By Rob Maaddi
It’s time to flush the “Carson Wentz should know better in Year 5” complaints down the toilet.
The guy is a flat-out baller.
Wentz is not a game-manager. Stop expecting him to play like one. The Eagles aren’t built to win that way. He has the talent to be elite with some refinement and better players around him.
Sure, it’s been a struggle for him and the Eagles but they’re alone in first place in the NFC East despite a 2-4-1 record. They’re the team to beat in a weak division and getting Wentz a playoff win in January would be an achievable goal for this team.
Wentz was excellent in the fourth quarter against the Giants, leading an impressive comeback capped by a perfect 18-yard touchdown pass to Boston Scott with 40 seconds left in the game. Scott made an excellent catch on a beautiful throw that was put in the exact spot it had to be placed.
Wentz has now engineered five comeback wins in the fourth quarter in the last 11 games.
Yet every time he takes a sack or throws an interception, we hear “he should know better because he’s in Year 5” takes.
Wonder if Seahawks fans were screaming “he should know better in Year 9” at Russell Wilson after he threw three picks in a loss to Arizona on Sunday night?
Aaron Rodgers tossed two picks and got sacked five times in a rout against Tampa two weeks ago. Think Packers fans were yelling “he should know better in Year 16” and calling for Rodgers to be benched?
No and no.
Wentz was criticized for taking a sack on third-and-9 at the Eagles 12 in the first quarter against the Giants. He lost 8 yards. The Eagles punted from the 4 instead of the 12. So what! That was a coverage sack that didn’t cost the team anything in that situation.
You don’t want your quarterback taking sacks on first or second down or third downs in field-goal range but it’s no issue when it’s a punting situation.
Wentz has played behind a revolving door offensive line that has featured 10 different starters, including four who made their first career start. That doesn’t even count Brett Toth who finished the game against Baltimore at right tackle.
He’s under pressure way too much and takes a beating in stride.
“He just acts like nothing happened because he’s the man,” guard Nate Herbig said.
Wentz is holding the ball longer this year than he has the past. But Wilson, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson hold it even longer. Each of these guys, Wentz included, can extend plays with their legs. Playmakers make plays. Wentz is a playmaker. He’s not scared or timid. He’s confident in his ability.
Wentz goes out there trying to do everything in his power to lead his depleted team to victory. He throws blocks, runs routes, dives headfirst and competes. You have to appreciate that.
Baltimore Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell was AFC Player of the Week after getting three sacks in a 30-28 win over the Eagles on Oct. 18. He was impressed by the way Wentz responded from a pounding and led three TD drives in the fourth quarter only to fall short of tying the game on a failed 2-point conversion.
“He’s a competitor. He’s a hard worker. He loves the game of football,” Campbell told me last week. “We were tagging him, we’re hitting him early and often. He just kept getting up and making plays. … He has a lot of fight. You saw a guy who was determined to try to find a way to win a game. And it took everything we had to fight them off and win late.”
Too many Wentz critics are simply regurgitating misguided information with no real knowledge of football. Wentz certainly makes mistakes like the pick in the end zone against the Giants. He needed to throw that one away completely. He’s not perfect but nobody is.
Peyton Manning threw 19 interceptions in his fifth year, averaged 20 per season over his first five and didn’t have a passer rating above 100 until his seventh year.
Brett Favre threw more picks than any quarterback in NFL history and only had a passer rating above 100 once and that was at age 40.
John Elway never had a 100 passer rating and threw 19 picks in Year 6 and 18 in Year 7.
Meanwhile, Wentz threw only seven interceptions in each of the past three seasons. He had 101.9 passer rating in his second season when he finished third in NFL MVP voting. He had 102.2 passer rating in his third year.
Wentz became the first QB in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards without a wide receiver having 500 yards receiving last year. He also is the only QB in NFL history to throw 20 or more touchdowns and seven or fewer interceptions in three straight seasons. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson have done it twice.
Entering this season, Wentz had the second-best interception ratio in league history behind only Rodgers.
But now because he has 10 picks in seven games, we hear the ridiculous “Year 5” nonsense from those who don’t consider he’s playing behind a decimated offensive line, several receivers are injured and the playcalling has been suspect.
Sure, Wentz has turned into more of a gunslinger this season. He’s playing like Favre so risk comes with that style but great reward comes along with it like the TD pass to Scott to beat the Giants.
“That was always the thing with Brett, the reward was definitely greater but you knew there was going to be some risk involved,” Doug Pederson said. “Carson obviously has the ability to do that. He’s got the arm strength, the mobility to extend plays with his legs. I would think the one thing that we’re seeing with Carson now, the same thing I saw with Brett, is that physical toughness, being able to stand in the pocket, take some hits, bounce up, and do it again. To me, that’s kind of some of the similarities there. Carson is solid. He’s getting better every week. Again, had a great comeback (against the Giants) for us. That’s some of the same things that obviously I saw in Brett when I played with him.”
That’s a true leader, a franchise quarterback.
“I believe in No. 11,” Rodney McLeod told me last week.
So do I.