In explaining his decision not to bench Carson Wentz, Doug Pederson used Alex Smith’s 2015 season as an illustration of why a struggling team shouldn’t change QBs.
Pederson was Andy Reid’s offensive coordinator in Kansas City that fall. Smith was in his third season with the Chiefs. His backup was ... Chase Daniel.
“We started the season 1-5 with Alex Smith as our starter and coach Reid and I made a decision not to bench Alex,” Pederson said Monday. “He was our starter, and we're going to get it fixed, and we did. I think we won 11 straight after that.”
One teeny-weeny difference.
Although the Chiefs were indeed 1-5, Smith wasn’t playing badly at all. He had an 88.8 passer rating, was completing 63 percent of his passes and had twice as many TDs (6) as INTs (3).
Compare that to Wentz’s 73.2 passer rating, 58.4 completion percentage and 12-12 TD-to-INT.
Completely different set of circumstances.
“Not saying that we are going to win 11 straight here, but what I'm saying is, we are going to work through our issues. We are going to work through our problems. Carson understands that we've got to hold everybody accountable, and it starts with me. … And that’s our focus moving forward.”
Getting benched did wonders for a slumping Donovan McNabb in 2008 when Reid benched him in favor of Kevin Kolb for the second half of an ugly loss in Baltimore. Two months later the Eagles were in the NFC Championship Game.
So why not consider benching Wentz when he's been the worst QB in the NFL?
“Listen, Carson is our starter and we’ve got a lot of trust and faith in him that he can get the job done,” Pederson said. “And by no means was I in a position to make a decision or make a move yesterday.”
Even after four turnovers?
“It's pretty simple,” Pederson said. “My mind wasn't there. I wasn't going there. I was going to give Carson every opportunity to win that game for us, and he's capable of doing that, and I wasn't in that frame of mind.”
Wentz did drive the Eagles to a go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter of that 23-9 win over the Cowboys, but his performance continued a dismal season in which he ranks 30th in passer rating, 31st in completion percentage, 29th in yards per attempts, 1st in interceptions and 2nd in fumbles.
No Eagles starting QB has been benched since Andy Reid benched Michael Vick in favor of rookie Nick Foles nine weeks into the 2012 season with the Eagles 3-6.
And it doesn’t sound like it’s about to happen any time soon.
“We continue to coach,” Pederson said. “We continue to work every day. Carson understands that he has to get better. He's mentioned that. He's said that. And we move forward.”
Neither Eagles backup, rookie second-round pick Jalen Hurts or Nate Sudfeld, has ever started an NFL game. Hurts is 2-for-2 for 27 yards this year. Sudfeld played some mop-up in 2017 but has thrown only two passes since, including a 22-yard TD to Nelson Agholor on the final day of the 2018 season. Josh McCown is on the practice squad and living in Texas.
Pederson did not entirely close the door on benching Wentz at some point.
“We understand that our backup quarterbacks here, Jalen and Nate, have got to be prepared, whether it's a situation like that or an injury situation where they have to go in and play.”
"A situation like that."
So it may not be at the forefront of his mind. But it’s clearly in there somewhere.