Carson Wentz is ruining it for rookies everywhere.
He’s supposed to be struggling, taking his lumps on the field and in the standings while he negotiates the NFL’s steep learning curve. Or, better yet, riding the bench, biding his time behind a veteran until coaches and the front office are satisfied he’s ready to take the reins for real.
Apparently no one told Wentz that.
Thrust into the starter’s role a little over two weeks ago after the trade of Sam Bradford, Wentz put on another impressive performance in Monday night’s 29-14 win over the Chicago Bears. Yes, his two starts have come against the NFL’s JV — with apologies to JVs everywhere — and there is a lot of football still to be played.
But the Philadelphia Eagles are 2-0, one of only three NFC teams that can say that. Anyone who claims they saw this coming when the No. 2 pick in the draft moved to the head of the class is lying.
“I’m feeling really good,” Wentz said. “I usually feel good even when bad plays happen. I’ve just got to keep plugging away. I feel confident.”
What has made Wentz’s debut so notable is that the Eagles are not winning in spite of him. Remember when Ben Roethlisberger took the Pittsburgh Steelers to the AFC Championship Game as a rookie? Sure, he had his moments, but it was the defense that carried that team.
That’s not the case here. Again, it’s early. But aside from not protecting himself better when he scrambles, Wentz is not making rookie mistakes.
He’s not making mistakes, period.
Wentz became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to begin a season 2-0 without committing a turnover, his accuracy and fluid throwing motion never giving opponents any openings. Wentz was “only” 21 of 34 Monday, but several of those incompletions were the fault of receivers with serious cases of the butterfingers.
Yes, Jordan Matthews, this means you.
A likely touchdown was turned into a field goal by Jacoby Glenn, who swatted a ball away from Philadelphia tight end Trey Burton on the goal line. And the Eagles had every right to howl about a no-call on Glenn for pass interference on a deep ball to Nelson Agholor.
Despite that, Wentz never got flustered. This was Monday Night Football, and there are many veteran quarterbacks who have faded under its bright lights. Yes, Jay Cutler, this means you.
But Wentz displayed what is fast becoming his trademark cool. He didn’t play harried or try to force things. He simply made plays, with some of the best coming under pressure.
He threw a 14-yard dart to Trey Burton with two defenders in his face — one who hit him in the head seconds later — to set up the field goal that would give Philadelphia the lead for good just before halftime. Earlier in the drive, he threaded the needle while on the run, resulting in an 18-yard completion to Agholor.
“The game is not too big for him,” Matthews said. “Whether it is Monday Night Football, Thursday morning practice, it’s going to be the same thing to him. He’s going to come out. He’s going to be poised. He’s going to make his reads. He’s going to make great decisions.
“I’m glad everybody got to see it on a national stage.”
Yes, now fans across the country can wonder what in the heck the Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns were thinking when they passed on Wentz. The angst is sure to be especially strong in Cleveland, which traded its pick to Philadelphia because the Browns brain trust didn’t think Wentz was a top 20 quarterback.
That same brain trust was searching the scrap heap for help Monday after the Browns lost their second quarterback of the season.
“Was it perfect? It was by no means perfect,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “At the same time, he’s seeing it very well and he’s commanding the huddle. It’s something a nine-, 10-year veteran would do. It’s showing his maturity and the ability that he has to play quarterback.”
Two games in, Wentz has set the bar high. For himself, and the rookies who follow him.
By Nancy Armour
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.