I used to write more about the NFL many years ago – maybe 10-15 years, but with many years of grad school, I got away from the day to day of players. I used to be a whiz with fantasy football, now I could not tell you the top wide receivers out there – at all. But I do watch my Eagles every weekend, and with that, I wanted to make some NFL notes over my lunch today.
Eli a HOFer?
I went back and forth with my NY Giants friend John. We have a group chat, and as guys roll, we tend to like to kick each other in the nuts when the other person’s team is down. It’s how we roll. In this case, I’m a fan of the Eagles. Some of them are Giants fans, some are Redskins (Commanders) fans. Yesterday, once again Eli came up.
I think his case is borderline, at best. Can you make an argument for? Yes – but all of those arguments can also be refuted quite easily. As an Eagles fan, I loved playing the Giants. I called Eli ” a chucker” and he was always good for 2-3 interceptions. Let’s take a look.
- He won 2 super bowls!! I call this the “Troy Aikman argument”.
This is the argument that you hear many fans talk about. The problem with this argument is you are giving the quarterback (QB) credit for the win – or loss. Football is the ULTIMATE team game, and with this, there are 52 others on the field that can affect the outcome. To give ALL credit to the quarterback or ALL blame to the QB isn’t fair. Where it matters, to an extent is where the QB outperforms his usual statistical self – one way or the other. If a QB has 7 TD passes and 80% accuracy on the day, it is FAIR to say he won that game for the team. But, on the flip side, you may have the best wide receivers on the league. And best running back. AND – you might have the best defense which causes turnovers. In this case, the QB may have a ridiculous amount of opportunities to throw those passes.
But Troy Aikman won 3 SBs! He’s a HOFer! Well, you need to really look at those TEAMS Troy played on. I think the entire offense is in the HOF. No joke. The defense was also quite stunning as well. Terry Bradshaw was also someone on incredible teams without great numbers. But Troy’s numbers are pretty bad for a HOFer. Something like 160 TD and 140 INTs. That’s like an 8:7 ratio. With QBs, you want to see about a 2:1 TD:INT ratio.
With Eli – his TEAM won the super bowls, and he was a key contributor. You can say WINNING is the only thing that matters, but what percent of those wins belong to Eli?
In this case, Eli’s numbers are FAR, FAR better than Aikman’s. So in this respect, I have to say this leans toward going to the HOF, but weighting wins too much on a QB is also very misleading. Let’s look at the Giants 2008 SB win (2007 stats)
The truth is, this team was average, at best. However, you can see the defense was “bend, don’t break”. For the year, you had 23 TD, 20 INTs? This is an “elite” QB? No. The team barely won each playoff game.
You could make the argument that this was perhaps a coaching win? Perhaps you can point to the defense for keeping points down?
With 2012…(2011 season)
With this team, you can see the Giants offense was top 10 and defense was near the bottom of the league. You can see the TD/INT were 29/16, and the +7 turnovers probably helped them a lot. More on turnovers below with my Eagles.
With the playoffs – you can see that the first two they significantly outscored their opponents, and the NFC championship and the SB were nail biters. The team that year was 9-7. You could make the argument that the terrible defense cost them games. But Eli put up some good numbers passing.
Analysis – In both of the above, the Giants squeaked into the playoffs and barely won. If Eli was an “elite” quarterback, I’d be expecting yearly records to be 14-2 and 13-3 and not 9-7 and 10-6. The best you can say here, I’d posit, is Eli was potentially a “game manager” who did not make crucial turnovers with the game on the line.
- But his passing TDs and yards are insane!!!
No. Just no. He started playing in a passer’s era. I can’t recall in any year he was in the league where he would have been considered a “top 7” quarterback. You could make the argument MAYBE one year he was borderline top 5. You have to then assume one day he’s on a HOF ballot. Who were the people of his era he was going against? Then, ask yourself if his passing stats were better than any of the following: Peyton Manning, Brady, Wilson, Ben Rogers, Ryan, Favre, Rivers – you can even add Stafford in there. Then you had guys play with him that beat him like McNabb and Romo. Romo’s numbers are FAR better than Eli’s.
What I did above was put him against the other top 11 QBs of his time. What you find – in red – is that he scores at literally the bottom of every metric. His closest analog by stats? Brett Favre, a fellow chucker. Favre is HOF. So obviously Eli MUST be HOF, right? Favre’s last year was 2010 – and the last 2-3 years weren’t consequential, but he WAS the next Dan Marino/Elway – the gun slinger. That sort of ushered in this new “pass happy” types of offense you see these days. Meaning….Favre was more or less a pioneer of today’s offenses. If Favre was 10 years later in his career, he would be at the bottom with Eli.
