It's only a matter of time before Carson Wentz breaks Philadelphia's heart.
The texts started coming in some time late in the third quarter: “He has arrived.” … “Super Bowl drought = Over” …. “Welcome to Carson City, Wentzylvania, capital of the United States of Wentz” … “Wentz Wentz Wentz Wentz.”
The rest of the country got a dose of the Wentz-mania on Monday night when Carson led the Eagles past the Redskins. As a Philadelphia native, I’ve been hearing it all season from my father and old friends. The chatter goes way beyond praise. Wentz represents hope. A chance to reverse years of bad luck and finally capture the Lombardi Trophy. And my friends have no sense of caution. Jerseys have been purchased. Greatest quarterback in franchise history debates are raging. Discussions about Minneapolis hotel rooms in February have begun.
It’s all so sad. Eagles fans will never learn. We’re the Charlie Browns of the NFL … always believing things are going to work out until fate pulls the ball out at the last second, leaving us flat on our backs wondering what happened.
Wentz-mania is the latest source of false hope in Philadelphia. His early-season success is particularly cruel. He leads the NFL with 17 touchdown passes and the Eagles (6-1) have the best record in the League. He’s big, strong, smart and accurate. And as great as he is as a player, he’s even a better person. All of which makes Wentz’s arrival in Philadelphia that much crueler. He may be able to overcome the Redskins defense, but can he overcome decades of football history?
It’s not hard to see the particular form of heartbreak Wentz will deliver to Southeastern Pennsylvania. Like many young QBs, Wentz plays like he’s invincible. His signature play on Monday night was a Houdini-like escape from a gaggle of Redskins defenders. Jon Gruden calls him “North Dakota Tough.” I just scream at the TV, “Get rid of the ball!”
Wentz isn’t alone. Young quarterbacks come into the NFL, hold on to the ball, run around make great plays and capture the nation’s attention. Then they have a choice – get injured or adjust your game. Wentz isn’t as fragile as a phenom like Robert Griffin III. He’s much closer to Andrew Luck. At 6-foot-5, 237 pounds, Wentz probably thinks he’ll be okay. So did Luck and eventually enough big-league hits took him down.
Wentz has already run 40 times for 196 yards in seven games, compared to 46 times for 150 yards in 2016. He’s gotten bolder this year and defense will surely notice. He’ll be fine next week against the Niners, but then the Eagles face the No. 1 ranked Broncos D in Week 9 and they travel to Seattle in Week 13. Wentz can’t screw around against defenses like that. They’re gonna bait him into the secondary and unload the first chance they get. And of course Wentz just lost all-world left tackle Jason Peters.
But the details of how the Eagles are going to let fans down are not important. This isn’t about X’s and O’s. It’s Karma. The city is cursed. Maybe it’s because of Chuck Bednarik taking out Frank Gifford the season of their last championship. Or the Santa Claus thing. Or the American Revolution. Whatever the reason, the Universe has proven it’s not going to happen.
Any time it looks like the Eagles are going to break through, something goes wrong. Andy Reid reached five NFC Championship games and he couldn’t win the Super Bowl. Buddy Ryan had one of the best defenses in history and he couldn’t win a playoff game. Dick Vermeil had the chops to win the Big Game … and he did it with the Rams, not the Birds.
Hollywood’s portrayal of Philadelphia fans is actually pretty accurate. Silver Linings Playbook was a serious movie about mental illness, but also focused on Robert De Niro’s blind faith in a team that had let him down repeatedly. Then there’s Mark Wahlberg’s Invincible. Instead of the tale of a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, Philly gets the tale of Vince Papale, a special teamer on a 4-10 team.
Other franchises have reversed historically bad luck in recent years. The Red Sox and Cubs broke much longer championship droughts. The Cavs won an NBA title with LeBron. No streak of bad luck lasts forever. And Wentz is tremendous. The defense looks great. And coach Doug Pederson seems to have figured things out. Maybe I’m being overly cynical. But as former season-ticket holder going back to the Veterans Stadium, the negativity is too deeply engrained to go away now.