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Krykslants: Eagles stuck with Wentz, benched or not

Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles is sacked by Kingsley Keke #96 and Preston Smith #91 of the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Wentz was benched in the Packers' win.
Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles is sacked by Kingsley Keke #96 and Preston Smith #91 of the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Wentz was benched in the Packers' win.

Many Philadelphia Eagles fans would love it if Wentz returned whence he came, back to the boonies in North Dakota.

Thing is, they’re stuck with him.

Whether Eagles head coach Doug Pederson keeps the 2016 No. 2 overall draft pick as his starter for this week, or beyond, has yet to be decided — and Pederson said Monday that decision will be made by him and him alone.

Regardless, the finances of the monster contract the club signed Wentz to a year ago June — for $128 million through 2024 — as much cement the under-performing 27-year-old to the Eagles through next season.

According to the pro-salaries website Spotrac.com, Wentz in 2021 will earn a $15.4-million salary and an additional $16 million in bonuses, for an actual salary-cap hit of $34.7 million but a whopping $59.2-million “dead cap” penalty should the Eagles either cut or trade him before next season.

That would be debilitating in any season, but especially next year. The team salary-cap limit is expected to plummet from this year’s $198.2 million, because it’s annually tied to league revenues, and game-day income league-wide is taking a butt-kicking in 2020, what with few fans attending any of the 256 games.

The Eagles do have an escape clause in Wentz’s contract they could exercise before the 2022 season, wherein the dead-cap figure would plunge to $24.6 million, per Spotrac.com.

But before March 2022 you can practically be assured Wentz isn’t going anywhere.

Now, whether he starts another game for the Eagles is another matter — and the most pressing matter in Philly these days, U.S. presidential recounts included.

In Wentz’s worst outing yet as an Eagle in Sunday’s 30-16 loss at Green Bay, Pederson finally benched him, and not just for a play or two. Wentz was horrific, completing just 6-of-15 for 79 yards and no touchdowns, against four sacks and appreciably more pressures and hurries.

Yes, the Eagles offensive line remains a patchwork horror show, with the starting fivesome changing practically by the week. That’s all on GM Howie Roseman. But Wentz now is playing like a flustered, startled, panicked passer on virtually every drop-back. That’s on him, and Pederson too.

With Philly trailing 14-3 at the half, after Wentz had gone 5-of-12 for 38 yards against four sacks, Pederson must have made up his mind to allow his franchise QB one more chance to get his act together.

On Philly’s first possession of the third quarter Wentz hit tight end Dallas Goedert for 41 yards up the middle, but then threw two bad incompletions. That was it.

Pederson turned to rookie backup Jalen Hurts for the rest of the game. Down 20-3 at that point, Hurts provided the Eagles offence a needed spark. He finished 5-of-12 for 109 yards, but did find receiver Greg Ward deep for a 32-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, before the teams exchanged late scores.

So, who’s the Eagles’ starting quarterback this week?

“I have not made a decision yet,” Pederson told reporters Monday. “I’m still processing a lot of things.”

What things will go into that decision?

“I would like to keep those private,” Pederson said, “so that’s just between me and me.”

Does that mean it will be just Pederson making the decision? Yes.

“I don’t feel like I need to communicate with anybody — players, other coaches … It will solely be up to me.”

What did Wentz do, or not do, that prompted Pederson to yank him?

“I don’t want to get into the specifics … I don’t necessarily need to publicly air all our critical mistakes and errors … I’m not going to sit here and point the finger, or point blame, especially at the quarterback position because there’s enough to go around.”

How did he think Hurts played in his quarter-and-a-half?

“He played OK.”

Is Pederson going to make the decision with next season in mind, or is the fact the Eagles might be just 3-8-1 but are only a game-and-a-half out of the lead in the woeful NFC East a factor too?

“My focus right now is New Orleans and this week, and that’s all I’m focused on,” he said. “I’m not focused on the next week, the (last) four games, next month, next season … I expect to get this football team ready to play this week against New Orleans.”

Pederson said ideally he’d like to keep his decision under wraps until game time Sunday, but as much said he realizes that in that media Philly market, the news would be unlikely NOT to leak. So …

“As soon as I make a decision I’ll probably let you know sooner than later,” he said.

Crazy thing is, the Eagles could win the division with a hot finish and thus play host to a first-round playoff game.

If Hurts should finish the season as starter, it’d be the third time in four years Wentz watched someone else QB the team from late December into January — down the pre-playoff stretch and potentially into the post-season. The other two times (2017, 2018) he was injured and Nick Foles shone in the post-season.

Wentz had better find his confidence again, and fast, lest Hurts makes like the next Foles.

