It is during these times, when the outside world is angry and frustrated, that a team circles the wagons and closes ranks and makes certain that every person in the organization is swimming in the same direction. No finger pointing. No accusations.
With quarterback Carson Wentz battling the most difficult time in his NFL career, and with the media doing what it does – understood, that's the profession – and the fans wondering what the heck is going on, the players are making sure that Wentz knows who has his back. Everybody at One NovaCare Way.
And that's all that matters.
"He's our quarterback," defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said during a Tuesday teleconference when asked what he said to Wentz in the bench area on Sunday during the 23-23 tie with Cincinnati, "and we got his back. I'll let that be known. He's our quarterback. You just go over there and talk to him and let him know, 'Hey, we got your back.' Say strong words and stay positive the whole time and just by saying little words like that, that helps people, that keeps their mind clear."
Wide receiver Greg Ward echoed those thoughts later in the afternoon.
"It's all of us," he said. "You don't single out one player. We are where we are because we haven't played well enough as a team. Carson is doing everything he can to win. He's working extremely hard. He's our quarterback, our leader."
These are challenging times for Wentz, and yet he is upbeat and cooperative and hard-working and is an A-plus representative of the Philadelphia Eagles organization, the NFL, and the community. He cares about his teammates, his family, our world. He is a role model for what a professional athlete and a man should be.
In the spirit of staying optimistic, maybe we all could show him some love in his time of need. Wentz is the singular player who helped turn this franchise around from the dark days of Chip Kelly to the Super Bowl team in the 2017 season. The Eagles drafted him and the fortunes of the football team rose instantly. The Eagles understood what they had in Wentz and they promptly built around him and structured an offense that was multifaceted and potent and deep in talent. After a welcome-to-the-NFL season in 2016, Wentz was the league's Most Valuable Player in 2017 until suffering that devastating knee injury in December in Los Angeles.
Since then, well, Wentz has had to overcome significant hurdles. As the Eagles won Super Bowl LII, Wentz was rehabbing his surgically repaired knee and he returned in the 2018 season not quite where he had been physically and, yes, he struggled during the season. A back injury finally KO'd his 2018 campaign, but in 2019 Wentz came back and threw 27 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions and the Eagles, despite another spate of injuries, won the NFC East and headed into the postseason.
Since then, it's been rough sledding for Wentz. He suffered a concussion nine snaps into the playoff loss against Seattle. And through three games in 2020, Wentz has six interceptions and seven turnovers and only two touchdown passes. This is not a typical Carson Wentz season. But here he is. This is the NFL. This is a hard game. Tough times are going to happen for every player.
Carson Wentz is having tough times.
But it isn't because he's trying to make mistakes. He doesn't want to throw interceptions. He surely isn't happy the Eagles are 0-2-1. All Wentz does is report to the NovaCare Complex early and stay late. He's on the practice field working intently. He played a heckuva physical game against Cincinnati, rallying the Eagles late in the fourth quarter to tie the game and putting the offense into scoring position twice in overtime, only to have penalties wipe out the progress. Wentz was a whirling dervish at Lincoln Financial Field as he escaped pressure and ran for first downs and took on defensive players and did anything and everything he could to generate yardage and points.
And it still wasn't enough to beat the Bengals. Wentz certainly wasn't at his best. He missed some throws. He tossed two interceptions. He didn't see some open receivers. So, there is a lot to work on, and Wentz knows it.
But if anyone is giving up on Wentz, well, that just doesn't seem quite fair. Doesn't every quarterback in the league endure ups and downs? The great ones battle their way through the tough times, and Wentz is just that – a great one. He's the leader of the football team, of an offense that is down key players along the offensive line and at tight end and at wide receiver. The best running back, Miles Sanders, didn't play in the opener at Washington. The entire offense is struggling, not just Wentz.
So, together the Eagles must rise. They've put themselves in an 0-2-1 hole together, and the only way to emerge is to do it together. With love. With trust. With optimism. With focus.
I understand how people feel. Nobody saw 0-2-1 coming, and with a brutal schedule ahead, the Eagles are going to have a real battle here. But they only way they're going to make it through is to be a T-E-A-M, and that includes the players, the coaches, you, me, everybody. You win together and you lose together. That's the nature of sports.
So, yeah, I'm doing the optimistic thing here. It beats the alternative. The Eagles need some good vibes and some good fortune. Every little bit helps.