The Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles are headed in completely opposite directions, and a big reason for it appears to be Carson Wentz.
On Monday, Wentz led the Eagles to a rousing 34-24 win over the Washington Redskins, throwing for 268 yards and three touchdowns while completing 68% of his passes.
The win moved the Eagles to 6-1 on the season, in sole possession of first place in the NFL, while Wentz now leads the NFL in touchdowns.
And he could have been the Browns’ quarterback, a decision that looks increasingly disastrous for Cleveland.
Prior the 2016 draft, the Browns and Eagles completed a blockbuster trade, with the Eagles sending four draft picks to Cleveland to nab the second overall pick in the draft. Much of the discussion around the draft was whether the Los Angeles Rams, with the No. 1 pick, would take Jared Goff or Wentz. They chose Goff and the Eagles took Wentz.
Wentz came out of the gates on fire last season before slowing down as NFL defences adjusted to his game. Wentz finished the year with just 16 touchdowns to 14 interceptions, with a 79 passer rating and an average of 6.3 yards per pass attempt.
This year, however, Wentz has looked like a revelation, as he’s taken a next step that puts him in the MVP conversation on a team with an elite defence and offence that seems to be finding its footing each week.
Compare that with the Browns, whose quarterback situation continues to get uglier by the week.
Last year, the Browns started five different quarterbacks, cycling through the likes of Cody Kessler, Josh McCown, Robert Griffin III, Charlie Whitehurst, and Kevin Hogan.
This year, seeking an answer at the position (though they passed over the chance to draft Deshaun Watson), the Browns drafted DeShone Kizer. Kizer, through six games, has completed just 52% of his passes and has thrown three touchdowns to 11 interceptions. Kizer has been tugged in and out of the lineup, replaced by Hogan (61% completion, four touchdowns, five interceptions) and Kessler (52% completion, zero touchdowns, one interception).
The Browns, at 0-7, were expected to take a next step this season after what looked like a promising draft. However, the offence is utterly incompetent, leaving the defence on the field for longer periods of time to hold down the fort. When the Browns begin trailing, they’re forced to abandon the run game, leaving their quarterbacks to throw more and get exposed.
Now there are already calls for changes in management. Two seasons into a full tear-down, the Browns at 1-22, haven’t made any progress on their rebuild outside of perhaps defensive end Myles Garrett. The Browns have been credited for acquiring extra picks by moving down in the draft, and the 2018 quarterback class looks deep, but at a certain point, Cleveland needs to make a move for a franchise quarterback. Unless the problem is they’re simply not good at evaluating them.
Neither Wentz nor Watson would be playing as well as they are now if they were in Cleveland. But any team’s rebuild becomes easier with a potential franchise quarterback in tow. Good quarterbacks keep their team’s defence on the field, elevate the skill players around them, and help attract future free agents. Wentz certainly has that promise for the Eagles.
The Browns, meanwhile, must be kicking themselves for passing on the chance to enjoy all that Wentz brings to a team.
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