Carson Wentz responded to a hit piece exactly how you’d never expect a multimillion-dollar superstar to respond.
With Humility. With self-reflection. Seeking self-improvement.
Carson Wentz responded like a Christian.
Not like a Leader. Not like the Face of the Franchise. Not like a man Protecting his Brand.
Like a Christian.
He’d been called a selfish, petulant bully. And all he did was show the other cheek.
“I know what my identity is in Christ first and I’ve got to always keep that in perspective first and foremost,” Wentz said.
That crucial nugget was buried a bit in the middle of a 3,000-word transcript that ran Feb. 4, spurred by a scathing character assassination that ran on PhillyVoice.com on Jan. 21. It’s taken a few weeks to digest the nature of his answers, simply because they are so unusual. So unique. So sincere. But then, apparently, so is he.
Or is he?
I’m a cynic, and the son of a preacher, and so, combined, I have zero tolerance for fake Christians. But Wentz has me convinced that his responses were 100 percent real. Still, I sought ecclesiastical affirmation.
I contacted two members of the clergy, each of whom I’ve known for several years. They have no relationship with Wentz; or with his AO1 Foundation; or with Connect Church, the house of worship with which he is affiliated, in Cherry Hill, N.J. They do not know each other and they did not know the other was consulted. Neither had read the transcript. Both requested anonymity.
Each replied within minutes. And each agreed, unequivocally: These were the words of a devout Christian.
“No question,” one said in a telephone call.
The other replied via email:
“The world doesn’t often get a window like this -- into the heart of someone that dialed-in to be a genuine, all-in Christ-follower who cares more about that than anything else."
There you have it.
It might be tiresome for you -- all this talk of Christianity and its pervasiveness with these Eagles. It might feel overdone, maybe even phony.
Sorry. It’s the story. Again and again, it’s the story.
It is, to a large degree, the basis of who they are. It is everywhere. Head coach Doug Pederson, and his 5:30 a.m. prayers and meditations. The foundation of the marriage of Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz and his wife, Julie, a soccer star who’s even more famous than he is. All three quarterbacks -- Wentz, Nick Foles and Nate Sudfeld -- and their quarterback meetings that turn into prayer meetings. Baptizing a teammate in a hotel pool.
Christianity is not required but it supplies a consistent template: perseverance, perspective, faith and love. For some teams, religion is an accessory. For this team, it is the fabric.
Certainly, the preachers and I might be wrong. But for three years the Eagles have been consistent in both word and deed.
None more so than Wentz.
The overarching theme of his rebuttal was simple. If anyone perceived him to be flawed, then, regardless of his intent, he must fix the flaws.
“I know I’m not perfect, I know I have flaws. So I’m not going to sit here and say it was inaccurate and completely made up, I’m not going to do that.”
"You look at it and (are), like, 'Well, if someone did have this perception of me, why? What have I done wrong? What can I get better at? I realize I have my shortcomings. 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.’ "
He admitted that he has strong opinions about which plays to run, and why, and that the emotions involved with being hurt, then returning, then being hurt again made him undiplomatic when expressing his preferences:
“I’ll be the first to admit I can be selfish. We’re all kind of stubborn in our own right, to liking certain plays, or liking certain things our way. So in my mind, I’m like, ‘Ok, am I ever over the top with that?’ Like, can I be better?' Kind of, still be stubborn but with (more) humility.”
“So I realize, like, I maybe wasn’t the greatest teammate at times because I was, emotionally, kind of all over the place.”
He explained that the stresses of recovering from knee and back injuries the past two seasons could have created distance between him and the rest of the team, but realized that, as the team’s leader, he shouldn’t have allowed that to happen:
“... you get so focused on just getting the knee right, or getting back, that you can miss out on the human side of the things, and the personal side of being a teammate, and being around your brothers and spending time and all that. So there’s that element that I definitely kind of look back on like, ‘Were there moments or were there opportunities that I just kind of neglected because I put just wanting to be healthy first?' And so there’s things that you look back and you’re like, ‘OK, that’s something I can’t lose sight of.’ ”
Asked about his assertive personality, Wentz agreed that he could be abrasive:
“Any time you’re a Type-A guy, there’s a fine line being pushy and shove-y, and (being) humble (with) humility and walking that line. (I’m) definitely learning to navigate that always, and never trying to look down on anybody or make it seem like I’m better than anybody.”
Wentz also was accused of bullying first-year coordinator Mike Groh, but he insisted that he intended no such thing, no matter how their interactions were perceived. Wentz contended that disagreements with former offensive coordinator Frank Reich, a veteran coordinator were “competitive arguments” and were “healthy,” and acknowledged that similar interactions with Groh would not change, since they were misconstrued: “You could view those as arguments, but really I think it’s just for the betterment of the team.”
That, finally, is all Wentz wants: The betterment of the team. He believes that his faith will bring that to pass.