PHILADELPHIA -- There is a phenomenon happening right now in Philadelphia, where observers watch Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz fail to execute on a sizable number of plays each game, groan in recognition of the damage those misfires are causing in real time, and then spend the rest of the week convincing themselves that what they witnessed was the result of outside forces, usually of the coaching variety.
Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick in 2016, is in his fifth season. He is making an average of $32 million a year. He is dramatically underperforming in 2020, and the Eagles' 3-5-1 record is largely a reflection of that, given how closely tied a team's fate is to its quarterback play in the NFL.
Wentz's regression is on him. The excuse-making needs to stop.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson is an easy target right now. The Eagles came out of their bye week flat and fell 27-17 to the New York Giants Sunday. This team routinely falls behind early, bringing into question the quality of preparation throughout the week. Pederson's magic as a playcaller and risk-taker has seemingly worn off, and his reputation as a quarterback whisperer has taken a hit with Wentz's plummeting play.
Some of those criticisms are merited. The Eagles haven't come close to recreating the coaching mojo generated by the trio of Pederson, former offensive coordinator Frank Reich and former quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo -- three QB experts who helped push and coax Wentz into a near-MVP campaign in 2017. Pederson's offense has since lost that cutting-edge feel.
But a race car is only as good as its engine. Wentz entered Week 10 ranked 32nd in completion percentage (58.4), first in turnovers (16) and 30th in yards per attempt (6.2). He has the highest off-target percentage of any QB in the league at 23.6%, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. He often doesn't click into gear until late -- a major reason for the team's slow starts. He has thrown six touchdowns to 10 interceptions over the first three quarters this season, as opposed to six TDs -- or half of his touchdowns -- and two interceptions in the fourth quarter.
It's impossible to look good as a playcaller and decision-maker when your QB is that inefficient.
To suggest Wentz's decline is tied to the coaching he's getting is largely disingenuous. Are we to believe that Pederson, who helped make Nick Foles look like Joe Montana for consecutive seasons, suddenly forgot how to coach quarterbacks or scheme up an offense? Are we now going to rewrite history and say that was only Reich and DeFilippo's doing? Please.
And what other quarterbacks get such benefit of the doubt? Do we grade the play of Detroit's Matthew Stafford or Atlanta's Matt Ryan or Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger based on the coaching triumvirate around them, or is there a baseline expectation regardless of extenuating circumstances?
Yes, there are other reasons why the Eagles are stumbling, ranging from injuries to coaching to porous defensive play to an ever-rotating supporting cast around Wentz. But top-end quarterbacks are the balm for such maladies. That is precisely why they get paid so handsomely.
Wentz did a better job in his decision-making Sunday, resulting in his first game without a turnover in nine tries. That's an encouraging sign. But he was outplayed by Daniel Jones, and the Eagles lost. Wentz has been outplayed in the majority of the games this season, and Philadelphia has a losing record. Sometimes football is just that simple.
If the Eagles' issues persist -- and there's a good chance they will with their next five opponents boasting a collective win percentage of .711 -- questions about Pederson's future will grow.
They shouldn't. Angst over his performance will be largely misplaced, and talk about his long-term viability will be mostly a matter of convenience. Because taking on the primary problem -- Wentz's play -- is a much thornier proposition when projecting the long-term health of the franchise.
Wentz might very well turn it around and meet the expectations he set early in his career, elevating the team's standing in turn. If and when he does, he will deserve full credit, just as he bears responsibility for what so far has been a season to forget for No. 11.