Trailing by 17 midway through the third quarter of Sunday's eventual 30-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson turned to Jalen Hurts to, in his words, create a “spark.”
The spark will now set Philly ablaze with speculation about the future of Carson Wentz.
The working theory has been that the selection of Hurts in the second round of April's draft sunk Wentz's confidence. Despite the $128 million extension signed last year, Wentz has played like someone with sapped self-assurance.
The once-upon-a-time MVP candidate disagrees with that assessment.
"No. I'm not the type to worry about and look over my shoulder or any of those things," Wentz said after Sunday's loss, via Pro Football Talk. "I think at the end of the day, I can play better. We can, as a team, and as an offense especially, play better. There's always going to be different things going on in the building or different chatter and all of that stuff. That's part of this business. That's what I signed up for. The scrutiny, the challenges, the adversity, all of it. I've got to handle it all -- the good, bad and the ugly."
Uglier it will become.
Pederson benched Wentz at the 7:39 mark of the third quarter, inserting Hurts after five drives in which the incumbent netted a single field goal. Wentz completed six of 15 passes (40 percent) for 79 yards passing on 5.3 yards per attempt and took four sacks.
"I didn't know what the plan was fully," Wentz said of being replaced. "I was just told he was going in for the next play and the next series. I didn't really know what was going on there. Obviously, that's frustrating, as a competitor and the personality I have. I want to be the guy out there. It is what it is. They made the call today. At the end of the day, we lost. That's the most frustrating thing."
Hurts provided said spark on his first drive, but a penalty scuttled the possession. His second drive ended with a TD pass. A punt return score from Jalen Reagor closed the gap to seven points. The Packers then closed the game with a touchdown and game-sealing INT. Hurts certainly helped bring a dull Eagles offense to life, even if it was against a defense content to hold a lead.
Pederson remained mum on who his quarterback would be moving forward.
Asked if he'd made a decision on his QB Monday morning during his weekly radio hit on 94 WIP in Philly, Pederson said "no," a stance he maintained a few hours later with local media.
"I'm going to look at a lot of things," Pederson explained. "Where we are as a team, honestly. Just go back and evaluate the position. When I make my mind up, I'll know, but I'm not there yet."
So the waiting game continues.
"At the end of the day, it's outside of my control," Wentz said. "That's not for me [to decide]. I know what I'm capable of. I know I can play better. I have never doubted myself or lost my confidence in my abilities. But a lot of these things are out of my control."
It's been a far fall for Wentz since his 2017 knee injury, then a back issue, then playing with a dearth of weapons and a sunk offensive line. His 2020 has been abominable. Wentz has lacked consistency, made awful decisions in throwing a league-leading 15 INTs, and held onto the ball much too long allowing for some of his NFL-high 50 sacks (10 more than the next closest).
The franchise QB has possibly played himself out of a job this season.
With the Eagles on the hook for a nearly $35 million cap hit next year, they are in a tricky situation moving forward with a QB who has a bad case of the yips and a second-round pick waiting in the wings. With Pederson reportedly on the hot seat, and the Eagles falling further behind in the woeful NFC East, Philly's next move under center is anyone's best guess.