Nick and Carson. Nick and Nate. Nate and Carson. They were all best friends off the field, they were inseparable at practice and in the locker room, they were all about the same age, and, heck, they even looked alike.
If Carson Wentz said it once, he said it a thousand times. His relationships with Nick Foles in 2017 and 2018 and Nate Sudfeld over the last four years were instrumental in his success.
Doug Pederson marveled at the Eagles’ quarterback room and how close those guys were, how they supported each other, how they brought out the best in each other.
Now, for the first time, the dynamic has changed.
By all accounts, Wentz has been supportive of Jalen Hurts, and Hurts appreciates Wentz’s help.
But it all feels very different. Because Hurts and Wentz are certainly cordial, but they’re not best friends.
They haven't had the chance to be.
Wentz last month: “As for Jalen, it has been a weird year. We have virtual meetings and all sorts of things. Developing relationships with him and everybody here has been tough. I have a lot of respect for him as a player, a person and a competitor.”
Hurts this week: “I know Carson and I have a strong faith. We’re great believers in God, and we put all our trust in Him. Carson has been great, he’s been very supportive and he has a lot of knowledge. I’m always open to listening to those things.”
Why is this all so important?
Quarterbacks don’t have to be best friends, like Foles, Wentz and Sudfeld, but they spend so much time together studying film, dissecting defenses and troubleshooting each other that when that relationship doesn’t have a chance to develop because of a pandemic and the stringent social distancing rules the NFL has imposed, it's hard for that same level of trust and support to be there.
Pederson is huge on players building interpersonal relationships and how over time that translates into improved performance.
And he spoke this week about how much he misses that aspect of leading a football team.
How can you replicate the relationship building that’s so critical to becoming good teammates — especially for quarterbacks — when you’re only allowed in the locker room for 15 minutes a day, when meetings are held virtually, when you’re not allowed to hang out away from the facility?
“That's a question that I actually think about every day,” Pederson said. “I love having in-person meetings where I can see guys face to face and communicate face to face. With this pandemic and everything going virtual now, we just finished up a set of meetings online. It makes it harder to build the relationships that you would like to build and that's with any room on the team.
“The quarterback room is a good room, it's a solid room. But at the same time, it makes it a little harder when you're not together watching film after practice or getting with the receivers and watching film or watching practice tape, or getting with [Jason] Kelce and going through protection plans. It just makes it a little more challenging that way.
“We talk about socially distant, but we try to maintain a level of trying to be more socially together the best we can. Whether it's Saturday night at the hotel on the road or even at practice during walk-throughs or the actual practice. That's … something I think a lot about during this time and our guys have done a great job handling everything so far.”
As for Hurts and Wentz?
It’s a work in progress.
“I just see the communication, No. 1, at practice [and] during games,” Pederson said. “Just the communication, the dialogue back and forth, obviously through Press [Taylor], through myself. Just that communication, and that's the one gauge that tends to lead things in the right direction and that's what I've been seeing.”
After his first career start Sunday, Hurts spoke about how Wentz helped him during the game.
“Yeah, he had a few tips for me,” Hurts said. “A few little things pointing out here and there — certain looks, seeing the space of the defense. So he was really helpful this week.”
They may not be best pals, but Hurts and Wentz both seem to be doing the best they can in a unique and challenging year.
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