Fun note from an Eagles fan. McNabb’s numbers are close to Eli with completion percentage and rating, but McNabb turned the ball over less and this is a key metric in team wins. While Manning played longer than McNabb (maybe 5 years more), you can make an argument that McNabb was one of the most impactful signal callers during his Philly era with being in 5 NFC championship games (and 1 Super Bowl) in 10 years in Philly. McNabb lost the SB 24-21 to Brady, but one could make an argument that if McNabb marched down the field and won that game rather than throwing up, you could make the same arguments for HOF you are for Manning. I have to give the edge to Manning for career longevity and winning those Super Bowls – but their overall careers are a lot closer than you want to look at when considering HOF criteria.
Conclusion – Eli came along in the gunslinger era of pass-happy offenses. His record as a QB is the second to worst of the 12, and I’d put that squarely on his 1.5 TD/INT ratio. However, Favre had the same ratio but won a shit ton more games. You can then look at the “team” aspect here for clarity. Favre’s teams were just better than the Giants. This shows that Eli and Favre were about the same QB, but Favre’s packers won a LOT more games than the Eli-led Giants. This could have then provided an Edge to Eli in big games, or perhaps coaches that caught fire and were able to out-scheme better opponents. To me, in that list of 12, Eli is at the bottom of this list with McNabb and Favre. I’d say McNabb is on the outside looking in, but Eli might be borderline. Why? Because he may be going against all of these guys and they aren’t letting the other 10 or so in.
Wentz at fault for Commanders?
I admit, I haven’t watched much of the Commanders outside of the Eagles loss. However, I watched a TON of Wentz and still believe VERY highly of him.
This might be too small for you to see – but in red, I highlighted a couple of things. First, his record is 45-44-1. About .500. Every one of you above that just talked about Eli getting a raw deal due to his team record, sit down and shut up on Wentz. I watched him in Philly for 5 years, and I can tell you the problem with Wentz.
Doug Peterson brought a Super Bowl to Philly in 2018, just after the 2017 season. What you see up there is Carson’s record at 11-2. His rating was 101.9. If you look on the chart in the previous section at ratings, you can see he put up an ELITE year that year. Until his knee went out on a scramble. What you DON’T know is after years of watching McNabb throw at peoples’ ankles and Dog Killer running for his life, to then see Wentz throw bullets to the numbers of guys was tremendous.
But there’s a dark side to Doug. I don’t know what he did in Philly, but everyone was always hurt. “But every team gets hurt Nate”. No. You have NO idea how bad it was during his tenure. That year we beat the GOAT in the Super Bowl? Wentz wasn’t there. His season was over. We had 9 backups playing in starting positions, including QB. That’s almost half the starting lineup out. Let that sink in.
This includes offensive line. The Eagles had (or have) probably 4 HOFers from the line that started in 2017. Kelce, Brooks, Johnson, and Peters. Ertz was a TE and possibly HOF. That group was SOLID – which allowed Wentz all day to throw – and put up 33TD against 7INTs. But what you saw over the next few years was all of their o-line got hurt. Even in 2017 there were a ton of injuries, which led to Wentz scrambling like Steve Young. Their wide receivers got hurt. Running backs got hurt. Wentz had no one to throw to. We were getting accustomed to learning the depth on our PRACTICE SQUAD. I mean, we had a guy we signed off the street who won offensive player of the week and then went back to obscurity out of the league.
Wentz then goes into the playoffs and gets nearly decapitated in 2019. You could clearly see dude got a bad concussion. But guess what? We still had bad injuries, but now Wentz could not scramble. So the injuries on the line then led to Wentz getting smashed all the time. Where he used to be able to extend the play with his legs, he was not getting run down and made forced throws and fumbled a lot on hits.
When they sent him to Indy to be back under Frank Reich, I thought it was a great move for Wentz. He finished that year with a 94.6 rating and 27 TD/7 INT. They had the league’s best running back. But went 9-8 and lost to Jax the last week and didn’t make the playoffs. Indy ownership took anger out on Wentz, who had refused to take the vax. The week before Jacksonville, they lost to the Raiders and it was noted he had missed a week of practice due to having COVID. The management was furious with him for not taking the vax, and assumed because he did not take the vax, that led to him getting COVID. This then led to him being out of sorts and trying to play through the pain.
Indy shipped him off.
This year in Washington, I have to tell you, the man does not have an offensive line. Take a look at his stats this year – after 5 games, 3 of these he has a rating of 100 or so.
