Is Josh McDaniels becoming the favorite for Eagles' head coaching job because of how he answers the Carson Wentz question?
It's most likely the No. 1 question facing Eagles' head coaching candidates.
It's not gauging that coach's opinion as to whether Carson Wentz should be the Eagles' quarterback going forward instead of Jalen Hurts, who just completed his rookie season by starting in place of Wentz for the final four games of the season.
Rather, it's how that coach plans to go about "fixing" Wentz as the starter.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie made his intentions clear about Wentz after firing head coach Doug Pederson last week.
And the coaches that Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman and team president Don Smolenski have interviewed so far seemed to indicate that the intention is for Wentz to be the starting quarterback going forward.
That possibility is most notable with longtime Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who interviewed with the Eagles on Sunday. McDaniels' main pupil over the years has been quarterback Tom Brady through most of Brady's prime from 2005-08, and again from 2012-19.
McDaniels, 44, could be emerging as the front-runner for the job. He has never had experience with a quarterback like Hurts, who is just as dangerous as a runner as he is a passer, until this season with Cam Newton. That didn't go particularly well.
It's the same with candidates that the Eagles have already interviewed in Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who had quarterback Joe Burrow for his one season at LSU in 2019; and Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, who resuscitated Ryan Tannehill's career before taking the Falcons' head coaching job.
The other coaches interviewed were all defensive coaches in Buccaneers' Todd Bowles, who reportedly interviewed with the Eagles on Monday; Robert Saleh, since hired as the Jets' head coach; Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo; and Brandon Staley, who was hired by the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night.
The Eagles, at least so far, have not interviewed coaches who would be more inclined to favor Hurts as the franchise quarterback. Those prospective candidates would most likely come from the college ranks in Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley, who coached Hurts in 2019; as well as Ohio State's Ryan Day, who just had Justin Fields.
The Eagles, so far, also have not interviewed Chiefs' offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who has worked with quarterback Pat Mahomes ever since Mahomes became the starter in 2018. Mahomes is easily a top-three NFL quarterback.
And they haven't interviewed Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who has nurtured Josh Allen into an MVP candidate this season. The Associated Press reported Monday that Daboll is not interested in the Eagles' job.
It's not known how Bieniemy would feel about Wentz or Hurts.
As for Wentz, you have to get past Lurie's initial response when asked if he can guarantee that Wentz will be on the roster for the upcoming season: "First of all, I don't think any owner should decide that."
It's clear that unless some team blows the Eagles away with a trade offer, Wentz will be on the team. For one, the Eagles will be stuck with a $34 million salary cap hit if they trade Wentz, and a $59 million cap hit if they release him.
So it's in the Eagles' best interests to try to fix Wentz, in large part because his four-year extension worth as much as $128 million begins this upcoming season.
"Carson, to us, to me, and to I think virtually everybody in our organization, is a quarterback that his first four years was in many ways elite and comparable to some of the great quarterbacks' first four years in the league," Lurie said. "Fifth year, obviously not satisfactory, for whatever reasons. There are probably multiple reasons for that."
In other words, Lurie doesn't feel that Wentz is a lost cause. And he also doesn't seem concerned about reports that Wentz would seek a trade during the offseason.
The report also described Wentz's relationship with Pederson as "fractured beyond repair," something Pederson denied, from his perspective, before he was fired. Wentz hasn't talked to the media since he was benched on Dec. 6.
It was reported that one of the reasons Pederson was fired was because he only wanted to make cosmetic changes to his offensive coaching staff. That included promoting quarterbacks coach and passing coordinator Press Taylor to offensive coordinator.
A Philadelphia Inquirer report last weekend indicated that Taylor "coddled" Wentz. That wouldn't be the case with McDaniels, who has had blowups on the sideline with Brady over the years.
It was reported last spring by former longtime New York Daily News football writer Gary Myers that one of the reasons why Brady left New England for Tampa Bay was because of his "deteriorating relationship" with McDaniels, and that Brady had been "worn out by Josh after all of these years."
Brady denied that in an Instagram post shortly thereafter: "Please stop this nonsense!" he wrote. "Please be more responsible with reporting, 19 years together and brothers for life."
Granted, Wentz is not Brady, who is considered one of the top quarterbacks of all time. In 2020, Wentz was ranked among the worst quarterbacks in the NFL. Wentz's completion percentage of 57.4% and passer rating of 72.8 were the worst of his career.
He was also tied for the league lead in interceptions with 15 and sacked 50 times, the most in the NFL, despite not playing in the last 4 1/2 games.
There were other factors that led to Wentz's regression, such as a decimated offensive line in which the Eagles started an NFL record 14 different combinations in 16 games, a young and inexperienced receiving corps and questionable play calling from Pederson.
But Wentz also was skittish in the pocket at times, tried to make too many plays instead of throwing the ball away, and simply did not play well.
Can a new coach get Wentz back to the form he displayed in 2017, when he was well on his way to winning the MVP award before he tore his ACL that December? Or even the form Wentz displayed over the final four games of the 2019 season, when his passer rating was 100.8 with 7 TD passes and zero interceptions? The Eagles had to win all four of those games, which they did, to make the playoffs.
It appears that's what Lurie and his interviewing group are looking for.
"This guy is tireless," Lurie said about Wentz. "He has his heart in the right place and he's really dedicated off-season, on-season – he's just what you want. It behooves us as a team with a new coach, a new coaching staff, to be able to really get him back to that elite progression where he was capable of."
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.