At the risk of constructing the straw man and then knocking him over, I’ll say this:
I feel like I’m hearing a LOT of talk about Carson Wentz and this need to “prove himself” to Eagles fans or the NFL community at large. Surely you’re hearing this too, right? It’s a “huge year” for Carson and blah blah blah, as if the Eagles aren’t going to give him a long term extension anyway.
Common threads I spot on social media or hear on sports radio go something like this:
- Wentz needs to prove that the Birds’ front office made the right choice by keeping him over Nick Foles
- he needs to prove that he is not “injury prone”
- he needs to prove that 2017 was not a fluke
Let’s actually go backwards and address those charges in reverse order.
I honestly feel like people forget how good Carson was in 2017, his sophomore NFL season. He was, truly, playing at an MVP level before going out with the ACL tear against the Rams, his final action that year a 3rd quarter touchdown pass on a shredded knee. If that’s not enough to earn a fan’s eternal respect and trust, consider the following, after the jump:
- Wentz was 11-2 as a starter that season
- he threw 33 touchdowns and 7 interceptions with a QB rating of 101.9 (4th best in league)
- 12.4 yards per completion was tied for third in the NFL
- 7.5 was the league’s highest touchdown percentage, better than Brees, Brady, Goff, and Rodgers
- he only took 28 sacks, which was bottom half of the league, thanks to his line and his escapability
Even on the bum knee last season, and with the bad back, Carson threw for 21 touchdowns and 7 interceptions while improving his QB rating to 102.2. His completion percentage increased by nine points, probably due to the fact that he was settling for a bunch of short throws to guys like Zach Ertz, but there were enough instances throughout the season that suggested to me that 2017 wasn’t a one-off. You even saw flashes of brilliance despite the 14 interceptions and other assorted rookie issues that affected him in 2016.
I’m not sure why we always look at a great season and think about it being a “fluke,” instead of just giving credit where it’s due. People said the same thing about Foles and his 27 touchdown, 2 interception season, but of course it was a statistical outlier. He was never going to come anywhere close to that again, and yes there’s always a modicum of caution that comes with offering big money deals to guys based on one good year (Case Keenum). I don’t think Wentz is Case Keenum.
RE: Nick, he did amazing things for this franchise. He won a ring and got himself a statue built outside of the stadium. He put 41 points on the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
This isn’t about shitting on Foles, it really isn’t, but I do think people forget the following:
- Nick underwhelmed in the 2017 Raiders game with 1st place in the NFC on the line
- he was very average in the 2018 Falcons and Bucs games (1 TD, 1 INT, 54-82, 451 yards)
- he threw three touchdowns and four interceptions in the 2018 playoffs with QB ratings of 77.7 and 61.4 (of course the Alshon drop and INT was not his fault)
Nick Foles has one of the best traits a quarterback can have – the ability to put in big time performances in big games. But let’s not act like his track record in Philly was spotless; he posted a few clunkers over the last two seasons, and any smart front office is going to take into account the entire body of work a quarterback compiles while also considering his age and market value. I think it was probably inevitable that Nick got paid somewhere else, and it played out exactly the way most of us predicted.
Right, then to point #2:
“Injury prone” is a weird phrase to me because we generally fail to distinguish volume from severity. For instance, say a guy suffers four minor injuries in one year, maybe a broken pinky finger, a thigh contusion, a concussion, and a pinched nerve, but he only misses two games. On the other end of the spectrum, somebody tears their Achilles in week eight and misses the rest of the season. Is that person “injury prone?” He suffered only one injury while the other guy suffered four.
Every NFL player will tell you that they go through each season with some combination of injuries. Jason Kelce played 2018 with an MCL sprain, a broken foot, and a torn elbow, but we didn’t know about it until the spring. Is he “injury prone?” Same goes for Alshon Jeffery, who played the Super Bowl year with a rotator cuff injury. How do we label him?
To me, it’s less about trying to determine arbitrarily if Carson Wentz can be labeled or not labeled as something. It’s about the evolution of his game in a way that helps protect himself. Is he going to dive for touchdowns in the red zone? Is he going to pull the ball down and run for the sticks, or throw it away?
I doubt you’re going to see much of this in 2019, a read option and dive instead of just taking your yardage and getting out of bounds:
Similarly, Donovan McNabb put his body on the line early in his Eagles career, ran the ball well, and then evolved as a quarterback, which granted him longevity. Carson needs to find the balance in his game where he effectively extend plays without putting himself at risk. To me, that’s where the focus needs to be, on how Carson handles himself and tweaks his game, because injuries happen. Shit happens; you just have to do what you can to mitigate it, and that needs to be what we zero in on as fans and media, because reporters can continually ask Doug Pederson if the team doctors fucked up and he’s never going to reveal anything.
Final point then, #1:
I kind of mentioned this earlier, but it’s not like the full resume of Nick Foles stands out, unblemished. If Nick was throwing three touchdowns and slicing up playoff teams every week out, the arguments to keep him and ditch a 26 year old Wentz would be much more founded.
But the Super Bowl season was a combined effort by two quarterbacks who played some of the best ball we’ve ever seen in this city. Wentz got the Eagles to the door step, which was the #1 seed in the NFC and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Foles took the baton and carried it the rest of the way, earning more of the glory despite playing in fewer, but ultimately bigger games.
The Birds had two franchise quarterbacks to choose from, but they could only fit one on the roster due to financial constraints. In my mind, there was no incorrect decision here. It’s like choosing between Ibiza and Malta, and I think all Eagles fans should take a step back and think about the concept of having a “good problem” on your hands, vs. some controversial and divisive kind of conflict. It wasn’t that at all, and I don’t think Carson has to prove anything to anyone. He already has a ring, and he deserves that ring without any sort of asterisk or footnote being slapped on there.