Legitimately waiting all day for Monday night…
• Here are the passer ratings for Carson Wentz’s last five starts: 71.0, 56.6, 102.9, 66.3, 31.4.
So in my estimation, and the estimation of NFL people who’ve worked for him, this is the end of the road for him as a starter. Maybe he plays against Dallas, maybe he doesn’t (either way, I’ve heard we’ll at least see some Sam Howell on Sunday). Regardless, I don’t think anything Wentz does could change the grim reality of the situation.
And that begs the question—what the hell happened?
In 2016, he was so good in camp that he convinced them Eagles to burn his redshirt when a trade surfaced to send Sam Bradford to Minnesota. In 2017, pre-ACL tear, he was the frontrunner to be MVP of the league, leading a team that’d go on to win the Super Bowl. And since then, there have been more injuries, and a downward spiral that Wentz has seemed endlessly trapped in.
Thing is, a lot of people who worked with him in Indy and Washington actually liked the guy. More than just that, they see a player who has been willing to try to fix his flaws. The conclusion that most have seemingly reached? As a quarterback, he may be broken.
He can make things look right in practice. In games, though, everything has to be perfect around him. If it isn’t, he has a way of freezing up and reverting to bad habits, he hasn’t been able to conquer at game speed. The result is passing up a wide-open receiver who has his first read on some plays, and throwing into coverage on others. Compounding the issue is that he is no longer athletic enough to escape and break tackles. He’s become, in a lot of ways, a statue back there, which makes him, to defenders, a fish in a barrel.
Maybe everyone should’ve seen this coming last year, because the fact that it didn’t work with then-Colts coach Frank Reich—who put kills and alerts on everything to allow Wentz to easily bail from plays even when he shouldn’t, and runs a very quarterback-friendly system—was a very real red flag.
As for what’s next, as I said this morning, I wouldn’t be shocked if his career goes the way that Bradford’s did, in large part because, like Bradford, he’s made his money, and probably wouldn’t fit in great as a backup most places. It’s all kind of a shame, because I think Wentz is a good-hearted, well-meaning and talented guy.
It’s hard to make it at that position in the NFL.
• On Sunday night, after his first comeback from a double-digit deficit as a pro, I wanted to ask Brock Purdy about his circumstances—having been the last pick in the draft, on one hand; but going to the Niners, playing for Kyle Shanahan, and with Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk and Trent Williams on the other.
I’ll say it didn’t seem lost on him what he walked into.
“I’m a faith-based guy, and for me, man, I’m grateful for everything that happens and for how it happens,” he said. “I don’t get mad if something doesn’t go my way or anything like that. I’m a competitor and I want to be the best, yes. But where I fell in the draft and everything, that’s all… for me, I look at it like it’s in God’s plan. And so I knew that he had something written up for it and a reason.
“I just had to believe in it and just take it day by day. I’m not saying I’ve made it, or I have everything figured out, but it’s just cool to see how it works.”
Over the last couple of months, it’s fair to say a lot of things have worked out for Purdy.
• To me, the most interesting quirk to the Week 18 schedule was how the NFL declined to put the only game guaranteed to have stakes for both teams in it, Jaguars–Titans, in the Sunday night slot. At least on the surface, it looks like NBC and the league passed on it to grab that star power Packers–Lions brings with an ability to put Aaron Rodgers on the marquee.
But that’s a dice roll, for sure.
If the Seahawks beat the Rams, which seems like a fair bet, then the Lions will be eliminated from the playoff picture, and left to play spoiler at Lambeau. If Seattle loses, then it’s a win-or-in for both teams.
• How do the Seahawks view that? I asked Geno Smith, with the fate of his Comeback Player of the Year-worthy season hanging not just on what Seattle does Sunday, but also with what happens in primetime.
“Yeah, it’s tough,” Smith told me. “We had a chance to control our own destiny at the midway point through the season, and obviously we hit a rough patch and now we need some help from Detroit. … The thing about us is that we gotta win next week in order to have a shot, so we can only control what we can control and stay focused on that.”
At the very least, a win Sunday would give the Seahawks a winning record and a two-game improvement over last year, which has to be considered a win in the franchise’s first post-Russell Wilson season. And considering that they’re likely to have a top-five pick, and will bring back a banner 2022 draft class next year, there’s little question that Seattle is back on the way up.
