Hardly a day passes anymore when something juicy isn’t written or suggested about a player or a team sighting anonymous sources painting a picture about personal or internal dysfunction.
These stories are usually followed with aggressive denials claiming sources for the story were inaccurate and/or illegitimate. And then it’s left up to the reader to decide what’s believable and what isn’t.
Such is the daily dance in our world of information and disinformation.
So you can imagine the chill that descended over the Philadelphia Eagles’ organization when a story emerged claiming more than a few players were fed up with quarterback Carson Wentz’ self-absorbed personality.
You can say a lot of negative things about a football team. But it’s hard to surpass a zinger that claims it despises its leader? How do you respond to that?
This is a very critical time for the Eagles quarterback situation, one of transition and sentimentality. They must decide whether to franchise-tag and pick up the $20 million option of Nick Foles — the beloved MVP of the 2018 Super Bowl and engineer of their late-season playoff run this season. If they don’t, he will simply walk away to free agency and the Eagles will receive no compensation.
Look, there is little chance the Eagles would retain Foles to replace Wentz. That is not happening, although there are those who wish it would. Signing him would be for the purpose of trading him and the Jacksonville Jaguars might be where he ends up.
Once Foles returns his company laptop, control of the Birds would be back in the hands of Wentz, their first-round pick (second overall) in 2016.
You can understand that if Wentz’s teammates don’t like or are distrustful of him, it could have the potential to negatively influence the Eagles’ future.
Well, sometimes time passes and what everyone discovers is there was more than a grain of truth in the original reporting. In other words, where there was smoke burns a five-alarm blaze.
Earlier this week, Wentz agreed to speak to a few members of the Eagles media corps. And not only did he use the time to acknowledge some aspects of the story were spot on, but he also issued what amounted to an apology, the my-bads of all my-bads.
“I know who I am, first of all. I know how I carry myself. I know I’m not perfect. I know I have flaws,” said Wentz at the Eagles practice facility. “So I’m not going to sit here and say it was inaccurate and completely made up. I’m not going to do that. But at the end of the day, I will say our locker room is really close. If there were guys that had issues, in hindsight, I wish we could have just talked about them. But, again, I don’t know how that all happened and everything with that.”
An important detail of the story claims the peevishness of Wentz did not just surface this season, when he reclaimed the starting job he’d lost in December 2017 after seriously injuring his knee. It was in full flight before the injury and it impacted his relationship with QB coach John DeFilippo and offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who both left the Eagles after their win in Super Bowl LII.
How do you think Wentz felt after seeing teammates quoted calling him egotistical, selfish and uncompromising? How do you think it made Eagles coach Doug Pederson feel?
“It’s never fun to read, but to an extent, you look at it and be like, ‘Well, if someone did have this perception of me, why? What have I done wrong? What can I get better at?'” said Wentz. “I realize I have my shortcomings. Yes, I can be selfish. I think we all have selfishness inside of us. There’s human elements to that, that I really look at and say, ‘Well, I can get better.’”
Wentz’s injury took longer than expected to heal and he did not re-emerge as Philadelphia’s starter until Week 3 in 2018. Foles started the first two games. And then Wentz was lost again with a back injury after an overtime loss at Dallas on Dec. 9. Foles not only rallied the Eagles into an NFC Wild Card berth, he also led them to a first-round win at No. 3 seed Chicago.
Watching Foles become a part of the city’s sports folklore must have been bruising to Wentz’s supersized ego. In fact, he blamed his baseline personality for the problem – and the resulting Philly Voice story.
“Any time you’re a Type A guy, there’s a fine line between being pushy and shovey and humble and humility and walking that line,” he said. “[I am] definitely learning to navigate that, always and never trying to look down on anybody or make it seem like I’m better than anybody. But at the same time, as a Type A, so to speak, confident person that’s confident in off-the-field things and then on the field with what we like, that’s not going to change. That’s not going to go anywhere. I think that’s something that is a positive if used correctly.”
Once Wentz became the starter again, it was immediately clear he and his team were struggling. The payback for all the good fortune the year before was underway. The Eagles and Giants fought each other to stay out of the NFC East cellar. It was not until Foles took over again with a 30-23 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 16 did the team begin to soar.
“Obviously, it was frustrating watching,” said Wentz. “Again, that’s the number one thing I remember the last two years was watching from the sidelines isn’t fun. I want to do everything I can to be healthy, to stay healthy and not have to do that again. I thought the offense, I thought it was great. I was ecstatic to see the guys rally. I think it was awesome for Nick to show there wasn’t a fluke. Nick’s a heck of a player. But at the same time, there’s the real emotions that, again the same thing, I want to be out there. Here we are again, and when I went down we were losing, and here we’re winning. There’s all those real emotions that you’ve got to battle.”
It’s natural now to expect the Eagles to wonder how much they should invest in Wentz, financially and spiritually. Not only did the team excel under Foles, the players seemed to embrace his soft-spoken style. One of the most interesting passages in the story was a respected veteran on the Eagles personally called out Wentz because of his attitude.
“I will say I didn’t know what that was about,” said Wentz.
The story also claimed Wentz was uncooperative with new offensive coordinator Mike Groh after he attempted to incorporate plays and schemes Foles made come alive. Wentz denied it – to a point.
“To say I was resistant to running his [Foles] stuff and then vice versa, there’s so many things to the X’s and O’s of the game, to just say a blanket statement like that just doesn’t necessarily do it justice,” said Wentz. “We both like different concepts but overall we’re running similar stuff. And we kind of base it off of, what’s the defense giving us … it’s such a blanket statement that there’s too many intricacies to that that don’t necessarily apply.”