“Carson Wentz is terrible!”
“Bring back Nick Foles!”
These are two statements you could find in a variety of forms, sometimes quite colorful, if you read any of the Philadelphia Eagles postgame threads or live chats. That feeling of pure hopelessness resounded through the hearts of the Philly Faithful after their game earlier this season against the Seattle Seahawks, a game which felt much more like a blowout than the one-score final would indicate. Carson Wentz’s worst performance of the year from a QBR standpoint (26.7) contributed to the loss. The defense did its part by limiting Most Valuable Player candidate Russell Wilson to only 200 yards passing and 15 yards rushing with one touchdown and one interception.
Times like these make you think back to that Super Bowl run back in early 2018, where Nick Foles willed the Eagles through the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons. The dominant defense of the Minnesota Vikings, and then put the cherry on top by going blow-for-blow with arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time in Tom Brady and emerging victorious. Carson Wentz carried the wagon early, and Foles sealed the deal.
The following year, the Eagles struggled to find their identity with Wentz at the helm. Around Thanksgiving, he certainly had Eagles fans struggling to find reasons to be thankful for their team after the soul-crushing defeat in the Superdome at the hands of Drew Brees and the Saints. Wentz’s 8.8 (!) QBR posted in that game seemed to wrap up this lost season. A back issue that may or may not have been related to his early return from knee surgery would end his season early for the second year in a row. Terms like fragile, reckless, and injury-prone began to slap themselves to Wentz’s legacy like welded metal plaques.
Then as if through divine intervention, Nick Foles comes to the rescue again as he rallies the troops and squeaks the Eagles into the playoffs, creating an eerily similar feeling to the year prior but coming in as true underdogs this time around. If Alshon Jeffery doesn’t drop that catch against New Orleans in the playoffs resulting in the game-clinching interception, who knows where we are now?
Did We Pay The Wrong Quarterback?
We know where we are now. Nick Foles got himself benched in Jacksonville. They’ll look at options to get his monstrous contract off their books or at least take the lightest hit to their dead money possible. Carson Wentz is showing the same gritty resolve that we credited Foles with these last couple of years. A seemingly dead-to-rights Eagles team punched their tickets into the postseason with a win over the New York Giants. To punctuate Wentz’s newfound grittiness, ESPN emphasized some areas where he’s been exceptional in the second half over the three games prior to playing that division-clinching game against the Giants. He ranked first in completion percentage at 79 percent, first in passing yards at 511, first in first-down throws at 31, third in passing touchdowns at five and fifth in QBR at 82.
Statistically, maybe he didn’t live up to those numbers in the deciding week 17 match-up against the Giants. Still, he showed poise and moxy as he answered the bell each time the momentum seemed to swing. He did it by completing passes to household names at receiver like Greg Ward Jr, Deontay Burnett, and Josh Perkins. He did it by handing the ball off to one of the best running backs in the league in Boston Scott. Obviously, I jest, but that’s the point, isn’t it? Wentz is doing more with less than almost anyone else in the league. No DeSean Jackson, no Alshon Jeffery, and no Zach Ertz. Jordan Howard was an emergency backup. Still, he became the first Eagle to pass for over 4,000 yards and the first player in NFL history to pass for over 4,000 yards with no receiver reaching 500 yards.
The Critics Are Everywhere
They’re loud about what they believe about Carson Wentz. After all, he’s had Zach Ertz all this time, right? Perhaps, but all of the top quarterbacks have their top weapons. Patrick Mahomes has Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, Drew Brees Michael Thomas, and Alvin Kamara. Russell Wilson has Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. Aaron Rodgers has Davonte Adams and the true emergence of Aaron Jones. Lamar Jackson has… His left and right leg? Ok, maybe he isn’t the best example to use.
The critics will tell you that Carson Wentz and the Eagles had the easiest finishing schedule in the league (@Dolphins, Giants, @Redskins, Cowboys, @Giants). Don’t let that talk fool you. That kind of talk comes from fans and media. The worst players in the league are world-class athletes. They make hundreds of thousands of dollars annually at least to fill a roster spot. These guys are going out there to hit and get hit every game. The best players are drenched in sweat during victories against the worst teams. Nothing in the National Football League comes easy. Add on that four of five were divisional games, which throws team rankings out the window, and what Wentz has been able to do with his team’s back to the wall is still quite impressive.
Now, The Eagles Are In The Postseason
Critics will tell you they don’t belong, that Wentz hasn’t won a playoff game, that the Eagles are an easy out even if they’re at home. They fought and clawed their way here. They definitely belong. They’re here because Wentz fought through the mud and grime to pull along an ailing offense both as a player and a leader. The ‘anonymous sources in the locker room’ are quiet. Maybe they beat the Seahawks. Maybe they don’t. You can bet that it won’t be because Wentz isn’t the right man for the job in Philadelphia. Even the great Aaron Rodgers lost his first playoff game at 26 (Wentz is 27).
Keep in mind that this is a Seahawks team that played for a division title in week 17 against the now number one seed in the NFC, the San Francisco 49ers. This game won’t be easy, it probably won’t be pretty, but Wentz and the Eagles belong in it. The hyenas are waiting in the wings to laugh, to criticize, to ridicule. They could have their 15 minutes once this wildcard game ends. Maybe they’ll be looking to Lambeau Field or Levi’s Stadium next week for their moment. But it won’t be because of buyer’s remorse on Philadelphia’s part.
Nick Foles has his statue outside of Lincoln Financial Field. You’ll have to enter that stadium to see the legacy of Carson Wentz grow.
Follow me on Twitter for more great content – @ChrisHuller
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