FIVE FAST FACTS

The Giants own the second longest win streak (four) in the NFC, after the Saints (nine) … Cleveland is 9-3 but still has a minus-15 point differential … Kirk Cousins has 15 TDs and 11 INTs in the first three quarters, but 11 TDs and one INT in the fourth … Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady are the only QBs yet to be intercepted on third down … Four of the top 11 individual passing performances of 2020, yardage-wise, came against Seattle.

FAST NEWS

A day before their night game at Baltimore, Dallas placed all-pro guard Zack Martin — now playing right tackle — on injured reserve (calf). The earliest he could return is in Week 17 … Chicago head coach Matt Nagy said he believes he has the support of upper management. Sure he does … Boomer Esiason hinted strongly on his Monday radio show not only that Hall of Fame head coach Bill Cowher might want to unretire, but to come back and coach the New York Jets. That’s funny … The league announced new protocols for hiring GMs, assistant GMs, head coaches and coordinators as a result of the pandemic. Interviews before the playoffs — and during if the candidate is on a team still vying for the Super Bowl — must be conducted virtually, not in-person.

TAKING A KNEE

Of course Gregg Williams got fired Monday. Not even he, with all his arrogance, could have been surprised.

As former NFL GM Mike Lombardi said on sports betting network VSIN, the only surprise was that it took the New York Jets that long to give their defensive coordinator the boot, following his still-hard-to-believe decision Sunday to send eight pass rushers (with one coming up late as a spy) and drop only three defenders into coverage, with New York up four on Las Vegas in the waning seconds, and the Raiders in possession just past midfield.

Raiders QB Derek Carr loved it. He evaded all rushers and hit his speedy rookie Henry Ruggs on an out-and-up move up the left sideline for an easy game-winning touchdown.

It might technically be a Hail Mary, but Williams’ jaw-dropper made the winning score far likelier than any prayer.

And that’s the tragedy if, like me, you hate it when defences in the final moments of a game passively send only two or three pass rushers, and drop eight or nine into coverage — only to lose on a fluke catch or deflected catch. I always say you could drop 20 into coverage like that and still lose too often on a fluke, by giving the QB too much time to launch a pass deep.

Williams, for years to come, has just made it impossible for any head coach or defensive coordinator to be aggressive in such a defensive play-calling situation. We’re going to see two- and three-man rushes galore.

And that’s wrong.

See, in football or any sport, you should never, ever, ever do what the other team wants you to do. And in Hail Mary situations, the offence — especially the quarterback — hopes you don’t rush more than two or three men at him.

Ask Aaron Rodgers if he agrees. You’ve seen him dance around all day in the backfield, buying time until his receivers got far down the field — thereby making his 4-5 memorable career Hail Mary completions possible.

But that can’t be done if the QB hasn’t got more than the usual amount of time to throw, which is always required in that situation.

I’d always want my team’s defensive coordinator to rush three or four but also send in someone late on a blitz — someone to startle the QB and disrupt matters.

But to send seven or eight defenders? That’s just nuts, and that’s just begging to be burned — as the Jets were.

Especially when you consider Williams had a slow, undrafted rookie cornerback lined up man-to-man against Ruggs, the fastest receiver in April’s NFL Draft.

There’s aggressive, then there’s recklessly over-aggressive. Williams was the latter. Apparently, though, that’s what he has long done in such situations, and coaches and player around the league know it. If so, you can bet Raiders coach Jon Gruden did.
At age 63, Williams might not ever get a chance again to make such a call.

As for the Jets, Williams’ stupidity might well have cost the 0-12 Jets their last chance to win a game this season, and thus avoid becoming only the third team in NFL history to go 0-16.

Winless and witless. Heckuva year for the Jets.

Panthers now have 10 players on COVID-19/reserve

Eight more Carolina Panthers players were placed Monday on COVID-19/reserve, the club announced.

That includes the Panthers’ top two receivers, Curtis Samuel and D.J. Moore.

Defensive tackles Derrick Brown and Zach Kerr, linebacker Shaq Thompson, offensive tackle Greg Little, punter Michael Palardy and practice-squad receiver Ishmael Hyman are the others.

They join defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos and practice-squad tackle Bruce Hector on COVID-19/reserve — making it 10 players in all since late last week who either are infected with the coronavirus, or are high-risk close contacts of someone who is.

The Panthers on Sunday are scheduled to play host to the Denver Broncos, who just a week ago had to play New Orleans without any quarterbacks, as all were on COVID-19/reserve.

Report: Lynn safe for now as Chargers coach

Anthony Lynn remains head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, and he’ll keep his job at least until season’s end.

This, according to NFL Network on Monday.

Still, Lynn’s reign as Chargers head coach appears to be coming to an end. The 51-year-old’s record dropped to 29-31 after his worst loss yet in four years in charge, 45-0 to New England.

