All signs point toward a split between Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles, the team that just five years ago drafted him No. 2 overall, just four years ago rode his MVP candidacy to a Super Bowl, and just two years ago signed him to a $128 million extension. But don't assume that most Eagles fans are ready to say goodbye. Amid reports that Philly is on the verge of trading its much-maligned quarterback as part of a total rebuild, hordes of Eagles faithful have begun flooding Wentz's foundation with donations.
On Tuesday, 97.5 The Fanatic's "The John Kincade Show" kicked off Project 11, urging fans to contribute to Wentz's AO1 Foundation as a way of paying tribute to his on- and off-field impact of the last five years. Just over 24 hours later, the foundation tells CBS Sports that 650-plus fans have already chipped in, donating more than $9,100 -- and counting -- in Wentz's name.
Founded in 2017, the AO1 Foundation politely declined to elaborate on the initiative "because it is centered around Carson being traded," a matter for which the foundation had no comment. "We are very grateful," a spokesperson said, "for the support we have received from the Project 11 campaign."
John Kincade, the radio host behind the campaign, is happy to elaborate. Because for him, this is as much a commemoration of Wentz as it is a "personal crusade" to change the narrative surrounding Eagles fans. Kincade's co-host, Jamie Lynch, recently brought up Bills Mafia, Buffalo's rabid fan base that "managed to turn disappointment into positivity" by mass-donating to causes related to opposing players like Andy Dalton and Lamar Jackson.
Now, with Project 11, Kincade is aiming for Philly to do the same.
"I'm tired of, over the years, having to defend the Philadelphia fan base," he says. "You're talking about the lunatic fringe, this small portion, that is always portrayed as being the norm. Look, I'm very critical of how Carson has handled this situation and how the Eagles have handled this situation, but I don't want to see people burning Carson Wentz jerseys and have the idiots of this fan base speak for everyone."
Project 11 is named after Wentz's No. 11 jersey number, but also the 11 wins Wentz started in 2017, when he led the Eagles to an NFC East title and home-field advantage for the only Super Bowl championship run in team history.
"If money's tight, donate $1.11," Kincade urges fans. "Donate $11.11, whatever it is. Just let everybody know that, on the way out the door, you're appreciative of what he accomplished."
At present, it's hard to quantify Wentz's football career -- assuming it's reached its conclusion in Philly -- as anything but a bittersweet tale of "what could have been." Kincade is even blunter: "Honestly, I think the story ends up being a grand failure," he says. "I think it's a failure that this didn't work out." Wentz, after all, was once the superstar of the town. The North Dakota kid who burst onto scene with just a week's notice that he'd be a rookie starter. The aw-shucks play-maker on a sure path to be remembered as the greatest QB to ever grace the franchise reins.
When the Eagles won it all in February 2018, with backup Nick Foles taking the baton of destiny from the injured Wentz, the question wasn't, Can they do it again with Wentz? It was, How many times can they do it? The organization was so sure -- so adamant -- Wentz was their guy that they allowed Foles to freely set sail for another team after two straight playoff runs in Wentz's place. Because they saw the same things everyone else saw: Carson was the man. He was top-five, at best; top-12, at worst. He was the Eagles' engine. The reason to tune in on Sunday. The reason to believe on every play.
Now, after Wentz's unprecedented 2020 regression on a shoddily assembled roster, with a since-overhauled coaching staff, it's clear the promise of No. 11's otherworldly upside was just that: A promise. Nothing more. At least in Philly. If reports are to be believed, Wentz is ready for a fresh start, and the Eagles have painted themselves into such a corner that they must oblige.
"You can't show me a divorce in life where one person in the divorce is completely blameless," Kincade says, pointing back to Project 11. "But this is about saying we acknowledge what the guy has done well, what the guy does best. Some of his best work as a Philadelphia Eagle has been in the community. We don't know anyone in the Philadelphia area who believes that Carson is not very civic-minded, that his foundation isn't doing wonderful things ... And Carson puts some elbow grease behind it."
That he does.
Last summer, as Wentz prepared to fight perceptions of wavering commitment from an Eagles front office that had just drafted fellow QB Jalen Hurts, he repurposed his Philly-area food truck into an emergency grocery delivery service. With food banks exhausted and families scrambling at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he green-lit a $100,000 makeover of the truck's New Jersey home base, turning the AO1 site into a packing facility that would serve local schools, hospitals and police departments. Prior to that, his food truck served meals -- 100 percent free of charge -- to any and everyone it encountered in the Philly area.
Later in the summer, as the nation reckoned with racial tensions and police shootings, Wentz contributed to $460,000 in grants issued by the Eagles' Social Justice Fund, which backed two dozen different area nonprofits specializing in everything from educational equality and community-police relations to youth mentorship. The years prior saw him give hundreds of thousands more, as well as personal time with children and families encountering medical hardships, resulting in a 2018 humanitarian award.
The two times Wentz hosted his charity softball game, drawing dozens of teammates and tens of thousands of fans to Citizens Bank Park, he raised $1.35 million for other AO1 initiatives: Camp Conquerors, an outdoor kids ministry; Mountain Movers, hunting, fishing and small-group youth retreats; and the Haiti Sports Complex, construction of an 18,750-square-foot multipurpose facility -- with basketball courts, soccer fields, dormitories and Wi-Fi park -- for underprivileged youth in the Caribbean country. All were designed to "demonstrate the love of God" by feeding people both physically and spiritually.
Wentz's charity never wavered, see, even when his on-field numbers, his health and his organizational standing did.
That's a big reason Kincade says Project 11 is bound to explode. Corporate sponsors are already lining up to support Wentz through the same campaign. More fans are doing the same. So many, in fact, that Kincade thinks it's "absolutely uninformed to say Eagles fans are running him out of town," as some national pundits have suggested. "This is a dispute within the organization. Overwhelmingly, fans have wanted Carson back ... Anyone who says otherwise is using lazy portrayals."
Again, however the Wentz-Eagles saga finally ends, there will be some tragedy to the story: If he returns to form, he'll have to do it elsewhere, either because he fled from an open competition in a city that's always loved the backup, because the Eagles undermined their own biggest investment, or both. He's destined, on the field, to be an even more divisive franchise legend than Donovan McNabb. If and when he leaves Philadelphia, he'll do so as either a broken hero or unintentional villain -- Batman after Bane snaps his back, or Harvey Dent after his ruggedness contorts his own body and allies.
That doesn't mean the good will be forgotten.
"I think he will be always part of the greatest Philadelphia sports story ever told," Kincade says. "He will always be a part of it. The year they won it all, he put the ball on the 25-yard line. And then Nick Foles took it in ... We love Nick Foles, but we love Carson, too."