By Joe Staszak
Mercifully there are just five games left in this very unforgettable Eagles’ season. And apparently it has taken 11 games and many very poor performances for a report to finally surface that Carson Wentz was very upset about the Eagles drafting quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round of last April’s draft. Now there’s breaking news. Of course he was upset! Duh! He already has to pass a Nick Foles statue on his way to the field to play at the Linc every game day. Now he has to endure the heat of his successor’s breath as his skills have apparently deteriorated since last year.
The simple truth is Wentz has been awful. There’s no other way to put it. Just awful. Now I criticize Howie Roseman almost every chance I get because I believe his horrendous drafting and lack of insight have driven this franchise into the ground in just three short years. But can you blame him for giving Wentz that big contract 18 months ago?
The reality is this. Here are Wentz’ numbers since he was drafted second overall in 2016:
Year GS TD INT Yards YPG Record QB Rating Comp %
2016 16 16 14 3782 236.4 7-9 79.3 62.4
2017 13 33 7 3296 253.5 11-2 101.9 60.2
2018. 11 21 7 3074 279.5 5-6 102.2 69.6
2019 16 27 7 4039 252.4 9-7 93.1 63.9
2020 11 16 15 2541 231.0 3-7-1 73.4 58.1
It’s hard to blame Roseman for giving Wentz that contract extension worth about $128 million last year. He played like an MVP in just his second year in the league. In his third year, his completion percentage took a noticeable jump and so did his yards per game and his quarterback rating. In his fourth year, he threw for over 4000 yards to guys barely good enough to make the practice squad. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 4000 yards without having a wide receiver with over 500 receiving yards last year. The trajectory was there.
So what is happening right now? Honestly, I have no idea. But he’s been absolutely brutal. The regression is palpable and inexplicable. All I can say is that it happens sometimes. That’s the good news. Wentz isn’t the only high profile “franchise” quarterback who’s gone through such a drastic step backwards after a few years in the league.
In his fourth season, the Giants’ Eli Manning threw 20 interceptions and led his team to a mediocre 10-6 finish. The Giants went on to win the Super Bowl that year. Three years later he threw 25 interceptions. The following year he led the Giants to another Super Bowl Championship. Manning was named Super Bowl MVP in both years, 2007 & 2011.
Meanwhile his brother Peyton, in his fourth year, threw 23 interceptions and led his Colts to an abysmal 6-10 record after going 13-3 and 10-6 the two previous years respectively. Big bro also ended up with two Super Bowl rings and one Super Bowl MVP award before retiring a few years ago.
As for Wentz’ idol, Brett Favre, who publicly stated that he thought the Eagles made a mistake by letting Foles go and keeping Wentz two years ago, threw 20 interceptions or more six times in his career. He finished his career with three league MVP awards and he led the Packers to back-to-back Super Bowls in the late 90’s and won one of them. The three guys I just mentioned are all Hall of Famers or future Hall of Famers most likely.
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of Wentz’ problems are his own fault but he also has very little healthy talent around him. His hall of fame former left tackle, Jason Peters, is spent and playing guard right now. His pro bowl right tackle, Lane Johnson and Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks, are out for the season. His center, Jason Kelce, seems to have developed a hiking problem and his best receiver, Zach Ertz, has been out for the last five games with an injury. Wide receiver Alston Jefferey is shot, Desean Jackson is out and they’re essentially playing with under-performing, ill-advised draft picks or practice squad graduates.
There are 32 starting quarterbacks in this league. Wentz ranks 27th in QBR, (49.6) overall right now. It’s hard to fathom his fall from grace this year. But it’s a nightmare that keeps getting worse every week. In the last four weeks against the Cowboys, Giants, Browns and Seahawks, the Birds have scored seven, three, zero and six points in their respective first halves. That’s 16 points in two hours of football if you’re keeping score at home.
Wentz didn’t get much help in the loss to the Seahawks last Monday night, but also struggled to make some routine throws on several plays during the game. He ranks second-to-last in the league in completion percentage (58.1%) and third-to-last in interception percentage (3.6), yards per attempt (6.0), and passer rating (73.4).
So you want to see Jalen Hurts under center instead of number 11? Don’t count on it. The Eagles have invested a boat load of money into Wentz. What’s that? You want the Eagles to move on from him after this year? Don’t count on that either.
Wentz played three years on his original rookie deal before signing that $128 million contract extension last year. At signing, $66.5 million of that money was guaranteed, with the total guarantees coming out to $107.9 million.
He was given a $16.4 signing bonus, an option bonus of $30 million, fully guaranteed salaries in both 2019 and 2020, as well as a fully guaranteed roster bonus of $10 million in 2021 and his 2021 salary became guaranteed on the third day of the 2020 NFL season.
