Wentz Injury – A Blessing in Disguise? (or simply a QB Bias that has run amok?)

Posted: February 2, 2018 in All Things Power Spread

Wentz needs to be more cautious after injuryCarson Wentz's injury devastating...Early November:  I proposed that the Eagles could get to the Super Bowl without Carson Wentz. I wasn’t a big fan of Nick Foles, but it mattered not. Doug Pederson was the main reason for the Eagles resurgence, not Wentzylvania. As long as the Eagles had Pederson, they had a shot. Not only to get to SB 52…but to win it!

                              Somehow I made it out of Philly alive!

Disclaimer

Just to be clear, I am in no way rooting for or ever have rooted for a player to get hurt. I also realize that no player or anyone associated with said player would ever consider any injury as a blessing.

At the same time, I believe that there are blessings around us all the time in many different forms. Observation is limited to one’s perception. Perception can be very murky and narrow. Especially when dealing with pain, be it physical, mental, emotional – or in this case – all three. It’s these times when blessings are easily veiled underneath the trials of life.

“Man’s imperfect, limited-capacity brain easily drifts into working with what’s easily available to it. And the brain can’t use what it can’t remember or what it is blocked from recognizing.”

Team more important than Quarterback

First I will take a look at the way the general public views the position of Quarterback in the modern game of Football.

Carson Wentz’s injury devestating… A Typical Viewpoint

If you click on the image or caption at top you will see a video produced by NBC about the Wentz injury. The glum faces and misperceptions by these commentators illustrates to near perfection the point of this article.

The commentator on the right ignorantly states that EVERYTHING the Eagles did on Offense this year was due to their QB. The commentator with the jacket, on the left, plays a sound bite from Doug Pederson, who says that he has to let Wentz be aggressive. That it’s part of Wentz’s make-up and success. A simple, yet brilliant statement by Pederson.

Instead of acknowledging the brilliance of this reply, the commentators huffed and puffed their way through a depressed and delusional analysis on why YOU CAN’T LET YOUR STAR QUARTERBACK RUN THE FOOTBALL! ugh…

THEY ARE COMPLETELY MISSING THE POINT AS THEY SCRUTINIZE  SHADOWS FROM INSIDE A DARK CAVE!

 

Pederson’s aggressiveness in 3 phases of coaching is what got the Eagles this far! His aggressiveness transformed Wentz. His aggressiveness continues to win without Wentz. Any reduction in that Aggressiveness reduces the effectiveness of his Team. Period.

Reduced Risk = Reduced Reward. It’s a directly proportional relationship that is always being balanced as to how much, when and with what. SpaceTimeTeam.

The only question is really to examine Pederson’s idea of Aggression as it applies to Wentz.

Should Wentz learn the “Art of the Slide”?

If you listen to Pederson on the video he is basically saying that, while there may be a need in the future to work on skills for Wentz that will give him a better chance to stay healthy, the number one item is always to promote, not curb, his aggressive nature. This is a concept. Or in terms of Power Spread –  a precept. The first precept. Aggression.

In the end, Power Spread is about the Human perspective of the Universal Mind. Aggression, for lack of a better phrase, is simply “thinking out of the box”. (It’s not about punching people in the face or acting like a bully!)

Pederson will figure it out, I am sure. Maybe even come up with a new way to teach the QB Slide and Dive? Who knows. But number one – he wants his team Aggressive. A dual threat QB is a big advantage for the Offense and very hard to contain on Defense. It’s imperative that the NFL figure out how to evolve offenses with this type of QB Aggression.

One idea is 3 or 4 decent QBs on the roster who can easily be substituted- maybe even limiting the amount of snaps for each QB. Making the QB “part” of the team – instead of only the Star. Another idea would be more direct snaps to RBs who can throw a little bit. You don’t need a great arm if the schemes are so good as to have WRs open by 10 yards or more.

That’s just two very quick and shallow ideas. There is economics and egos involved as well. But there are many other far better ideas waiting to be discovered. The reason for such a lack of aggressive thinking in solving the issue of a dual-threat QB is what I like to call the QB Bias.

QB Bias

No where more does the following apply to Football than when it comes to the Quarterback Bias.

“Man’s imperfect, limited-capacity brain easily drifts into working with what’s easily available to it. And the brain can’t use what it can’t remember or what it is blocked from recognizing.”

