PHILADELPHIA » Beyond the barbecues at his farm or the Yeti coolers, custom cowboy boots and shotguns Carson Wentz gifted to his offensive linemen at various Christmases, we still don’t know much about the off-the-field persona of the Eagles quarterback.
Wentz is quiet, calculating, concealing and rich. Add the injury history and you’ve got Sam Bradford without a Heisman Trophy in the display case.
Listening to Wentz, you wonder how many people have been in his ear suggesting ways to win back a team that had so much respect for Nick Foles, who in his absence led the Eagles to their only Super Bowl title.
Wentz believes the best way to lead is “organically and naturally.
“I don’t really have any specific examples other than just trying to get everybody involved and not just be so focused as much on the offense as much as the team,” Wentz said Saturday. “Be a leader for the whole team. Get to know some of the defensive guys a little bit more and be around. Which is hard. Obviously, we have busy days. But I’m trying to do that a little bit more.”
Leadership, at least in the NFL, is winning. Any true veteran will confirm that. Until Wentz wins again, talking about it is just that.
Leadership is what you do, not what you say. And Wentz showed it in a big way recently in the form of compassion for Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who’s facing the biggest challenge of his 12-year MLB career.
Just when McCutchen was feeling a rebirth in his career he tore an ACL running between first and second base.
The Phillies have been unable to replace his lead off bat and the defense he supplied before hopping off the field that June night.
McCutchen will be 33 years old in October, the month the World Series is settled. The Phillies still are in the playoff hunt. Do we still need to say anything can happen if they get in?
Wentz is the perfect guy to put the situation in its perspective. And for whatever reason he took a risk and reached out to share his ACL injury with McCutchen, whom he’d met during a Sixers basketball game.
“We were just talking doctors, kind of what to expect, different things,” Wentz said. “And it sucks, it sucks for him. When injuries happen like that your heart kind of breaks for guys. It’s just the part of sports that really is unfortunate. I just wanted to keep him in high spirits. I know he’s a man of faith, as well. Just wanted to let him know that God’s got control of this and he knows that. I just wanted to let him know that I was praying for him, that I was with him on it.
“I just told him kind of what to expect.”
Wentz has a Ph.D. in pain. Does it get any more agonizing than watching the team you guided to an 11-2 record win the Super Bowl without you?
The season after the ACL tear, the one where Nick Foles took the MVP victory lap and the book tour, Wentz rehabbed as hard as could be expected yet still wasn’t cleared to start the season.
Wentz was shutdown with three games left in the regular season, the Eagles hyperventilating with a 6-7 record and back-to-back games against playoff opponents Houston and the Los Angeles Rams.
You know the rest. Foles led the Eagles to four straight victories, including a playoff decision over Chicago, aided greatly by a missed field goal by the Bears.
If Wentz conveyed even a portion of what that was like, if he even mentioned the statue of Foles and head coach Doug Pederson collaborating on the “Philly-Philly” Super Bowl scoring play outside Lincoln Financial Field, it could greatly help McCutchen.
That same empathy, by the way, would go a long way in the locker room of the Eagles, who basically are a young team with talent that needs to trust this quarterback as much as it did Foles.
“We have the weapons,” Wentz said. “Finding everyone’s roles within this offense and knowing that at any point, one guy could have a monster day, could go off. I think we’re going to be strategic about using our matchups, too. If somebody presents a strong matchup, we’re just going to keep going at him. Kind of use that to our advantage as well. By nomeans do we have the recipe figured out exactly yet but I’m quite confident we will, come the season.”
The early signs are that Wentz is trying to let go of his painful past.
Organically, naturally or whatever, he’s going to have to show his teammates the side of him that cares.
It’s going to require more than barbeques, Yeti coolers or boots.
Contact BobGrotz at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @BobGrotz.