There was speculation Lynn would be fired in the hours afterward, but apparently not. The Chargers’ only wins in this season have come against 2-9-1 Cincinnati, 1-11 Jacksonville and the 0-12 New York Jets.

Should Lynn eventually be fired, rumoured replacements include Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh.

QUARTERBACK RANKINGS

All 32 starting QBs, after Sunday games, with last week’s rankings in brackets:

  1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City (1). 31 TD passes, 2 INTs.
  2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (2). 36 TD passes, 4 INTs.
  3. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (4). Played Monday night.
  4. Deshaun Watson, Houston (5). One-man show if there ever was.
  5. Russell Wilson, Seattle (3). Looking flustered most weeks now.
  6. Josh Allen, Buffalo (7). Played Monday night.
  7. Justin Herbert, LA Chargers (8). Another rookie, Belichick-ed.
  8. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee (9). Impressive comeback bid.
  9. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay (6). Was idle in Week 13.
  10. Philip Rivers, Indianapolis (10). 285 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs.
  11. Derek Carr, Las Vegas (11). Before the Hail Murray, meh.
  12. Matt Ryan, Atlanta (13). Saints defence has his number.
  13. Jared Goff, LA Rams (15). No picks, no fumbles. Good.
  14. Matthew Stafford, Detroit (16). 409 yards vs. the Bears.
  15. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland (18). Easily his best half as a pro.
  16. Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina (14). Was idle in Week 13.
  17. Kyler Murray, Arizona (12). Foes have him figured out now?
  18. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore (17). Expected back Tuesday.
  19. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota (19). Most. Enigmatic. QB. Ever.
  20. Tua Tagovailoa, Miami (NR). Good not great vs. Bengals.
  21. Alex Smith, Washington (22). Played Monday night.
  22. Colt McCoy, NY Giants (NR). Hey, his first win since 2014.
  23. Andy Dalton, Dallas (25). On Tuesday plays at Baltimore.
  24. Cam Newton, New England (21). 153 pass yards last 2 games.
  25. Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago (27). Let down by his defence!
  26. Drew Lock, Denver (26). 13 INTs in his last 7 starts.
  27. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia (23). 6/15, 79 yards, 4 sacks.
  28. Mike Glennon, Jacksonville (29). Two costly picks at Vikings.
  29. Sam Darnold, NY Jets (30). Clear improvement, nearly won.
  30. Nick Mullens, San Fran (28). Played Monday night.
  31. Taysom Hill, New Orleans (32). Still a gadget guy, sorry.
  32. Brandon Allen, Cincinnati (31). Rough second start at Miami.

THIS WEEK

Quick thoughts on Week 14 games (all on Sunday unless noted):

  • Patriots at Rams , Thursday, 8:20 ET: New England’s second game at SoFi Stadium in five days.
  • Broncos at Panthers , 1 ET: This game now endangered with 10 Carolina players on COVID-19/reserve.
  • Texans at Bears , 1 ET: If Stafford and the Lions can roll up 460 yards on the Bears, mygosh what’ll Deshaun do?
  • Cowboys at Bengals , 1 ET: Andy Dalton returns to Cincinnati. Get used to hearing that this week.
  • Titans at Jaguars , 1 ET: For a 1-10 team, Doug Marrone sure has Jags competitive in a lot of games.
  • Chiefs at Dolphins , 1 ET: Interesting matchup. Dolphins defenders are ball hawks but bleed yards.
  • Cardinals at Giants , 1 ET: A month ago, everyone would have predicted an Arizona romp. Not now.
  • Vikings at Buccaneers , 1 ET: Loser’s NFC wild-card playoff chances takes a big hit with a loss.
  • Colts at Raiders , 4:05 ET: The result of this game might well decide an AFC wild-card berth come Jan. 3.
  • Jets at Seahawks , 4:05 ET: The two worst pass defences known to mankind. Or at least in the NFL in ’20.
  • Packers at Lions , 4:25 ET: Detroit’s defence is still terrible but this could be a fun shootout.
  • Falcons at Chargers , 4:25 ET: Top 10 draft positions are on the line in the Reset Button Bowl.
  • Saints at Eagles , 4:25 ET: Who’ll be the starting QB … for both teams? Hill? Brees? Wentz? Hurts?
  • Washington FT ‘at’ 49ers , 4:25 ET: Second consecutive ‘home’ game for Niners in Arizona.
  • Steelers at Bills , 8:20 ET: Imagine the atmosphere for the first Sunday-nighter in Buffalo since 2007. Shame.
  • Ravens at Browns , Monday, 8:15 ET: Imagine if they’d cut off betting on this one back in summer.

BYES: None. All done.

[email protected]

@JohnKryk

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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