The Biggest Game Of Their Careers

Ari Temkin
December 20, 2019 - 3:27 pm
Dak Carson Wentz

Matthew Emmons - USA Today Sports

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DALLAS (105.3 The Fan) - "You could probably say that." 

That’s what Carson Wentz said when asked this week if Sunday’s de facto NFC East Championship game was the biggest of his career. 

We are rather prone to hyperbole in sports.

"I mean, it's definitely a big game,” Wentz told the Eagles website. “We know the situation. We know what's going on. At the same time, we're treating it as another game and we're aware of everything. We're real excited and for one, I'm real excited that we're at home. I know these fans are going to show up and be loud. I can't wait until Sunday afternoon."

Legacies are borne out of narratives, which are disingenuous at best, and even worse redefined throughout a career. Yet, within the national consciousness, they persist. Ongoing narratives tend to be an unstoppable force for quarterbacks. 

Wentz hasn’t played in a game after week fourteen since his rookie season when the Eagles went 7-9. He put up MVP type numbers in 2017 but suffered a Grade 3 ACL and LCL tear during a week 14 game against the Rams. Without him in ‘17 all the Eagles did was win a Super Bowl. In 2018, he missed the first few games because of the knee injury, then suffered back spasms after a Week 14 defeat to the Cowboys and was lost for the rest of the season again. In 2019, Wentz is healthy, but he’s not playing at the same level he was during his MVP caliber season in 2017. He’s thirteenth in yards (3,341), twenty-seventh in yards per attempt (6.5), seventh in passing touchdowns (25), and eighth in Total QBR (62.6).  According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Wentz should have completed 64.9 % of his passes this season; Wentz is instead at 63.4%, -1.5% difference good for twenty-fourth in the NFL. 

If you care about narratives, then this is undoubtedly the biggest game in Wentz’s career. But, how much pressure is he really under when he’s just starting a contract that guarantees him more $100 Million over the next four seasons? 

Meanwhile, Dak Prescott has started 65 out of a possible 65 games, including three in the playoffs. He’s having a career year in a contract season: He’s second in yards (4,334), fifth in yards per attempt (8.4), fourth in passing touchdowns (26), and third in Total QBR (73.3). He’s also at fifth in NGS in completion percentage vs. complete percentage expectation (+3.5%).

Dak is making $2.1 Million this year and his contract expires after the season. 

This is the biggest game in which quarterback’s career?  

In less than four seasons Dak is sixteen games over .500, he’s completing 65% of his passes, has 98 career touchdowns with a 2.7 touchdown to interception ratio. He has nine fourth-quarter comebacks and fifteen game-winning drives. 

Dak has accomplished far more, and yet as a fourth-round pick he’s been running in place. The Dak Prescott narrative says this is the biggest game of his career too. 

He’s thrown a career-high 26 touchdown passes, but he had 21 after week eleven. He has zero fourth-quarter comebacks or game-winning drives in 2019. Troy Aikman mentioned during last Sunday’s game against the Rams that Dak has been playing through a hairline fracture in his finger. He also sprained the AC joint in his throwing shoulder during the blowout win over the Rams. He’s lost three of his last four games, a stretch that has seen him slide down the statistical leaderboard in categories he once led. He was once mentioned along Lamar Jackson and Russell Wilson as an MVP candidate in the most important season of his career. Now, he may be in line for a franchise tag in 2020 with a brand-new coaching staff.

If we’re being honest, we’d be lucky to watch Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz play a lot of very important games against each other over long careers. For Carson Wentz though, this is a first. 

For Dak, there have been multiple ten win seasons, division championships and playoff games. 

Carson’s been paid. Dak is still playing to get paid.

We’ve reached the all-important week fifteen with two quarterbacks inexorably linked, trying to gut out a division title for their mediocre team in a laughingstock division. 

It’s quite comical to label this game between two 7-7 teams with such a level of importance, especially given what’s already been accomplished by Dak on the field, or by Wentz with his contract. 

Yet, here we are.

Hyperbole be damned.