Jon Gruden: Wentz Can Handle Philadelphia

Plus, is Doug Pederson the right coach to develop Wentz?

John Gruden (USA Today Sports)

Jon Gruden (USA Today Sports)

Jon Gruden sat down with the media yesterday to give his perspective on this year’s crop of quarterbacks. Here are some takeaways from his conference call.

— Gruden was asked if he thinks Carson Wentz can handle the pressure of being a quarterback in Philaldephia.

“Oh, that’s the million dollar question.  That’s something you’re going to have to prove, no matter who you are, whether you’re a player or a coach in the NFL, and especially in Philadelphia, given what the Eagles just gave up to get a player.  Let’s just say it is Carson Wentz. There is a tremendous amount of pressure.  But the one thing that stands out about Wentz is his off‑the‑field intangibles.  He’s a two‑time captain, he’s a 4.0 GPA, he’s a fifth‑year finishing senior, valedictorian in high school, very faith-oriented.  If anybody can stand the mental pressure that comes with playing in Philadelphia and withstand the physical pressure that it takes to play at a high level, it’s Carson Wentz.”

— Gruden on if Philadelphia is the right fit for Wentz, and if Doug Pederson is the right guy to develop him.

“I think that used to be one of the most important things in developing a quarterback.  That was, A, the system, and B, the guy coaching the system. I grew up under Mike Holmgren, Bill Walsh, Paul Hackett.  I always thought the quarterback was the most important man in the organization. Now, the way teams change offensive coordinators and change head coaches, they change those guys like they change their shirts.  I don’t think many organizations put an emphasis on system of football like they used to.  And I think it’s challenging for these guys to develop.

“In terms of Doug Pederson, what you’re getting obviously is a man that falls off Andy Reid’s tree.  You’re going to see a guy that’s very quarterback friendly.  The problem I see in Philadelphia, they have too many quarterbacks to be friendly with.  How are they going to distribute any reps and get anybody ready when you’ve got Sam Bradford making $18 million, you’ve got Chase Daniel who is a back‑up making $7 million, and now you’re going to have the number two pick in the draft.  I don’t know how you’re going to get these guys all reps and get them ready, but Doug Pederson will have to answer that.  That will be a challenge.”

— Gruden was asked a similar question later in the conference, but with more of a focus on navigating the sticky situation between trading up for Wentz and retaining Bradford.

“I think that’s the biggest challenge that they’re going to have.  When you look at the amount of reps that you can have with your team, that number is substantially less than it was five years ago with this new Collective Bargaining Agreement.  So you’ve got to get a new head coach who is running a new offensive system.  You better get it in gear quickly because the games are about to start.  So who is going to get the reps and who is going to get the leftovers?  You don’t have time to give three guys reps; you just don’t.  If you do, you’re not running a real sophisticated offense.  It’s hard to get one guy ready to go today, let alone two.  So there could be a trade. I don’t want to start any rumors in Philadelphia, but if they do draft a quarterback with all they have invested in him, I’m sure they want to give him as many reps as possible, and that’s going to make somebody, I think, unhappy and perhaps expendable.”

— Gruden talked about Wentz as a prospect:

“Carson Wentz, when you watch him on tape, No. 1, I just like a big guy that has athleticism.  This is a kid that carried the ball a lot on designed quarterback runs.  He’s got a consistent, compact throwing motion.  He had a good Senior Bowl week.  I thought he stood out there as well.  He’s got the prototype size, and I talked earlier about the system of football that he’s come from.  You see him at the line of scrimmage take ownership of the game. I like the way he brought his team back to beat Northern Iowa, and playing well in two championship games.  I think his overall performance is consistent.  I love what he did when he got hurt this year.  He stayed loyal.  He stayed with his team.  He helped develop a young quarterback.  He didn’t leave town to start doing exercises with some mysterious strength coach to get ready for the draft.  This guy finished.  I love that about him.”

— On the prevailing narrative that Wentz ran an offense more translatable to the pros than most other college offenses.

“Well, first of all, they get in a huddle.  Can you imagine that?  They get into a huddle with 11 men and they have to call a play.  They get underneath the center.  They use numerous personnel groupings.  They’re not in the same one back, one tight end, three receiver set the entire day.  They use every formation, every shift in motion that you can use.  They involve the quarterback at the line of scrimmage.  He gets up there, and audibles, changes plays, changes protections.  He doesn’t have to look to the sideline to get all the answers, and that is huge.  Those elements alone distinguish their offensive system from most of the other colleges that I’ve seen in the last three or four years.  You see three step, five step, seven step drops, play action, movement throws, screens and a passing game that has progressions to it.  If the primary’s not open, you go to the secondary receiver.  If he’s not open, you go to the outlet receiver. So I see a lot of elements and concepts at North Dakota State that I see in the NFL.  When you win five national championships, there is a lot of good stuff going on, and it starts with coaching and system football.”