From Fan to Foe, the Butterfly Effect of Carson Wentz and Russell Wilson
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Sunday will not be the first time Carson Wentz and Russell Wilson have done battle as two of the most highly-regarded quarterbacks in the NFL.
Every time it does happen, though, it brings to mind the Butterfly Effect of what might have been for both players and the city of Philadelphia if Andy Reid had gotten his way back in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Still the coach in Philadelphia at that time Reid wanted Wilson in the City of Brotherly Love but like a lot of personnel people around the NFL had some concerns over Wilson's size, earmarking the third round as the proper time to strike for what has turned into a Super Bowl-winning signal caller and perhaps the top candidate for MVP in the 2019 season as the 8-2 Seahawks set to do battle with the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.
Philadelphia, standing at No. 76 overall that year, ended up as bridesmaids when Seattle traded up to 75 to secure Wilson. The Eagles ultimately traded down to 88th overall and selected Nick Foles, which set off its own set of circumstances, ultimately resulting in a Super Bowl LII championship for the Eagles.
"I went to the University of Wisconsin and worked out Russell [when I was the] quarterback coach here and that was the first time I met him. I had a great day with him and spent some time [with him]," Pederson remembered Friday. "Really, it wasn't so much the workout and watching him throw and putting him through some of the throws we were doing at the time, but it's when I got him in the classroom; it’s when I had a chance to go to lunch with him and just talk with him as a person. That's where you really - for me anyway - where I knew this kid was going to be a special player in this league."
There were many twists and turns since that day -- Reid and Pederson leaving for Kansas City, Chip Kelly arriving with so much hype and setting Foles adrift to St. Louis and the Chiefs before both Pederson and Foles returned for the magical 2017-18 run.
Considering Reid's history with quarterbacks had he gotten Wilson in 2012, "Big Red" might still be in Philadelphia and Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft, almost certainly wouldn't be.
"He's a great, tremendous leader." Pederson said of Wilson. "He's not one of these players that, especially back then, where it's all about him or whatever. He's not a big ego guy. Just really humble at the time. So I came back and obviously that was the report. Felt like if we had an opportunity that he was going to be the guy that we could possibly draft at that time. Obviously Seattle moved up and grabbed him.
"But, yeah, we liked him. I think we ended up getting Nick Foles, which worked out for us, as well."
Although Wilson is only 30 and Wentz is four years younger the latter was a big fan of Wilson dating back to the Seattle signal caller's days at North Carolina State.
While most regard Wentz as a North Dakota guy he actually was born in Raleigh before moving to the Midwest early in his life. Wentz's dad, Doug, steered his kids to be fans of the Wolfpack and Wentz was glued to Wilson's career at NC State as a QB in high school. That admiration continued when Wilson finished his college career off in Wisconsin, much closer to Wentz's ND roots, before landing with the Seahawks.
"I think just watching him as a player and his ability to create is something that I really admired," Wentz explained when discussing Wilson earlier this week. "His athleticism is something that I tried to implement in my game a little bit."
Genetics, however, decided there had to be differences.
At 6-foot-5 and nearly 240 pounds, Wentz has never had to worry about some of the limitations placed on Wilson due to an undersized frame that harkens back to memories of a Fran Tarkenton.
"We're different players," Wentz acknowledged. "He's way quicker than I am, way faster than I am, but [I have] a lot of respect for how he can improvise and make plays."
The off-schedule stuff is what the two have most in common when it comes to on-field play as two of the best in the NFL at extending plays and putting stress on a defense from that standpoint.
As Reid's QB coach in 2012 Pederson is in the unique experience of being ground floor when it came to the plan of Wilson to Philadelphia and also has been in the big chair for Wentz's ascension to the face of the franchise.
"They're both proven winners in college and really all the way down into high school," Pederson said. "Proven winners, they're great leaders, leaders of men. They're tough physically when they play the position. They're not afraid to extend plays with their legs. Both of them have big arms, powerful arms, have great vision. I would probably give Russell the nod as far as the speed and all of that, but they're both elusive enough to extend plays.
"... Being able to find lanes and slide in the pocket and do all the things and help your team win. You would think that's a recipe for success. It's helped them win and it's obviously helped us win."
For Wentz, meanwhile, going from fan of Wilson to foe and more importantly a peer has been a blast.
"I loved watching him play as a competitor, as a guy. And now getting to compete against him and with him on the field is pretty cool," Wentz said. "Just a lot of respect for how he carries himself, how he plays the game."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen