April 2016. It was a wild time to be covering sports in Fargo, North Dakota. Usually April is a downtime for us in the Red River Valley, the spring sports either haven’t started yet because of late winter snows or the season is just underway. This month though was anything but quiet. Carson Wentz mania was in full effect, with the NFL Draft looming in Chicago at the end of the month.
Wentz wasn’t the only quarterback that was getting attention, California’s Jared Goff was also in the spotlight as his name was being tossed around for the number one overall pick. Goff was the known commodity, while Wentz was the unknown from the D-2 school (no one really quite got that North Dakota State was a Division 1 school till about draft night).
There were consecutive Thursdays that month that rocked not just Fargo, but the NFL world. First on April 14th, the LA Rams traded with the Tennessee Titans to move into the first overall pick. Wentz’s star was already on the rise and speculation was LA was looking at the former North Dakota State standout. The following Thursday, the 21st, there was another bombshell as the Philadelphia Eagles traded with the Cleveland Browns to move into the second overall pick. I was live at the top of our newscast to discuss the story. Never did I think I would be discussing NFL trades in Fargo, but yet here we were.
The following Wednesday I was in Chicago for the NFL Draft. Wentz and Goff had trained together for a time in January and February as they are represented by the same agency. They did interviews together all over Chicago for numerous radio outlets and a couple of TV interviews. They were intertwined right then and there.
The two are as different as you can be personality wise, Goff, more laid back, while Wentz is straightforward and tell you exactly what he’s thinking. The questions were non-stop from the media. Who would be better? Wentz or Goff? I asked that of Kurt Warner, Steve Mariucci and Mike Mayock. Two votes for Goff, one for Wentz. (Mayock voted Wentz) That was the backdrop for the NFL Draft in 2016.
As we all know, North Dakota sports history was made that night. After Goff went number one to the Rams, Wentz was selected second by the Eagles. The two were going to be linked forever from that night forward, simply because of where they drafted. Like Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. Quarterbacks that go 1-2.
Each went their separate ways from there, Wentz of course was thrown into the mix right away after the trade of Sam Bradford, starting all 16 games, throwing 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Goff, on the other hand sat the bench for the first nine games, seeing his head coach Jeff Fisher get fired. Goff played the final nine games of the year, throwing 5 touchdowns and getting picked off seven times. Many analysts and talking heads proclaimed the Rams had blown it by not taking Wentz, that Goff was a bust.
2017 has been a banner year for each of the quarterbacks. Wentz is in the conversation for league MVP, he’s leading the way in Pro Bowl votes, throwing 29 touchdowns to just six interceptions, as Philly is tied for the best record in the NFC at 10-2. Goff, meanwhile, has had just as good a season. Goff has thrown 20 touchdowns to just six interceptions, throwing for over 31 hundred yards, as the Rams are right on the Eagles heels with a 9-3 record and leading the NFC West.
Sunday, the two quarterbacks will face each other for the first time in Los Angeles. This likely will be the first of many matchups between the two, who could trade Pro Bowl appearances off for the next decade. The game will have plenty of eyeballs in this part of the world as well, who think Goff can’t hold a candle to Wentz. We’ll find out.
It’s still remarkable to me to say I was there at the beginning. Now the rest of us get to see it play out.