The long-brewing quarterback controversy in Philadelphia has finally boiled over.
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson will name rookie second-round pick quarterback Jalen Hurts as his starting quarterback for the team’s upcoming Week 14 matchup with the red-hot New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
Carson Wentz, who has been the team’s franchise quarterback since he was drafted by Philly with the second overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and who signed a four-year, $128-million extension last summer, will be demoted to the backup quarterback role.
Hurts took the reins about midway through the Eagles’ 30-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, going 5-of-12 for 109 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. While the Oklahoma product did throw the first touchdown of his young pro career on a 32-yard toss to Greg Ward Jr. on a fourth and long, his numbers don’t exactly blow Wentz’s out of the water (6-of-15 for 79 yards), especially considering the latter was abused by Green Bay’s front seven the whole time he was out there to the tune of four sacks in two-plus quarters.
Wentz has been in the midst of what has been by far his worst season as a pro, ranking 30th in yards per attempt (6.09) and 31st in completion percentage (58.1 percent) while throwing 15 interceptions, more than anyone in the NFL and one more than he threw in his previous two seasons combined.
Some, but certainly not all, of that drop off can be attributed to two factors: One, his offensive line has been in shambles all year, moving guys around to replace the litany of injuries they’ve had in that position group, which has resulted in 46 sacks of Wentz, tops in the league; and two, there’s no question that his confidence took a big hit when the team decided to use their second round pick on his possible successor instead of on a weapon or o-lineman that could possibly help him succeed.
Pederson seemed exasperated in an interview posted on the team website.
“We’re not where we want to be as an offense,” Pederson said. “I looked at the whole thing and decided that for this week to look for that spark again to try to get the team over the hump, to try to get everybody playing better.”
The Eagles were favorites early in the campaign to squeak out the top spot in the worst division in football, but at 3-8-1 and a couple of games behind the 5-7 New York Giants and Washington Football Team (both of whom pulled off huge upsets last week), Philly is now sitting at just +1,400 odds to win the NFC East on 888sport.
If you believe in the rookie Hurts, those numbers are offering huge value right now. A Houston native, Hurts put up gaudy numbers in his senior year as an Oklahoma Sooner, amassing 32 passing touchdowns to go with 20 trips to paydirt on the ground, which allowed him to finish second in the 2019 Heisman Trophy voting.
Despite all of the drama that he was thrust into when he was taken with the 53rd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Hurts seems grateful for the opportunity he’s been given and keen on getting to work and getting his team back on track.
“Any experience and any opportunity to touch the field, it only kind of raises the value of that player. It kind of has been that way all year, and today Coach gave me that opportunity,” Hurts said postgame. “With all my heart, I had every intention of coming in and getting it done and winning the game, but we came up short, and that only lights a fire in everybody moving forward.”
Much has been made of what the Eagles are to do with Wentz’s massive contract if they ever decided to go to Hurts (which they now have), so the Philly front office will need to look into that as soon as possible. In the meantime, Pederson continues to attempt to deflect blame from his (former?) franchise quarterback.
“Carson is like all of us right now, he’s disappointed. He’s frustrated,” Pederson said. “He’s been a professional through it all. He supports his teammates and that’s what you want to see from him, the leader of the team. I know sometimes the quarterback gets a lot of the blame like the head coach does. It’s the good with the bad. It’s not about Carson Wentz. It’s not about one person. We know we have issues on offense and it has been a struggle for us all season. That’s where the frustration lies a little bit, but he’s been a pro and would expect nothing less.”
Something tells me that despite the quarterback change, the dramatic struggles of the 2020 Eagles are not quite finished.