In one of them, Philly, he was sacked 9 times. The game was over at the half, and Washington had to throw the second half. You could see Wentz throwing beautiful passes – when he wasn’t murdered. Those 9 sacks? No blitzing. Meaning, the front 4 tore through Washington front 5 like a hit knife through butter.
If you watch that game closely, I ask you this…
- Where were the screens at?
- Did they add a TE to help block?
- Did they add a running back to help block?
- Were any plays for quick releases? They all looked like 7 step drop backs
I bring this up because to me the offensive line was completely mismatched to the D line of the Eagles (one of the best, if not the best in the league) and with this, he has no time to throw. What I saw out there was the 2019 Wentz when his line was injured and he had no one to throw to. Then they went out and with their second round pick, they didn’t draft weapons for him, they drafted a QB.
For all of you up there that say Eli is a HOF due to his yards per game passing – Wentz is higher on this career list than Eli.
Their defense is ranked 18th for yards and 26th for points. One could argue here they are giving up points on shorter yards due to optimal starting field positions. You can see this with INTs and strip sacks on Wentz. But when you watched that Eagles game, I don’t think he had 2 seconds to throw all day. And STILL the guy has 3 games with a passer rating at 100.
Rivera may be a fool for hurdling insults at the QB this week. Dumb. Is Wentz perfect? No – but he’s pretty damn good. Remember how much you love Eli for HOF? Eli has an 84 career QB rating, and Wentz is at 90. Remember the concept of “TEAM” sports? If you like Eli despite a 114-114 record, but don’t like Wentz with a 45-44-1 record and a MUCH better QB Rating, then I don’t know what to tell you.
Wentz is getting a raw deal.
Fly Eagles Fly
I won’t spend TOO much time talking about my birds other than to say….WOW. So far, this has been THE most complete Birds team I have ever seen. Ever. I go back to watching Randall dazzle and that great D. McNabb with no passers scrambling his way around. Wentz making magic happen. But those teams all had massive gaps, except the 2004 Eagles. The 2017 Eagles had significant injury problems and still won the Super Bowl.
But this team? Wow.
Defense – 4th in Yds per game. They gave up a lot to the Lions who have a surprisingly good offense. 17 points per game? I’ll take it. Their D line was #5 in PFF prior to the season, and they significantly upgraded their linebackers and D backs. At issue mostly here is in some games they could not get pressure without a blitz (Lions) and in other games their D line mowed down anyone in their way (Commanders).
Offense – 2nd in YPG. They have 27 PPG, but this is somewhat misleading as most of their games have been over by the half and the second half it has been stout defense, ball control, running the clock out. In Reid’s years, he never stopped putting pressure – but was bad with clock management. This led to more games than I care to discuss being lost in the last 4 minutes. One thing Sirianni has done EXTREMELY well is adapt and then with this, win the damn game by holding the ball. The Eagles Offensive line was #1 with PFF prior to the season, and with this, when they have cushy leads, they simply run the damn ball in the 3rd and 4th quarters to suck up all the time on long drives.
Turnovers – Eagles are +9 to lead the entire league. If you were to go back 80 years and do a multiple regression analysis using turnovers as one of the variables, you would find that this number is HIGHLY correlated to a team winning the game. This is why for “chuckers” like Eli, when you turn the ball over more, you tend to lose more games. IF you have a stellar defense, you can take those risks (Favre). If you did NOT have a stellar defense, then taking these risks costs your team Ws (Eli).
I can tell you – the Eagles O-line now has 2 HOFs remaining. Kelce and Johnson. Brooks retired and Peters is injured at Dallas. We have Jordan Mailata at left tackle who was a 7th round draft pick who never played football before being drafted. 6’8″ 345 pounds and dude has serious rugby skills.
Who else? Andrew Dillard – a first round LT beat out by Mailata. You have Landon Dickerson their second round pick at LG. Cam Jurgens was drafted in the second round this past year as possible heir apparent to Kelce when he hangs them up.
But the massive big deal is the upgrade to their receiving corps. Out goes Jalen Reagor and Whiteside (1st and 2nd rd busts) and in comes AJ Brown and Zach Pascal to add to the budding super star DeVonta Smith and the speedy Quez Watkins. You have Dallas Goedert who completely has stepped in the shoes of Zach Ertz. The offense is just FUN to watch.
Analysis – they are 5-0 and on pace to have a deep run in the playoffs, if the wheels don’t come off. It seems clear to anyone watching that Jalen Hurts took a massive step up between last year and this year with his passing. While his feet were dangerous before – his arm is now lacing accurate deep throws and causing chaos for secondaries everywhere. They have almost THE easiest schedule of all teams remaining, and with that, are looking at probably a 13-4 record or better.