Let’s begin by saying Carson Wentz is no Wally Pipp.
For you youngsters, Pipp was the unfortunate first baseman benched by the New York Yankees on June 2, 1925 and replaced by a kid named Lou Gehrig.
Gehrig played 2,130 consecutive games over 14 seasons on his way to iconic status, a Yankee Stadium monument and Hall of Fame induction. Pipp was soon playing for the Cincinnati Reds.
Wentz is the quarterback of the present and future for the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. If he had not injured his knee last season in Week 13 at Los Angeles, in the midst of what could have been an MVP season, he would have been the guy to lead the Eagles to the title.
Instead, the ball was handed to veteran Nick Foles. And you know what happened after that. Foles was named the MVP of the Super Bowl after the Eagles defeated the New England Patriots.
But during the offseason and through spring mini-camps, debate has raged among sentimentalists over who should be the Eagles starter on Thursday when they open the 2018 NFL season at home against the Atlanta Falcons.
Would it be fair to Wentz to lose his job because of injury? Would be fair to Foles to lose his job after bringing the Eagles to their first Super Bowl championship?
As you might imagine, this was a popular question during training camp. Each day, Eagles coach was asked for updates on Wentz’ condition and how it might impact his decision about who would start the season.
By Monday, Pederson was cantankerous.
The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport used his blog to quote sources saying Pederson had decided to start Foles at quarterback Thursday, even though Wentz had progressed spectacularly rehabbing his ACL and LCL.
Pederson began his press conference that day sternly telling the media he would not address the quarterback situation since it had “put words in his mouth” regarding an announcement he was not ready to make.
“I’m going to lump you all together,” scolded Pederson.
Of course, this turned out to be nothing more than Belichickian bluster. Pederson was piqued someone had the audacity to report something he wanted to keep secret a few more days for competitive purposes.
“I’m trying to win a football game, and I don’t want to put my game plan out there for everyone to see it and read it, and teams can scheme. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Pederson said.
It turns out Rapoport was absolutely right. The Eagles will start Foles on Thursday, but only because Wentz has not yet been cleared for contact by their medical staff. And until that happens, Foles will play.
“After consideration and everything and about the football team and this decision, Nick Foles is the starter Week 1,” Pederson told the media on Monday. “I wanted you to hear it from me. It is about the football team and the best interests of the 53. And Nick Foles will be my starter Week 1. Thank you.”
It’s always been important to remember that before Wentz was injured, Foles was, in every measurable way, a backup. He had not played important minutes since 2015 with the St. Louis Rams and the Eagles hoped he wouldn’t have to last season.
The Eagles did the best they could to reward Foles. They gave him a $2 million raise to bring his 2018 salary to $9 million, absolutely unheard of for a backup at any position. And you have to give Foles credit for not acting like a jerk about it all. In fact, he’s one of the nicest guys in the league. He never complained about his situation or tried to force the Eagles into trading him.
And let’s face it, he could have. Kirk Cousins will make $28 million this season with the Minnesota Vikings and what has he ever won in his life? Answer: Not a single postseason game.
But back to reality: Foles looked fairly pedestrian in the preseason. He completed 16-of-26 for 171 yards with no touchdowns, a pair of lost fumbles, two interceptions and six sacks.
That Wentz is not ready to play is not unusual, either. The type of injury he sustained generally takes nine months to a year to recover from and come Thursday it will be eight months and three weeks since his Dec. 13 surgery.
Wentz’ surgeon, Dr. James Bradley, told Philadelphia’s NBC television affiliate that medical studies have proven it 40 percent more likely that a patient will reinjure their knee if they try to return in less than nine months.
So there really has never been a debate who will lead the Eagles this season. The only question has been when Wentz will be ready to do it.