January 16, 2021
When I opened Jeff McLane's big Carson Wentz story on Saturday morning after it flooded my timeline, I was surprised by what I read. More accurately, I was surprised by the fact that nothing I read actually surprised me. After all, didn't we just do this a couple of years ago?
I know for a fact we did, because I not only read the Joe Santoliquito story that came out almost two years ago to the day, I also edited it, helped compile it, and listened to all the recordings of all the sources used for what at the time was considered an explosive story. In the two years since, however, these types of allegations against Wentz — that he's difficult to coach, ego-driven, and lacks accountability — have become less "explosive" and more commonplace, or they've at least a more widely accepted narrative surrounding the quarterback.
Back in January of 2019, however, they were not, and the resulted in death threats and vandalism against the author. (Let's hope Jeff doesn't receive the same treatment from a segment of the fanbase that refuses to believe what they read just because they don't like what it says.)
But something else happened in the time since that story was published: more people have talked. Some of those same people who spoke up the first time around have added new insight into the current quarterback situation down at the NovaCare Complex. And everything I've been hearing — dating all the way back to when we originally published what we've since come to call "The Carson Wentz Story" through this past week — matches almost exactly what McLane reported in his latest story.
A few weeks back, I broke down a Doug Pederson press conference by posting a quote of his, a take from a fellow reporter (where available), and my own spin on the topic. It seemed like that format was well received, so let's try using that one again as we work our way through McLane's piece, one head-scratcher at a time.
And if you haven't read Jeff's extremely detailed and well-reported story yet, I suggest you go check that out, right here.
WHAT JEFF WROTE: Howie Roseman had a life-sized poster of Carson Wentz in his office at the NovaCare Complex. It still might be there, but before COVID-19 placed restrictions on Eagles staffers’ movements, when anyone walked into the general manager’s office, there up on the wall was Wentz in action.
The decal -- like a Fathead a fan might plaster in his or her bedroom -- became an inside joke among some staff about Roseman’s overt affection for the Eagles’ franchise quarterback. But it also became a symbol for his misdirected handling of an employee. ...
But for many in the Eagles organization, Wentz loomed too large, and the consequence was a young man given far too much reign before he had earned hallowed space on team facility walls. [MORE]
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: Since this is a sort of silly detail — albeit one that informs everything that follows — let's just stick with a couple of tweets here...
Assuming this is the one in question pic.twitter.com/SAGi8CZZj2— Eric Turtle Golden (@EricSGolden) January 16, 2021
If this is Roseman’s office it’s not that bad. The article made it seem like he just had a giant Wentz poster over a racing car bed he’d gaze at while going to sleep. pic.twitter.com/3SXnwv8x4c— CogginToboggan (@CogginToboggan) January 16, 2021
WHAT MATT SAYS: I actually agree with Coggin here. I mean, if that is indeed the "life-sized poster" of Wentz in Howie's office, what's the issue? There's an equally large cutout of Fletcher Cox, one of the leaders on the defensive side of the ball, and pictures of other players in between. The bigger issue here is with that Bill Russell quote, which Jeff wisely uses as the kicker to his story. If it was just one giant cutout of Wentz, considering that he hasn't really won anything, that would be a bit odd, but even then, would it really be that weird?
Still, it's a great metaphor for the rest of the story. OK, let's move on to some more serious issues.
WHAT JEFF WROTE: Roseman, owner Jeffrey Lurie, and other Eagles leaders, however, treated Wentz as if he had won that championship. They allowed him too much say in the draft, free agency, and coaching decisions. And while he played a large role in getting to the title game, and to the postseason the next two years, he has only six playoff snaps in five years to his name. [MORE]
WHAT MATT SAYS: This is not a great look for the organization, allowing a quarterback who hasn't won anything beyond regular season games to make personnel decisions, let alone coaching decisions. But it also aligns with everything I've heard about the way the team treats Wentz. That being said, I don't think Wentz had any input on the Jalen Hurts pick, but it would explain why the team seemed to sign Jordan Matthews every time they needed a receiver.
WHAT JEFF WROTE: But Hurts was just one piece to the puzzle. The forces behind Wentz’s regression were manifold and in many ways there for years. He didn’t always take to hard coaching. He struggled with accountability. He could shrink back into a tight-knit group of teammates he trusted or become isolated.
