September 11, 2017
Here’s a sentence that has never been written: Philadelphia sports fans are not giving enough attention to the Eagles quarterback.
Right now, believe it or not, that statement is true. For reasons that remain a mystery, Carson Wentz is actually getting less appreciation – and less attention – than he deserves. After yesterday’s brilliant performance in a 30-17 win over Washington, fans were gushing over the defensive line. Wentz, not so much.
Now it’s no secret that Birds fans love the physical play of those bruisers on the front line, especially after two of the top performers, Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox, combined for the clinching play in a big division victory. The defensive line is the strength of the team, no question.
But Wentz is the future of the franchise. Wentz is the best quarterback the Eagles have had since Donovan McNabb, with the potential to break many of No. 5’s team records. As Wentz proved yesterday, he is every bit as accurate a thrower, and every bit as elusive in the pocket, as the best quarterback in team history.
So where’s the love? In an Internet poll involving thousands of fans this morning, 54 percent said they were most excited about the performance of the defensive line. Hello? Did they see the first touchdown pass Wentz threw to Nelson Agholor, a 58-yard miracle highlighted by two narrow escapes from tacklers by the quarterback?
Or what about the huge first down Wentz manufactured late in the game by scooting free behind the line, and then buying time while Zack Ertz found an opening just as a pass landed square in the tight end’s hands?
This just in: Carson Wentz is a much better quarterback than he was in his rookie year. He is smarter now, much quicker with his decisions, more confident, and more accurate. For a second-year passer groomed for the NFL at nondescript North Dakota State, he is remarkable.
Still, in the aftermath of one of his most impressive performances, the focus of my WIP radio callers today was on an ill-advised lateral that eluded Agholor and went for a turnover, and a pick-six by defensive end Ryan Kerrigan after Wentz’s pass was deflected. Going 26 for 39, for 307 yards, was not good enough for many fans.
It makes no sense. Nor does the absurd argument that Joel Embiid of the Sixers is going to be the next big star in the city, surgically-repaired body parts and all. Lately, Rhys Hoskins of the Phillies has even crept into the conversation, because, after all, chicks dig the long ball.
It’s all nonsense. Carson Wentz is a too-good-to-be true star athlete with no shattered limbs, no police record and a single-minded focus on team success. Wentz gives Eagles fans their best chance for a championship since 1960, which happens to be 32 years before he was born.
The only thing Wentz lacks right now is the kind of adoration Philadelphia has been known to give to far less deserving quarterbacks. It’s time to show him some love. It’s time to stop worrying that he’s the next Bobby Hoying or Nick Foles.
Get on the Carson Wentz bandwagon, Philadelphia. It’s going to get crowded up there real soon.
Jeffrey and Christina Lurie both made rare public appearances last week, offering a fascinating contrast in the thinking and style of the two people who have owned the Eagles for the last quarter-century.
Despite their divorce five years ago, the Luries have continued to share the responsibilities of overseeing the organization, with Jeffrey involved in the day-to-day operations and Christina handling the charitable and environmental initiatives.
In keeping with all of his recent public appearances, Jeffrey was a geyser of profound statements, gushing over GM Howie Roseman, ardently defending coach Doug Pederson and describing his “obsession” with winning a Super Bowl. After all these years, Lurie still comes across as a well-intended man who has no connection with the fans.
It is no surprise that many of Lurie’s most interesting comments came in individual interviews after his formal – and largely impromptu – news conference last Thursday. The owner has never really understood which issues really matter to the fans.
And he doesn’t grasp how to speak to fans, either. In explaining the extreme math behind Pederson’s 27 fourth-down gambles last season, Lurie used the term “instinctual predilection.” Has he ever met the typical Eagles fan? It’s a pretty safe bet that guy screeching cheers with a beer can in his hand doesn’t speak like that. Then again, who does?
If only Lurie understood, after all these years, that using flashy lingo and bellowing hollow platitudes doesn’t resonate with his customers. If only he realized that the one bond a billionaire has with the Eagles’ working-class fans is his love for the team, instead of this fake persona Lurie continues to force on them.
