The Point After: Truth Hurts, But Keep Wentz On Bench
Some point soon, before Wednesday and maybe even before you read this, the public will know who the starting quarterback will be for the Eagles on Sunday at the Linc against the New Orleans Saints.
I’d be shocked if it wasn’t Jalen Hurts.
If Carson Wentz’s benching in the second half Sunday against the Packers was merely Doug Pederson’s way of having his embattled quarterback take a step back and decompress than Pederson would have already named Wentz his starter against the Saints.
That’s what Andy Reid did in 2008, when he pulled Donovan McNabb at halftime down 10-7 to the Ravens, swapping in Kevin Kolb as the Eagles were mired in a midseason funk.
Less than 24 hours later, Reid told the media in his Monday press conference that McNabb just needed a step back “an inch” in order to go forward “a mile.” Reid said McNabb would start on Thanksgiving evening against the Cardinals.
Four days after the first benching of his career, McNabb threw four touchdowns to spearhead a 48-20 trouncing of Arizona that would ignite a late-season rally that landed the Eagles in their fifth NFC Championship game of the Reid era.
But this isn’t 2008 and Wentz’s struggles can’t be easily dismissed as a mid-season malaise. He’s been a below-average quarterback since tossing two interceptions in the season opener that enabled his team’s 14-0 lead against Washington to vanish in a stunning 27-17 loss to Washington.
Wentz is the NFL’s leader in interceptions, has absorbed the league’s most sacks, and has the third-lowest passer rating among starting quarterbacks. The Eagles haven’t scored more than 23 points in any of their past six games and are one of just two NFL teams this year that hasn’t scored 30 points in any single game, along the winless, hapless Jets.
Wentz needs more than a brief respite for decompression. He needs to be rebuilt. He’s broken, from failed mechanics to curious field vision to alarming hesitation on throws that should be routine.
He needs an offseason with coaches willing to tackle his problems head-on and Wentz himself needs to be receptive to making the necessary changes to become a functional, and hopefully flourishing, starting quarterback again.
This year has seemed like an eternity, but it was just last December that Wentz, even with his iffy mechanics, led the Eagles to an undefeated record in their last four games and threw no interceptions as the team rallied from 5-7 to finish 9-7 and win the NFC East.
Just getting that guy back would be a sigh of relief for the team that’s carrying a $34.7 million cap charge in 2021 on Wentz thanks to the extension it handed him before the 2019 season.
But that rebuild needs more time than than just one half of football, which is why Hurts should start against the Saints and should probably get the rest of the schedule, too, if he stays healthy and doesn’t completely implode.
Hurts’ athletic ability should get him of out trouble created by a patchwork offensive line, and you hope Pederson is smart enough to modify the playbook to embrace concepts that tap into Hurts’ strengths, like RPOs and quicker-developing routes.
Another reason Hurts should start from here on out has less to do with Wentz’s psyche and more about Pederson’s own competence.
This stretch of four games needs to be a fact-finding mission about Pederson’s playbook and play calling and also Howie Roseman’s evaluation of Hurts as a high second-round pick, a questionable decision based on reactions in April from personnel sources around the league.
If Wentz’s coming apart at the seams is truly the No.1 issue facing the offense, and not Pederson’s playbook or game strategy, than a different quarterback should at very least move the chains with more consistency and flow than Wentz did.
If Hurts truly offers the talent and athleticism that merited a second-round pick, he should at very least show progression and improvement over the course of the next four games. Nobody’s expecting him to make miracles happen. The Eagles could easily lose each of their next four games even if Hurts plays to a level that exceeds Wentz’s play.
But there’s no logical reason to put Wentz back in the driver’s seat this year while he’s under repair, and this rebuild will be a lengthy, uncomfortable process.
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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