By Harvey Hoffman

So, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has fallen from the toast of the NFL to just about rock bottom.

Why this has happened is anyone’s guess.

Especially Wentz, who keeps saying he has to be better, and coach Doug Pederson, who is at a loss to help him.

But how it happened is easy to quantify:

Aside from a brief surge late last season, his QB Elo rating from (relative to an average starter) has steadily dropped from its peak in November 2018:

Wentz’s decline has accelerated in 2020, though. His Total Quarterback Rating (QBR) has fallen from 62.8 (11th-best in football) in 2019 to 49.6 (27th) this season. On a per-game basis, he is staring at new career-worst marks in passing yards (231.0), yards per attempt (6.0), interceptions (1.4), sacks (4.2) and completion percentage (58.1 percent). In passer rating, Wentz’s decline over the previous three seasons — from 98.3 for the 2017-2019 seasons to 73.4 this year — is one of the five biggest drop-offs suffered by any NFL QB since 1950:

In some ways, Wentz’s descent mirrors the overall deterioration of the Eagles’ roster since Super Bowl LII.

A team that was once overflowing with talent — built strong from the trenches out — is now wrecked with injuries, featuring one of the worst offensive lines in the league, an inexperienced receiving corps and one of the league’s least cost-effective rosters.

So, no, Wentz doesn’t have much to work with. And coach Doug Pederson’s play-calling hasn’t always put Wentz in a position to succeed. But as analyst and YouTuber Brett Kollmann points out in his breakdown of Wentz, this has also fed into some of the quarterback’s worst impulses. Specifically, Wentz has tended to play entirely too much “hero ball” this season: According to NFL Next Gen Stats, he’s forced 18.5 percent of his passes into tight coverage — defined as throws where the receiver had less than a yard of separation when the pass arrives — which is the fifth-highest share of any qualified QB in 2020, and he’s completing only 37.2 percent of those passes (well below the league-average of 65.4 percent on all throws). Overall, Wentz has attempted the league’s fourth-most-difficult collection of throws according to Next Gen Stats, with an expected completion rate of just 61.8 percent.

Unlike Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, who also attempts difficult throws but completes more of them than he “should,” Wentz is actually completing far fewer passes than he ought to — even after adjusting for their difficulty. By Next Gen Stats’ estimation, Wentz’s completion percentage is 3.7 points lower than we would expect based on the characteristics of his throws alone, the third-biggest shortfall in the NFL. Because of his poor mechanics, which hurt accuracy — nearly 29 percent of Wentz’s throws have been off-target — and even worse decision-making, Wentz has morphed from one of the NFL’s most promising young QBs to one of the worst QBs in the league, full stop.

But because of how his contract is structured, the Eagles essentially have no choice but to push forward with Wentz leading the way. Philly would face a massive dead-cap penalty if Wentz gets cut or traded in 2021, which might be why Pederson seems dead-set against expanding rookie backup Jalen Hurts’s playing time despite Wentz’s struggles. Instead, the team is stuck trying to figure out how to maximize Wentz’s talent while reducing some of the terrible mistakes that have plagued the majority of his 2020 season, particularly in recent weeks.

As we mentioned earlier, the Eagles still have a 23 percent chance to make the playoffs — which is simultaneously disappointing (given the epic weakness of the NFC East) and much higher than a 3-7-1 team has any right to expect. Their remaining schedule isn’t exactly easy, though it’s roughly comparable to those of Washington and the New York Giants. (The Cowboys actually have by far the easiest remaining schedule of any NFC East team, according to their opponents’ average opposing Elo rating, though they are probably also the worst NFC East team.) Despite Wentz’s struggles, Philadelphia can still salvage its season. But his historic regression has helped turn what could have been a cakewalk into a tough battle down the stretch.

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