Wentz’s Type-A personality could be credited just as much for his past success. Many top quarterbacks share the same trait. But the 28-year-old had increasingly rebuffed advice, defied criticism, and clashed with former coach Doug Pederson last season, Eagles sources said.
“Every great quarterback wants to be coached and they want to be coached hard and by the best, and it doesn’t seem like [Wentz] wants that,” one source said. “It’s kind of like whoever’s coaching him is working for him. But it can’t be that way.” [MORE]
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: "Here’s that Type-A personality again. Jeff’s right about it being a big part of Wentz’s success, but it was also a huge part of why they initially identified him as their franchise quarterback during the pre-draft process in 2016. They liked his confidence, his ability to take command of a situation and a room. But Wentz’s inability to take coaching has been well-documented and there have been legitimate fears about whether or not Press Taylor was the right man for the job, especially with this particular quarterback.
"Wentz is a player who has had success at every level and it takes a level of humility to be willing to get better. It’s fair to question if he has that." — Dave Zangaro, NBC Sports Philadelphia
WHAT MATT SAYS: There's no doubting at this point that Wentz doesn't like coaching. Way back when Wentz was still considered the next great NFL QB, a report came out about him getting into screaming matches with his coaches in college. At the time, we noted his passion and suggested this might actually be a good thing. It's not looking that way now. This also speaks volumes about the importance of having guys like John DeFilippo and Frank Reich, who not only had the cache to challenge Wentz, but who actually did challenge him. Since they've left, Wentz has continually regressed.
Then there's the stuff about Wentz shrinking back into a "tight-knit group of teammates." That's not surprising at all, based on Santoliquito's original reporting about Wentz playing favorites in the locker room and being standoffish with some teammates. He clearly has a close group of players he surrounds himself with, and based on his inability to take coaching, these are probably the people on the team least likely to tell him no.
On a related note, there's that last quote from the anonymous source that says Wentz treats the coaches like they work for him, which speaks volumes about the way the quarterback views not just his place on the team, but his place in society as well. If that's how he treats the people who are supposed to have more power than him, I can't imagine how he treats the actual people who work for him.
Listen, I get it, you all probably think I have it out for Wentz. That's not true, I'm just adjusting my temperature based on the feel of the room. In Wentz's first two seasons, I was the guy on Twitter doing photoshops of Wentz as Eleven from Stranger Things and The Man In Black from Westworld. That stopped once we started reporting our story on Wentz two years ago and I started hearing a bit more about who Wentz is behind the scenes. I'm not suggesting he's some ego-maniacal monster, but it was enough to make the fanboy shit stop real quick.
WHAT JEFF WROTE: There was a disconnect even before Wentz was benched, though. Pederson would call a play only for his quarterback to occasionally kill it for no other reason than his personal distaste, sources said. It became “a pissing match” between the two, one of the sources said.
“The trust in an NFL building goes far,” a source said before Pederson was fired. “If there’s communication and trust everything goes faster and it goes further. And if you lose either one of those, [it’s] going to be hard to come back from.” [...]
Pederson’s play-calling was also dubious. He would go long stretches without rolling Wentz out of the pocket to take advantage of his ability to throw on the move. Wentz, in turn, made “bizarre kills that made no sense and effectively was going rogue,” one source said. [MORE]
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: "I mean, this is just straight up insubordination. And it lines up with what I’ve previously said about Wentz having a lot of power (read: too much) in this offense. 2020’s struggles can hardly be pinned on Pederson alone.
"Wentz isn’t solely responsible for the Eagles’ ineptitude, either. He’s certainly been failed by the organization in certain respects. But Wentz himself has undoubtedly played a major part in his own and, subsequently, the Eagles’ downfall.
"I wrote at the time of Wentz’s benching that I hoped the experience would humble. But it doesn’t really seem like it did." — Brandon Lee Gowton, Bleeding Green Nation
WHAT MATT SAYS: This might be the most troubling part of the story, and not just because it's not the first I'm hearing about Wentz going rogue with the play calling/killing. Santoliquito spoke at length about that back when he did an interview with Bleeding Green following the first week of the NFL season — before we knew just how ugly this would get. And reading it now, it's scary to see how much of this was hiding in plain sight, you know, like the fact that Wentz might cost Pederson his job.
