How should the Eagles approach Carson Wentz? Think Brett Favre

NFL

PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles have a series of critical questions when it comes to the future of quarterback Carson Wentz.

Do they keep him or trade him?

If they keep him, do they hold on to Jalen Hurts, who acquitted himself well in his first start against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, or do they need to move him to avoid further quarterback controversy?

And should Eagles coach Doug Pederson be in charge of trying to get Wentz back to his old self, or does Wentz need a new voice to shake this funk?

The decisions they’ll be making this offseason are nothing short of franchise-altering.

To get an executive-level perspective on how to proceed, we spoke with ESPN NFL front office insider Mike Tannenbaum, the former general manager of the New York Jets and executive vice president of football operations of the Miami Dolphins.

A proven track record

While this season has gone poorly for Wentz — he’s sitting on career lows in completion percentage (57.4) and yards per attempt (6.0) and has established highs in interceptions (15) and sacks (50) — he has proved he can play at a very high level in the NFL, a fact that would serve as Tannenbaum’s foundation when building out an action plan.

“Everything I think about I kind of anchor into that thought, because what we’re trying to get back to isn’t hope — it’s not a projection. It’s what he’s done,” he said. “We know that the player is high character. We know he’s talented, arguably the best player in the sport 2½ years ago. To me, it looks like the player has lost confidence.

“What I would really be thinking about is, let’s get through the season. Once the season is over, we’ve got to take the noise down and then we’ve got to sit down in a really meaningful way and construct a plan with Carson to put him in the best position to be successful long term with us. That would be, in terms of priorities, like first, second and third.”

Trade only as a last resort

Moving on from Wentz in 2021 would be a financial headache. The Eagles would incur a dead-cap charge of nearly $60 million if they cut him, while a trade would come with a hit of more than $30 million.

Given the financial state the Eagles are already in — projected to be about $64 million over the cap in ’21 — throwing away valuable cap space to part with your franchise quarterback does not seem like a sound business decision.

“You’re not going to be dealing from a position of strength and you’ll never get back the value that you deserve, so I would exhaust all reasonable avenues before I would even consider that,” Tannenbaum said.

“The team, to me, that would be aggressive in pursuing him would be the Colts given the Frank Reich [connection] and how well he did with Frank. They’re obviously in need of a quarterback long term. But I just wouldn’t do it. I would do whatever I could to try to make him successful, comfortable, and try to stay the course with him.”

What about Hurts?

Hurts is expected to start the remainder of the season barring injury or a dramatic dip in play, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, so the Eagles should get an extended look at the rookie, which will help inform their thinking.

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While Wentz has not looked like the same quarterback since Hurts was selected in the second round of the draft in April, center Jason Kelce said recently he doesn’t buy that Hurts’ presence has led to “some sort of internal battle and struggle going on with Carson Wentz.”

Tannenbaum agrees, and he said he doesn’t believe Hurts needs to be traded if Wentz remains on the roster.

“Every quarterback has a backup and that organization has a responsibility to have depth at every position. It’s one of the many reasons they have a title. The fact that they had Nick Foles made them champions,” he said. “That’s the part of the narrative that makes no sense to me. Every quarterback is going to have a backup. I don’t know why Carson Wentz isn’t playing as well, but it’s hard for me to think that a second-round pick that had to transfer to keep playing in college is the reason why he’s not playing well. That’s something that is really hard for me to reconcile.”

How about Pederson?

While the disappointment of this season has led to questions about Pederson’s job security, Tannenbaum argues Pederson has earned the benefit of the doubt after helping deliver Philadelphia its first Super Bowl title in 2017 — with a backup QB, no less — and guiding the Eagles to the playoffs each of the past three seasons.

“There’s just not a lot of head coaches walking around this planet right now that can say they have coached a team to a Super Bowl, and that’s the object of the exercise,” he said.

So keep Wentz, Hurts and Pederson? That would be an unsatisfying result for those seeking sweeping organizational changes following a maddening season. But patience, Tannenbaum argues, is the right play here.

“There was a great speech that was given by Mike Holmgren when the Packers traded for Brett Favre [in 1992]. So Favre was a bust in Atlanta and a lot of people criticized [former GM] Ron Wolf for giving up a first-round pick for a guy that couldn’t start in Atlanta, and Holmgren went to Steve Mariucci and Jon Gruden and Andy Reid and a whole bunch of other great coaches and said, ‘Hey, guess what? We’re all in this together. And this organization will do whatever it takes to make Brett Favre successful. He can take us to where we want to go.’

“I think that’s a very similar mindset to the way the Eagles need to approach it with Carson Wentz, which is like, ‘Guess what? The solutions we need, it’s right here in this building. Everyone — the coach, the quarterback — it’s all right here, so let’s work together and figure out whatever we need to do to make this guy great again.'”

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