Based on a conversation I had with Christina during my WIP radio show last week, Jeffrey should have learned how to handle himself from his ex-wife, who came across as a thoroughly grounded and likable owner. In fact, she started the interview by gently reminding me that she is a minority owner now, not the biggest voice.
Christina scoffed when I asked her if anyone consults her before major signings or big trades. Her commitment is to the community, which the Eagles have excelled at throughout their ownership – and which they did again last week by raising $208,000 for charity during our two-day radiothon.
The fan response to her extremely unusual appearance – it was her first time ever on my show – was loud and positive. Eagles fans responded well to her overriding message that it is a privilege to own a franchise in a passionate sports city like Philadelphia.
At the end of an eye-opening week, I couldn’t help but think that we may have the wrong Lurie running the Eagles.
When Dallas federal court judge Amos Mazzant III issued his inevitable home-town decision and blocked the six-game suspension of morally bankrupt Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott last Friday, my first reaction shocked even myself. I felt sorry for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
The truth is, Goodell actually learned from his blundering of the domestic-abuse cases of Ray Rice and Josh Brown and actually got this one right. No bluster from the high-priced lawyers representing Elliott can change the forensic evidence in the case, nor the tape of a separate incident in which he exposed the breasts of a woman during a St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Based on the evidence I have seen in both cases, Elliott is a lowlife who will fit perfectly into a Cowboys culture that has enabled the despicable behavior of other creeps like Greg Hardy, Dez Bryant and Michael Irvin, not to mention the owner himself, Jerry Jones.
Goodell promised that he’d never screw up another domestic-abuse case like Rice’s again – in which the running back got only a two-game ban after assaulting his girlfriend – and he didn’t this time. The six games was a fair punishment, given the photos of the victim and her subsequent testimony.
Unfortunately, cases like this inevitably turn into an indictment of the woman, and Elliott’s lawyers impressed a Dallas judge they had carefully maneuvered into hearing the case by questioning the motives of the victim. The legal hijinks are not over yet, of course, because Goodell will try to get a more favorable ruling on appeal.
But there were two important lessons to learn from the latest developments in the Ezekial Elliott case. One is that there is no justice in a sick city like Dallas, where winning football games is more important than defending the rights of women. The other is, Roger Goodell finally handled one of these controversial cases the right way, even if he got the wrong outcome.
Bravo to the commissioner.
And shame on Dallas – again.
And finally …
• Washington’s Michael Taylor got an inside-the-park grand slam against the Phillies on Friday night when Odubel Herrera misjudged a line drive and then proceeded to jog for the ball in deep center field. The next night, Herrera was right back in the lineup, with no reprisal for his latest display of laziness. This is precisely why Herrera has to go, and maybe see-no-evil manager Pete Mackanin with him.
• J.P. Crawford, who hit .243 this season at Lehigh (AAA), was promoted to the Phillies last week, while Scott Kingery and his .304 batting average stayed in the minor leagues. Crawford has 15 homers this year, while Kingery has 26. Crawford is 22. Kingery is 23. The only one person who understands all of this is GM Matt Klentak. Maybe someday he’ll take a moment to explain it to dummies like us.
• Has a trade ever saved a life before? It may have when, during a medical exam after Jon Dorenbos left the Eagles for New Orleans last month, doctors detected an aortic aneurysm that was life-threatening. Say a prayer that the best long snapper in Eagles history fares well in surgery. Meanwhile, it’s worth asking why the Eagles never detected this problem in the 11 years he played here.
• What is it with New England pro-sports teams cheating? First, it was the Patriots with Spygate and deflated footballs, and now the Red Sox have admitted they have been stealing signs and relaying them on Apple watches. Players for both cheating teams have insisted the chicanery had no effect on the actual outcome of games. OK, then why did they do it?
• Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie had one moment of levity after his news conference last week when he told the story of his second restaurant meal with Andy Reid when the portly coach ordered not one, not two, but three steak entrees. “He ordered three!” Lurie said. Normally, this might be bulletin-board material before a big game, but I’m pretty sure the only thing on Reid’s bulletin board is menus.