Instead of me regurgitating what Joe told Brandon then (and what he's repeated to me in the months since), just go read the whole thing here.
WHAT JEFF WROTE: “He doesn’t understand that he lost games for us,” a veteran player said. “He will never admit that and that’s a problem because he can’t get it corrected.”
In the quarterback room, when his errors were pointed out, Wentz would sometimes make irrelevant excuses and Taylor wouldn’t correct him. For instance, there would be a play when he didn’t throw to an open receiver. The read was drawn up as designed, the coverage played out as expected, and he would be asked why he didn’t pull the trigger.
And Wentz would say the look wasn’t there, or he would overemphasize the pass rush, and when it was suggested the play be run again in practice as to get it right, he would object. [MORE]
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: "The reason the lack of accountability and the refusal to take coaching go together is simple: If you don’t think you’re the problem, why would you try to change? The lack of accountability, at least publicly, is something that I remember being concerned about dating back to Wentz’s rookie season. That team was improving but it wasn’t very good. I remember a lot of 'we' talk from Wentz that year. It was always 'we' as an offense weren’t good enough. Eventually, throughout the years, he’s been more willing to say he wasn’t good enough individually. And he had no choice but to do that in 2020 as he was turning the ball over an NFL-leading pace. But you have always been able to see the hesitance from Wentz to accept blame. Sometimes a quarterback has to stand at a microphone (or in front of his teammates) and say, 'That’s on me. I wasn’t good enough. I’m the reason we lost. I have to get better.' We haven’t seen that enough from 11." — Dave Zangaro, NBC Sports Philadelphia
WHAT MATT SAYS: This, again, was a huge theme in Santoliquito's story from two years ago. Go read it again if you haven't already. You might be surprised by how differently it hits now than when it was first written and people couldn't simply reconcile the fact that their franchise quarterback might not be the saint they were all told he was.
WHAT JEFF WROTE: While he had early success, Pederson was reluctant to use Hurts or to take Wentz off the field when he was under center. [...] Some players and coaches started to wonder if Hurts’ presence had affected Wentz, and that the small number of plays was Pederson being sensitive to his starter.
By the bye week, Wentz had been sacked an NFL-high of 32 times. A coaching analysis deemed the quarterback responsible for almost two-thirds. Around the break, one offensive lineman had gone to management and requested a switch to Hurts...
Pederson made the call on his own, according to a source familiar with his thinking, without input from Lurie or Roseman. He said as much publicly and there was some skepticism. But after he was benched, Wentz went to the owner and GM to voice his frustration, a team source said. [MORE]
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: "Wentz did hold on to the ball too long at times during the season. It also appeared as the season progressed, he began to worry more about escaping the pass rush than keeping his focus downfield to find receivers.
"If Wentz is the starting quarterback next season, he will have to find a way to get some of his teammates to believe he is the right solution to play the position, especially if a teammate decided to take the extra step and request the front office remove Wentz from starting at quarterback." — Chris Franklin, NJ.com
WHAT MATT SAYS: Let's start with the end of that snippet, where it says Wentz went over Doug's head and went to Roseman and Lurie to voice his frustration about being benched. That's not a great look for Wentz, and when you couple that with the part about Wentz not running the plays Pederson called, it's no surprise there are reports out there that the coach wanted out.
But Wentz wasn't the first to go over Pederson's head, which might be a bigger indictment of the coach than we're making it out to be. Wentz's teammate — and presumably a veteran one if he's going directly to management — went over the coach's head to try to get his quarterback benched is not a small deal, especially if that offensive lineman is expected to be back next season. Either way, it's a clear sign that the locker room is fractured.
It's also scary because by all accounts, the Eagles are preparing to bring Wentz back as the starter next season, either because they still believe in him, they don't believe in Wentz, or they're unwilling to take that big of a cap hit for a player who isn't on the field. In fact, it reached a point this weekend where Mike Garafolo is reporting that the Eagles are actually telling coaching candidates that they would prefer to have Wentz under center in 2021.
So, unless a coaching candidate can convince the Birds to change course — and based on the fact that wanting to move on from Wentz likely led a Super Bowl winning coach being fired, that seems unlikely — it looks like we'll get to do this all over again next year.