was made. The one thing you will notice is despite what the injury reports might say, there’s no way Carson Wentz isn’t beat to shit right now.
This is pretty much what has happened to Wentz every time he dropped back with the ball this season. If you can’t tell, he’s the formerly intact #11 in the midst of that mass of humanity. Given everything I’ve just pointed out, perhaps it’s time to look at a possibility beyond the “garden variety ” quarterback controversy.
In other words, maybe this is all part of a larger plan to break the cycle…
Despite the way the blow-hacks in the media tend to portray these things, there’s more in play here that n a mere exercise in “Quarterback A vs. Quarterback B.” Considering the following facts will help illustrate that.
Flash the clock back to the off-season after Super Bowl 52. Carson Wentz was coming off a knee injury, but was clearly going to be the NFL MVP before that torn anterior cruciate ligament. Nick Foles had just hoisted the Lombardi Trophy for the Eagles and was the Super Bowl MVP in the process. Calling back to the previous point, let us never forget that there were many an Eagle fan who wanted to scrap Wentz then in favor of Foles.
Another thing not to forget was Foles was a free-agent after that Super Bowl; it’s a funny thing what being an MVP of any sort does to your ability to command a salary. That combined with the salary cap meant something had to give.
That brings us to the situation the Eagles find themselves in right now. But like I said, this is simply an exercise in “Quarterback A vs. Quarterback B; Which one is better?” There’s two words why: Salary Cap.
Whenever I bring this point up in any discussions about NFL roster/ player personnel decisions, I get “poo-pooed” a lot with “well, you can get around the salary cap.” That’s true, but it’s like cheating on your taxes; if you’re going to “game the system,” you’d better know the rules.
Next, let’s look at the contracts in play here. Don’t forget the salary cap is based on the NFL’s total revenues, which means after what’s happened in 2020, there’s no way the salary cap isn’t going down. That also means all salaries mentioned here will only increase as a percentage of the cap space they consume.
In 2019, the Eagles inked Wentz to a four-year, $128 million contract extension which begins in 2021. This deal includes about $70 million in guaranteed money, and means Wentz’ paychecks take up nearly $35 million against the salary cap, or 17% of Philadelphia’s total cap space. In 2022, Wentz’ contract will account for $31 million against the salary. It goes up to $34 million in 2023.
There’s also some hefty bonuses and escalators built into Wentz’ deal:
As a second-round (#53 overall) draft pick, Jalen Hurts signed a 4-year contract with a total value of just over $6 million. This deal included a $1.9 million signing bonus, $2.8 million in guaranteed money, and an average annual salary of $1.5 million.
The reality is Carson Wentz is the quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles for the foreseeable future, if for no other reason than the financial commitment has been made. In other words, the marriage has been consummated and nobody can afford the divorce.
That means two things. Trading Wentz is the only option for the Eagles should they decide Hurts is “the future.” The problem is Wentz has almost no trade value because nobody is going to eat that contact, especially not after everybody watched the Vikings take it in the shorts after trading for Sam Bradford. Not to mention, teams needing a quarterback now will enjoy a year with several quarterbacks in the upcoming draft which will result in a game of “quarterback musical chairs.”
It all boils down to this. Trading Wentz right now is like trying to sell a Lamborghini to people with Hyundai-sized budgets. Remember the old saying about the chances of something happening being between “slim and none?” Trading Wentz is “slim.” Releasing him is “none.”
Here’s more of those pesky realities of the dreaded salary cap. Releasing Carson Wentz does not make the Eagles financial obligations go away; in fact it makes them worse.
When discussing salary cap issues, the term “dead money” refers to a team’s financial obligations which have already been paid or has committed to paying (specifically things like signing bonuses, fully guaranteed base salaries, and earned bonuses) but have not been charged against the salary cap.
It works like this. Any money a team pays a player must be accounted for against the salary cap. If there is money already paid and/or guaranteed to be paid to a player which has not yet been charged against the salary cap and that player retires or is released, all the money which has not yet been accounted against the salary cap accelerates onto the team’s salary cap for the current year.In business terms, “dead money” is essentially a “sunk cost;” meaning costs which have already been incurred and which are unrecoverable. In terms of the Philadelphia Eagles, this means releasing Carson Wentz this off-season means his salary cap hit for 2021 goes from $35 million to almost $60 million.
That’s one-third of the salary cap for a guy who isn’t even on the roster anymore. That would be completely suicidal and it’s not going to happen. If it does, every single person in the front office needs to be fired immediately for dooming this team to being a 2-14 laughing stock for the next decade.
The reason is that taking on that much “dead money” dramatically limits singing free-agents, which is a particular problem for a team with as many needs as the Eagles have. Think of it as paying one credit card with another. Not only are you just trading one problem for another, but at some point you have to pay the bill with real money.
Given all that, what’s the real reason for making this quarterback switch now? I’d like to think this is about ginning up trade value for Jalen Hurts. It’s really the only thing that makes sense.
Think about it. We’ve already established that Wentz has no trade value, but three weeks ago, neither did Hurts. Don’t forget that the Eagles didn’t draft Hurts until the middle of the second round, which means every team in the league passed on him once, and half of them passed on him twice. In other words, nobody was convinced this guy could play in the NFL, and trying to deal him without giving everybody a “preview of coming attractions” would be yet another “bag of magic beans” exercise.
If that’s the reason for the switch, it’s exceptionally shrewd because the Eagles have no downside. If Hurts plays well enough to draw interest (which so far he has), it only drives up his stock. If he sucks, the artificially-created “quarterback controversy” dies, and you can still leave him out there to take the beating Wentz would be. After all, it’s not like Hurts is getting paid $95 million dollars less than Wentz; it’s all about protecting the investment. Not to mention, if they can do that while driving the asking price for Hurts from nothing to a package of draft picks which the Eagles desperately need, why the hell wouldn’t they?
The bottom line: Carson Wentz isn’t the problem in Philadelphia. The rest of the roster is…along with the front office which hasn’t done anything about it. Hopefully, showcasing Jalen Hurts means that’s changing.
But I doubt it.
Change my mind.
If you want a better understanding of how the NFL Salary Cap works…Dubsism has you covered!