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January 30, 2021

What they're saying: How committed are Eagles to Wentz? Would they draft (or trade for) another QB?

Plus, where does Nick Sirianni rank among the seven NFL coaching hires?

Eagles NFL
Wentz-Sirianni_013021_KF-USAT Kate Frese/File and USA TODAY Sports/File

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz and new coach Nick Sirianni.

On Friday, the Eagles introduced new head coach Nick Sirianni, just over a week after news first broke that the 39-year-old Colts offensive coordinator was going to be named Doug Pederson's successor in Philadelphia. 

Unsurprisingly, many of the questions asked of the new head coach had more to do with quarterback Carson Wentz's future in Philly than with the head coach's. And Sirianni didn't do a great job of answering those questions — at least not in any way fans would consider a great job. But his new bosses, Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman, were probably thrilled by the way the new coach was able to dance around giving anything that resembled a concrete answer about whether or not Wentz would return next season. 

However, in not revealing anything about the team's level of commitment to Wentz, Sirianni may have tipped his/the team's hand a bit. If the team was fully committed to Wentz, then the new coach would've just come out and said that. He would've said that Wentz will be here next season when asked directly, and probably would've said something that suggested that the starting job was Wentz's to lose and that one bad season isn't indicative of the kind of QB he is and blah blah blah.

Instead, he said none of that. And with Wentz, who reportedly wants a trade if he's not the starter, still remaining silent, it's led to plenty of speculation about where the 28-year-old quarterback fits into his new coach's plans, if at all. Let's take a look at what they're saying... 

Public displays of rejection

Danny Heifetz | The Ringer

Over at The Ringer, Danny Heifetz updated their QB Commitment Index heading into the 2021 offseason. And the Eagles found themselves in a dubious section — "Fighting in Public" — right alongside the Texans. It's also worth noting that this was published prior to Sirianni's press conference, which may be why Heifetz sounds more certain than most about Wentz staying in Philly longterm.

Philadelphia Eagles

Carson Wentz was so bad in 2020 that it seemed like the Eagles would do anything possible to offload his massive four-year, $128 million deal. That is over now. The Eagles fired head coach Doug Pederson earlier this month and hired former Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni as his replacement. That move seems to show that owner Jeffrey Lurie chose Wentz over Pederson. Wentz’s relationship with Pederson was reportedly “unsalvageable.” And Sirianni recently worked under Frank Reich, who was the Eagles offensive coordinator in 2017 when Wentz had his near-MVP season. Philly firing Pederson and replacing him with one of Reich’s guys is entirely about the team trying to get Wentz back on track. The Sirianni hire is Philly’s version of marriage counseling.  []

Sirianni here to develop a QB... 

Jeff McLane | The Philadelphia Inquirer

Over at The Inquirer, beat writer Jeff McLane sorted through Sirianni's non-answers on Wentz and came away with largely the same conclusion as this writer: that Wentz's future in Philly is anything but certain, and that the idea that the coach was hired with the specific directive to "fix" Wentz is wrong. That's not saying he won't try — or that the topic didn't come up during the interview process — but it certainly doesn't seem like that was a prerequisite for taking the job. 

If Wentz was as attached to the Eagles as general manager Howie Roseman said they were earlier this month — “Like fingers on your hand,” he described him — there would be no hesitation about publicly stating that he would return, and as the starter. [...]

“That hasn’t even crossed my mind,” he said [when asked about a timeline to name a starting QB].

It likely has, and was probably asked during the interview. Sirianni wouldn’t go into detail about discussions of “fixing” Wentz. It was a topic and one led by Lurie, per a source familiar with the interviews.

“There was definitely a vibe, especially from the owner, that Carson’s the guy,” the source said. “We can save Carson and I want to find the guy that can do that.”

But the Eagles were unlikely to unveil their hand during the process. Sirianni would have been told it after he signed his contract, the assumption being that he had some sway in the matter. But he wasn’t hired to fix Wentz. That is a false narrative.

Sirianni may have been hired because Lurie believes he can develop and nurture quarterbacks, among many other reasons. But to base such an important decision on one player would be shortsighted, especially when the Eagles increasingly made clear Friday that that one player may not be here in a few months.  []

Lurie has been consistent over the years in his belief that winning starts on offense, particularly at the quarterback position, so it's not surprising that he would want to hire a coach he believes can develop quarterbacks. That certainly sounds like it could be Sirianni, but there's no guarantee that the quarterback he was brought in to develop is Wentz, or anyone on the roster for that matter... 

...even if it's not Wentz

Paul Domowitch & Joe Banner | The Philadelphia Daily News

Paul Domowitch's weekly Q&A's with Joe Banner are always fascinating, as Banner not only has a great grasp on how business is done in the NFL as a whole, but he also has a particularly keen insight into the Eagles and specifically the mind of Jeffrey Lurie. 

This week, there were several questions about Wentz's future based not only on Sirianni's comments, but also on some of the new additions to his coaching staff, like QB coach Brian Johnson, who has known Jalen Hurts since he was a toddler. While that could mean that the Eagles aren't really interested in "fixing Wentz," they might not have much of a choice but to try. As Banner points out, there are expected to be a ton of quarterbacks available this offseason, and Wentz is hardly the most appealing option. 

