Since the Philadelphia Eagles’ first trip to the Super Bowl in 1981, the team has drafted two quarterbacks in the first round of the NFL draft — Donovan McNabb with the second pick in 1999 and Carson Wentz with the second pick in the 2016 draft. Both quarterbacks took the Eagles to the Super Bowl. McNabb lost to the Patriots in 2004, and Wentz led Philadelphia to a banner season in 2018, but he sadly missed the Super Bowl win due to an injury. Despite their successes, McNabb and Wentz have something in common with most Philadelphia sports stars — controversy.
The Eagles quarterback kerfuffle was brought about by an alchemy of front office blunders, significant injuries, and a rabid, hypocritical fan base. The debate was instigated by the selection of Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft. Some read the move as an insult to Wentz, while others viewed it as an insurance policy given Wentz’s past injuries.
Carson Wentz goes from hero to zero as Jalen Hurts waits
The 2020 NFL season started with great promise, one in which fans and NFC East competitors expected Carson Wentz to return to his 2017 near-MVP form. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers took the first-round drafting of QB Jordan Love as motivation. At the same time, Carson Wentz has heard rumblings about a change in signal-callers since a Week 1 loss against Washington in which he threw two touchdowns and two interceptions.
The drumbeats for a change in quarterbacks began after a second straight loss, this one against the Rams, and a tie against the then-winless Bengals. After three games, Wentz had twice as many interceptions as touchdown passes. In those three games, Jalen Hurts had two snaps as a pseudo running back, rushing for eight yards.
Before the Nov. 30 Monday Night Football loss to the Seahawks published reports said that while Carson Wentz would start against Seattle, Hurts took more first-team snaps in practice and would be in for a few series on his own. For most of Hurts’ last 14 snaps, Wentz remained on the field as a wide receiver. Before the Nov. 30 game, Eagles coach Doug Pederson was, at best, cryptic in his plan to use Hurts.
“I think I could get him in the game a little bit more,” Pederson said, per The Philadelphia Inquirer.
A lousy loss leads to a quarterback controversy
After an ugly 23-17 loss to Seattle, even the most diehard Wentz supports — fans known locally as riding “The Wentz Wagon” — are questioning the need for a change under center (or in the shotgun, as the case may be). With a 3-7-1 record, a dismal quarterback rating, and a league-leading 15 interceptions, support is fading for the former North Dakota State star and his massive $128 million contract.
Owner Jeffrey Lurie further ignited the Carson Wentz-Jalen Hurts argument by insisting that the team play Hurts against Seattle even if Wentz underperformed. Hurts was in for two plays against the Seahawks, which resulted in a six-yard completion to Alshon Jeffrey. After the loss, Pederson explained why he did not use the rookie more.
“The plan was to use him when we could,” Pederson said of Hurts’ lack of usage, according to CBS Sports. “The way the game started, we just didn’t have many opportunities, too many three and outs. I don’t think we got a first down until the second quarter. We just didn’t — we failed to execute. It just wasn’t in the cards, I guess early in the football game.
With games against Green Bay, New Orleans, and Arizona — teams that have a collective 23 wins — the heat is on Pederson to go down with the Carson Wentz ship or turn the ball over to a former Heisman runner-up, Jalen Hurts.
Quarterback controversy is nothing new to the Eagles
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In 2006, the Eagles signed former 49er QB Jeff Garcia as a safety net for quarterback Donovan McNabb, who suffered a severe injury in the 2005 season. History repeated itself in 2006 when McNabb injured his knee against the Titans in a November game. Garcia entered the game as opposed to fan-favorite A.J. Feeley. After a poor start, Garcia led the team to the NFC East title and made the cover of Sports Illustrated for his heroics.
To avoid controversy, the team did not re-sign Garcia for the following season, deciding to go with Feeley, signing him to a three-year deal. In a relief role in 2007, Feeley went 0-2 before being released to make room for Michael Vick.
Michel Vick became the center of yet another quarterback controversy when he initially was backup to starter Kevin Kolb. In 2010, Kolb started the season a disappointing 2-3 before coach Andy Reid turned to Vick. The former Atlanta Falcons star finished the season 8-3, and Kolb was traded to Arizona.