So what does it mean? It means that Wentz counted for $18.7 million against the cap in 2020 but because of his added bonuses and guarantees means that his salary cap hit in 2021 jumps to $34.7 million. All of which is guaranteed against the cap regardless of whether Wentz is on the roster or not. However, if the Eagles decide to cut Wentz, an additional $25 million in prorated bonuses will accelerate onto the 2021 cap.
Looking ahead, Wentz’s salary cap hit will always be impacted by the prorated bonuses on his deal. All told his cap hit in his final three years would be $31.3, $34.3, and $32 million.
So if the Birds were to cut Wentz after this season he will count nearly $60 million against the Eagles cap in 2021 which makes it almost impossible for them to let him go.
But keeping him on the roster might not be that easy either. On the third day of the 2021 league year, $15 million of Wentz’s base salary for 2022 becomes guaranteed. Therefore, if the Eagles cut Wentz following the 2021 season, he would still count close to $40 million against the 2022 cap.
Thus, the question for the Eagles is whether they want to lock themselves into paying Wentz at least another $15 million in 2022. However, cutting Wentz would mean the Eagles are essentially paying him nearly $35 million, and he is counting nearly $60 million against the cap, only for him to be playing for another team, possibly a division rival as both the Cowboys and the Football Team (I crack up every time I have to say or write that) might both be in the market for a quarterback with the upside that Wentz has.
Ironically, Hurts was drafted as a fail-safe for Wentz because of his proclivity to get injured, not because his play was sub standard. I can empathize with Wentz but only slightly. Yes, he is chasing a legendary spirit in Nick Foles and has a current runner-up Heisman finalist looming over him. No quarterback is secure enough to be happy to see their successor get drafted, especially so early in their career.
Look what happened in New England a few years ago, Tom Brady could smell it. His time with the Patriots was numbered and his head coach, Bill Belichik, appeared to be grooming backup quarterback Jimmy Garrapolo to be his heir apparent sooner rather than later. Brady flexed his muscles and ended up winning as Garoppolo was soon traded to the 49ers for a second round pick. That move appeared to come down from the top, Pats’ owner Robert Kraft. The Patriots won another Super Bowl after Garoppolo was moved.
Wentz doesn’t have Brady’s cache obviously. At least not yet. And his play this year hasn’t helped his cause. It doesn’t help when your General Manager’s incompetence, as I said earlier, has driven this franchise into the ground and right now the future doesn’t look all that bright either. With the Eagles projected to be upwards of $60 million over the cap heading into next season, it might not be that easy to find good help for Wentz in the foreseeable future.
It’s one thing to be irked and another thing to let it affect your play. In Green Bay, the Packers selected QB Jordan Love from Utah State in the first round that left their franchise quarterback and future hall of famer, Aaron Rodgers dumbfounded, as he clearly was counting on the team to provide him with some help. Rodgers could have pouted or his game could have gone south. Instead he has thrown a league high 33 touchdown passes and is second in the league with the fewest interceptions, (4). His completion percentage is just about 69% and his Packers, who face the Eagles on Sunday, are 8-3 and in first place in the NFC North. Meanwhile Love has dropped to third string behind Tim Boyle, the third year man out of Eastern Kentucky. Love hasn’t even taken a snap this year.
For his part the head coach looks lost and unintelligent at times and may be incompetent as well. But Doug Pederson is not a total moron because, let’s face it, every game this year has been close if not winnable despite Wentz’ horrifically inconsistent play. And Pederson knows just like the rest of us that as bad as his prize asset has looked this year, he can look just as good at the change of a quarter. He’s had his moments this year and has come up clutch from time to time when he’s gotten into a rhythm.
Wentz led the Birds to two touchdown drives with just over six minutes left to beat the Giants 22-21 back in week seven. A couple weeks later, Wentz had turned the ball over four times against a double digit underdog Cowboys team and ended up bringing the Eagles from behind to beat the Boys 23-9. He struggled for most of the San Francisco game as well back in week four until he led a clutch fourth quarter comeback to beat the Niners 25-20. And who could ever forget the tie game with the Bengals back in week three? Wentz led an 11 play, 75 yard drive, capping it off with a seven yard scamper for the game tying touchdown with :21 seconds left in regulation.
Benching the franchise quarterback right now with his confidence at an all-time low and his resentment for the organization at an all-time high, is not such a great idea at this time, especially since Hurts has only thrown three career passes to date. Sure, I’d like to see what Hurts can do too but only to satisfy my curiosity.
The Hurts pick wasn’t about Wentz’ play but about his injury history, as I stated earlier. So if his presence is bothering Wentz, well then that’s a real problem. It just means he’s pressing too much, as evidenced by his league-high interceptions (15). Wentz just needs to remember that he was never made to win the starting job here. That pressure never existed. The job is his and has been his since day one. And while the Eagles are still in the NFC East divisional race, the job will remain his until perhaps garbage time. Although some might say that the last 11 games have looked like garbage time. It would be hard to argue that.