Prior to week 14 it was clear who the front-runner for the MVP award was, but then week 14 happened, and Carson Wentz went down for the season with a torn ACL. Since then the MVP favorite has delegated to the likes of none other than Tom Brady – what a surprise. While Brady did have another stellar season, I wouldn’t consider it an MVP caliber type of season by any means. But I’m not here to argue against Tom Brady winning another MVP, I’m here to argue that even though Wentz hasn’t played since week 14, he still deserves to win the MVP award.
Wentz’s case for MVP goes beyond what he did on the field through 14 weeks. What should keep Wentz in the MVP conversation is what he’s done off the field and on the sideline since he went down. His relentless commitment to football is admirable, and never was this more apparent than the week leading up to the matchup with the Giants. After tearing his ACL just days beforehand, Wentz wasn’t expected to do anything but rest – and what did he do? The exact opposite, of course. On Tuesday, the players’ day off, Wentz spent the entire day with his backup (now starter), Nick Foles, going over game film and prepping him for what he would face against the Giants. This proved to benefit Foles greatly, as he went out against the Giants and had a marvelous game. He threw for 237 yards and four touchdowns in the victory.
The next two games for Foles weren’t great. Against the Raiders on Christmas night, he threw for only 163 yards and touchdown along with one interception. And in only one quarter of play against the Cowboys the following week, he threw for only 39 yards and an interception (not to mention he only completed 4 out of his 11 pass attempts).
Foles was rattled and it was clear that his confidence from the Giants game was all but gone. Although the Eagles were still able to pull out wins in each meaningful game that Foles started in, a lot of the credit was given to the defense and rightfully so. Foles played so poorly that people actually started to believe that Nate Sudfeld, Foles’ backup, would have the opportunity to play in the playoffs had Foles played poorly again. Luckily, the Eagles had two weeks to prepare for their first playoff game and get Foles back into his groove. To do this, coach Doug Pederson turned to injured franchise QB, Carson Wentz. Since Nick took over as the starting QB, Wentz had been watching games from the press box, limiting the communication between the two. For the playoffs however, Wentz was going to return to the sidelines with a headset to essentially be another coach for Foles. In turn, he completely turned his game around.
Although the game plan against the Falcons in the divisional round was ultra conservative, Foles was the perfect game manager. He was efficient and made plays when he had to. After nearly every possession, Foles came to the sideline and sat next to Wentz with a tablet to go over the previous drive. It was obvious that Wentz’s knowledge was rubbing off on Foles. He was more decisive in his decision making and his confidence seemed to be at an all-time high. Against the Vikings the following week in the NFC Championship game, Foles’ couldn’t have played better. It honestly felt like I was watching Wentz again. Foles’ down field vision was particularly impressive, and very reminiscent of Wentz. The touchdown play to Alshon with just under two to go in the first half had Wentz written all over it. As the play developed, nobody was open for Foles to throw to. But, instead of just throwing it away Foles stood strong in the pocket and waited for something to open up. Alshon initially ran a post pattern across the field, but as he began to realize the middle of the field was congested with bodies he turned up field and got into some open space. Foles immediately noticed this and he stepped up to deliver a bomb to Alshon for the touchdown. Wentz was the first one to congratulate Foles after every touchdown drive, and the first to go over each play with him.
Wentz has been selfless throughout this miraculous run that Foles has been on. He’s taken a back seat and left his ego at the door in a way that most players wouldn’t. How many quarterbacks are this involved in helping their backups succeed like this? Would Cam Newton be this big of an influence on his team’s success if he went down? Probably not. Most top-tier quarterbacks let their egos get in the way. Just look back at the 2006 season when Donovan went down with a torn ACL. Jeff Garcia stepped right in and played lights out while leading the Eagles to a division title. McNabb just moped around and did nothing to actually help Garcia in any way during his run. As far as I’m concerned, the Eagles wouldn’t be where they’re at right now without Wentz – and that goes beyond his play on the field. An elite quarterback who not only performed at an MVP caliber level while he was healthy, but also had his backup performing like an MVP while he was tutoring him. This is why I believe Wentz still deserves to win the MVP award.