NFLI Believe in Carson Wentz Because I Have To
Three games isn’t enough to crown the Eagles’ rookie QB as the future of the franchise, but I'm going to anyway.
On Sunday, late in the brilliant autumnal afternoon, a man I’d never met turned and gleefully pronounced to me, “It looks like we got one. Oh man, it looks like we got one.” He punctuated it with a squeal.
Just about every Philadelphia Eagles fan is squealing about newbie quarterback Carson Wentz. He’s the current object of every Birds fan’s affection, and my visions of Lombardi Trophies heart’s desire.
After Sunday, the Eagles are undefeated, behind a 23-year-old rookie who barely played in preseason due to fractured ribs. He’s only the starter after the Vikings snatched up better-than-you-think-but-still-kinda-middling QB Sam Bradford when Teddy Bridgewater tore his ACL. Wentz hasn’t exactly come out of nowhere (the team traded up to take the North Dakota State stud with the second pick in the draft), but to see him throw for 769 yards, completing 65% of his passes for five touchdowns, while throwing zero interceptions, is far beyond any Birds fans’ expectations for the first three games. (It took Tom Brady four games to reach that stat as a rookie.)
“Having a good quarterback changes everything,” says my new bar friend Sakief Baron. “Before this season I thought we had no hope whatsoever, thought I was going to come to this bar for sixteen weeks and watch Chase Daniels. That would’ve sucked. I couldn’t be happier.”
Rationally, it’s ridiculous to crown a kid playing in just his third NFL game as a franchise savior. But emotionally? I’m right there with my aforementioned new barstool bestie. Upon Wentz’s first completion, a strike to tight end Brent Celek out of the shotgun that went for 22 yards, the Nelson Agholor-jersey-wearing Baron felt compelled to express his joy and utter his elation to me, a random dude in his favorite Eagles t-shirt. I totally get it. The world is a better place with kick-ass quarterbacking. The air is crisper, the sky bluer, the beer colder, the hoagies hoagier…
Since Donovan McNabb left—and we’ll get to him in a second—the Eagles have “featured” Kevin Kolb, Vince Young, and Mark Sanchez at the helm. On the whole, brutal to watch. However, we also got to witness stellar play from Michael Vick and a legitimate other-worldly 2013 season from Nick Foles. This prompted some asshole writer to ask is he was “The One?” (He now backs up Alex Smith. Asked and answered.) Throw in Sam Bradford’s up-and-down 2015 campaign and it’s clear as the Liberty Bell, even good quarterbacks, solid skilled quarterbacks, aren’t the quarterback. They come along so rarely, it makes the start to Wentz’s career tantalizing beyond reason.
“Wentz has the poise, commands the line of scrimmage, and knows when to go big and when to not to, that’s crazy for a rookie,” says Baron. “He’s smart and athletic, my confidence level is that we got our guy for the next ten years.”
Getting ahead of ourselves, Eagles fans? Of course we are! But with the bye coming up next weekend, that’s two weeks of believing the franchise has been delivered to Philadelphia straight from the North Dakota prairie. It’s hair-raising because the Eagles have never quite had that guy. McNabb is the best quarterback in team history, a borderline hall-of-famer (quit laughing and check the “similar players” for his career—four Canton busts right there) who deserved a lot better from the mouth-breathing Iggles contingency, but he was always right below the cutline of the all-timers. What it means for McNabb’s legacy is a lot of playoff victories and a number of amazing highlights. Did somebody say highlights!?!
The step-up in the pocket, the rollout to the right to get space without coming close to the line of scrimmage, the pump-fake to freeze the linebacker, and the quick dart to Darren Sproles who does what he does best on the 73-yard touchdown… SWOON.
It wasn’t even my favorite Wentz move of the day. That would be the “fake a chest bump then go into a firm handshake” celebration with wide receiver Jordan Matthews after they connected on a 12-yard touchdown. I’m so giddy I’ll even buy the “all business” cliche Wentz is selling.
After beating the Browns, who remains the Browns, and the Bears, who this season also seem to be the Browns, there was a lot of cautious excitement around Wentz. But dismantling the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers 34-3? We’re talkin’ bout love.
Three games is three games and, sure, Wentz is going to struggle at some point. Or at least throw an interception. Presumably. Best to assume heartbreak will be had. I mean there’s no possible way we’ve got a quarterback for the ages… is it? Should we even be saying this out loud?
“Football looks different, it feels different, with this guy,” says Baron. “I’m definitely getting a Wentz jersey this week.”