Football is not and never will be ONLY about the Quarterback. No matter the money or fame nor the banter among fans or even coaches. Football is and always will be the ULTIMATE TEAM GAME.

History of the “Star Football Player”

There was a time long ago when the game 0f Football was built on the backs of a lot of unknown players mucking about in the dirt.

The invention of the Single Wing Offense started to create Star Players out of the position of Tailback. For a lot of the early part of  last century, the college Tailback could run, pass, catch and kick. The Ultimate Star. Even more so than the modern day QB.

With the advent of the Modern T Offense, which required deft ball-handling, the Quarterback – previously a “blocking back” in the Single Wing – became the new Star. As the passing offenses became more and more proficient, the Quarterback’s stock rose to almost ridiculous proportions.

Most living football fans only know the QB Bias situation in football, which has dominated the last 50+ years of the game. The Quarterback is the ultimate leader. Eventually the ultimate money maker. The most “easily available” line of reasoning for the wins or losses of one’s favorite team. Break down organization, coaching and personnel to simply ONE Player. The Quarterback.

The Pats or Just “Brady”

No better example of QB Bias is present with today’s greatest franchise in the game.

It’s ludicrous – but certainly easy. Maybe just plain lazy. It takes precedence time and again. You will see and hear it this Sunday. Brady. That’s it. No first name. No team. Just Brady. Brady versus the Eagles for Super Bowl 52.

Of course, this is an exaggeration, but unfortunately it’s not much of one. Bill Belichick has far more to do with the incredible success of the Patriots than Brady himself. There are those who understand this for sure. But in the NFL world of QB Bias, it’s simply much easier to think only of a player, rather than a team or organization. If only it were true.

Does a QB even need to be the leader of the Offense?

All this begs the question – does the QB even need to be the leader? Could the Center or RB be the leader?  Like in the olden days? How about a great WR like Jerry Rice? Antonio Brown? How about a great Defensive Player running the whole team?

There was a coach I was speaking with recently, who has run a Triple Shoot Power Spread Offense for a very long time. He has had a lot to do with all you see in “Spread” football today. He has gone largely “under the radar” with all his contributions to the Evolution of Offensive Football over the last 20 years.

When I posed the above question to him, the answer he gave was quite revealing.

Manny Matsakis and his “Super Back”

Back in the 90’s as Head Coach at Emporia State, Manny Matsakis ran a great PS Offense ahead of its time with a RB in charge named Brian Shay. Shay broke all kinds of records as did Emporia State’s Offense.

What I found so interesting in my conversation with Manny was his comment about the QB as a Leader of the Offense. I said to Manny, “You’re an offensive guy who likes to spread the field with the passing game, balanced with a power running attack. But it starts with the QB. You must believe that the QB is always the one and only leader or “Star” of the team, right?”

He said something along the lines of – “absolutely not. When we had Brian Shay, we called him our Super Back! SHAY WAS OUR LEADER, NOT THE QB.”.

Super Back. I loved it. Not only did Manny “create” a new position to be leader of his team based on the type of talent he had, but he also gave a great simple name to the position. A concept- Super Back. Jump on his back and he will ride us to glory! Which, btw, Brian Shay did.

Shay already had all the ability, but Manny was wise enough to see it in a certain way, then unleash it.

Concept Leads To Culture – QB only part of the equation!

What really struck me was the larger idea behind this Power Spread thinking. Always morphing to the talent on hand and NEVER using personnel issues as an excuse! Injuries and talent disparity can happen, but more often than not it’s bad strategy in many phases of the game that cause the ultimate issues that hinder teams. Especially in terms of Conceptual Ideas – which build or destroy Culture.

This is why I knew the Eagles could get to the Super Bowl without Wentz. Looking slightly past what’s “easily available”, one could plainly see the real engine behind the machine that was the Philadelphia Eagles of 2017. It was their Head Coach and the strategies he brought with him both on the field and off.

Doug Pederson

Pederson knows what he’s doing. His schemes are excellent. As is his ability to morph to the talents of his Team, delegate to his Staff, teach to his Players all the while fostering Aggressive Concepts – the likes of which have not been seen since the start of the Bill Belichick era.

Team Over Star

Pederson is all about Team. The Eagles didn’t win all year because of Wentz. They won because of  a great coaching staff. Because of great Special Teams. Because of a great Offense. And maybe more than anything, because of a great Defense.

