Philadelphia Eagles News

Doug Pederson: 'When I know, you'll know' about QB starter

No news is, well, no news. There has been no decision made as to who starts at quarterback on Sunday against New Orleans, per Head Coach Doug Pederson from his press conference on Monday. He truly hasn't yet made up his mind. The call will be his, and his alone, and Pederson wants to consider every factor before making his determination.

So, the waiting begins.

"No, I have not made a decision yet," Pederson said in response to, naturally, the first question at the tele-press conference.

Pederson wouldn't take the bait when asked about what factors into the call, saying only that "I'm still processing a lot of things and going through a lot of things before I make that decision. When I know, you'll know."

Is there any sense of timing here? There is no rulebook for how to handle this kind of decision, one that potentially impacts the Eagles not only for the remainder of 2020 but for seasons to come. Pederson has been in this position before as a player in Philadelphia in 1999 when he was pulled from the starting lineup by Head Coach Andy Reid in favor of rookie Donovan McNabb. The circumstances are different here, of course. Back then, Pederson was seen as a stopgap starter for a first-year head coach who used the No. 2 overall pick on the team's franchise quarterback, McNabb. Pederson, at the time, had different intentions. He was an Eagle to be a starter. The idea of being a placeholder wasn't in his mindset, but clearly, that was the objective.

This picture is completely different. Carson Wentz is the franchise quarterback with a contract that runs through 2024. Wentz is in his fifth season as a starter and he's been at the top of the NFL ladder for much of that time – an MVP candidate during his Pro Bowl season and the Eagles' Super Bowl season in 2017, a player who bounced back from the '17 knee injury to throw 21 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions in 2018, a 16-game starter in 2019 who tossed 27 TDs and only seven interceptions as he led the Eagles to the NFC East title.

Jalen Hurts is a rookie, a second-round draft choice who had a brilliant collegiate career at Alabama and Oklahoma, selected to fortify the depth and provide stability at the quarterback position. As the Eagles saw it back in the spring, Hurts was a player they couldn't pass up, someone they could bring to Philadelphia and develop as a longer-term option as a No. 2 quarterback rather than throwing millions of dollars at one-year veteran backup options.

Wentz hasn't played well in this 3-8-1 season. He knows it. The Eagles know it. A lack of productivity for much of the season has accelerated into downright lackluster offensive performances in this current four-game losing streak since the bye week, and late in the third quarter Sunday in Green Bay, Pederson made the switch to Hurts.

The Eagles trailed 20-3 when Hurts entered the game and closed to within 23-16 as Hurts rallied the offense, injected some energy into the defense, and maybe gave a boost to the special teams as he threw a touchdown pass to Greg Ward, the defense had a couple of three-and-out series, and Jalen Reagor returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown on special teams.

Now? Pederson is balancing the specific position of quarterback, yes, as well as the entire big picture of an Eagles team desperate for a win with a 10-2 Saints team coming to town.

"The big picture is the football team," Pederson said. "We've got a lot of injuries again coming out of this football game, there's a lot of moving parts again this week, so I will take all of that into consideration moving forward."

Pederson, from the day in 2016 the Eagles selected Wentz with the No. 2 overall pick in that NFL Draft, has said that he and Wentz are, in a football sense, "married." In effect, their successes ride on each other. It is an understandable position to take knowing just how important the quarterback is to the success of a team, and 2020 is a reminder. Wentz has thrown a league-high 15 interceptions and has been sacked an NFL-most 50 times to go with 16 touchdown passes, and he has a passer rating of 72.8, ahead of only Jets quarterback Sam Darnold and Denver quarterback Drew Lock among season-long starters. The 72.8 rating is 20 points below his 2019 numbers and nearly 30 points fewer than his seasons of 2017 and 2018.

"We are married to this," Pederson said. "It's something that I pride myself on and he and I are definitely in a situation that we've got to work ourselves out of. My job is to help him and to help him improve and to get better and to help this football team win. My job is also to take and look at the big picture, too, and look at the entire football team. Those are all things that I've got to consider as we move forward."

Pederson said that Hurts provided the "spark" the head coach was hoping for when Hurts entered the game.

"Obviously, extended some plays with his legs, made the nice throw to Jalen Reagor. It was good to see that," Pederson said. "Obviously, the throw to Greg Ward for the touchdown on a scramble … but there's some things that, if and when he looks at the film, that we can clean up and that he can improve upon. I thought it was the spark that got us back in the football game."

All we can do is wait. Pederson said the injury picture is not terrible for this late in the season – both cornerbacks Darius Slay (knee, calf) and Avonte Maddox (knee) should be ready to go for the Saints. Guard Jason Peters is "working through his injury" and Pederson is waiting on one more report on Peters' injured toe. Linebacker T.J. Edwards has a hamstring injury and will be limited in practice this week, but Pederson hopes he is available for Sunday. Rookie linebacker Davion Taylor will "miss some time" with a knee injury suffered against Green Bay.

The big story is quarterback. Everyone is tuned in. Everyone is waiting. Pederson is mulling every part of the equation.

"My focus is obviously New Orleans and this week," Pederson said. "I'm not focused on next week or the next four games, next month, or next season. I'm the head football coach of the Philadelphia Eagles right now and I expect to get this football team ready to play this week against New Orleans. The guys are frustrated. The guys are disappointed. We've been in a lot of these games recently. We just haven't finished very well.

"I'm still processing a lot of things and going through a lot of things before I make that decision. When I know, you'll know."

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