How the downfall of Carson Wentz transformed the Philadelphia Eagles

Carson wentz commanders eagles
FILE – Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz throws to a receiver in the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Landover, Md. The Commanders released Wentz Monday, Feb. 27, 2023.(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

The Washington Commanders released Carson Wentz yesterday in order to save $26M in cap space. The former Eagles quarterback, when healthy, had struggled with the same issues that plagued him in both Philadelphia and Indianapolis. For the Eagles, the downfall of Carson Wentz would help completely change the way their GM views and builds his team moving forward.

The complicated downfall of Carson Wentz

It feels like only yesterday that the Philadelphia Eagles were Super Bowl bound because of their franchise quarterback. The scary part about that statement is that it now applies to two Super Bowl appearances in the last five years.

The first Super Bowl appearance was thanks largely in part to the MVP-level campaign that Carson Wentz put together in 2017 before suffering a torn ACL against the Los Angeles Rams. What happened after was nothing short of the world’s most confusing downward spiral.

From his reluctance to protect the football and adapt to his coaching staff, to the endless dramas and anonymous source-level chaos that followed him every step of the way, Carson Wentz simply wasn’t the same.

The Super Bowl slump

A lot of his struggles in 2018 were due to the fact he rushed back from injury having watched on as Nick Foles led his team to a Super Bowl and became the heart and soul of it all through camp. Wentz wasn’t able to throw off his front foot as reliably so would often end up falling away from passes. Sprinkle in a back issue that would haunt him later (which could be correlated) and Wentz was having to almost force every pass. Frustrations grew internally and then the fun began.

Reports later surfaced of a rift between quarterback and coaches. They cited how Wentz didn’t like John DeFilippo’s particular coaching style, and how he’d often end up gelling with Press Taylor, who would later replace ‘Flip’ due to their buddy-buddy nature.

Fast forward even further and the Eagles fell further from grace. This prompted Howie Roseman to hit the big red button and draft Jalen Hurts, a man who was the complete opposite to Carson Wentz in every aspect. A man who embraced competition as opposed to run from it. A quarterback who loved the process as opposed to one who would drag his feet in practice. A hard-nosed kid who’d battled adversity throughout his entire career in contrast to a quarterback whose world was caving in due to his own negligence.

It didn’t take long for Wentz to be shipped off, in fact, it didn’t take long for him to be benched in favor of Jalen Hurts. The rest was history. But what really mattered were the lessons learned by Howie Roseman.

Howie Roseman suddenly shifted his focus to high-character players. If you look back at the last two draft classes, they are inundated with former team captains and players from schools who frequently rank among the best in the country. There was a desire to find players who not only fit the system, but all shared a similar mature desire to succeed as one.

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PHILADELPHIA, PA – NOVEMBER 01: Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz (11) talks to Head Coach Doug Pederson in the second half during the game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles on November 01, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Building around the quarterback

The next step was building around the quarterback. Sure, this kind of worked with Wentz, but it didn’t help when coaches would pull one way and the players another. Nick Sirianni was brought in as a malleable coach who could bend his offense around the strengths of his quarterback, and Brian Johnson, who was just promoted to offensive coordinator this morning, had been around the future MVP candidate since the age of 3 years old.

A flurry of rookies and signings that would follow would all share relationships with Hurts.

Landon Dickerson & DeVonta Smith had shared the field with Hurts before being drafted, as did backup TE Grant Calcaterra. We all know that A.J Brown and Jalen Hurts shared the most bromantic partnership prior to Brown’s arrival in the City of Brotherly Love.

In short, Howie Roseman was no longer finding players who align with his quarterbacks’ physical traits, but rather his mental and emotional ones. Jalen Hurts had everything a coach could ask for in terms of a desirable skillset, a strong arm, and a persona in the relentless pursuit of success. If they could just be patient, trust in his feedback, and listen to his feelings, then this team would not only be built in a way that supports him, but that elevates him.

What did the Eagles learn from the downfall fo Carson Wentz?

That’s the difference in the two eras. There was nothing intrinsically wrong with how the Eagles built around Carson Wentz, but they ended up pandering to a quarterback who would suffer such a unique downfall that it almost instilled a sense of entitlement. He was the $100M man. Whether he fit in with the team or had a separate little circle or not, he was the guy and he could do things his way because he earned the right. If he didn’t, it’s not like Doug Pederson was unfortunately able to correct that. Wentz would just do what Wentz felt like doing, which often resulted in fumbles, strip-sacks, and sloppy turnovers.

This time around, the Eagles have found a personality that aligns with the team’s morals in Jalen Hurts, and realized just how special that kind of personality is. They’ve then gone out to not only find players and coaches who share that, but ones who have developed those traits with Jalen personally, building a sense of cohesion and familiarity, the ultimate environment for competitors to succeed.

Jalen Hurts
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) runs against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 57 football game, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vasquez)

Had the Eagles not tried and failed to do that with Carson Wentz, there is no guarantee that Howie Roseman would have been so flexible in shifting assets and paying big money for A.J Brown, or trading up for DeVonta Smith. It wouldn’t be normal for the GM to surround his quarterback with preferred personnel because that trust wouldn’t be there. Instead, it would have been fractured because of how the previous era ended.

Because it was such a seamless transition from Wentz to Hurts as opposed to a total overhaul, the Eagles were able to keep their foot on the throttle and give Jalen every opportunity to succeed. That immediate jump from Hurts pushed Roseman to go all-in on the young signal-caller in a way that would’ve only further complicated things had he done so with Carson Wentz.

It’s not a failure if you learn from it. The Eagles and Howie Roseman learned a lot in their chaotic tenure with Carson Wentz, and it’s made them the most dangerous team in the NFC.