Oh, not on his arm strength. Not on his accuracy. Not on being some other-worldly talent bequeathed that ever-popular, but often-unfulfilled title of “franchise quarterback.”
For me, now, Carson Wentz is beyond that.
In this, arguably the Eagles’ worst season since his arrival in 2016, Wentz has emerged from the pie-in-the-sky clouds created by his ardent supporters and become a real, viable pro at his profession’s most critical position, capable of carrying his team to greater heights than they, or anyone else, might think possible because he – gasp – has put his faith in him.
Considering the ranks around him for the most part since this past summer, that has been one helluva leap.
Well, hello, maturity and true leadership. You are not part of Wentz’s repertoire.
Frankly, it is the growth he has shown in those aspects that has very comfy with the Birds’ postseason prospects, even as they limp into the new year with a 9-7 record greatly aided by four-game win streak against tissue-soft competition to close the 2019 regular season.
In short, am sold now that Wentz can get them past Seattle on Sunday night and take them on to bigger and better things not just this year, but beyond.
Because he changed. He gave up trying to do everything on his own, and on his own terms. He saw the club crumbling around due to injury and ineffectiveness, and instead of going full-bore into control-freak, me-Thanos mode at a time where it would seem most natural for him to do so, Wentz opened up and let everyone around him in.
To share the load … and the recognition.
In the past, something like the emergence of Miles Sanders as a real threat running the ball would have been met with less carries as Wentz audibled as much as possible to pass plays, warranted or not.
It’s not just Sanders, or Dallas Goedert, though, that Wentz has given his trust. Those guys, as high draft picks the past couple years, were expected to be productive pros. But the likes of Greg Ward and Boston Scott – who?!! – weren’t even in the “relevant” plans, never mind key cogs in coach Doug Pederson’s wildest dreams.
Wentz has given all the greatest gift of all: opportunity.
In return, he has been rewarded with all of them making the most of each.
It has been extraordinary to watch.
For me, Wentz’s evolution hit me not with some 60-yard strike or Houdini act to escape a sack, but, rather, with a simple gesture to a teammate – a teammate perhaps not quite sure of himself in that certain situation.
It was third-and-four at the Eagles’ 37. Just 3:44 remaining in regulation and trailing the Giants by seven at the Linc. Wentz hadn’t played particularly well up to that point; in fact, he had been outperformed by his counterpart, ageless non-wonder Eli Manning, by a pretty wide margin in the first half. He also hadn’t received much juice from those around him.
Didn’t matter. As the team broke the huddle, with the Birds’ season hanging in the balance thanks to the previous week’s loss at lowly Miami putting them at 5-7, Wentz’s intended target J.J. Arcega-Whiteside seemed a tad timid heading to the line of scrimmage … and Wentz, in uber-cool and confident fashion sidled up next to him, gave him a little tap on the helmet, a knowing smile and what appeared to be a wink.
Now, wink or not, that was a wonderful display of confidence in himself and his receiver that Wentz gave Arcega-Whiteside.
Seconds later, they connected on a 22-yard hookup that paved the way to a game-tying touchdown (and PAT) en route to an overtime victory, then wins against Washington, Dallas and, finally, the Giants to get to this point.
In the postseason, with Wentz at the helm.
Am sold, and excited about the possibilities.