Tran­for­ma­tion of Birds starts with Ped­er­son

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Bob Grotz [email protected]­tu­ry­media.com @bobgrotz on Twit­ter

NEW OR­LEANS » The Ea­gles found their mo­ment of clar­ity two months ago here in the form of a blowout loss to the New Or­leans Saints.

Never again, they vowed. Backed it up win­ning six of their next seven games, the lat­est in a photo fin­ish over the Bears.

Doug Ped­er­son’s mo­ment ar­rived the first week­end of Septem­ber after he ripped the lo­cal me­dia for putting words in his mouth via a league re­port that Nick Foles would start the reg­u­lar sea­son opener in­stead of Car­son Wentz. The day after Ped­er­son, in some­what ju­ve­nile fash­ion, wouldn’t con­firm the re­port. He read a state­ment in front of the me­dia. Foles was the guy.

It was a gaffe that ev­ery­one fol­low­ing the team wit­nessed and rolled their eyes at. The play­ers weren’t just talk­ing about it, they wanted to know what would come next. In­clud­ing Wentz.

Ped­er­son’s ac­tions since have spo­ken louder than his words. You could write an Ea­gles best­seller about the way he’s man­aged the quar­ter­back po­si­tion, how it’s ben­e­fited the team and sal­vaged the sea­son.

Though the drama is far from over, the de­fend­ing Su­per Bowl cham­pi­ons are united and just one vic­tory over the Saints from ad­vanc­ing to the con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship. And to think they were this/close to los­ing a piece of their foot­ball souls.

The Ea­gles are here be­cause Ped­er­son per­suaded 2017 reg­u­lar sea­son MVP can­di­date Wentz, who cost the Ea­gles con­sid­er­able cap­i­tal to select in the draft, that he was still the guy and the would get back to him when he was healthy. They’re here be­cause Foles, the reign­ing Su­per Bowl MVP, used his con­sid­er­able power of fo­cus to rally the Ea­gles to four straight vic­to­ries.

The Ea­gles are here be­cause Ped­er­son, the con­sum­mate grinder, dis­missed even the

hint of a quar­ter­back con­tro­versy in a mul­ti­tude of ways.

Get­ting Wentz to step aside peace­fully after he played his best quar­ter of the sea­son in Dal­las was amaz­ing. The hair­line frac­ture in Wentz’s back is real. It kept him awake at nights. But Wentz still didn’t want to shut it down. He sought clear­ance to play from out­side med­i­cal peo­ple.

All Ped­er­son promised Wentz is that he’s still their guy and would re­main on the 53-man ros­ter just in case the heal­ing ac­cel­er­ates.

When the Ea­gles op­pose the Saints Sun­day, it will mark the fourth straight game Wentz has been scratched.

Manag­ing the quar­ter­back po­si­tion is ev­ery­thing in the NFL be­cause you can­not fool the play­ers. Ped­er­son is killing it. The Ea­gles have turned what could have been a dis­as­ter into a gen­tle­man’s agree­ment.

It’s still hard to be­lieve Wentz has taken this so pas­sively. Oth­ers would have de­manded a trade.

Es­pe­cially with Foles per­form­ing at a higher level each week de­spite know­ing his days are num­bered.

Foles is unique — and then some.

“I think he knows it’s there,” of­fen­sive tackle Lane John­son said. “But I think he does a good job of kind of putting him­self in a kind of box to where he just fo­cuses on stuff that he can con­trol. It’s prob­a­bly very dif­fi­cult. Play­ing quar­ter­back in this league is al­ready one of the hard­est jobs there is. He’s just in an un­usual cir­cum­stance. But if there’s any guy that can han­dle it, I think it’s him. That’s kind of been his MO for his ca­reer.”

Foles func­tions so well with Ped­er­son, you won­der why the Ea­gles don’t keep both quar­ter­backs. Paired with Ped­er­son, he’s 9-2 with a Su­per Bowl ti­tle.

Foles is 23-6 in his ca­reer with the Ea­gles.

The only real ques­tion about Foles is the one al­ready there with Wentz: Can he stay healthy for a full sea­son?

“You don’t know what’s go­ing to hap­pen next year but we all do think about it,” John­son said. “And what we try to do is make the time we do play, make it count. My rookie year with Nick, hav­ing 27 (TDs) and two(in­ter­cep­tions), he showed what he was ca­pa­ble of. Even with Car­son, just the freak stuff he did last year be­fore he ever got in­jured, and some of the throws he made this year. You go, ‘yeah, this guy can do it.’ Once he gets healthy, once he gets back con­fi­dence it will be over for a lot of peo­ple. That’s kind of where we’re at. The sit­u­a­tion we’re in, you don’t get blessed like this too much.”

John­son thinks there’s a 50-50 chance Foles re­turns. Keep­ing both quar­ter­backs would be costly as Foles is in line to make at least $20 mil­lion next sea­son. If both are healthy, it would turn the po­si­tion into an open com­pe­ti­tion the Ea­gles don’t need. Wentz cer­tainly wouldn’t take a healthy de­mo­tion sit­ting down, ex­cuse the pun.

It’s also rea­son­able to be­lieve that if any­one could man­age such a sit­u­a­tion, it’s Ped­er­son.

Ped­er­son has come a long way from that tantrum-throw­ing guy who re­fused to con­cede who his quar­ter­back would be in the opener.

And the way the Ea­gles have re­sponded to his ex­am­ple, they could go a lot fur­ther.

Bob GrotzColum­nist

DAVID BANKS - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Jug­gling quar­ter­backs can be a messy, but the way Doug Ped­er­son, shown here with Nick Foles, han­dled the quar­ter­back sit­u­a­tion is one of the the rea­sons why the Ea­gles are still alive in the play­offs.

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