Eagles coach could be in jeopardy as he struggles to use Wentz, Hurts effectively
PHILADELPHIA – The Eagles are sinking fast.
There's the starting quarterback in Carson Wentz whom everyone wants benched, whose every throw is either to the wrong place, or to a receiver who can't hold onto the ball.
And that's when Wentz has enough time to even throw the ball, which isn't often.
There's the backup quarterback in Jalen Hurts, whom the Eagles drafted in the second round last spring, who can't get on the field, or at least to the extent where he has the opportunity to show his skills as a passing and running threat.
And there's a beaten and frustrated coach in Doug Pederson who can't make any of this work.
So the drudgery continued Monday night in the Eagles' 23-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The Eagles are 3-7-1, and still, remarkably, a half game behind NFC East co-leaders in the Giants and Washington.
But really, the Eagles are so close to first place, yet so far away.
Pederson is stuck with Wentz because the Eagles signed him to a four-year extension worth as much as $128 million that begins next season. Yet the Eagles also used a second-round pick on Hurts.
And it's hard to justify Hurts as a gadget quarterback getting two snaps, like he did Monday night, when the Eagles could have used help at other positions during the draft.
So Pederson is stuck between trying to balance Wentz's psyche with getting Hurts some plays.
He's failing miserably at both. And yet, Pederson said Monday that he was fully on board with the decision to draft Hurts.
"Wherever we can add talent and depth, we’re going to do that," Pederson said. "The quarterback position not exempt from that. This is a sport where only one quarterback plays, and Carson is that player right now."
Pederson seems willing to stake his job on that. After all, it took Pederson until Week 12 to give Hurts a single play at quarterback with Wentz on the sideline. In Hurts' previous 31 snaps this season, Wentz was still on the field, lining up as a wide receiver when Hurts was at quarterback.
Lo and behold, Hurts threw a pass and completed it – a 6-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery, of all people.
"Listen, when Jalen’s on the field with Carson, defenses have been playing it a certain way," Pederson said after the game. "As we have evaluated those two together, putting Jalen on the field by himself presents a little different picture to the defense. That’s why we did it (Monday).
That moved the Eagles to a 3rd-and-8 situation. Wentz came back in, got sacked, and the Eagles punted.
When asked why not give Hurts another chance there, Pederson replied: "That was just my decision at the time, honestly. That’s it. My decision."
Will Wentz accept going to the sideline for Hurts to get a series of plays?
Wentz's words say one thing; his actions say another.
"When we’re stagnant like that as an offense, I’m all ears," Wentz said about using Hurts. "Whatever (Pederson) is confident in, however we can get some momentum or pick up a first down ... Obviously, it’s a tricky thing to navigate."
And it's becoming clear that Wentz is looking over his shoulder. No doubt, he has heard the clamoring for his job, and he's playing that way. Through the first 26 minutes of game time, Wentz had completed 2 of 8 passes for 4 yards.
He was skittish in the pocket, inaccurate, and his receivers didn't help. On the first series, Richard Rodgers dropped one pass and Jeffery another.
Meanwhile, reporters and TV cameras constantly focused on the sideline to see what Hurts was doing. Look! Hurts has his helmet. Look! Hurts is pacing the sideline.
"This is what you sign up for," Wentz said. "As a quarterback, ever since you’re a kid, you’re prepared for any of those (situations). Nothing’s ever guaranteed, and so for me, I don’t think about that. I just try to go out and be the best player I can be.
"I don’t think about those things. I give it everything I got every time I step on the field."
Through it all, Pederson twists and turns.
He wants to get Wentz "fixed," so to speak, because right now Wentz gives the Eagles the best chance to win.
But the more Wentz struggles, the more Pederson has to find ways to use Hurts, and the more that could cause Wentz to struggle further.
"It can be a little bit difficult for either one of the quarterbacks unless they can get multiple snaps," Pederson said. "That just didn’t happen. We had too many three-and-outs."
Well, one quarterback got multiple snaps. That was Wentz, of course. And he didn't do much with them.
Hurts is still waiting for his chance. Maybe that will happen Sunday against Green Bay (8-3), or perhaps the following week against the Saints (9-2).
But when it does, it won't be something to celebrate. It'll mean that the Eagles' slow march to a volatile offseason will be in full swing, with Pederson leading the way.
"At the end of the day, when stuff goes bad, we know that they're trying to weed out the ones that don't want to be here," defensive end Brandon Graham said, when asked if he feels like the team is playing for Pederson's job.
"I feel like Doug's got us fighting, and we're always going to fight for whoever is there. Definitely, for sure, we're trying to make sure we keep him here."
Contact Martin Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.