By Rob Maaddi
Doug Pederson isn’t purposely trying to undermine Carson Wentz. He’s not orchestrating a conspiracy theory behind the scenes.
Let’s get that out of the way.
The coach would have to be an evil miscreant to intentionally set his quarterback up for failure. It also would be career suicide.
Pederson is not that guy. Not even close. He’s a genuinely good dude, despite his unpleasant demeanor in occasional news conferences. He’s been snippy with me this season but I get it. The media can be frustrating and Pederson lets it get to him.
He shouldn’t. But that’s another issue.
The way Pederson handled questions about Brett Favre’s criticism of Carson Wentz understandably raised plenty of eyebrows and blood pressure levels throughout the Delaware Valley on Wednesday.
Pederson could’ve easily squashed it the first try and distanced himself from Favre’s misguided thoughts. For those who missed it, Favre said Tuesday the Eagles should have kept Nick Foles over Wentz. Since Pederson and Favre are close friends, some people wondered if the Ol’ Gunslinger was simply regurgitating his hunting buddy’s private thoughts on Wentz. Favre wasn’t. I’ll share my theory on him later.
First, let’s try to explain Pederson’s thought process. After talking to sources, I’m convinced Pederson didn’t intend to come off as not supportive of Wentz but he was being mindful of not criticizing his longtime friend.
Pederson has openly supported Wentz numerous times over the years and probably didn’t think it was necessary. The decision to keep Wentz over Foles was a no-brainer for true football minds. Foles deserves to be a Philly legend for his Super Bowl heroics. He’s one of my favorite people in life, not just sports. But Wentz was and still is the franchise quarterback.
So when Tim McManus asked Pederson for his reaction to Favre’s comments, it seemed he tried to avoid saying anything controversial that would be critical of Favre instead of thinking he had to stand up for his QB again.
“I respect Brett’s opinion. Yeah, we are friends, but I haven’t talked to him and he’s entitled to that and that’s about it,” Pederson said.
He jokingly added: “I’ll have that conversation with him off the record.”
That last throwaway comment is a strong indication that Pederson didn’t agree with Favre but he didn’t want to say anything publicly about it. Again, he probably figured there’s no need to dispute what Favre said because it’s obvious he has supported Wentz over the years.
Then Les Bowen tried to clear it up by asking Pederson directly if Favre’s opinion is the same as his.
“I respect Brett’s opinion. He’s entitled to his opinion and that’s fine, and I’ll leave it at that,” Pederson said.
This was Pederson’s out, an easy opportunity to separate himself from Favre’s opinion but he dropped the ball. Pederson isn’t guilty of stabbing Wentz in the back, though. He’s guilty of misreading what Eagles fans and the media were thinking.
Finally, I laid it out for him and Pederson made it crystal clear: “Carson’s our guy. Carson was our draft pick. Carson is the guy that is going to carry us and lead this football team. Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion. Those aren’t my words. Those aren’t Howie’s words, those aren’t Jeffrey’s words. Those are his words. I respect that opinion. Whatever he wants to say, that’s fine and we’re going to remain friends. It doesn’t bother me one way or the other. All I know is Carson Wentz is our guy and it’s my job to get Carson Wentz to play better, to do better, to help this football team win. As it is to get everybody else to play better. Again, I respect his opinion and his words. Those aren’t mine. Please don’t put words in my mouth or we’re going to have a problem. Carson’s our guy, bottom line, end of story.”
Whew! Third time was a charm. But notice this part: “Whatever he wants to say, that’s fine and we’re going to remain friends.” Even while expressing his full support for Wentz, Pederson made sure not to offend Favre. That’s further proof his priority was to avoid a “Pederson rips Favre” headline. It’s not because he didn’t want to defend Wentz but because he didn’t think he even had to until I made it clear this was going to blow up.
As for Favre’s comments on ESPN’s First Take, I don’t think he’s a hot-taker simply trying to get clicks or attention. He’s a Hall of Famer. He doesn’t need the ego boost. I don’t think he watches the Eagles closely. Most people outside Philly don’t and pretend they have a clue. I reached out to Favre to get his thoughts on Wentz after the Eagles beat the Giants. I said I felt Wentz was playing more like him this season, I had asked Pederson about it and wanted Favre’s opinion. He didn’t respond. Favre ghosted me. I still wrote the article for AP. Perhaps Favre read it, disagreed that Wentz is a younger version of him and decided to take a critical shot when an opportunity presented itself. Only he knows the truth.
The drama never stops covering the Eagles.