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PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - DECEMBER 13: Jalen Hurts #2 of the Philadelphia Eagles prepares to snap against the New Orleans Saints at Lincoln Financial Field on December 13, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Birds QB Situation Keeps Getting Curiouser and Curiouser
By Joe Staszak
This isn’t exactly Alice in Wonderland but it feels like it with all of these crazy Eagles fans following Jalen Hurts down his rabbit hole. The Birds controversial second round pick last April shocked the football world (all except for a certain astute “journalist” who predicted the Eagles over the Saints 24-20) last Sunday with a pretty darn good performance against the best defense in the league that resulted in a 24-21 victory. He played with poise. He played with confidence. He played with his hair on fire. When all was said and done, the rookie notched his first NFL win in his first NFL start to further fuel the perceived

quarterback controversy here in Philadelphia.

Now I know for the most part Eagles’ Nation was pumped because for maybe the first time all year the Eagles looked like they knew how to play basic football again. It wasn’t painful. It wasn’t frustrating. It wasn’t mood deflating. It was fun again.

Hurts was 17/30 for 167 yards, one TD and no interceptions. He fumbled once but also gashed the Saints defense for 109 yards if you don’t count his three kneel downs at the end of the game. He wasn’t spectacular from a statistical standpoint but considering his environment and the opponent he was fantastic!

Head coach Doug Peterson has named him the starter for this weekend’s game with the Arizona Cardinals and unless he implodes will probably finish out the season as the Birds’ starter. And that’s the right call. Carson Wentz couldn’t play anymore. Peterson was right to pull him in the 3rd quarter of the Packers game the previous week. He just couldn’t play anymore.

But I believe that Wentz will be the starting quarterback for this team next year when training camp begins. A lot of very good NFL quarterbacks have regressed in a given year. Guys named Rothlisberger, Manning, Manning, Farve, and McNabb. Maybe not quite as much as we saw from Wentz this year but it has happened. Those other quarterbacks ended up getting their mojo back and went on to have very successful careers. The big question is will we ever see the Carson Wentz of 2017 when he was the favorite for MVP of the league until he tore up his knee in week 13 against the Rams. He was superlative in those 13 games throwing 33 touchdowns versus just seven interceptions.

But the reality is that that was four seasons ago if you include this one. Since then he’s just 17-21-1. That’s right, he’s four games under .500 since he returned from that knee injury in 2018. That’s not the kind of record you’d like to see out of your $128 million dollar franchise quarterback. Not only that but he’s completed just one pass for three yards in the team’s six playoff games since he was drafted in 2016.

Because of his contract, it’s unlikely that he won’t be here next year. We’ve also only seen just one game from Hurts so let’s not put him in the Hall of Fame just yet. Since we know what Wentz is capable of, I would warn against giving up on him because of one bad season. The talent is still there. But so is Doug Pederson, and after watching last Sunday’s game, it certainly looks like he can still coach at a high level. So here we have two somewhat big name NFL semi-icons who have reached lofty heights in the past. The problem is it just doesn’t seem like it’s a good marriage between coach and quarterback for whatever reason. You know the stats. Pederson’s record with backup quarterbacks here is 11-3. That’s incredible even by Belichickian standards.

Both coach and quarterback deserve a chance to reinvent themselves but do they deserve the chance to do it together moving forward?
Forget about trading Hurts. Clearly this team has shown how important it is to have a quality backup quarterback. Heck, they won a Super Bowl with one. I also find it hard to believe that the mere drafting of Hurts in the second round has caused Wentz’ confidence to tank. Am I really to believe that Wentz would be scared of a rookie who had to transfer from his original college team because he got beaten out for the starting job as a sophomore by a red-shirt freshman? Every team has a backup quarterback. I don’t see other high-end QBs worrying about losing their jobs and then suddenly turning their fears into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Is the absence of Frank Reich really the issue? Reich is the only common denominator to that unbelievable 2017 campaign. I believe his absence is a big part of Wentz’ issues and that’s a problem because Reich isn’t coming through that door any time soon. And trying to recreate Frank Reich in the aggregate was a stupid idea. This season, Wentz had five offensive coaches in his ear, including Pederson, and none of them did much to help him. It’s clear that Pederson can still call plays but it’s also clear that the chemistry between coach and franchise quarterback is non-existent. So the Eagles have two choices this off-season. Fire Pederson or hire a real offensive coordinator that can speak truth to power and can harness Wentz’ alleged stubbornness while simplifying the game for him. After all, Wentz might be too smart for his own good. He obviously tries to do too much as seen by his league leading 50 sacks and the word out of the locker room is that he tends to over complicate things. In fairness, some of it might be due to the fact that he has so little confidence in his under talented receiving core and his offensive line has been decimated by injuries. That might be the environment that he lives in, but make no mistake about it a lot of his problems are self-inflicted.

I hear so many national pundits say the Eagles should trade Wentz to Indianapolis, ergo changing his culture. I happen to agree. Not with trading him, but changing his culture here not there. And that’s where the removal of Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman is mandatory and of high priority. I’m apparently in the minority as most folks inside and outside the building don’t think that owner Jeffrey Lurie will do that because of his close personal relationship with Roseman. I say poppycock! Lurie is a business man first and is a very prideful owner whose team has become a national embarrassment this year. In fact, I say that if Mr. Lurie doesn’t remove Roseman as the team’s G.M. it will be the biggest case of malfeasance since the Bears traded up for Mitch Trubisky. He has no other prudent option than to relieve Roseman of his duties.

These last three games will be telling and might be very good for this team’s future. The Eagles will get a pretty good idea of what they have in Hurts and it will either further incite a quarterback controversy or quell one. There’s an old saying, “If you have two quarterbacks, you have none.” I’ve never bought into that. Since the quarterback position is the most important position in sports, I’ll take quality play at both the QB1 and QB2 position. We’ve seen what dividends it pays in the past just like we saw the dividends it paid last Sunday.

It’s hard not to be excited about watching decent football around here again. The naysayers will say that winning games at this point will only hurt the Birds’ draft status. That might be true but are they really going to get a much better player if they’re a few spots closer to the top pick? Unless they were in the hunt for Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, the consensus top pick in next year’s draft, I don’t think it really matters that much. They’d probably end up trading it away for Roy Hinson any way.

The immediate future for this team is about as bright as a lunar eclipse. Why? Because Roseman and the Eagles have continually bungled their draft picks over the last five years, drafting only one Pro Bowl player since 2016. And that player is the worst starting quarterback in the league this year. That kind of track record, despite winning a Super Bowl in 2017, should be enough to get you fired.

All Jeffrey Lurie has to do is ask himself one question. If change isn’t made this off-season why will things be different next year? Answer: they won’t. Remember if nothing changes, nothing changes. I don’t know many top chefs who can make a good meal with bad ingredients. Roseman has been buying the groceries. Right now you can get better food at The Hungry Heifer.
Chef Pederson needs to shoulder his share of the blame too. He might end up as the richest unemployed guy around if he gets let go. He’d still be owed about $10 million dollars if he does indeed get whacked.

Unfortunately, I think the sample size of Wentz and Pederson is plenty to make a sound decision whether they deserve another chance to right this ship together. If we’re being honest with ourselves, there’s been a lot of bad football around here since the Eagles won the whole thing. Making the playoffs the last two years have perhaps blurred our judgement on how good this team is. They’re not. They weren’t last year and they weren’t the year before sans an encore late magical run by Nick Foles.

Albert Einstein once said, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” Mr. Lurie certainly has some thinking to do this off season. Hopefully a change in his thinking will yield a change in his team’s success.