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February 04, 2021

John McMullen: Eagles may be forced into a QB competition this summer

Opinion Eagles

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120120CarsonWentzJalenHurts Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts

A lot of us around the Delaware Valley want a new start after the Snow Miser put us on blast this week.

Bucks County was the sweet spot with over 30 inches of the white stuff and the vast majority of Eagles country spent far too much time digging out of a much more difficult situation than 4-11-1 with a disgruntled quarterback and a rookie head coach.

No matter your political bent, Florida and Texas probably look pretty good right now, but that doesn't mean you can make it happen.

The same holds true for Carson Wentz, who would prefer a fresh start in another locale after his disastrous 2020 season, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's going to happen.

“I thought it would be good for Carson Wentz to get a new start someplace else like Ryan Tannehill did and just go to another team and start over without looking over his shoulder and all of that," former NFL head coach and current NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci said during a media availability in advance of Super Bowl LV in Tampa on Sunday.

Already significant hurdles have been added to any potential Wentz trade market this week when rumors of every above-average quarterback west of Philadelphia being shopped popped up.

Kyle Shanahan wants back in the Kirk Cousins business and that means Jimmy GQ is available for those who enjoy occasional competency at the game's most important position. In the most predictable development of the week, Jon Gruden's wandering eye has Derek Carr being shopped around by the Las Vegas Raiders and we haven't gotten to the far more talented disgruntled QBs Wentz has to stand behind in the complaint line: stars like Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson.

The Rams and Lions already pulled off the rare starting-QB-for-starting-QB deal that harkens back to Chip Kelly's Nick Foles-for-Sam Bradford drama, when LA sent Jared Goff, Wentz's compatriot atop the 2016 draft class, along with significant draft capital, to the Motor City for Matthew Stafford.

That's important because it takes two teams who were in the quarterback market out of it.

More so, there are four QBs who could be selected in the top 10 of April's draft — certain No. 1 Trevor Lawrence, followed by Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, and Trey Lance.

If you're a team desperate for a QB, do you really want the guy making $25M coming off such a historic regression he's like the football version of the rare disease every doctor at the hospital stops by to take a look at? Or the rookie on the cost-effective deal for up to five years?

And we haven't even gotten to the reputation Wentz has now started to develop as the guy who killed plays for spite, presumably because he didn't like the head coach.

That's coach-killing territory and that's toxic even when it's not true, which is the case here but perception is always swimming upstream against reality.

The real skinny on Wentz and Doug Pederson is that the coach took away Wentz's autonomy at the line of scrimmage on third downs in his waning days as the starter before being benched for Jalen Hurts, something that was very important to Wentz and increased his frustration level to a boiling point.

The biggest hurdle to any deal, though, is that Wentz can want out, the Eagles can agree, decide the best path forward for everyone is a new start for both parties, and yet still find no takers because the other options are more desirable.

Remember, by all accounts, the Eagles still want some value for Wentz — unlike the Rams for Goff — so the smart money is on the Eagles trying to trade Wentz, Jeffrey Lurie approving the unprecedented dead money hit to get it done, and still no soft-landing spot.

Turns out Wentz's poor play in 2020 isn't being written off by teams chasing 9-7, never mind those with sound and patient plans for winning.

That means a return to Philadelphia and a QB competition, something Hurts is used to from his days at Alabama where he once lost out to Tua Tagovailoa.

“The main thing I can control is my work ethic, my effort, where my head’s at,” Hurts told CBS Sports HQ earlier this week. “The relationships I have with those around me, and just building — building as a man, building as a player, and always being rooted in my faith.”

Kurt Warner, the Hall of Fame QB turned NFL Network analyst, handicapped things for Wentz even though he's got grave concerns over the veteran's mechanics.

“I fully would not be surprised if this thing becomes a competition, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Carson Wentz became the starter again in Philly, if they can clean him up and get him back to what he’s been at other times in his career,” Warner assessed.

The clean-him-up part is the problem.

Known as a pure pocket passer with impeccable mechanics, Warner admitted that Wentz's fundamentals continue to need work entering Year 6.

"I think there's some deficiencies in different areas," Warner understated. "I've kind of documented a little bit on certain things over the last couple of years that there's some technique deficiencies that I think really hurt him and hurt his consistency as a thrower. You know, I think there's some deficiencies in what he's seeing on the field, where his eyes are going."

From the sideline, Mariucci, who once had the big chairs in San Francisco and Detroit, offered up a cautionary tale on the meritocracy angle noting that QB duels don't exist in a vacuum.

"What did John Madden say? When you have two quarterbacks, you don't have one," Mariucci said. “I don’t know about all that, but I think they’re both good enough to start."

Outside that vacuum of personal skill sets, however, Mariucci advised a different path for the Eagles.

"I would hate to see that team go back and forth and have controversy and a split locker room and all of that next year," he said. "It just would be difficult for them."



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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