Wentz Down But Eagles Not Out
By Dave Gloeckner
*First posted on www.4thandgo.com
We’ve been quiet for a few days. Just letting it all sink in. But I’m not going to make you wait until Wednesday night to give you my emotions coming out of Bloody Sunday in LA. From Randall Cunningham to Donovan McNabb to Michael Vick, we’ve seen crucial quarterback injuries at the wrong time. They seem to happen to us just when we think we have it figured out. And when Carson Wentz, a favorite for NFL MVP, went limping into the locker room on Sunday, the latest “Oh Shit” moment struck our passionate hearts like a newly sharpened dagger.
This was the year. Along with the stellar play from our hometown heroes, the football stars were aligning perfectly. We saw Aaron Rodgers collarbone shatter in Minneapolis, Zeke Elliott tear down the Cowboys, the McAdoo Saga, and the Seahawks D fall apart at the seams. The path was clearer than pane of glass on the Comcast building. This led to more and more feathered fans flocking to away games to watch our beloved Birds trounce over the next opponent. It was an unplanned opportunity for us to walk through other cities puffing our chest. This was our year and we’re coming to your city, tearing it up, and walking out of your stadium singing our fight song. From Washington, to LA, to Dallas and more, the Stadium Takeover was real. And as the season continued to evolve, we all started thinking about the unthinkable. We have to book hotels in Minnesota. Should we fly or drive? Where are the best parties at?
But all the sudden it came to a stop. On Sunday evening at 7:07 EST our train of positivity crashed. My first reaction to Carson walking off the field and to the locker room was panic. He just led the Eagles to their 4th TD, moving them ahead 31-28 in the biggest game of his career. How could he be hurt? He can’t be hurt? Maybe it’s a tweak. No, Not us!
Unfortunately, all the initial reports from the sidelines and locker rooms came out to be true. Why these people couldn’t be weatherman accurate boggles my mind. Left ACL tear. Out for the season. We’re *@&#^%!
But I let it sink it for a few hours, then a few days, and tried to look at this team without the microscope. If you asked me the question “Can We Win Without Carson Wentz” each day of the year before today, my answer would have been “No”. But the immediate reactions aren’t always the clearest. Yes, Carson Wentz is the Philadelphia Eagles best player. He’s the heart and soul of this team and quite possibly a top 5 QB in the league already. Losing #11 diminishes our chances to do great things. However, this team isn’t built around 1 player. It’s more than that. They are a team of 53 strong, built by the exuding confidence from their coaches to be a singular unit that can’t be broken by losing one brick. The love this team has for each other is something that isn’t measurable and can’t be computed. It’s an intangible object that is fueling them to places that can’t be reached without the total togetherness and trust they have for one another.
It’s been a common theme all year, Next Man Up. We’ve seen the Eagles lose impact players to season ending injuries such as Darren Sproles, Chris Maragos, Jason Peters and Jordan Hicks. And they haven’t skipped a beat. 11-2. All because they are glued together with an unbreakable bond. When the offense has struggled, the defense rose to the occasion. When the defense broke down, the offense responded with a score. And mixed in all of that have been the heroics from the special teams. From Jake Elliott kicking 61 yard field goals to returners flipping the field (think Kenyon Barner). Each unit has made game changing plays when they needed. All to help out their brothers to reach the end goal, WIN!
So what makes losing Carson Wentz any different than what they’ve already endured? I realize it is the most important position in all of sports and he is an MVP candidate. What Carson does in the pocket can’t be replicated or reproduced. I understand all of that.
But I know that Nick Foles is a viable backup. He has had success in the league and is not too long removed from one of the most impressive season’s in NFL history (27 and 2, need I say more). He is not Carson Wentz and won’t be asked to be. He’s the Next Man Up and this team will rally around Nick and give him every resource possible to help this team succeed. You see, success is not a singular outcome that has a defined direction. John Wooden, the legendary college basketball coach, defined it as “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming”. For the Eagles to be the best they are capable of becoming, they will need to change how they’ve played to get to this point. They won’t have at their disposal a quarterback who can bail them out of precarious situations. One that can put them on their back and hide any flaws or deficiencies. Instead, they will now need to dial it in a focus on a different game plan. No more DB’s short cutting routes, looking for a turnover. Now, they’ll need to keep the ball in front of them. Bend but don’t break. Squeeze the opposition until it runs out of breath. Very similar to how Jimmy Johnson used to coach his defenses.
As for the offense, it will need to employ more balance. The running game is ranked 2nd in the league and now needs to become the primary focus. At quarterback, Foles will need to ensure he gets the ball out of his hands fast. The routes will be shorter and less complex all to take advantage of Nick’s strengths. From what I’ve seen in the past, we can’t have Foles hold onto the ball and look too far down the field.
So today, as I sit here and start to think about what this team is and how they’ve gotten this far, I want to ask that same question from before; “Can We Win Without Carson Wentz”. And my answer is Yes. It will take a newly defined game plan, one with less risk and more ball control. This won’t be the high flying, 32 points per game, team that we saw for the first 13 games. But they have the talent and more importantly the cohesiveness to pick each other up. I believe in this team. They have built something truly special and they’re not ready to let another damaged cog derail this team. Next Man Up. Get Your Brother’s Back. We’re In This Together. We are Philadelphia and We Fight.