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Taking a look back to high school, Wentz is a winner

PHILADELPHIA--Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson late last week provided a clearer glimpse at why the Eagles were so confident that rookie Carson Wentz might give them nearly as good a chance to maximize the Eagles' potential this season as ...

PHILADELPHIA-Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson late last week provided a clearer glimpse at why the Eagles were so confident that rookie Carson Wentz might give them nearly as good a chance to maximize the Eagles' potential this season as did veteran Sam Bradford.

Wentz was a combined 28-6 as a starter at North Dakota State and Century High School in Bismarck, N.D. He did not always compile prolific passing stats and he didn't run like Robert Griffin III or Cam Newton ... but Wentz won.

In an era that worships data and pumps out complex formulae that include a defense's strength, completion percentages and situational results, the concept that wins matter is antiquated. There simply is no analytic that precisely projects how a quarterback has played or will play in the most violent and chaotic of all the major sports; certainly, none that can project if his team will win. Sometimes, you have to go with your gut.

That's what the Eagles did when, after the fourth preseason game, they traded Sam Bradford and, seemingly, their chance to contend for anything but the No. 1 overall pick in 2017.

Then, Wentz beat the Browns.

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The Eagles expected it.

"He's been playing football a long time and he's been very successful at it," said Pederson, whose Eagles hit prime time TV Monday night, Sept. 19, with a game at the Chicago Bears. "He's won a lot of games and he's won championships."

That's true, but he'd won a lot of games in the middle of the Midwest, and never above the FCS (I-AA) level. North Dakota college and high school football isn't exactly the same as the brand played in Texas or the Southeast. Then again, Wentz couldn't choose where he was raised, and, really, hardly anybody besides NDSU wanted him when he graduated from high school.

He won where he was.

"You can't take that away from anybody, at any level of competition," Pederson said. "Hopefully, you saw it last Sunday: his ability to lead the football team and make plays."

In the afterglow of a two-touchdown, no-interception debut in the Sept. 11 season opener, much has been made of the caliber play Wentz displayed. Despite missing 75 percent of the preseason, he clearly recognized the challenges the defense presented and ably changed plays at the line of scrimmage. He always had a strong arm but his improved throwing mechanics and footwork produced fundamentally sound throws with proper pace and touch.

Most important, though, Wentz aggressively and perfunctorily made the right calls; made the right moves; made the right throws. Like so many athletes, Wentz did not fear success and the additional pressures from increased expectations. He embraced it.

Does that matter? Well, consider some other big quarterbacks with big arms.

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Jeff George, the No. 1 overall pick in 1990, turned out to be 6 feet, 4 inches of insubordination and excuses and finished with a 46-78 record as a starter. Bradford, also 6-4, is 25-37-1 since he went first overall in 2010. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, 6-3 and taken 11th overall in 2006, is 67-68 entering Monday night's game against the visiting Eagles. The trio has two playoff wins in five playoff games among them . . . in a combined 27 NFL seasons.

Debate all you want about whether wins should matter in quarterback analysis, but no player can sabotage his team's efforts like a quarterback.

Of course, it takes more than a good quarterback to run a successful offense, and it takes more than a successful offense to win football games. Some of the teams on which George and Cutler played were flawed beyond anyone's capacity to compensate. Bradford hasn't played on anything but dogs.

Still, would anyone trade any of these elegant passers for a bulldozer like Steve McNair, who, from 1997-2006, was 85-56, 5-5 in the playoffs with an AFC title? Or a muscle car like Donovan McNabb, who, from 2000-2009, was 90-45-1, 9-6 in the playoffs with an NFC title? Alcorn State, an FCS (I-AA) school like NDSU, was 30-11-1 with McNair. McNabb was 35-14 at Syracuse and won two of four bowl games.

Winning might not match a specific analytic, but you know a winner when you see him.

"What (winning) tells you is not necessarily about their talent level, but it lets you know they know what it takes to win," said Eagles Pro Bowl safety Malcolm Jenkins, who won a Super Bowl in New Orleans with Drew Brees. "You don't accidentally win in college. You definitely don't accidentally win at this level."

Or at any level, in any discipline. Wentz was a wonderful, winning baseball player, and his presence on the Century basketball team his senior year-the only year he played-propelled the team to the state title.

"Someone who finds themselves continuously winning, it's for a reason. They know how to prepare. They know how to study. And they know how to execute," Jenkins said. "When you see the history that Carson's had being on successful teams, it isn't by accident."

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Sending Bradford to Minnesota for two draft picks was not as fatalistic as it seemed two weeks ago.

"He hates to lose," said Pederson, who marvels at Wentz's work habits and his attention to detail. "Those are things that I see on a daily basis, our staff sees it and our players see it on a daily basis. So that was really, for me, the deciding factor to say, 'Hey, you're our guy now and let's go.' "

Wentz went, and he won.

That makes him 29-6 as a starter.

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