Five years ago, which seems like forever in the football world, Carson Wentz could do no wrong. He was leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl. He was in serious discussions about being MVP. Eagles’ fans thought that they had their franchise quarterback for the next decade.
Now we have this: Eagles’ fans frothing at the mouth, ready to release their venom for when Wentz visits Lincoln Financial Field as the quarterback of the Washington Commanders.
On Wednesday, the Indianapolis Colts traded the enigmatic quarterback to Washington for a 2022 third-round pick and next year’s third rounder that can convert to a second rounder based on incentives (the trade cannot be finalized until the new NFL year begins March 16). What also came out on Wednesday was a fine piece written by The Athletic’s Zak Keefer on how Wentz’ relationship deteriorated in Indianapolis within a season. Keefer stressed Wentz’s downfall had as much to do with off-the-field issues as his implosion in Weeks 17 and 18 that cost the Colts a place in the AFC playoffs.
Some players in Indy liked Wentz.
It was the same case in Philadelphia.
Wentz’s inability to check down and his risky play didn’t help. Neither did Wentz’s reluctance to get the COVID-19 vaccination, which set off Colts’ owner Jim Irsay. The Colts viewed the move as a lack of leadership. It sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
What came out of Keefer’s well-documented story was that basically what plagued Wentz in Indianapolis were many of the same issues Wentz had with the Eagles in the last two years he was in Philadelphia.
It was really telling that Indianapolis got rid of Wentz without a Plan B. The Colts’ depth chart reveals Sam Ehlinger, a 2021 sixth-round pick who hasn’t thrown a pass in an NFL game, is currently listed as the starter ahead of James Morgan. That’s how badly Indianapolis wanted him out.
The Commanders will be Wentz’s third team in three years.
He may be the only quarterback in NFL history with a $128 million contract who has ever been on three different teams in three years. Ironically, the only other NFL quarterback with a comparable salary to Wentz in that same situation could be Sammy “Sleeves” Bradford, who Wentz inherited the starting position from after Sleeves was traded on September 3, 2016, to the Minnesota Vikings for a 2017 first-round draft pick (Derek Barnett) and a 2018 conditional fourth-round draft pick (Josh Sweat).
Anyway, the Eagles get to face their former franchise quarterback twice a year, under a head coach, Ron Rivera, who prefers game-managers rather than risk-takers—like Wentz.
Wentz certainly doesn’t fall under what Rivera has had in Washington.
Yet, a third team in three years has the luxury of starting Wentz as their quarterback. The Commanders will no doubt trot Wentz out with all the usual platitudes and the garish proclamations that 2021 wasn’t not really a bad season for Wentz, even though he was behind a quality offensive line with arguably the 2021 MVP to hand the ball, tailback Jon Taylor. Numbers say Wentz was fine. The Colts say he didn’t lead them to the playoffs, their Jan. 9 26-11 loss in Jacksonville set Irsay into a deserved rage.
Keefer noted in his story, “Five days later, in front of his private jet, the owner spoke to fans on a video posted to his Twitter account: ‘We have allowed — and I have allowed — doubt, fear and a lack of faith to slip into our DNA, and it will not stand,” he said. “Every walking step this offseason is committed to getting the horseshoe back to where it should be.’”
The Eagles hold three first-round picks, including the 16th overall which comes courtesy of the fumbling Colts in the Wentz deal. Somewhere, you have a feeling, Eagles’ general manager Howie Roseman must be laughing. Indianapolis was the only team foolish enough to acquire Wentz, with the thinking that Frank Reich, his former offensive coordinator who got his best 2017, could fix him.
Then the flood began.
If Ben Simmons was bracing himself for his first visit to the Wells Fargo Center Thursday night to meet the 76ers since he was traded, just image the tumult Wentz will face upon returning to the Linc this fall.
His epic collapse in the last two weeks of the season doesn’t appear as if anything was fixed in Indianapolis. There’s a good chance the gift of Carson Wentz will keep giving two times a year toward the Eagles’ drive to an NFC East title.
Sometimes, some broken players tend to stay broken.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.