AUTHOR: Tim McManus:
PHILADELPHIA -- Donovan McNabb was skeptical of the Eagles’ approach to the quarterback position this offseason, but the early play of Carson Wentz has him feeling good about the current state of affairs.
“I’ve said this from the very beginning, that I still felt the decision that was made of moving up and drafting a guy after you just paid Sam Bradford that money, it sends a bad message to Sam, it sends a bad message to everyone, because it’s confusing. And when they decided, after they said Sam was going to be the starter, in the last preseason game, to trade Sam to Minnesota, it’s kind of like, I don’t get it,” McNabb said during a conversation with ESPN. “But now, what he’s been showing is the fact that it was the right move. They have a quarterback for the future if he continues to stay healthy, if he continues to progress. I like what I’m seeing from him in the pocket. He has the ability to use his legs. But you can definitely tell there’s a bright future with this kid.”
McNabb has been watching Wentz from afar. Outside of a phone call to the rookie prior to the draft to wish him well, the two haven’t communicated. They’ll have plenty of common ground to cover when they finally do hook up. A couple of No. 2 overall picks, both came in with the city’s hopes resting largely on their shoulders, and both stirred up plenty of hype thanks to flashes of high-end ability that they displayed in the early going.
“Some people have to learn it for themselves,” said McNabb, when asked about lessons he learned that could be applicable to what Wentz faces. “First and foremost for him, don’t ride the wave. Don’t get caught up in all the love and everything that’s going on, the hoopla right now, because when things go south, you’ll find that you’ll go from the darling to the goat. You will be the one that everyone points the finger at and looks at sideways. But that’s the quarterback position. ... It’s an opportunity where you learn, you learn on the run, you learn in the workplace, of -- you go from a high to a low quickly and you may not even be prepared for it.”
Wentz still has the fan base staunchly in his corner, but has experienced a drop in production over the past couple weeks. He has gone from one of the most accurate passers over the first five games to the opposite end of the spectrum, with an off-target rate of 34 percent over the last two games, per ESPN Stats & Information. That's the highest rate of misfiring in the NFL. Heading into his first matchup with fellow rookie Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, the momentum belongs to Prescott, who has often been compared favorably to McNabb.
“I hated being compared to anybody,” said McNabb. “And I talk to Dak on a consistent basis, and I know that Jon Gruden has come out and said that he reminds him of a young Donovan McNabb. And I’ve always told Dak, ‘Be yourself.’ I’m not going to compare him to anybody. I just think Dak is a guy who is putting his name out on the map, where people are beginning to recognize him instead of comparing him to everyone else.”
With McNabb connected to both of these quarterbacks, the natural question is which one will have a better career. Projecting that is tricky, he noted, given their respective circumstances. Prescott has one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, as well as a standout running back in Ezekiel Elliott to help lighten the load. And now Dez Bryant is back. Wentz, meanwhile, is operating without right tackle Lane Johnson and with less effective skill position players, which increases the degree of difficulty.
“They just have to continue to build around him, and that’s something that [personnel executive] Howie Roseman and [coach] Doug Pederson are going to have to be able to come together and be able to aid in that. I think it’s going to be important that they kind of have the mentality of what Andy [Reid] had -- to continue to build in the trenches, in the offensive line and defensive line, and then to build out,” McNabb said. “I think it’s important that they find a possible No. 1 receiver for him, and then from there, try to get a steal in the second or possibly third round to have a consistent running back, to find that gem like a Brian Westbrook or to find that running back like a LeSean McCoy.
“If they can find that for a guy like Carson Wentz, from what we’ve seen thus far? It’s getting back to the way it was in the 2000's, like we had it.”