What is rookie Carson Wentz feeling? Bears QBs might have an idea
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Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz isn’t naïve. He knows Philadelphia is abuzz after his debut last weekend against the Browns.
“I know this city is pretty excited for Eagles football,” said Wentz, the second overall pick in this year’s draft. “Being 1-0, we’ve got a new coach, a new quarterback. There’s a lot of excitement.”
Wentz appears to be taking all that excitement in stride. Of course, that might change Monday night against the Bears.
But what exactly is Wentz feeling?
Every quarterback has a different story. Here’s what the Bears’ quarterbacks — Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley — think through the prism of their own experiences.
For Cutler, it was a luxury to sit behind veteran Jake Plummer for most of his rookie season in 2006, even though the Broncos traded up to draft him at No. 11.
In 2009, Hoyer needed to win over the Patriots, coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady after going undrafted and signing as a free agent.
As for Barkley, he was third on the depth chart behind Nick Foles and Michael Vick, learning a very unfamiliar scheme under coach Chip Kelly in 2013 with the Eagles.
Situations differ for quarterbacks.
Some are extremely beneficial, and others can be destructive.
“I was on a really veteran team and was able to sit for most of the season, learn, figure it out, then got thrown in there later on,” said Cutler, who started five games as a rookie.
“To play right off the bat coming in, these guys that get drafted, they’re probably a bit better prepared than we were 10, 12 years ago. They see more looks. The whole pre-draft process is so involved now. But you still have to go out there and strap it up and play, and it’s not easy.”
Cutler said Wentz is in a favorable spot.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson and coordinator Frank Reich are respected offensive minds. Wentz also is behind an experienced and talented line.
“A lot of it is being in the right place at the right time with the right guys and the right system around you,” Hoyer said. “That’s a huge aspect of it. We understand it as quarterbacks.
“You get a lot of praise, and you get a lot of blame. So it’s not always on one guy, but sometimes it’s certain areas. Certain things around you can make you look really good or sometimes they can make you look really bad.”
Barkley joined the Eagles under vastly different circumstances than Wentz. He was a fourth-round pick in Kelly’s first season in 2013.
This year, the Eagles, sans Kelly, traded for the second overall pick to ensure they got Wentz or quarterback Jared Goff, the eventual first pick.
But some lifestyle changes should be about the same.
“Once you’re in season and you realize you don’t have to go to class and you’re just studying ball all day, it’s awesome,” said Barkley, a member of the Bears’ practice squad. “You get to go home, in my case to my wife, and live in a foreign city. We didn’t have friends or family, so it was just us.”
Plenty of free time comes with it. And it’s easy to get sidetracked. Practice schedules are regulated, making individual work essential. Some players take to it immediately; others require more time to mature.
“You have to figure out how to navigate that free time and what to do,” Hoyer said. “You’re not going home with a college roommate. You’re going home either by yourself or with your spouse or whatever it might be.
“It’s more becoming a pro that you really have to get on board with pretty quick, seeing how things operate in the league.”
Cutler said the “intensity of the game plan” is a significant change. It takes extra time to grasp it.
“[It’s] how much is involved — the checks, the defense, the way it’s disguised,” Cutler said. “You factor in those things, and the intensity of what’s involved offensively, you’ve got a lot on your plate.”
Situations change overnight.
Cutler was in an ideal one with Mike Shanahan, but the Super Bowl-winning coach was fired after the 2008 season. Josh McDaniels was hired, and the rest is history.
Hoyer’s introduction to the NFL came behind Brady, but the Patriots believe in drafting quarterbacks often and selected Ryan Mallett in the third round in 2011.
Barkley was caught up in Kelly’s mess and was traded before the 2015 season to the Cardinals, which came after an odd competition with Tim Tebow.
Patience is minimal. Sitting and learning is a thing of the past.
“You look around the league, there’s not a lot of patience, especially at the head-coach job and the quarterback position,” Hoyer said. “Those are the ones that seem to have the most turnover. It’s really a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately type of business.
“Now, if you’re a first-round pick and you don’t pan out in the first year and a half, you’re a bust. It is what it is. That’s kind of how it goes because everybody wants the results instantaneously.”
It makes the pressure substantial, especially if you’re a first-round pick and viewed as the franchise’s future. Cutler was that once.
“It’s difficult,” Cutler said. “[Wentz is] in a good spot. Doug understands that position really well, and you can’t lean on that guy that much early on.
“It has to be a team sport — defense and running game — and you have to put [the quarterback] in position to be successful.
“And you have to hope that your offense is going to grow together for two or three years because changing coaches, changing OCs, that’s hard on a young quarterback.”