2016 Week #1: Eagles vs. Browns

Last week at this time, the plan was for Carson Wentz to practice riding his bike, complete with training wheels, in the school parking lot, while all the other kids would be riding over the river and through the woods to the playground to hang out with the “big boys”.

Fast forward to the present and much has changed since then.  The trade that sent last year’s starting quarteback, Sam Bradford, to the Vikings, elevated Wentz’s status from “watch and learn” to “learn under fire”.  But how did he get to this point so quickly?

My initial reaction after the Bradford trade was that the Eagles were recreating their own Broadway play titled “1999”, with the following cast of characters:

1) Coach Doug Pederson starring as first-year head coach Andy Reid.  “Big Red”, as you may recall, was not really anyone else’s first choice to become a head coach (sound familiar Doug Pederson?).

2) Quarterback Chase Daniel starring as Eagles starting quarterback Doug Pederson (yes, the same guy who is now our head coach), who was the Eagles quarterback to start the 1999 season, and was expected to be the ‘placeholder’ for the position till Donovan McNabb was deemed ready for primetime.

3) Rookie Carson Wentz starring as first-round draft pick (and #2 overall pick) Donovan McNabb, which is exactly where Wentz was drafted as well.

If you didn’t think things could get even more weird, Prince, who sang the hit song “1999”, was a Minnesota native, which is where Sam Bradford was traded to.      .

Eagles fans, while voicing mixed reviews (since no one really knows how the ending will turn out) expressed disappointment that the play did not bring back 1) $30 seats in the 700-level, 2) “Sign-man” and 3) Judge Seamus McCaffery and his famous “Eagles court”.

The trade of Bradford to Minnesota explains Wentz moving up at least one spot in the pecking order from a third-string QB to the backup.  But one week ago, Wentz was a rookie who had two quarters of NFL preseason playing experience and three games of being injured.  All the talk was about the rookie sitting, learning, and healing.  How did Wentz go from #3 to #1 in such a short span of time?

In the Eagles ideal world, they would have probably preferred to have Chase Daniel start the season and Wentz be the backup, so that they would be “quarterbacking like it’s 1999”. The problem in all of this was that Daniel did nothing to inspire confidence among the brass that he could actually run the offense with any consistency, struggling in the preseason against backups and third-stringers.

The Eagles will try to word this as if to heap praise on rookie Wentz for his football acumen, since the alternative is to admit that signing Daniel as the backup (for $7 million no less) might just have been a really BAD idea.

While no one is saying so publicly, if Carson Wentz gets hurt again and Daniel (the former Chiefs backup) has to play for any extended period of time, Chase may end up getting “chased” out of town and Eagles fans may take up sewing and basket weaving as hobbies to kill time on what could become a series of dismal Sunday fall afternoons.

The best hope for Eagles fans is that the rookie gets brought along slowly while the running game, defense, and special teams keep them in games, especially at the start of the season.

The schedule makers made things easy on the Birds for the opener, giving them the Cleveland Browns at home.  The Browns have been the “mistake by the lake” since their return to the NFL in 1999, compiling only two winning seasons, one playoff appearance, and zero playoff wins in that span.

In continuing the ironies from above, it was the Browns who had the rights to the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft and could have drafted Carson Wentz.  Instead, they traded his rights to the Eagles for a plethora of draft picks.

It was also the Browns who had the 1st overall draft pick in 1999 and could have spent it on Donovan McNabb. Instead, they chose to draft Tim Couch, who ended up spending more time watching football on the couch than on the field.

The moral of the story?  Always do the opposite of what the Cleveland Browns will do.

The Eagles have a great opportunity to start the season on the right foot.  They would do well to get off to an early lead, as a first half deficit against a bad team will surely have the natives restless and howling, which would not bode well for young Carson’s confidence.

Birds win the opener and Carson does okay, which is all we can ask at this point.

The Last Word:

What I’m looking forward to, more than anything else, while sitting at my seat at the Linc this upcoming Sunday, is the standing ovation that young Carson Wentz will receive the first time he heads onto the field to lead the offense.

Unlike Kevin Kolb, Nick Foles, and Sam Bradford before him, let’s hope his name is one we hear for years to come in an Eagles uniform.   If not, the period from 201o to 2019 could well be remembered as a “lost decade” for Eagles fans…and another decade without a championship.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week (all times in EST and on Sunday unless noted otherwise):

Panthers at Broncos 8:30 PM NBC (Thurs) – Game of the Week

Bengals at Jets 1:00 PM CBS

Patriots at Cardinals 8:30 PM NBC

Steelers at Redskins 7:10 PM ESPN (Mon)

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