Now, with free agency beckoning, a big question left is whether Smith will be going up with them.
• Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel told reporters Monday he’s preparing to start Teddy Bridgewater or Skylar Thompson (depending on the health of Bridgewater’s pinky) on Sunday against the Jets, with Tua Tagovailoa remaining in the concussion protocol. Miami can make the playoffs with a win and a Patriots loss in Buffalo.
Either way, it’s looking like the chances of Tagovailoa’s season is over are strong. And that means the team’s information-gathering on its third-year quarterback, ahead of this offseason’s decision on his fifth-year option for 2024, is probably complete.
Would you guarantee Tagovailoa between $25 million and $30 million for 2024 today? Would you try to extend him at a higher rate than that? Or would you be OK going into 2023 with your quarterback in a contract year? And if you’re willing to do that, is there another quarterback, like the one on the other side of the state, you’d rather have on a year-to-year basis?
Part of ownership’s idea in investing in Mike McDaniel, Tyreek Hill and Terron Armstead last year was to get the best answers to those questions. Whether they have those or not now, they’ll have to have some answers for them.
• It’s hardly a surprise that Josh Dobbs is getting the nod over Malik Willis for the Titans this week, based on how Dobbs was able to operate the offense and how Tennessee has struggled with Willis at the controls. It’s also probably an indicator for this offseason, that Willis’s presence won’t prevent the team from pouring more resources into the position.
Remember, 2023 is a contract year, and a non-guaranteed one at that, for Ryan Tannehill. And while it’s tough to predict what a team that doesn’t have a GM right now will do at quarterback, I think at the very least it’s fair to expect the Titans will vet their options at the position, both in the draft and veteran market . This team is aging in some key spots and could be primed for one last good run—or something of a reset.
• I’ll be interested to see how Jalen Hurts looks this week against the Giantswith the Giants locked into the sixth seed and his Eagles getting a third shot at locking up the top seed.
Hurts had so much momentum earlier in the year, and it’s certainly fair to wonder if it will take a few series for him to get his sea legs back. On the flip side, this might be a blessing in disguise, in that Philly may have rested him this week had they locked up the first seed, and then we’d be talking about Hurts potentially going into the playoffs after five weeks off (counting the bye week) to heal up his shoulder.
• The Texans-Colts game on Sunday will be interesting, just from an effort perspective—who’ll come to play, and whose mind will already be in that first tee box? It may seem like an irrelevant question, but how the teams and individual players show up could well color some decision-making for each team in the offseason, with the big question being for both whether they end short tenures for their incumbent head coaches on Monday or not.
• Sometimes, I think we go overboard on protecting guys from injury. And the situation in Chicago is one good example of that. As long as there’s no risk of further injury, I’m playing Justin Fields if I’m Matt Eberflus. More than anything, Fields needs to keep getting reps, especially in the passing game, so this is another opportunity to get him those.
If there is a risk of further injury, then, well, we’re obviously talking about something else, because you don’t want him spending his offseason rehabbing, rather than training for 2023.
• Joe Burrow vs. Josh Allen is a matchup we’ll be watching for, with some good luck, in the next decade or so in the AFC. And with Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson and Trevor Lawrence in the conference too, it could be rough going for any AFC team that doesn’t have a guy like that for the foreseeable future.
So here’s one thing I picked up calling around ahead of Bills-Bengals—respect for Burrow in the NFL is sky high. Which is to say he’s seen as being right there with Allen and Mahomes, and positioned to have the Bengals with the Bills and Chiefs long-term.
“The ball’s out so fast with him,” said one longtime AFC exec. “That’s a trait he showed at LSU. In college, you knew he had it, and he’s gotten better and better and better at it. He’s a top-level quarterback, for sure. Whatever top tier you have, he’s in it, no question.”
I do a quarterback poll every year, asking execs and coaches to give me who they think the best five guys will be at the position at the end of the season. So at the beginning of the season, after counting 76 ballots, Burrow wound up fifth, behind Mahomes, Allen, Aaron Rodgers and Justin Herbert. Now that we’ve made it to the end of the year? I’m not so sure he wouldn’t be third. If not even higher.