Doug Pederson didn’t expect to be here: 3-8-1 with four games to go and faced with the reality that the Philadelphia Eagles benched their franchise quarterback to start an untested rookie.
Pederson named Jalen Hurts the starting quarterback for the Eagles on Sunday, and Carson Wentz is likely to back him up.
“I never thought, way back in April, did I ever think this would happen? No,” Pederson said Wednesday. “Take Carson Wentz out of it. I didn’t expect us to be in this situation back in April.”
The situation is dire. According to NFL Network, Pederson met with team leaders on Monday and informed them the Eagles are all playing for their future the final month of the season.
What message Pederson is sending by turning to Hurts is not entirely clear. The issue was confused to some degree two weeks ago when Pederson told reporters that sitting Wentz would be akin to raising the flag of surrender on the 2020 season.
He bristled at the idea Wednesday, adding that Hurts is in for Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints and all personnel decisions can be evaluated again before next week’s game.
“My expectation is to go out and prepare and try to win every game we play,” Pederson said. “Listen, just like I said after the football game Sunday, I was looking for a spark from our offense, and a lot of times it comes from putting your quarterback on the bench for the backup, and that’s all I’m looking for here. I’m looking for a little spark, a little shot in the arm to pick the offense up.
“Everybody around Jalen or around Carson has to elevate their game. We can’t do this – they can’t do this alone, right. They can’t do this. It’s impossible to attack an opponent with just one guy, but I fully expect our guys to go out, play hard and do everything they can to try and win.”
Before the change was officially announced, Wentz was one of the team leaders who sat down with Pederson. Among other team leaders were center Jason Kelce and defensive end Brandon Graham.
Kelce said Wednesday that Hurts starting over Wentz isn’t the story in Philadelphia.
“This more comes down to a failure of pretty much every position, including the coaches, to facilitate a functioning offense,” Kelce said. “That’s the biggest story here. Not the Hurts is picked and there’s some sort of internal battle and struggle going on with Carson Wentz.”
The meeting, however, is nothing new under Pederson. He did the same thing almost one year ago, challenging team leaders to run a padded practice in December before a push to the playoffs.
In the NFC East, the Eagles aren’t yet eliminated from the postseason conversation. The New York Giants and Washington Football Team are atop the standings at 5-7. Philadelphia’s last two games are against the Cowboys and Washington, but likely playoff-bound New Orleans (10-2) and Arizona (6-6) are up first.
Wentz was benched Sunday in the third quarter of Sunday’s 30-16 loss to Green Bay after completing just six of 15 pass attempts for 79 yards. Hurts, the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2019, was 5-of-12 passing for 109 yards, throwing one touchdown pass and one interception as his replacement.
Wentz, 27, is in the midst of the worst season of his five-year career. He leads the league in interceptions (15) and sacks (50), and is 31st in completion percentage (57.4).
Pederson said Wednesday that Wentz is frustrated but still has a chance to “be a great quarterback in this league.”