Ring of Fire





GORDONVILLE — I like Carson Wentz.

Maybe not as much as I like Bernie Sanders or Bruce Springsteen, but I like him enough.

And what’s not to the like about the young man the Eagles have christened their quarterback of the future after trading away a treasure trove of prime draft picks to the draft pick-hoarding Cleveland Browns for the right to select the North Dakota State product with the second overall in the 2016 NFL Draft?

Wentz has all the physical attributes – the size, the arm, the athleticism – to go along with enough intangibles, such as polite and down-to-earth manner, to fill open spaces in both of the Dakotas.

He was valedictorian of his senior class in high school, graduated college with a 4.0 grade-point average and scored a near-perfect 40 on the Wonderlic intelligence test at the NFL scouting combine.

Wentz, who quarterbacked the Bison to a pair of FCS (Division I-AA to us old-heads) titles, endeared himself to coach Doug Pederson and his staff by mastering parts of the team’s intended offensive scheme with a near-photographic memory that may prove to be more of a secret weapon on frosty Linc Sundays in December than a rifle arm that cuts through the wind.

But with all there is to like, let’s not fall in love just yet.

We need to go through a bit of a courtship, maybe even holding off on kissing on the first date. Doing so may give both us and Wentz a bad rep.

And we want this marriage to last.

If all goes according to the best-laid plans – which, in the NFL, often have the lifespan of homes in tornado alley – Wentz will come of age and take the full-time reins sometime in the middle of next season or at the beginning of 2018.

At that point, the rival Cowboys and Giants will be either bathing Tony Romo and Eli Manning in the fountain of youth or bidding them adieu.

With all due respect to Kirk Cousins in Washington, Wentz and his elite skill set – hopefully fine-tuned by coaches like Pederson, offensive coordinator Frank Reich and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo – should put the Eagles a step ahead of the division.

That should, with the operative word being “should,”  mean free passes to the playoffs, and a path – dare we dream – to not only making the Super Bowl a time or two in his decade-plus under center, but actually winning.

I don’t know about you, but that occurrence would mean I could die – no, not literally – and go to sports-fan heaven.

Anything less, and it is the same purgatory we are in.

Anything less, and the steep bounty paid to Cleveland in draft choices – and you have to attach real names to the players lost in exchange to gain full perspective – was a deal with the devil that set the organization and its tortured fans back for an insurmountable time.

It will likely costly general manager (or whatever he calls himself) Howie Roseman his job, as well as Pederson.

Wentz could be OK, like current place-holder quarterback Sam Bradford (assuming his hissy fit ends before he starts costing himself money), or he could make Pro Bowls and re-write the team’s record books, like another No. 2 overall pick, Donovan McNabb.

It still would not matter.

The NFL graveyard is full of first-round quarterbacks who were either all-out busts (Tim Couch, Akili Smith, Ryan Leaf, David Carr, etc.) who had can’t-miss attributes as well. But there are rare exceptions – Tom Brady (sixth round) and Joe Montana (third) – where a Super Bowl winning quarterback was not of that pedigree.

It was a big step to go there, and it went against the comfort zones of many in the Eagles Nation – myself included – to pull the trigger on Wentz.

By doing so, the stakes were raised to all-or-nothing status.

When you consider the average price of a house in 1960 – the year of the last Eagles championship – was less than $13,000, maybe it was a move that had to be made.

Ironically, Wentz will don uniform No. 11 – forcing Chris Givens to No. 19 after Givens sent Josh Huff to the equipment manager for No. 13 – and there is some symbolism beyond that it is his number of choice.

In 1960, the quarterback, Norm Van Brocklin, wore No. 11. The two titles before that were in 1948 and 1949. The quarterback was Tommy Thompson. Guess what number he wore on his jersey?

So, there it is.

A career that mirrors that of McNabb, who went 1-for-5 in NFC Championship games and 0-for-1 in his one Super Bowl against Brady and the Patriots, is not good enough.

Sorry, but it’s not.

We like Carson Wentz now, and there is no reason not to like him.

In order to fall in love, and get married to his legacy, there needs to be a ring on his finger.

This column originally appeared at http://www.phillyphanatics.com

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