Since the Eagles game on Sunday where we saw Carson Wentz get benched for rookie Jalen Hurts, fans have been debating and speculating what it means for the future of the franchise.
One dynamic that’s been brought up by some, is the comparison’s between this benching and the benching of Donovan McNabb back in 2008. There are certainly some similarities in both of these instances.
Both were benched for second round draft picks and both players were obviously struggling leading up to there benching. But when you look at the stats in the games leading up to their benchings, it’s pretty clear that McNabb was playing better.
McNabb’s stats in 10 games before benching: 14 TDs, 8 INTS, 2,711 passing yards, 86.82 QB rating
Wentz’s stats in 11 games before benching: 16 TDs, 15 INTs, 2,541 passing yards, 73.43 QB rating
It’s also important to note that these benchings happened 12 years apart. The passing game has evolved a lot in those 12 years. In ’08, McNabb was 5.5% below the league average for completion percentage, 0.1% higher than the league average interception rate, and .06 yards per attempt below the league average.
McNabb was below average in a lot of categories, but not at the bottom of the league like Wentz is right now.
Wentz is currently 8% below the league average for completion percentage, 0.9% higher than the league average for interception rate, and 1.1 yards per attempt below the league average.
The team under McNabb also still had a winning record heading into the game where he got benched, 5-4-1. Wentz’s team this year is is slowly solidifying their top-10 selection in next year’s draft with a 3-8-1 mark.
McNabb had four games before getting benched where he posted a QB rating below 80. Wentz only has three games this season where he’s posted a QB rating above 80.
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There are also a handful of differences in the circumstances surrounding these benchings. For one, when Kevin Kolb was drafted in 2007, McNabb was 31 years old and only had two years remaining on his contract. Kolb was an obvious succession plan for McNabb, as he was originally named the starter the year following McNabb’s departure in 2010.
Wentz just signed a new deal prior to the 2019 season, and the bulk of his money will be made between 2021 and 2024, where his cap hit hovers right above $31 million for each of those seasons. The Eagles organization didn’t have any real explanation for the Hurts pick, other than they believe Philadelphia is a “quarterback factory” and that they value that position over anything else. But it’s completely fair to speculate what their true intentions were with the pick, and if they made the selection because they had their doubts about Wentz long-term.
And let’s not forget, when Kolb took over for McNabb in the second half of Week 12, he was awful. 10 for 23, 73 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, and a QB rating of 15.3. Hurts actually looked better than Wentz when he was subbed in during the Green Bay game, going 5 for 12, throwing for 109 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, and a QB rating of 67.7.
Say what you want about the pick — I wasn’t a fan of it at the time — but it’s hard to argue that it isn’t somewhat vindicated at this juncture. Wentz looks broken right now. With each passing week, envisioning him turning it around and getting back to his 2017-’19 form feels more unlikely.
We all know what happened after McNabb was benched in Week 12 of 2008. He was named the starter the following week and led the team to a 4-1 record down the stretch, clinched a playoff berth, and took the Eagles all the way to the NFC Championship game.
That outcome does not seem fathomable with the 2020 Eagles. Not only because Wentz hasn’t shown any signs of life this year, but because the team around him is just terrible.
Some may argue that benching Wentz could be the wake up call he needs to finally turn things around. But where’s the evidence that he has the ability to do that? He’s been downright bad for most of this season, there’s almost nothing you can point to and say “see, Wentz still has it.” At least not from the 2020 season.
The Eagles need to make a decision on their quarterback of the future this offseason. Because getting rid of Wentz — if that’s the direction they decide to go in — will only be harder as his cap hit continues to grow over the next few seasons.
Now that it’s official, Hurts will start in Week 14 against the Saints, we’ll learn a lot about what the future holds for the Birds.