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January 25, 2021

Despite coaching change, Wentz's relationship with Eagles still 'feels a little bit off'

Eagles NFL
Eagles-Carson-Wentz-Rams-loss-Kate-Frese_092020 Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.

The Eagles went out and fired their head coach, just a few years removed from brining this city its first Super Bowl title. They brought in a young, offensive-minded coach presumably to help try to fix their benched franchise quarterback following his worst season as a pro and a regression of historic proportions. Not only that, but they brought in the protege of the guy who had the most success coaching that quarterback. And they have publicly said that losing him would be like cutting off an appendage. 

From the outside, it certainly seems like the Eagles are doing everything they can to make Carson Wentz feel like the belle of the ball — like this entire thing is being done to make him happier and more comfortable. Like they're all-in on fixing whatever issues plagued him in 2020, and it doesn't matter how many bridges they burn along the way. The Eagles are bending over backwards to try to make their franchise quarterback feel at home in Philadelphia, and that’s not counting the hundred million dollars they’re set to pay him over the next few years

But maybe someone should've told Wentz that. Because according to the latest report, despite all the moves the team has made to appease the 28-year-old quarterback, it appears there's still a rift between Wentz and the organization. 

While NFL Network's Mike Garafolo made it clear on Sunday morning that Wentz hadn't officially requested a trade, as some previous reports suggested he would following the season, the NFL insider went on the SportsRadio 94 WIP Morning Show with Angelo Cataldi on Monday and had an interesting assessment of the current quarterback situation in Philly, especially as it relates to the hiring of Nick Sirianni, which became official a day earlier.

The general assumption when Pederson was fired was that the Eagles were sending a signal that they were committed to building around Wentz, as there appeared to be a growing schism between the head coach and the quarterback. But the fractured relationship with the head coach might not have been the only issues at play.

“The short answer is no. No, but let’s see,” Garafolo said when asked if Pederson being gone meant Wentz would be back. “I mentioned this when Doug got fired and everyone said that ‘Well, means Carson Wentz is back’…No. There is more to this. This a guy who, I am told, feels a little bit off in his relationship with the entire organization. A lot of people. There are a lot of hurt feelings on his end with how this whole thing was handled. I am not saying he is justified or not justified, I’m just telling you that my understanding is it is more than just the head coach for him. There are still more conversations that need to be had. When I say Sirianni is going to talk to him, don’t forget the front office is going to talk to him and see if they can work through their feelings and work through this whole thing and see if they can get back on the same page.”  [h/t]

Wentz does have some standing here, as it was wholly ridiculous for the Eagles to spend a second-round pick on a quarterback last season, mere months after committing to Wentz financially for the longterm. He played a huge role in leading the team to the postseason three consecutive years and had finally emerged from the shadow of Nick Foles' Super Bowl victory. He was seemingly becoming a better teammate in the locker room — although some of the issues first brought to the forefront two years ago appeared to remain

Still, it seemed Wentz and the organization were still in the early stages of what looked to be a long and happy marriage. And the Eagles rewarded that by drafting his potential (and eventual) replacement in the second round, opting to go that route despite having several other glaring needs up and down their roster. Were they really that unsure about a quarterback they just committed well over $100 million to just a few months earlier? Or, were they just too blind to see how this could be perceived by a 20-something QB whose neck muscles likely hadn't yet healed from spending the last couple years looking over his shoulder at Mr. Philly Philly.

If the Jalen Hurts pick is where the remaining bad blood stems from, it's at least understandable. But if it stems from the Eagles decision to bench Wentz, which by all accounts was a decision Pederson made on his own, then this is a Wentz problem, and one that doesn't help him shake the growing narrative that he's unable to accept accountability. The guy was playing like the worst starter in the NFL last season and was benched for a promising rookie the team wanted to get some experience. Benching him was not only the right move in a bubble, but it was the right move in realtime as well, one that you could argue should've been made sooner. If Wentz can't see that, that's on him.

But it seems like the bigger problem here, especially now that Pederson is gone, isn't that he was benched, but rather that there was a capable quarterback waiting in the wings to take over for him. If Hurts was not here and, say, Nate Sudfeld was the Eagles backup, it's hard to imagine Wentz sitting down at any point before the Eagles were officially eliminated from the playoffs. 

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Unfortunately for Wentz, that dynamic isn't going anywhere, unless the Eagles pull off a surprise trade of Hurts, which seems unlikely given that the Eagles quarterback situation is in a much more precarious position now than it was a year ago when they decided to draft him. Wentz could come out and address all these reports, squash any talk of him wanting out of Philly, and say he's ready to get back to work under his new boss. Instead, it's been radio silence from the Wentz camp — at least publicly — so he can't be mad when the speculation begins. 

So where does that leave the Eagles? Potentially in the middle of a big ol' mess. Or, more appropriately given the salary cap issues, the aging roster and lack of young talent, an even bigger mess. And that's not where you want to be as you prepare introduce a new coach, the guy who is presumably tasked with fixing the broken starting quarterback. 

If these moves — like the decision to fire Doug Pederson and the choice of Frank Reich protege Nick Sirianni as head coach, rather than someone like Duce Staley who is the kind of coach who has been known to butt heads with Wentz — were made to placate Wentz, that's a huge problem, especially because it sounds like the quarterback isn't nearly as committed to making this marriage work as the team moving heaven and earth to appease him. 

But the good news is, if Wentz still wants out or proves unfixable, the Eagles hired the kind of guy who, assuming he's not the problem, should be able to work with Hurts or whoever the Eagles decide their quarterback of the future is going to be. 

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