PHILADELPHIA — Make no mistake, the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys believe that they’ve found the long-term answer at the game’s most important position, and as Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott get ready to duel in what may be the first of many rivalry matchups, the hyperbole is reaching a fever pitch.
Both players have been exceptional as rookies and first place in the NFC East, as well as a boost in the league’s lagging television ratings, are just part of the narrative as the traditional rivals get ready to square off on “Sunday Night Football.”
The two are a combined 9-3 as NFL starters and in the mix for the NFL’s Rookie of the Year, along with Prescott’s teammate in Dallas, star running back Ezekiel Elliott.
At last count, Wentz has been compared to Brett Favre, Jim Kelly, Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers, not by fans with their fingers crossed but by coaches and ex-players who are giddy with the No. 2 overall pick’s poise, presence and ability to manipulate things at the line of scrimmage.
Prescott, meanwhile, is a fourth-round pick who was forced into action after injuries to Tony Romo and Kellen Moore, and looked like a Russell Wilson Doppelganger with more size, a heady dual-threat who mystifies opposing defenses by using an almost point-guard mentality at the point of attack.
“They’re coming out of school, out of college a little more NFL-ready, a little more NFL-prepared to handle the rigors of an NFL season,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “They know how to handle success. They know how to handle media. They know how to handle fans. I think they’re just genuinely more prepared coming to this level.”
The Eagles’ top receiver, Jordan Matthews, upped the ante from that on Wednesday by comparing the potential long-term rivalry to perhaps the Ali-Frazier of NFL lore, Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning.
“Peyton and Brady, that’s an extremely high honor to be mentioned with those guys,” Matthews said. “I have spoken highly of Carson and know that he could be named with those guys just with more years of playing. And I have a high respect for Dak, too.”
Before you pile on Matthews for comparing two rookies with a combined 12 starts with two of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, understand he didn’t pull the comparison out of thin air but when presented with it by a Philadelphia-area reporter he seemed to embrace it.
“(With Dak) you’re talking about a guy who is a poised quarterback, he knows what it means to be a leader, he knows what it means to be game-planned for,” the receiver said. “And I feel like Carson is the same way. The thing I love about Carson is he has that same ability but he also has a chip on his shoulder.”
Matthews made an interesting point about Prescott being the guy at Mississippi State for multiple seasons. He believes going through an offseason where defensive coordinators are preparing to stop you 24-7 was very helpful because the Cowboys’ starter was forced to tweak his game to the adjustments made to him at the top level of college football in the SEC.
Wentz, meanwhile, despite playing at the lower FCS division at North Dakota State was aided by the pro-style system played in Fargo in that he seems well ahead of the curve when it comes to things like killing from one part of a run-pass option (RPO) to the other or handling changes in protection.
All that said, it’s kind of ludicrous to even evoke the names of Brady-Manning but what’s a rivalry without a little hype?
“You’re talking about two guys that could potentially be like a Brady and Peyton rivalry,” Matthews said. “The only difference is, you’re going to get this two times a year, and possibly playoffs.”
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen — Also catch John each week during the NFL season ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SB Nation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America