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November 12, 2020

John McMullen: On Carson Wentz and manufactured controversies

Eagles NFL

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Eagles_Cowboys_Carson_Wentz_scramble_Week8_Kate_Frese_11022012.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz runs with the ball against the Dallas Cowboys.

Once upon a time before activism began to corrupt journalism, a healthy cynicism was actually a trademark of a well-regarded profession bent on uncovering truth and holding public figures accountable.

So anyone dismissing questions to Doug Pederson regarding his friend's take on Carson Wentz Wednesday was missing the boat. Remember this wasn't one of the coach's neighbors in Moorestown, it was Brett Favre, the Hall of Fame gunslinger who not only helped shape Pederson's ultra-aggressive approach to the game in Green Bay, he also happens to be the very quarterback Wentz has modeled himself after.

And the ultimate risk-taker put his support behind Nick Foles in the manufactured debate that never really existed inside the building at the NovaCare Complex when Foles was actually in Philadelphia, never mind now that the Super Bowl-favorite lost his job to Gardner Minshew in Jacksonville and could be ready to surrender it again to Mitchell Trubisky in Chicago.

"I actually thought that they should have kept Nick Foles rather than Carson Wentz just based off production and where they got to," Favre claimed on ESPN's First Take earlier this week. "They won a Super Bowl with Foles. And that was a little bit surprising. But they're obviously banking on [Wentz's] upside. How many more years do you let it linger before you stick with him or you cut bait?

“That's a question only they can answer."

Favre also defended Pederson when it came to the Eagles 3-4-1 start.

"I know Doug, of course, we were together for a long time, he's a very simple coach, he's going to put you in the best opportunity to succeed, he's not going to complicate things, so I know [the Eagles problem] is not Doug," Favre assessed. "So I'm going to write [the Eagles’ troubles] off as too many injuries right now, I'm going to give [Pederson] the benefit of the doubt."

From there the questions had to be asked back in Philadelphia because the assumption is Favre has had a discussion or two with Pederson and perhaps a not-for-public sentiment was communicated through a third-party in an interesting spin designed to offer up some tough love for Philadelphia's QB1.

The Eagles coach also seemed lukewarm when trying to dampen any controversy stemming from those who like to connect dots and assumed Favre's thoughts were rubber-stamped by Pederson after a first half by Wentz which produced 16 turnovers in eight games.  

"I respect Brett's opinion," Pederson noted. "Yeah, we are friends, but I haven't talked to him and he's entitled to that and that's about it. I'll have that conversation with him off the record."

When pressed and asked if his own opinion was different from Favre's, Pederson again either refused to take the bait or just didn't care about the messaging conveyed by his buddy.

"I respect Brett's opinion," the coach reiterated. "He's entitled to his opinion and that's fine, and I'll leave it at that."

Only when the Associated Press' Rob Maaddi locked Pederson into a yes or no answer in the made-up Wentz vs. Foles debate did Pederson back his current quarterback.

"Carson's our guy," Pederson stated. "Carson was our draft pick. Carson is the guy that is going to carry us and lead this football team. Everybody's entitled to their own opinion. Those aren't my words. Those aren't Howie's [Roseman] words, those aren’t Jeffrey's [Lurie] words. Those are [Brett Favre's] words. I respect that opinion.

"Whatever he wants to say, that's fine and we're going to remain friends. It doesn't bother me one way or the other. All I know is Carson Wentz is our guy and it's my job to get Carson Wentz to play better, to do better, to help this football team win. As it is to get everybody else to play better. Again, I respect his opinion and his words. Those aren't mine. Please don't put words in my mouth or we're going to have a problem. Carson's our guy, bottom line end of story."

So what is that end?

It's very 2020 for others to assume someone doesn't really believe a friend has the right to express his own opinion and no one of substance in this organization even debated Wentz vs. Foles in the first place when others thought it was a thing. 

Fans and sports talk radio do not equate to the key decision-makers, in this case, Lurie, Roseman, Pederson, and at the time Joe Douglas.

Wentz, meanwhile, said he wasn't aware of Favre's comments, saying: "Everyone has their opinion, so I don't know."

What is fair to point out is Wentz needs to get better in the second half of the season. Through eight games the Eagles' QB leads the NFL with 12 interceptions, has a career-worst passer rating of 73.1, and a career-low 58.4 completion percentage. 

The turnovers have to stop and the mechanics need to be more consistent.

"It’s walking that fine line of aggressiveness and eating a play, throwing it away," Wentz said. "Honestly, that’s the fine line I’ve said over and over and over that I’ll continue to walk for my career.

"Some of the interceptions are just being really aggressive trying to force a play that maybe isn’t there ... Interceptions and turnovers are going to happen, and I’m aware of that. But there are definitely a handful of them I can look introspectively at and say, 'OK, just eat that, just call it a day, live to fight another down.'

"I’m going to work on doing that."

Quarterbacks coach Press Taylor also emphasized the plan: "We want Carson to be aggressive. We're never going to take his stinger out of him — we're not going to reign him in like that, but he has to understand, and he does, that the ball is the priority. We are always going to do — whatever we do, whether it's being aggressive or whether it's a direct a shot, out-of-pocket decisions, like I said, we always want to make sure we are conscious of ball security first."

The questions remain inbounds and the Eagles, particularly Pederson and Wentz, have to provide clearly-defined answers on the field if they want the speculation and second-guessing to stop.


John McMullen is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media, the host of “Extending the Play” on AM1490 in South Jersey and also contributes Eagles and NFL coverage for SI.com. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com

Follow John on Twitter: @JFMcMullen

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