Throughout the year, the Eagles Defense bailed out a slow starting Offense time and again. In fact, I would consider Nigel Bradham a potential team MVP candidate over Wentz. I mentioned this to one Philly fan in particular, a good friend, and he scoffed at the idea of Bradham as Team MVP over Wentz.

Maybe Bradham wouldn’t suffice. But not because of his contributions as compared to Wentz. But because – simply said – there are too  many great Eagles this year to pick one MVP!

Even guys on the bench played big roles throughout the year as the Eagles endured so many injuries. This was and is a true TEAM in every sense of the word. Led by their Head Coach.

A Blessing in Disguise?

Now that I’ve explained my reasoning for picking  Team over Star – specifically in terms of the QB Bias – I will look more closely at why I saw the Wentz Injury as a possible “Blessing in Disguise”.

Probability of a Wentz Injury

I began looking at the Eagles backup QB situation back in November because of the way Wentz was scrambling. Designed runs are fine. The scrambles are the problem. They create much more chaos and chance for injury.

Wentz to me is like a Big Man’s Doug Flutie. A big strong body, breaking tackles, making big plays, but one that is easy to injure. Most think that a little body is easier to hurt, but I’m not so sure. A big lanky body, like Wentz, provides a lot more “area” to whack with a big hit. There is also lot of “moving parts” with a long body. Parts that all need to stay healthy.

Wentz did well to get as far as he did with all his scrambling throughout the year, but I felt he was getting a little too confident in his indestructibility as the season progressed. Again, designed runs are different. The focus is different. So is the aggression. More injuries occur through scrambling than designed runs.

Dual Threat QBs are still relatively new to most NFL Coaches, who are still learning on how to manage these powerful athletes. Time will tell, but there are answers out there to a lot of unasked questions.

For Wentz, all the scrambling and indestructible attitude finally caught up to him. Hopefully he won’t lose his aggressiveness when he comes back, but there are skills to develop that would help. Number one would be a concept. Accept the Reality. You are not Indestructible. Strategize for even MORE aggression, but in a smarter way. Aggressive Thinking – not Hitting.

Don’t be surprised if Peterson develops some innovative techniques to solve this conundrum. QBs must run today. The puzzle is how, when and why. Eventually it will be with whom and how many.

Enter Nick Foles

When I refreshed my memory that Nick Foles was the backup, I was sort of turned off. I had liked him as a College Spread QB at Arizona, but not so much under Chip Kelly. I thought he was an overrated “star” QB under PS genius Kelly – who could make a lot of QBs look good.

Here’s the thing – I also now knew that Pederson could scheme for success as well or maybe even better than Kelly. I underrated Pederson from the start and he constantly surprised me. I started to think he could do it again.

Sure enough, he did.

Foles seemed to be making quicker decisions in the Spread Passing game – his strength – than I remember from him when he played for Kelly. Pederson expertly morphed the Eagle Offense from a Pro PS Offense to a Pass Spread Offense to help Foles. This is when I started to think that the Wentz injury could be a blessing in disguise.

A Blessing in Disguise for the Team

First of all – Foles is a better Spread Passer than Wentz, who is a talented improviser, but not necessarily great at spreading the ball around in a pure passing scheme. As long as Pederson plays to Foles strength the Eagles would still move the ball effectively.

Secondly – Foles had more experience than Wentz. He’s an NFL Veteran with Playoff Experience. This is HUGE at playoff time, where adversity is magnified with a premium on Time.

Thirdly – He has a calmer demeanor than Wentz, who is a very strong leader, but struggles when he tries to do too much. This year was a lot smoother as he settled into Pederson’s schemes and showed a lot more maturity. But now it’s Playoff Time. This was a new beast for him to face.

A Blessing in Disguise for Wentz Himself

Besides a possible benefit for the team, I began to think that the injury could also benefit Wentz himself. Most would say I am being way too positive at this point – to the point of delusion – but think about it.

How would Wentz Handle the Playoffs?

I’m sure he could benefit and learn faster by being out on the field, but what if the Eagles lost!? There is no guarantee the Eagles would have won with Wentz. What would be the fan reaction to a loss? What sort of confidence would Wentz take from that – a regular season hero who can’t win in the playoffs?

