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January 07, 2021

What they're saying: Carson Wentz, white privilege and an impending Eagles divorce

Eagles NFL
Eagles_Cowboys_Carson_Wentz_closeup_Week8_Kate_Frese_11022034.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Former Eagles QB Carson Wentz.

The fallout from the end of the Eagles' 2020 season is likely just beginning. First, there were the reports that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz would be stepping away for the next year and could wind up retiring altogether. On Thursday, news came out that the team will reportedly be parting ways with a pair of offensive assistants — Rich Scangarello and Marty Mornhinweg — and the belief here is that there will be more changes coming down the road. 

But that's just a small part of the likely massive overhaul the team will need to undergo if they hope to get this thing right, and any potential overhaul is complicated by the fact that the Eagles have put themselves into a salary cap hell from which there's no easy escape. 

One of the biggest culprits in terms of having a negative impact on the cap is quarterback Carson Wentz, who was benched 3/4 of the way through the season in favor of rookie second-round pick Jalen Hurts. Now, it appears that Wentz wants out of Philly and will reportedly be asking for a trade this offseason. As you know by now, that doesn't necessarily help the Eagles' cap situation at all, as they're on the hook whether they acquiesce to a trade demand or not. 

Naturally, Wentz will be a big storyline all offseason, and even if he's traded at some point, he'll remain a big storyline in Philadelphia throughout his career. As you might expect, that's where we'll start today's edition of What They're Saying... 

Where's the outrage?

Jonathan Jones | CBS Sports

OK, so this might not be exactly the story you were expecting us to start with, but it's a unique angle and one that fits perfectly into our "What They're Saying" format. It's also timely, given that we saw perhaps the greatest example of white privilege play out on live television on Wednesday afternoon at the U.S. Capitol building. 

Over at CBS Sports, Jonathan Jones asked the question, "What if Carson Wentz was Black?" It's a fair question given the number of people I've seen on social media (and in my personal life) jump through hoops to support Wentz and blame the organization for the reportedly "fractured" relationship between the two sides — and that support is coming from the same people I've seen crush other (read: Black) players in similar situations. And rarely were any of those players coming off a season as bad as the one Wentz just had. This is not an indictment of Wentz, but rather a reflection of the world in which we live. If anything, it's an indictment of us as a society. And when I say us, I mean white people. 

Anyway, Jones' entire story is worth a read, but we'll pick it up right after he outlines how the last few years have played out in Philly, ending with Wentz reportedly wanting to be traded if he's not going to be the starting quarterback in 2021...

That's audacious. And that Wentz isn't getting lambasted for this behavior — at the quarterback position! — shows a level of privilege that can only be attained if you're white.

A defensive back or receiver can kick and scream their way out of a city. That may not be expected or condoned in the sports realm, but it's understood that players at some positions can play that card. That's not the case for a face-of-the-franchise quarterback, and it never will be. ...

Ten years ago, ESPN asked you to consider how we'd view Michael Vick if he were white, accompanied by a now infamous photo illustration. Replace Photoshop for a decent memory and consider how Eagles fans would treat Donovan McNabb, who led them to five consecutive NFC title games, if he pulled this. I mean … just consider how Eagles fans treat Donovan McNabb anyway.

Imagine if Lamar Jackson tried this. Dak Prescott got dragged last year for not accepting a deal he thought was unfair. Think about if Prescott took that deal, then wanted out before it began because he and Mike McCarthy didn't get along after Andy Dalton started playing well. ... 

Instead of getting roasted, Wentz is having people bend over backwards trying to figure out how he can get out of his contract and get on another team. It's baffling. Maybe he's worth it, but 2017 was a long time ago, too. Todd Gurley won Offensive Player of the Year the same season Wentz was nearly the MVP.  []

Good god, could you imagine if McNabb tried this? Hell, look at what the fanbase did to Terrell Owens, a guy who had just put his health on the line to play in the Super Bowl and give the Eagles a legit shot at winning that game. 

That being said, there are examples of people in the media crushing Wentz. Heck, just the other day I published a story with a headline that read, in part, "Wentz is screwing over the Eagles." But Jones' point still stands.

... wait, I found it.

Marcus Hayes |

So maybe that above story was published before the writer saw this piece from Marcus Hayes, in which he takes Wentz to task for how this whole fiasco is playing out, the entitlement the 28-year-old passer is showing, the undeserved loyalty he's getting from the team, and the ramifications it will have on the entire organization. 

Like Jones' story, it's one that's worth your time, and makes it even stranger to see all these people going to bat for Wentz when he was objectively bad in 2020. 

Benched and buried quarterback Carson Wentz let the world know Tuesday that he needed some time to ... reflect. Time to think. Because a month on the sideline hadn’t been quite enough.

An Associated Press report indicated that Wentz did not participate in the team’s traditional exit interviews; rather, he decided to interview himself. When he’s finished, he will announce his future employment preferences, at a time and place of his determination, to his employers. You know, the employers to whom his services are already contractually committed.

