Pederson faces pressure to make Wentz great | McLane

PHOENIX - A lot of wagons are hitched to Carson Wentz, and Doug Pederson's is first in line.

"It's always the head coach and the quarterback, right? At this level?" the Eagles coach said Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings. "So I think that answers that."

Pederson went on to note that a successful Wentz was good business for everyone involved with the Eagles, but he would seem to have more staked on the quarterback. He is an offensive-minded head coach, after all, a former quarterback, and in his first year as head coach, the Eagles expended great capital to draft Wentz with the second overall pick.

If Wentz had disappointed during his rookie season, or had not shown a skill set worthy of such an investment, there might be less pressure on Pederson as he enters his second season. He certainly played a role in the decision to get the North Dakota State product. But Howie Roseman has final say over personnel and has largely been credited by owner Jeffrey Lurie for spearheading the acquisition of Wentz.

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The executive vice president of football operations will ultimately bear responsibility for drafting Wentz, but the onus shifted somewhat to Pederson once the rookie participated in his first NFL practice, and even more so after he showed considerable promise. On Tuesday, Lurie did little to dispute the notion that the Eagles believe they have a thoroughbred.

It's Pederson's job now - at least based upon the coach-quarterback tied-at-the-hip narrative - to help whip Wentz into an elite talent.

"Well, yeah, it's a big part of it," Pederson said before listing three other rookies from last year whom he is also vested in developing. "We want to make sure all our guys are developing. But that position is an important position."

Lurie took it one step further and basically elevated Wentz above everyone else on the Eagles when he said the best organizational structure was "to have a terrific quarterback." The owner was careful not to anoint the 24-year-old, but he said that all the ingredients were there.

Nearly every answer Lurie gave Tuesday about the state of his team weaved its way back to getting Wentz. Asked for an assessment of Pederson after his first year, he credited his coach with the staff he assembled, his handling of the locker room, and his play-calling. But those paled in comparison with a decision made months earlier.

"In the end, if we look back, most importantly, him - and it was designed this way - [offensive coordinator] Frank Reich, [and quarterbacks coach] John DeFilippo were incredibly helpful at identifying that, yes, this was the year there was a quarterback that was worth moving up in the draft for," Lurie said.

He then went on, during the same answer about Pederson, to detail the process of evaluating, testing, and acquiring Wentz, and then to trade Sam Bradford - all areas under Roseman's domain.

The Eagles, of course, have been down this road before. In 1999, they drafted Donovan McNabb for first-year coach Andy Reid. That partnership netted the franchise its longest sustained period of success during the Super Bowl era, but it fell short of ultimate glory.

Success can be defined in many ways, which is why even elite quarterbacks can go through multiple coaches. Matt Ryan didn't reach the Super Bowl until his ninth season and his second coach. But the one-coach-quarterback relationship is often a tried and true practice.

Lurie preached patience when it came to his team, but what if the Eagles were to take a step back in terms of record and performance, and, perhaps, most important, what if Wentz does not ascend in his second season?

Lurie used to be considered one of the more patient owners in the NFL, but after he fired Chip Kelly just nine months after he handed him control of personnel, it's fair to wonder how long a leash he will give Pederson.

Can Pederson afford to be as patient as Lurie and the seemingly entrenched Roseman?

"It can be hard," Pederson said when asked about remaining patience. "Again, it goes back to acquiring talent. You want all the holes filled. . . . But patience is a virtue. And we have to trust our plan, we have to trust our process."

Pederson writes up reports for free agents and draft prospects, but his involvement in personnel is likely negligible. He clearly influenced the decision to sign Chase Daniel last offseason, but a regrettable contract netted little in return and the backup quarterback was released this month.

The Eagles want Pederson to lead the team and be able to get the players to play for him. They want him to handle the quarterback and the offense, but not anywhere near on his own. And they want him to effectively manage the game.

"The biggest thing is: How did I lead the football team?" Pederson said. "Standing in front of the room every day, addressing the guys. At the end of the day, I think one of the strengths is that the guys never quit."

Pederson doesn't have to worry about Wentz in that regard. He's wired to give 100 percent in everything he does. This offseason, the quarterback sought out noted quarterback guru Adam Dedeaux to help fine-tune his throwing motion.

Pederson pointed out several times during last season that Wentz was having mechanical problems, but he said that he didn't expect him to return April 17 (when the offseason program will begin) with significant alterations to his delivery.

Wentz experienced soreness in his elbow at times last season, NFL sources told the Inquirer last month. Pederson, like Roseman earlier, denied that there were problems but stopped short of saying that Wentz was without aches.

"There was nothing. He was healthy," Pederson said. "Again, he played 16 games, and I'm not going to sit here and say that he was 100 percent feeling great. But at the same time, it's like every player."

But every player isn't the same.

jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane