It’s possible to split the quarterbacks of the NFC East into two categories: The rookies, with the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles feeling like they hit the jackpot picking Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz; and the New York Giants along with the Washington Redskins, who are sorta happy with Eli Manning and Kirk Cousins.
Maybe I’m being hard on Manning. I don’t think there’s ever been a two-time Super Bowl champion QB getting so little respect. But quarterbacks are judged by their wins and individual stats. Manning hasn’t led the Giants into the playoffs for five consecutive years. His mistakes late in games over the last two seasons, and in the loss to the Redskins of all teams, bring back the usual painful subject of him being problematic for some reason in the regular season.
Jeff Fisher said something interesting: The rookie quarterbacks starting right now – Prescott, Wentz and even Jacoby Brissett, are all in that position because of injuries. That’s not exactly true about Wentz, but it is indirectly: Sam Bradford left the Philadelphia Eagles because Teddy Bridgewater got injured, so they traded for Bradford, opening up the slot for Wentz. Or maybe the Eagles were going to trade Bradford anyway, seeing Wentz is ready. Either way, Fisher was trying to make a point about Jared Goff not playing.
Wentz may be the future in Philadelphia. He has certainly played like the one they should be playing for the next 10 years so far. System quarterback or simply an elite player surprising everyone, it doesn’t matter. He has made very few mistakes, has made plenty of big plays, and the Eagles are off to a 3-0 start, including a shocking dismantling of the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 3.
The numbers of Prescott and Wentz are very similar, but remember this: The Cowboys took Prescott in the fourth round, which usually means they weren’t quite convinced he’s their guy once Tony Romo is no longer appealing to Jerry Jones. Wentz cost the Eagles an arm and a leg, maybe even more, and they had every intention to start him once he’s ready. Prescott turned out to be ready, and maybe the Cowboys were able to see something a lot of other teams didn’t. But the original plan wasn’t to start him. Now, the Cowboys can more confidently talk about him as their next franchise quarterback.
Manning isn’t some default choice for the Giants, but there’s always a sense that if they could replace him with someone really good, they would. They stick to what’s familiar, but might not see him as the ideal franchise quarterback. He’s theirs, they’ve won with him, so he’s staying, but he hasn’t done much over the last five seasons to convince anyone that he belongs in the discussion about the best QBs in the NFL.
Cousins obviously doesn’t belong there. He had a rough start to the season, but then pulled off a big game against the Giants in week 3. Not getting signed to a long-term deal is all the explanation one needs about how much the Redskins trust his 2015 performance. Cousins is on the franchise tag, which puts him on a whole other level financially, but keeps him under the microscope, with the pendulum swinging in different directions after every performance. This may very well be his final season with the Redskins, or they could end up signing him on a five-year deal when the season is over.