Philly fans have proven time and again how fickle they can be. What if Wentz lost in the playoffs next year as well? At least now if that happens, they can blame his injury this year. He didn’t get to gain valuable experience on the field this year due to injury.

I know he can’t be thinking this way – nor are the fans, but Wentz may very well have more room for error in the future thanks to missing this year’s playoffs.

The Benefits of Observation

The other more important benefit is what Wentz may be gaining from the sideline by watching Foles. Foles has remained cool under pressure, kept focused, and continues to play within himself – not trying to do too much.

Ironically, Foles did press some in the last two regular season games when the team as a whole suffered a letdown. But he knew what to do once the playoffs started. He knew he would have to be patient with an inexperienced team, follow Pederson’s plan and let the team find themselves through the course of that first game.

It wouldn’t be just about him. Foles understood this on a deeper level more than one could expect from any young, inexperienced QB.

Foles stood strong and held his ground amongst fans and media doubting him. inexperienced players all around him and a tough opponent with super bowl experience in front of him. Foles has handled all of it like a seasoned pro.

If Wentz can see through the pain of not playing, he is hopefully gaining invaluable knowledge from what Foles is doing, which will certainly help him when he finally does get his chance on the field in a future playoff game.

How Its Played Out So Far vs How It May Have Played Out

I know that the standard thought across the NFL landscape is that the Eagles would have been better with Wentz, but have been lucky to get this far without him. But is this really true? Again – “Man’s imperfect, limited-capacity brain easily drifts into working with what’s easily available to it.“.

Here’s what we know:
  • Foles came in for Wentz and played well vs the Rams and the Giants, but struggled in bad weather the last two games when the whole team suffered from a letdown. WRs dropping passes. Lineman not blocking. Foles tried to make up for it, but that backfired when he started pressing too much.
  • Early nerves and bad momentum from the previous two games plus a very experienced good opponent had the Eagles rattled early in their Divisional Playoff game. Foles kept his cool and led a 2nd Half Comeback Win.
    • Fan support for this game was poor as they had no faith in their backup QB or Head Coach. After the win they changed their tune.
    • Pederson’s schemes – great all year – went up another notch in this game. Amazing!
  • Finally some decent weather. Less nerves. Pederson confidence to open up the offense. Great schemes and play calling plus a Minnesota letdown blew this game wide open quickly just as I called it!
Here’s what we don’t know:
  • Wentz doesn’t get hurt. Eagles win the Rams game. The Defense has a letdown in the Giants game but good offense wins it. Letdown vs the Raiders and Cowboys with Wentz probably sitting out the Cowboy loss.
  • Everything the same except the fans and media feel much more confident with Wentz as the starter heading into the Divisional Playoff Game.
  • The crowd is ready, but the inexperienced Eagles still have a nervous start. Wentz makes some big plays early that Foles didn’t, BUT.. with his team struggling – Wentz starts to press. Very much like what we saw in 2016, Wentz makes some big mistakes at crucial times as he tries to do too much to rally his nervous team.
  • Wentz engineers his own comeback, gets the Eagles close with big plays, but like Zac Prescott the year before, it’s too little too late.
    • Due to big mistakes earlier in the game, the Eagles had too many points to make up and Atlanta wins in a heartbreaking defeat for Philadelphia and their fans.

Obviously, this is one of a thousand different scenarios that could have happened had Wentz played. But there is legitimacy in this scenario, due to Wentz’s inexperience. It’s also one that few fans, if any, are even considering. Who cares now? Maybe. But what if… what if the Wentz injury really was a blessing in disguise?

A Switch in Pick – Eagles to Win!

’17 Eagles = ’16 Cowboys?

I compare Dallas ’16 to Philadelphia ’17, because for me these two teams had almost duplicate years. Young upcoming teams who ruled their respective seasons.

Prescott was the star rookie QB of 2016. Wentz the star youngster of 2017. Dallas was arguably the best team last year,  but inexperience did them in at playoff time. Philadelphia arguably had the best team this year and inexperience was also their big question mark.

Dallas had to play an experienced Green Bay team that had the QB and Kicker to pull out a thriller. This year I thought we were heading for the same exact ending for Philadelphia. I even thought about the teams that could beat them – Atlanta or Carolina. I couldn’t believe when they drew Atlanta for their first playoff opponent.

