Carson Wentz shouldn’t change. He shouldn’t alter his Type-A personality even if it rankles a few teammates. The Eagles quarterback has already proved in just three seasons that he has what it takes to thrive in the NFL.
Are there minor modifications he can make? Absolutely. The room for improvement is one of mankind’s largest. But having a competitive disposition is vital for athletes, especially quarterbacks. Most elite ones have it in doses. And above all, to thine own self should Wentz be true, because authenticity is what resonates most in the locker room and on the field.
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“I’m 26 years old; my personality, to some extent, ain’t going to change,” Wentz said during a recent interview. It’s “what’s gotten me here, what’s gotten me successful. I’m not going to say, ‘Oh, now I’m going to have this free-spirited, Cali-guy vibe.’ That’s just not going to change.”
Wentz’s character previously never came into question until a recent PhillyVoice.com painted him as “selfish,” “uncompromising,” and “egotistical.” There weren’t names behind any of the quotes cited in the story, however. And conspicuously missing was Wentz’s voice or a fair attempt to allow him to respond to the charges.
On Thursday, Wentz sat down with a half-dozen reporters at the NovaCare Complex to address the accusations made in the article. While he didn’t counter some of the general characterizations culled together from “more than a half dozen players, plus other sources close to the team,” according to the story, he rebutted some of the specific claims:
But the charges made against Wentz’s character were the ones that seemed to hit home the hardest and that he seemed to contemplate the most.
“I know who I am, first of all. I know how I carry myself. I know I’m not perfect. I know I have flaws,” Wentz said. “So I’m not going to sit here and say it was inaccurate and completely made up. I’m not going to do that.”
Wentz said that he wished whichever teammate(s) it was who felt the need to air grievances would have come to him first. He said that he did briefly “play detective,” and that he and some teammates considered the “why,” but Wentz said he tried not to dwell on the hypotheticals. He looked inward instead.
“I realize I have my shortcomings,” Wentz said. “Yes, I can be selfish. I think we all have selfishness inside of us. There’s human elements to that, that I really look at and say, ‘Well, I can get better.’ ”
Get better, yes. Change, no. For his first two seasons, and especially in 2017, Wentz’s Type-A personality was viewed as only a positive. But the circumstances of the last year – in which he suffered back-to-back season-ending injuries and his backup led the Eagles to a Super Bowl win and the second round of the playoffs – have somewhat altered the narrative.
But to think that Wentz did a 180 or, at the least, became a megalomaniac in the span of 12 months defies logic and what many of his teammates, past and present, have publicly said as they came to his defense.
Wentz can be ambitious, stubborn, exacting, demanding, but the same has been said of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and on and on and on. He has “so much stinking juice,” as former Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said recently after he heard of the criticism, the subtext being, why would you ever want him to be less confident?
But there is a tightrope to walk.
“Anytime you’re a Type-A guy, there’s a fine line being pushy and shove-y and humble and humility and walking that line,” Wentz said. “Definitely learning to navigate that always and never trying to look down on anybody or make it seem like I’m better than anybody.
“But at the same time, as a Type-A, so-to-speak, confident person that’s confident in off-the-field things and then on the field with what we like, that’s not going to change.”
In a locker room with 53 different personalities, it’s difficult to please everyone. But they must respect you, and they won’t if you are fake. They won’t if you don’t back your words with actions. And there has yet to be a single instance of Wentz not fulfilling his starting quarterback obligations.
In fact, he may push the envelope too far. He has more responsibilities than others, but he always seems to be, at least at the NovaCare, in a constant state of motion. His close friends on the team, like Jordan Hicks, Zach Ertz, Jordan Matthews, and Chris Maragos, have told stories about his impatience.
He was also isolated, at times, from the team during offseason practices. And rehab kept him from organizing another spring trip with his receivers.
“You can miss out on the human side of the things and the personal side of being a teammate and being around your brothers,” Wentz said.
But he may need to make more of an effort to go outside his comfort zone with teammates. Wentz forged a bond with a core group partly because of their shared Christian faith. But it may be viewed by others as a clique.
He has made some effort, once organizing a cookout with Eagles offensive linemen at his South Jersey home. Jason Kelce and Wentz may be opposites when it comes to religion, politics or hobbies, but they have a friendship. The center was one of the non-“Brotherhood” players – as Wentz’s posse likes to call itself – to be invited to Wentz’s wedding in July.
But more could be done. He could attend more functions for other teammates’ charities. He could pick a destination – other than his native North Dakota – for his getaway with receivers. He could slow down a little and just hang out more with the guys in the locker room.
Last year was different, though. Wentz was rehabbing after tearing ligaments in his left knee, and his quest to be ready by the season opener was borderline obsessive. He wasn’t as explosive when he returned – something he acknowledged Thursday – and the physical limitations, along with the losing, bogged him down.
“I realize, like, I maybe wasn’t the greatest teammate at times, because I was emotionally kind of all over the place,” Wentz said. “To the outside world, I probably didn’t show it much. But internally, I mean, you’re definitely fighting some sort of emotions.”
And then he got hurt again, and, this time, the Eagles played better with Nick Foles. There were various reasons for the turnaround, but the team seemed to be galvanized by the switch. Wentz and Foles have different personalities, but it also helped that the former had yet to take a dominant leadership role.
That will change, as veterans leave, and after the Eagles give Wentz a franchise-quarterback contract extension, possibly this offseason. Foles’ eventual departure will also help keep Wentz from having to look over his shoulder whenever he does struggle.
But the specter will remain until Wentz wins a championship. Even at this, possibly the lowest point of his career, he understands he can’t let outside pressure change who he is.
“I know what I’m capable of on the field. I know what I’ve done in the past, and I know where I envision this team going,” Wentz said. “And so, I don’t really worry about what’s happened in the past -- the shadow, the pressure, the stress.
“There’s plenty of it. Whether that’s from living in, quote, that shadow or whatever, there’s plenty of stress and pressure here that you try and block out as much as you can.”
Wentz has room to improve as a player and a teammate, but it will be his drive, and not compromising himself, that gets him there.