Separated by time (Wilson, at 30, is four years Wentz’s senior) and distance (about 2,400 miles between Philadelphia and Seattle), they are rarely in the same place at the same time, yet their paths are connected in a number of interesting ways.
The point of origin is Raleigh, North Carolina, where Wentz was born. The family moved to North Dakota when Wentz was young, but his dad, Doug, brought his boys up as NC State fans. So when Wilson came onto the scene as a freshman quarterback for the Wolfpack in 2008, Wentz — an undersized high school sophomore QB at the time — not only “rooted hard for him,” but was influenced by his style of play.
“I think just watching him as a player and his ability to create is something that I really admired, and his athleticism, and is something that I tried to implement in my game a little bit,” Wentz said. “At the same time, we’re different players. He’s way quicker than I am, way faster than I am, but a lot of respect for how he can improvise and make plays.”
Eagles coach Doug Pederson was an admirer of Wilson as well. He was Philadelphia’s quarterbacks coach under Andy Reid when Wilson entered the 2012 NFL draft. It’s no secret that the Eagles had intended to select Wilson in the third round that year. But the Seahawks wrecked that plan by snagging him 13 spots ahead of the Eagles at No. 75 overall; Philly instead took eventual Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles with the No. 88 overall pick.
If the Eagles had landed their intended target, Wilson would still be running the show in Philadelphia and Wentz would be … who knows where? Instead, Foles was unable to solidify himself as a franchise quarterback, Reid was fired and eventually the head-coaching gig went to Pederson, who saw traits in Wentz similar to those that drew him to Wilson four years earlier.
Victor Cruz and Rob Ninkovich agree that the Eagles are lacking the personnel that’s needed to stop Russell Wilson from making big plays.
“They’re both proven winners in college and really all the way down into high school. Proven winners, they’re great leaders, leaders of men. They’re tough physically when they play the position,” Pederson said. “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.
“And you didn’t see a ton of tipped balls from Russell Wilson, batted balls down, even coming out of college. I remember he played behind one of the largest offensive linemen in the country that year, and same with Carson. 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.”
Both Wilson and Wentz also share a common faith, which has led to a relationship outside of football.
“Carson I’ve gotten to know over the years. I’ve always loved watching him play ever since he got into the NFL. Heard a lot about him in college and just heard this guy was really a great player, a super strong Christian guy. I love how he puts the Lord first,” Wilson said.
“I love how he plays the game. I love his grit that he plays with. He just seems to always find a way to always make a key play just when you’re watching him. He’s been spectacular for the Eagles’ organization. I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
Wilson, who has won each of the first two head-to-head matchups with Wentz, is in the midst of an MVP-caliber campaign. Wentz’s season, meanwhile, hasn’t gone as hoped. Yet their names have a habit of appearing side by side in different statistical categories. Wilson and Wentz have each thrown at least one touchdown pass in 13 consecutive games, which is tied for the longest active streak in the NFL. Wilson is second in passing TDs per game (2.2) since 2017, while Wentz (2.1) is third.
And that 2017 near-MVP season for Wentz? He finished with 33 touchdowns, second to only — you guessed it — Wilson (34).
They are different players on different coasts who are having very different seasons, but there’s plenty of common ground, too.
“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. “But just a lot of respect for how he carries himself, how he plays the game. He’s a playmaker out there and he’s fun to watch.”
— ESPN Seahawks reporter Brady Henderson contributed.