Doug Pederson made the decision to bench Carson Wentz this week but he still thinks Wentz can get back to playing at a high level in the NFL.
How good does he think Wentz can still be?
“I think Carson Wentz can be an exceptional quarterback in this league and he’s proven that back in ’17, ’18 last year,” Pederson said. “And we’ve got to continue to battle and fight and work and work with him individually, work with him within the confines of the offense, the structure, and you know just get back to being Carson Wentz and back on track.
“And so that’s my focus with him and to just get him back to the level of play that we all know that he has shown us and that he is capable of doing.”
That's good news because, barring a trade, the Eagles are tied to Wentz next season after signing him to a $128 million extension before the 2019 season.
When asked about the quarterback position beyond this Sunday’s game against the Saints, Pederson said he didn’t have a crystal ball, he can’t tell the future. So Wentz might be benched in favor of Jalen Hurts for a week or he might be benched for the rest of the season.
No matter how long he’s benched, Pederson expects the same things from the 27-year-old quarterback, who is understandably frustrated by the way this season has gone.
“I would expect him to be a professional and obviously support his teammates and support Jalen through this and then continue to work on his craft and continue to improve,” Pederson said.
“That’s what leaders do, it’s not always … sometimes it’s not always the easiest thing. In my position you make tough choices and tough decisions and as players whatever the decision is made you have to own that and take responsibility yourself, so I expect him to rally his troops, rally the guys, be supportive and lead the team as well.”
Pederson said he expects Wentz to be the Eagles’ backup this weekend but said he would need to see how the week of practice plays out. There’s a thought that perhaps it might make sense to simply keep Wentz inactive and completely off the field Sunday.
When Pederson talks about Wentz’s ability to be an exceptional quarterback, it’s easy to see what he means. Even if you take out the near-MVP season in 2017, Wentz was still pretty good in 2018 and 2019. It was this time last year that Wentz put the team on his back and took a bunch of practice squad players with him into the playoffs.
But this year, Wentz was horrible. In 12 games, he completed just 57.4% of his passes with 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. His passer rating of 72.8 is third-worst among qualified quarterbacks behind just Sam Darnold and Drew Lock. He wasn't the only problem but he was a problem.
When the Eagles took Hurts with the 53rd pick in the spring, they never expected this to happen. Hurts was supposed to be a cheap insurance policy if Wentz ever got hurt. No one expected Wentz to struggle to the point where he’d be pulled in December for poor play. But Pederson didn't expect any of this from the 2020 season.
“I didn’t expect to be in this situation back in April,” Pederson said. “It has nothing to do with Carson it has everything to do with where we are. My expectations are still very high for this football team. I didn’t expect us to be here, no.”
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