Atlanta, like Green Bay, was experienced and talented, with both a top QB and Kicker to win a close one. But the more I thought about this game, the more I thought the Eagles could do what Dallas couldn’t do – overcome their inexperience and complete a great comeback.

Why I Switched

A big part of my thinking was the brilliance of Pederson. Even with all the respect I had for what he has done, I had underrated him time after time these last two years. I wouldn’t do it again. I decided that his Aggressiveness would overcome the Eagles playoff inexperience and I switched at the last second to pick the Eagles.

The other reason I switched was Foles. I really felt his experience could push the inexperienced Eagles over the hump. I was shocked during the game at the terrible energy by the Philadelphia crowd, but Foles did what I expected – kept his cool,  ignored the fans, limited mistakes and made crucial plays in the 2nd Half.

After Minnesota’s crazy win over New Orleans, I knew the Eagles were not only going to the Super Bowl, but going to win it. I figured Pederson would open the offense up even more and let Foles shine. Combined with a Minnesota letdown, there was a very good probability for a blow out win and trip to Super Bowl 52.

Super Bowl LII

So here we are. The Eagles did it – without Wentz. Like I said they could. A blessing in disguise? We will never truly know, but if they win the Super Bowl, no one can say Wentz would have done better.

If they lose? Well, then a weak argument can be made that they would have won it all with Wentz. Of course, I wonder if they would even be here in the first place if he hadn’t been hurt.

Experience matters!

Certainly Wentz played a big role in the Eagles dominant Regular Season, but experience in the playoffs is HUGE. We have seen that all playoff season. The greatest example is the Rams – who really struggled after having a great season. Even Blake Bortles success was only after his terribly nervous 1st Half versus Buffalo.

During the year, Wentz had the city of Philadelphia in his hands. He certainly had built a head of steam with the team and everyone was  playing with great energy. But a letdown was imminent. Especially with meaningless games at the end after such  a dominant year.

As for the playoffs, nerves were bound to happen with an inexperienced team. If Wentz could have beaten Atlanta, then yes, the Eagles would be in great shape right now.

But I think there’s a bigger chance he wouldn’t have gotten past Atlanta. Or possibly – with all the pressing, scrambling, holding the ball too long, etc –  versus the Falcon’s tough defense – Wentz may have gotten hurt in the middle of that game. Foles being thrust into  the limelight with panicking fans could have been a disaster!

A Lot of Speculation vs One Big Assumption

Yes, this is a lot of speculation – but my point is not to speculate what might have happened if Wentz played, but to share another thought process than what is currently out there right now.

To assume that the Eagles would have been better off with Wentz at the helm is exactly that – AN ASSUMPTION.

I’m not saying what would have happened. I don’t know. But what I do know is there is no way that the Eagles would have beaten Atlanta with a 100% probability had Wentz played. And I’m not sure the probablity with Wentz was actually higher than with Foles. Not based on the talent of the two QBs, but based on experience.

And of course, the probability of Pederson getting to the Super Bowl seemed pretty high with either QB. Because it was Pederson all along who was steering this ship. So Wentz or no Wentz – did it even matter?

Easily Available vs True Blessings

I will wrap with what I started. The brain tends to work with what is easily available. Even if it’s a negative. The simple thinking is that the Eagles were better off in these playoffs had Carson Wentz not gotten injured. This may not necessarily be true.

The bigger picture is that there is much more to a Football Team than one player.

Possibly, the even bigger picture may be this –  blessings come in all shapes and sizes, obvious and hidden.

Philadelphians have been notorious for not counting their blessings – at least when it comes to sports. They have had great sports teams forever – but focus on the negative most of the time. Maybe this one time, they can see the bigger picture. Thank their lucky stars. And enjoy what may be a dynasty in the making behind Doug Pederson – with or without Carson Wentz.

~PS

Comments
  1. Christian Woods says:

    Well written. Drew tells us why we (the Philadelphia faithful and our wonderful team) are where we are. He doesn’t assume anything that he doesn’t also explain. This may not be a popular line of thinking in Philadelphia, but it can’t be ignored. I know of no one else who is, or would say these things, but you can’t argue with the guy. He does too much research. Please keep these going Drew. I hope you get huge. You certainly put in the work.

  2. […] bailed on Philly as the team to beat. Including their own fans. All year the Eagles have had crucial injuries. Nothing changed. They had big wins versus the Rams and Giants to clinch the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s