He is the Face of the Franchise, a responsibility that seems to suit
The stories out there are about Wentz and the steps he and the team take in Year 2 of The New Eagles Era (with Wentz and head coach Doug Pederson), but right now we look at Wentz and how he carries himself on the national stage. He was on ESPN on Thursday and then NFL Network and then NBC before meeting with Philadelphia-area reporters who are down in Houston, and he finished with a one-on-on here.
Wentz has his act together. That’s the takeaway. The spotlight is not overwhelming for Wentz, so the quarterback-from-the-smaller-school-who-comes-to-the-bright-lights-of-the-big-city story really carries no weight. Wentz started 16 games after his promotion following the trade of Sam Bradford trade to Minnesota, and he immediately took control of the locker room.
“A natural transition,” is what Wentz said on ESPN’s Mike & Mike. Hasn’t everything seemed so natural with Wentz? Isn’t it comforting and exciting to know that he is the quarterback here for years and years to come?
“It was just a blast all season long,” Wentz said.
Now it’s the offseason. Wentz threw his first pass since the Dallas game when he tossed a football at a hand-held target during his NFL Network appearance. He finished his first season with an NFL-rookie record 379 completions and a franchise mark with seven wins for a rookie quarterback. Wentz was named the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Month for September, the NFL's Rookie of the Week three times, and the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week once. It was a hugely successful first season for the very popular Wentz, whose merchandise sales ranked fifth in the entire NFL and second among quarterbacks, behind only Super Bowl LI participant Tom Brady of New England, according to a report released by the NFL’s Players Association based on sales from March 1 through November 30, 2016.
One year ago, Wentz was deep in his preparations for the NFL Draft, coming off the Senior Bowl and training for the Scouting Combine. It’s a whole new ballgame now.
“What a difference a year makes,” he said.
Now it’s rest time. Not since high school has Wentz taken a full month away from the game, and the chance to catch his breath and work on getting “bigger, faster, stronger” is a huge plus. The leap from Year 1 to Year 2, the Eagles and Wentz hope, is a significant one.
So we’ll see how Wentz looks in April when he reports to the team’s offseason conditioning program. Between now and then, Wentz will spend much of his time at his South Jersey home and he’ll also visit throwing guru Tom House, a former Major League Baseball pitcher who works on throwing mechanics with baseball players, as well as quarterbacks, alongside Adam Dedeaux. The idea is to tighten up Wentz’s mechanics and smooth out any wrinkles using the 3DQB technology in Southern California.
“It’s all about getting more efficient and being more consistent with everything,” Wentz said. “Just always trying to get better and being more consistent. It’s not rocket science. It’s just about putting in the time and the effort continually to try to get better, but now it’s also about watching the film side of it as well and evaluating your play throughout the season and rehabbing some things and taking mental notes about where you can be better.
“There’s a lot that goes into it, but I enjoy it.”
Wentz thinks he "learned a lot" and "grew a lot” in his rookie season, and the “frustration” of not playing in the postseason gnaws at him, but at the same time Wentz thinks the Eagles are on the doorstep of great things. Going 1-6 in one-score games hurt the Eagles, so that is something the team must reverse in 2017. The Eagles won six games at home and only one on the road. There is plenty of room to grow.
As Wentz goes, so goes this football team. Wentz was on the grind for 18 months as he won a National Championship at North Dakota State, prepared well enough for the draft to be taken second overall by the Eagles, and then started for 16 games in a record-setting rookie season.
What’s next? Greatness, we all expect. For now, however, Wentz is enjoying the time away from the game, away from the mental and physical intensity.
“Kind of champing at the bit to get back and start training and working out and everything,” Wentz said. “Obviously, it’s the first time I’ve had time like this, and I’m enjoying it.”