Standing at the front of the auditorium inside the Eagles’ NovaCare Complex, Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson exuded pride as they addressed a throng of reporters. After thousands of hours of tireless film study, countless nights spent scouting on the road and a pair of deft transactions that moved the team from No. 13 to No. 8 and later from No. 8 to No. 2 in the first round of the NFL Draft, the two had finally secured the player they coveted above all others.
Roseman, the executive vice president of football operations of the team, and Pederson, its first-year head coach, believe they’ve secured the quarterback who could lead the franchise for the better part of the next decade and a half. In selecting Wentz, the first quarterback taken by the team in the first round since Donovan McNabb was picked second overall in 1999, the duo hope to put an end to the quarterback carousel that has existed since the team parted ways with McNabb in 2009.
Since the franchise’s all-time leading passer was traded to the division-rival Washington Redskins six seasons ago, six different players have started at quarterback for the Eagles, with Michael Vick’s 41 starts leading the group. In a league in which stability behind center is perhaps the greatest corollary with team success, Roseman knew the team needed to find a quarterback around whom the franchise could build moving forward. After meeting with Carson Wentz at the Senior Bowl, Roseman and Pederson knew immediately that he could be that player.
“The first thing you look at is the intangibles, the rare intangibles,” Roseman explained. “The 40 (Wonderlic Test) score, valedictorian of his high school class, never got a B, so that’s important, that work ethic. But then he’s got rare physical skills, the athletic ability, the throwing arm, the body type and he’s someone who can kind of be molded into whatever you want. And when you have the coaches we have and the support system that we have, it’s exciting.”
Doug Pederson knows a good deal about what it takes to succeed at the quarterback position. A former NFL signal-caller himself, he spent the past three seasons helping former first-overall pick Alex Smith turn in several of the best years of his pro career as the offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs. Before that, he was the quarterbacks coach of the Eagles, grooming Michael Vick and later Nick Foles. As a player with Philadelphia, he assisted then-rookie Donovan McNabb in acclimating to Andy Reid’s West Coast Offense. And before that, he served as an understudy to Jim McMahon, Dan Marino and Brett Favre.
In the 23-year-old Wentz, Pederson sees some similarities to the Hall of Fame quarterback under whom he spent three years studying.
“He’s got that mentality, he’s got that aggressiveness that Brett had,” he told reporters. “I love quarterbacks that are willing to take a chance, a calculated risk down the field. Brett Favre was that way, and I see a lot of the same characteristics in Carson.”
Like Favre, Wentz has a small-town charm that belies his ultra-competitive demeanor. Born and raised in North Dakota, he was a standout at Bismarck Century High School. In his junior and senior seasons at North Dakota State, he led the Bison to back-to-back FCS National Championships, earning MVP honors in both games. In Bismarck, Wentz is a local hero (Thursday was Carson Wentz Day), not only for his heroics on the football field but for his warm demeanor and big heart. It was his poise off the field as much as his flair on it.
“(Our dinner with Carson Wentz in Fargo, North Dakota) was an interesting moment,” Roseman explained. “We walked into the restaurant, and then I had to step back out for a second. And when I walked back in, I saw the manager and the hostess talking to each other and saying, ‘Carson is just the greatest guy. He’s always so humble, and he’s always so appreciative of all of us here.’ And they didn’t know what we were doing or why we're there. That’s the kind of kid he is.”
Wentz joins incumbent starter Sam Bradford and veteran Chase Daniel, a former disciple of Pederson in Kansas City, as one of three quarterbacks projected to be on the Week 1 roster come September. Roseman and Pederson remain adamant that Bradford is the team’s No. 1 quarterback, noting that they hope Wentz will be able to take his time as he transitions from the speed and intensity of the Missouri Valley Conference to that of the National Football League.
“It’s going to be a dynamic room. It’s going to be a room – there’s going to be some competition in there, which is great,” Pederson said of the quarterback group. “You’ve got two veteran guys that, one, they can help teach, especially with Chase (Daniel) – that’s the reason I brought him here, because he understands and knows the offense that I’m implementing ... (Sam Bradford) is the leader of this team. He’s the quarterback. I’ve said all along he’s the quarterback, he’s the guy that we want leading this charge.”
Wentz will address reporters in Philadelphia on Friday at a time to be announced. Tune in to PhiladelphiaEagles.com for live coverage.