The Eagles have returned to contender status in the NFC East.
The Browns have remained, well, the Browns — directionless, quarterback-less and, so far this season, winless.
The Eagles thought Wentz, even after playing at an FCS program, was a prospective franchise quarterback. And they did what it took to land him after the Los Angeles Rams, who also traded up prior to the 2016 NFL draft, took Jared Goff No. 1.
There have been growing pains for Wentz and the Eagles, for sure. A quick start last season gave way to a relatively ugly finish. But the Eagles actually were fairly decent last season when offensive tackle Lane Johnson was not serving his suspension. Johnson is back in the lineup this season. The Eagles bolstered the offense around Wentz in the offseason, and it is not outlandish to believe that they might be the NFC East’s best team.
Wentz threw four touchdown passes Sunday as the Eagles rolled past the Arizona Cardinals, 34-7, at Lincoln Financial Field. Three of those touchdown passes came in the first quarter as the Eagles raced to a 21-0 lead and never looked back. Touchdown pass No. 3 was a 59-yarder to wide receiver Torrey Smith, one of the newcomers this season.
The triumph upped the Eagles’ record to 4-1 and kept everyone else in the NFC East in chase mode. The Eagles beat the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in the opener. They also have a victory over the New York Giants. The Dallas Cowboys still will have their say, facing the Eagles twice from mid-November on. The Eagles also must play the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams and Oakland Raiders. So the toughest part of their schedule is still to come.
But Wentz is the real deal, able to improvise when a play breaks down as well as throw the ball accurately from the pocket. The Eagles, regardless of how things go the remainder of this season, have their quarterback in place, perhaps for the next decade.
If only the Browns could say the same.
They passed on the chance to draft Wentz last year, reportedly because they did not believe he would be among the top 20 quarterbacks in the league. The Browns went with Robert Griffin III as their season-opening starter last year, and were predictably left looking for a quarterback again this past offseason.
Somehow, they again avoided getting one. Despite an abundance of draft choices, they did not swing a deal for New England Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo. After taking pass rusher Myles Garrett first overall in this year’s draft, they had their chance to get quarterback Deshaun Watson with their second opening-round selection. Instead, the Browns traded down. The Houston Texans used the 12th overall choice acquired from the Browns to take Watson, who appears on his way to NFL stardom in Houston. The Browns used a second-round pick on Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer and installed him as the season-opening starter at quarterback. They’ve since benched him twice.
It’s fine that the Browns are stockpiling draft choices. It’s also fine that they took Garrett, who could end up being a star. He had two sacks in Sunday’s 17-14 loss at home to the New York Jets after an injury delayed his start to his NFL career.
But at some point, those stockpiled draft picks have to be used to take a chance on landing a franchise quarterback. The Browns are 0-5 this season and 1-20 since the start of last season. Is the overall talent on their roster upgraded? Perhaps. But it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a quarterback.
Maybe that quarterback will arrive in a 2018 NFL draft that could be deep and talented at the position. Maybe not. Does anyone trust at this point that the Browns actually will use one of their prized picks on a quarterback?
Kizer was benched by Coach Hue Jackson at halftime Sunday after throwing a first-half interception. He has thrown nine interceptions in five games this season. Kevin Hogan came in and threw a touchdown pass that gave the Browns their first lead of the season, but it was temporary, as Hogan threw an interception that set up a Jets touchdown. The Browns passed up a tying field goal attempt for a failed fourth-and-two gamble at the Jets 4-yard line, and the Jets went 97 yards for another touchdown.
Hogan added another touchdown in a pretty good passing day. But it ultimately was a day like so many others for the Browns, with another loss and more quarterback disarray.
At least they have that “improved” roster and all those upcoming draft picks as consolation. Because they sure don’t have a quarterback yet, when they could have had Wentz.