The fact that Doug Pederson elected to punt in overtime and settle for a tie against the Bengals on Sunday is a problem.
The reason he did it is an even bigger one.
Over the last few years, Pederson earned his reputation as one of the more aggressive head coaches in the NFL because he was able to show faith in his players. He has always trusted them to make those gutsy decisions pay off.
It certainly doesn’t seem like Pederson trusts Carson Wentz right now.
Because if it was 2017 (or even 2018 or 2019) and THAT version of Carson Wentz was the quarterback, do we really think Pederson opts to punt the football away in overtime and settle for a tie? Against the freaking Cincinnati Bengals?
If Wentz looked like an elite quarterback, of course Pederson sends him out there on a 4th-and-12 with a chance to move the sticks, pick up a first down and then kick a game-winning field goal. The head coach should be able to trust his franchise quarterback, the No. 2 overall pick with the $100 million contract, to make a play to win a game. Even before that fourth down, it seemed like Pederson was coaching to win the game on a long field goal.
After three games this season, the truth is sad and it’s hard to face: Wentz looks like a broken player.
“I have to be better – and I know that and I will be,” Wentz said after Sunday’s 23-23 tie. “I’ll learn from it. That’s really all I can say.”
After all three games to start the 2020 season, Wentz has given some variation of that response. And after every game, it’s becoming harder and harder to believe him.
Sure, there were some built-in excuses again on Sunday. The Eagles had their third different offensive line in three games. They were without Jalen Reagor and then they lost Dallas Goedert and DeSean Jackson in the first half. Hell, is it too far along in the year to blame the unusual offseason?
But all those excuses don’t matter. Wentz is the franchise quarterback and he just hasn’t played like it. Not even close.
Wentz on Sunday completed 29 of 47 passes (61.7%) for 225 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. He had a passer rating of 62.8. This is the first time in Wentz’s career he has had three straight games with a passer rating under 75.
The most shocking part of Wentz’s regression is his propensity for turning the football over. He threw two more interceptions on Sunday and was lucky that Jason Kelce jumped on the ball he fumbled.
In each of his three previous seasons, Wentz threw exactly seven interceptions. In 2020, he has six through three games! Wentz didn’t throw his sixth INT last year until Week 12.
“That’s something that I have to be better with,” Wentz said.
It’s possible that Sunday’s tie was actually an even more frustrating game for Wentz and for Eagles fans, because there were some glimpses of the old Wentz. He was able to avoid pressure at times, get on the run, and his 30-yard pass to Zach Ertz in overtime was a beauty.
Wentz also had nine carries for a career-high 65 yards and an important rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“I mean, he battled,” Pederson said. “He was tough.”
Yeah, no question. Wentz was tough. Wentz battled.
But Wentz also just wasn’t good enough. And he hasn’t been good enough now for three games.
If he had been, the head coach would have shown more faith in him.