Wentz believes he has the power of whether he will fulfill that contract, the richest in Eagles history ... after recording the worst season of any Eagles quarterback in more than two decades. He needs to decide, apparently, if he will commit to the franchise that he somehow feels isn’t committed to him — the franchise that committed $155 million and five draft picks to him.

“There’s hope his relationship with the team won’t end in a divorce,” the story said. Seriously. It said that.

There’s no need for marriage counseling here. Carson Wentz is an employee, not a soul mate; and, lately, he’s been a lousy employee. As such:

He should be thankful he has this unbelievably great job, and should seek to be worthy of his obscene paycheck. We all sometimes hate our bosses (not me, of course), and many of us have employment freedom, but when you have a contract, and when you haven’t performed to its level, you shouldn’t pout. You should grow up, show up, and earn it.  []

The worst of the worst

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles had a bad team in 2020, and there was plenty of blame to go around. So Reuben Frank did just that, ranking the 10 biggest disappointments on the roster this season. It's honestly amazing just looking over the list of players who *didn't* make the cut — like Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nate Gerry, and Nickell Robey-Coleman — and realizing that there were 10 other players who had even more disappointing seasons. 

But it's probably no surprise who Roob's pick for No. 1 is... 

1. Carson Wentz

The most disappointing season ever for an Eagles quarterback based on expectations and prior performance. Wentz became the first former Pro Bowl quarterback in his 20s in 25 years with a passer rating under 75, and his regression from his 2017 through 2019 body of work until now is virtually unprecedented in NFL history.

Of 30 quarterbacks who threw at least 300 passes this year, Wentz finished 29th in passer rating, INT ratio, completion percentage and yards per attempt before getting benched. He became only the third QB in the last 15 years to complete less than 58 percent of his passes, throw 15 interceptions and average less than 6.0 yards per attempt.  []

When you're the biggest disappointment on a 4-11-1 team, you probably don't have a lot of ground to stand on when trying to maneuver your way out of the organization. 

Another quarterback?

Michael Renner | Pro Football Focus

Over at PFF, Michael Renner listed five teams that could trade up to select a quarterback in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and it was someone what surprising to see the Eagles listed as one of them, given that they have the six pick and already have a QB controversy on their hands — although perhaps that will be settled by the time April arrives. Either way, would it really be worth it for the Eagles, who have so many other holes to fill (and need to do it on the cheap), to trade away multiple draft picks just for the right to move up two spots to take a quarterback?

Maybe so they don't wind up with another quarterback from North Dakota State? 


What it Would Take

Eagles get picks: 4, 105
Eagles give picks: 6, 37, 148 + 2022 5th

If the Eagles are objectively evaluating what Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts did this season without rose-colored glasses on, it makes very little sense to go anywhere other than quarterback. The only way I could see otherwise is if the Eagles completely strip down their aging roster and hit reset. Even then, this quarterback class could be too much to pass up.

With reports that Wentz wants out after he was the fifth-lowest-graded passer among starters in the NFL this season, his uncuttable contract looks like one of the worst in the league. The worrisome thing is that for as much as the Eagles' offense looked better with Hurts because of his legs, his passing grade was actually lower than Wentz’s. It will take a massive improvement from either will to put them close to competing in 2021.

You may be asking, “Why would the Eagles trade up if the Falcons and Bengals won’t take quarterbacks in front of them?” The answer is that there are four other teams on this list. If you look at the difference in compensation between what the Eagles have to give up and what the Broncos — who sit at No. 9 — can offer, you’ll see their Week 17 loss to the Football Team wasn’t inconsequential.

Still, the Eagles could likely stand pat and still get QB4 in this draft class, and that might be OK with them. That will likely be North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, who is a similar runner to Hurts and wouldn’t require a playbook change.  []

Change in the air

Jeremy Fowler | ESPN+

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler took a look at some of the teams who will look the most different in 2021, and the Eagles wound up in the "time to reassess" category alongside the Bengals, who also finished the season at 4-11-1. But unlike Cincy, who will look different because they can afford to, the Eagles will look different because they'll be forced to move on from a bunch of veterans if they hope to get under the salary cap. 

Philadelphia Eagles

2020 record: 4-11-1
Average age of roster in 2020: 26.4
Projected 2021 cap space: -$70,568,434
Big-ticket free agent: Jalen Mills
Low-key important free agent: Duke Riley

Priorities this offseason: Where do you start? This is deeper than Carson Wentz's struggles. The roster just isn't very good. And to think the Eagles could have a top QB staring them in the face in April's draft.

Decide now: Fix Wentz or draft someone, knowing Jalen Hurts can develop through either scenario. The belief leaguewide is the Eagles will explore trade options but are prepared to keep Wentz.

Move on from Zach Ertz, who would welcome a change at this point. He has one year left on his deal, and the past efforts at a negotiation didn't go well. Use draft capital to improve the secondary and wide receiver spots. And restructure a boatload of contracts to get under the cap.  []

Are we sure Ertz would welcome a change? Fowler (understandably) must not have seen Ertz's press conference on Monday in which he broke down into tears when asked about his future in Philly and what this city has meant to him. 

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