PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles hired Doug Pederson as their head coach with Thursday night in mind. Pederson’s task is to develop the potential of a young quarterback.
After trading up from No. 13 to No. 8 to No. 2 in the 2016 NFL draft, the Eagles identified that young quarterback. He is Carson Wentz, the 6-foot-5, 237-pound quarterback from North Dakota State.
"He's a winner," Pederson said after selecting Wentz. "I love the intangibles about him. He really is a very attractive pick for us."
My take: The Eagles could have gone the other way. After signing Sam Bradford to a new contract and adding backup Chase Daniel, the Eagles could have focused their energy on building the best possible team around Bradford. That probably would have meant holding on to their draft picks and taking the best player available with the No. 13 pick in the draft.
That might have worked. That still might work in the short term, since the Eagles are saying Bradford remains their starter. He might finally stay healthy and reach his potential in Pederson’s offense. But the Eagles were not inclined to place all their chips in Bradford’s square.
That’s because the Eagles haven’t won a playoff game since Donovan McNabb left. For years, they have been on the mediocre quarterback carousel of Michael Vick, Kevin Kolb, Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez. Bradford was their last spin on that carousel and they’re ready to take a shot at something better.
They may turn out to be wrong about Wentz. They may find out they paid too high a price to move up. But at least they took their best shot.
The next level: One of the risks associated with Wentz is that he played at the NCAA FCS level, what used to called Division I-AA. Quarterbacks from that level have succeeded in the NFL -- Joe Flacco, to name one -- but it adds another element of risk to the already uncertain prospect of taking a quarterback high in the draft.
And then there is this: North Dakota State has won the FCS national title five years in a row. It won the first three with Brock Leonard as the quarterback. It won in 2014 with Wentz having a terrific season.
Last year, Wentz broke his wrist in the Bison’s sixth game. He returned to play in the championship game. Overall, Wentz’s record as a starter was 5-2. But a freshman quarterback named Easton Stick went 8-0 while Wentz was hurt.
Wentz had success at North Dakota State. So did Leonard and Stick. Is it the quarterback or the system?
The Bradford issue: If the Eagles’ ideal was for Wentz to develop with Bradford and Daniel running the offense, then Bradford’s boycott of voluntary practices will certainly have an impact. Bradford’s unhappiness shouldn’t concern Wentz, but it does add a complication to the Eagles’ careful plan to get the most out of Wentz.
After drafting Wentz, the Eagles stuck to their plan.
"Sam's our quarterback," Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said. "We've been clear about that."
Roseman and Pederson said that Bradford's absence from OTAs would allow more work for Daniel and Wentz. By the mandatory camp in June, Bradford should be able to catch up, Pederson said.
"We'll welcome Sam with open arms," Pederson said.
What’s next: The Eagles will surely be working the phones, trying to drum up an extra draft pick or two. They have no second-round pick thanks to last year’s trade for Bradford. They had two third-round picks but traded one to Cleveland to move up to No. 2 in the first round.
The Eagles also traded their fourth-round pick to the Browns. So unless Roseman can work some magic, the rest of this draft will be anticlimactic for the Eagles.