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Will the Eagles Really Bench Carson Wentz for the Whole Season?

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Getty Images

It’s tough to say whether Carson Wentz’s NFL career has gotten off to a worse start off or on the field. Sure, getting locked in a gas station bathroom is bad, but Doug Pederson’s continued insistence that Wentz won’t even suit up on game day — at least initially — might be an even more ominous sign for the no. 2 overall pick.

Ten days after Wentz’s unfortunate bathroom incident, Pederson made headlines by saying that the North Dakota State product would likely ride the bench to start the season — and possibly the entire year. On Sunday, the first-year coach doubled down on this assertion, explaining his rationale to PhillyVoice: “If we had to play this week, Carson would be down. He’d be the third quarterback. He’d be deactivated.” Can you feel the excitement, Philly fans? Fly, Eagles, fly!

On the one hand, Pederson’s caution is understandable. Despite Wentz’s ghostwritten protestations, transitioning from the FCS to the NFL won’t be easy, and an especially patient approach could help him maximize his potential. If the team tempers expectations now, fans and media members will be less likely to assume something is wrong when Wentz starts the season in street clothes, and Pederson won’t feel forced to put Wentz in a position where he’s unlikely to succeed. And hell, maybe Sam Bradford (or expensive backup Chase Daniel) will play well while enough while keeping Wentz’s seat warm to become a moderately valuable trade chip. Crazier things have happened … I think.

But when you surrender a boatload of future picks to move up in the first round and select a quarterback, you’d better really believe in that quarterback’s potential — and not just in the long term. Of the 16 quarterbacks drafted in the top 10 from 2006 to 2015, only JaMarcus Russell and Jake Locker started fewer than 10 games as rookies. Accordingly, it’s hard not to raise an eyebrow at Pederson’s extreme caution regarding Wentz. If the Eagles felt strongly enough about Wentz to mortgage their future for him in the draft, why are they so keen on reiterating that he doesn’t possess the ability to rise above Bradford and Daniel on the depth chart this year?

While giving Wentz a redshirt season makes sense in theory, there’s a fine line between patience and procrastination, and Pederson seems to be leaning perilously toward the latter. Revealing this plan in July ignores the realities of the NFL in general and Philadelphia in particular, where success is expected — nay, demanded — immediately. Head-coaching tenures are shorter than ever, and quarterbacks drafted at the top of the first round are rarely given much time to demonstrate a sufficient return on investment. Maybe the Eagles will prove to be an exception, but as Sam Hinkie can attest, Philly fans aren’t a particularly patient bunch. This isn’t Jacksonville, where Jaguars owner Shahid Khan can grant head man Gus Bradley and quarterback Blake Bortles unusually long leashes. If Pederson is already beseeching Eagles fans to blindly trust his process, we know how this story is going to end.

And if Wentz’s 2016 ceiling is only as a third-stringer, maybe he should have just stayed in that gas station bathroom until 2017.