McFeely: Teammates rush to Wentz's defense after report calls him 'selfish'

Philadelphia publication runs piece citing unnamed sources, saying that former Bison is 'egotistical' and 'bullied' Eagles' offensive coordinator
Philadelphia's Carson Wentz, left, was sidelined with a back injury for the last month of the NFL season and was listed as the No. 3 quarterback behind No. 2 Nate Sudfeld , middle,  starter Nick Foles, right.  Bill Streicher / USA TODAY Sports
Philadelphia's Carson Wentz, left, was sidelined with a back injury for the last month of the NFL season and was listed as the No. 3 quarterback behind No. 2 Nate Sudfeld , middle, starter Nick Foles, right. Bill Streicher / USA TODAY SportsBill Streicher / USA TODAY Sports

Well, this won't go over well in North Dakota. And it doesn't seem to be going over well with some in Philadelphia.

Although everybody would be best-served by taking a deep breath.

Some of Carson Wentz's teammates on the Philadelphia Eagles came to his defense Monday after a published report that characterized the former North Dakota State quarterback as "selfish," "egotistical" and "uncompromising."

The PhillyVoice, an alternative newspaper, posted a piece online that used unnamed sources on the Eagles and around the team to paint a picture of Wentz who caused friction on the team and wasn't universally loved. That's different, like by 180 degrees, of the Wentz that's been portrayed since his Bison days.

"Carson Wentz's biggest enemy is Carson Wentz," one source was quoted as saying. "He's had his ass kissed his whole life, and sometimes acts like he's won 10 Super Bowls, when he hasn't played in, let alone won, a playoff game yet. Everyone around him wants good things for him. He did more thinking on the field than he did playing (in 2018). You don't have to be a brain surgeon or a football expert to see how differently this team plays and reacts with one guy as opposed to the other."

It didn't take long for some of Wentz's high-profile teammates to come to his defense.

"Whoever wrote that article needs to check their 'sources.' #fakenews," offensive lineman Lane Johnson wrote on Twitter. "Carson has been and is our leader and our QB. Y'all know where to find me if you have any questions."

"Reading through this Carson Wentz thing and as a leader on this team none of that is true," wrote defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. "Carson is a great teammate and great player we are all behind him 100% he's our guy and will come back and prove the world wrong. If you got a problem feel free to @ me I'll respond."

Wentz, a two-year starter at NDSU who was drafted No. 2 overall by Philadelphia in 2016, became a central story line to the Eagles' disappointing season in 2018.

He had a near-MVP season in 2017 before tearing his ACL late in the year, giving way to backup Nick Foles. Foles got hot, leading Philadelphia to the Super Bowl title and being named most valuable player of the game.

Wentz came back at the start of 2018, but he and the Eagles offense often struggled. Philadelphia was 5-6 with Wentz starting before he was sidelined again, this time with a season-ending back injury. Foles took over again and boosted the Eagles to the playoffs, where they upset the Chicago Bears before losing to the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round.

The story outlines an Eagles team that preferred to have Foles at quarterback because he ran the team's offense as it was designed. Wentz, sources in the story said, tended to "complicate" the offense and had "favorites" who he targeted with passes more than others.

Tight end Zach Ertz, one of the players who happened to use Twitter to defend Wentz, was singled out as a favorite and the numbers, for what it's worth, backed it up. In the 11 games Wentz played, the story said, Ertz had 106 passes thrown his way, by far the most of any receiver.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind as many Bison and North Dakota fans melt down over a portrayal of Wentz as something less than perfect.

First, for those who are trashing writer Joseph Santoliquito and his use of exclusively unnamed sources, Santoliquito is a veteran, award-winning sports writer who has been in Philadelphia a long time. He's been nominated for Emmy awards for video work. He is currently president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His work should not be dismissed as garbage simply because you don't like the tone of it.

Second, it is not shocking that a half-dozen (or more) teammates would be unhappy with Wentz or think that he is egotistical or controlling. It's not exactly uncommon for professional athletes to have big egos or be driven to want things their way. You think Tom Brady isn't a Type-A, self-centered jerk when he wants and needs to be? Think there aren't players on the New England Patriots who privately complain that Brady doesn't throw the ball to them enough?

There are 53 active players on each NFL roster, plus five on each team's practice squad. Players are injured, cut, traded or quit throughout a season. Of all those bodies going through the locker room, some are bound to be unhappy. It's the nature of any large organization filled with driven, high-ego people. Some are going to gripe about the biggest star.

And it's not like Santoliquito's piece eviscerates Wentz at every turn. It points out that Wentz was probably playing at 80-percent health all season because of his mending knee, which seemed obvious even by watching the quarterback on TV. Sources described Wentz as "incredibly hard-working," "determined," and "highly intelligent" even as they were questioning other traits.

The story even said teammates believe that while Wentz could've used some humility this season, there's a good chance he'll return to being his old self next season as his health improves and he has full control of the Eagles' offense.

"He has to return to who 'Carson Wentz' is," said one source, according to PhillyVoice. "That comes with relaxing and not forcing things. It also comes with being able to take constructive criticism. He has to learn it's not always about him and that's partly what hurt this team this year. We know what type of player he can be, and who he normally is. He needs to realize it's the Philadelphia Eagles not the Philadelphia Carsons.

"A little humility goes a long way."