[Joe Banner]: Well, it certainly looks like, if Hurts is going to be their guy, they’re prepared for that. If there’s one thing to take out of this it’s that, at a minimum, they’re open to trading Wentz. This expected flow of top quarterbacks that’s going to be coming into the marketplace during the offseason is not good for the Eagles in terms of trying to maximizing Carson’s value. I mean, if I’m running the Eagles and somebody called me up right now and said they’re interested in either (Matthew) Stafford or Wentz and they need to know what I’m looking for price-wise, so they can figure out what direction they want to head, as a negotiator in Howie’s shoes, that’s not really a position you want to be in.

You’d rather be calling up the team and saying, “Listen, I got four teams interested in Wentz and I’m going to make a deal in the next couple of weeks. So you need to give me your best offer.” That way, the onus is on the other team rather than you to push things forward and you don’t start losing options.

The bottom line is they’re going to be hard-pressed to get something huge for Carson, because of the contract teams will be taking on and the way he played last year.  []

Banner went on to say that he still thinks it's "a real possibility" that Wentz gets moved this offseason, despite the crowded market and contract concerns. And that's when things get interesting...

During his introductory press conference on Friday, Sirianni said that the Eagles have "two top-notch quarterbacks" in Wentz and Hurts. But there's the old adage that if you have two QBs, then you don't really have one. And perhaps that's where the Eagles currently sit.

With the sixth pick in this year's draft, could the Eagles select another QB? Or, what about going after one of the other available QBs?

JB: I’m not predicting they will and I don’t think they will. But I would absolutely not take it off the table. Listen, here’s what I know for sure. They correctly believe that by a very wide margin, the single most important thing you have to have is a difference-making quarterback.

They may think that they’re not sure about Carson and have some hope about Hurts, but they don’t know. If they’re sitting there at No. 6 or they can get to a spot where they have a quarterback that they’re evaluating and saying we think this guy is going to be a star quarterback, I absolutely think they would look at that seriously.

By the way, I also think that could be true about some of these guys that are being talked about as potentially being traded. I don’t think they will do anything. But they’re going to do whatever they think they need to to have themselves a top-5 or top-7 quarterback in the NFL. And if they don’t think they have that on their roster, I’m telling you that will still be on their to-do list.  []

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The market for Wentz

Adam Hermann | NBC Sports Philadelphia

While it may be a crowded QB market, there is some belief that teams would be interested in acquiring Wentz. NFL insider Daniel Jeremiah, who previously worked for the Eagles, went on The Pat McAfee Show where he discussed the potential market for Wentz. That being said, he still thinks the Birds are going to try to make things work with Wentz...

"The opinion of Carson Wentz in a lot of the media is totally different than when you talk to people in the league. I've talked to several general managers in the league [who are] like, 'You think they would really trade him? We would be in on that.'"

Very interesting! Before we dive into that too deeply, it's important to note what Jeremiah said right after that nugget:

"I don't think he's getting traded, guys. It's a rehabilitation thing, it's not a moving on thing."

Okay, so if Wentz is getting traded, it's going to come from his side of things and him not being happy with having to compete with Hurts. Got it.  []

High on the hire

Vinnie Iyer | Sporting News

Now that we've got all that QB drama out of the way, we can actually talk about the one guy we know for a fact will be on the sidelines at the Linc on Sundays this fall: new coach Nick Sirianni. 

Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer recently ranked all seven NFL head coaching hires, and in his opinion the Eagles did pretty well for themselves, with Sirianni finishing in second behind just the Jets' Robert Saleh.

2. Nick Sirianni, Eagles

The Eagles punted on going up the Andy Reid tree again and instead chose the Frank Reich tree, with the intention of fixing franchise quarterback Carson Wentz. Sirianni, 39, was ready for the jump after learning from and working well with Reich. 

Siranni also made good coordinator hires. He plucked Shane Steichen, who help develop Justin Herbert fast with the Chargers, to lead the offense. Then he convinced former Colts cornerbacks coach Jonathan Gannon to leave Reich and Matt Eberflus to bring Indianapolis' strong defensive sensibilities to Philadelphia. 

Fans in New York and Philly are hard to please with the right coaches. Both Saleh and Sirianni are capable of big success in big markets with strong backgrounds and recent winning experience.  []

A passing grade

Conor Orr | Sports Illustrated

Over at Sports Illustrated, it was a different story, with Conor Orr giving the Eagles a B- for their hiring of Sirianni. That might not seem so bad, but it ranked fifth out of the seven, so maybe they were grading on a curve. 

Philadelphia Eagles: Nick Sirianni

The Eagles, like the Steelers, seem to have a pattern for what they want in a head coach. While Pittsburgh likes defensive coordinators in their early to mid-thirties, the Eagles seem to like untapped potential on offense, often hiring young coordinators or position coaches before they blossom into known commodities as sole play-callers, like Andy Reid once upon a time. Sirianni has the added benefit of working with Frank Reich, who was an instrumental piece of Philadelphia’s Super Bowl run and comes in with a playbook on how to work with the embattled Carson Wentz. Sirianni seems to be assembling a solid coaching staff that includes the critical retention of offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland and the plucking of Florida offensive coordinator Brian Johnson to coach quarterbacks.

My lingering question here is whether Sirianni can adequately navigate what could become a messy roster deconstruction. The Eagles are going to fundamentally change and, in the process, lose a lot of the locker room’s soul. Can he grab hold of the young core and galvanize them moving forward?

GRADE: B-  []

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