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Frank Reich still believes in Carson Wentz.
The top two on-field leaders of the 2021 Indianapolis Colts are now both gone from the Midwest enclave, banished by owner Jim Irsay’s impatience and irritation. And while there are plenty of people who believe that Reich deserves another chance, Reich might be one of the few who believes that Wentz’s once-promising career can be revived.
Wentz, who led Washington to a 2-4 start, was activated this week. But with the Commanders going 5-1-1 with Taylor Heinicke at quarterback since Wentz was injured, coach Ron Rivera said this week he felt “comfortable” with Heinicke remaining the starting quarterback.
That likely means that Wentz, who is due to make more than $26 million next year and has $9 million of that due on March 17 if he’s on the team, is likely to be gone. It has been a sharp plummet from the player who once seemed destined for multiple MVP awards. Before he was injured in Week 13 of the 2017 season, Wentz had 33 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions.
Can Wentz be salvaged?
“Carson needs to have time on task,” said Reich, who was fired this season after a 3-5-1 start. In his first four seasons, Reich had led the Colts to a winning record three times and made the playoffs twice. He also did that after losing quarterback Andrew Luck to retirement after the first season.
“People think that quarterback development is supposed to follow a certain path and it doesn’t,” Reich said. “I thought we would have two years together, but that didn’t happen … Carson is a guy with all the tools and he needs to be on a team with a good defense and a running game to support him, but he has a chance to be everything he was earlier in his career. He has all the tools to do that.”
While his stats have been decent since he returned, the confidence Wentz displayed in his first two seasons seems to have evaporated. That’s particularly true when he has been challenged by other players.
“Carson Wentz is one of the strangest dudes I’ve ever seen at quarterback,” said one personnel man who researched Wentz extensively after the 2019 season when it became obviously Philadelphia was going to trade him.
“He’s physically tough. He’ll throw his body around and hang in the pocket,” the personnel man said. “But he melts when he’s challenged and he doesn’t have a tough-guy mentality. He’s not really a leader. I’m really surprised that Frank (Reich) still defends him after all that crap in Indy, like not getting vaccinated and then playing so crappy down the stretch.
“Maybe Frank feels sorry for him or it’s because he has known him for so long … Wentz basically looked like he had the yips. He wouldn’t get rid of it when should have and then tried to make big plays when they weren’t there. There’s a time to be a hero and there’s a time to be smart. Wentz doesn’t get that. He’s kind of a brain-dead heaver.”
It’s all part of a complicated narrative for Wentz.
Carson Wentz never recovered from Philly situation
In Philadelphia, Wentz never seemed to recover from the fact that Nick Foles took over for him in 2017 and then led the Eagles to a Super Bowl title. One of the worst-kept secrets in the NFL is that Wentz pushed the Eagles to get rid of Foles in 2018. Philadelphia refused to acquiesce to Wentz’s demands, but Foles left in 2019.
In 2020, after the Eagles took Jalen Hurts, Wentz’s performance went backwards as he threw only 16 TD passes and a career-high 15 interceptions. He was benched in favor of Hurts by the end of the season.
Last year in Indianapolis, the Colts made a significant deal to get Wentz and Reich said he hoped to have two years to work together. However, Wentz infuriated Irsay with a combination of refusing to get vaccinated (which led many other Colts players to refuse) and then losing each of the last two games of the season to finish out of the playoffs. That included a season-ending loss at Jacksonville against the league-worst Jaguars.
This year in Washington, Wentz’s seemed to force the ball at certain times (he had six interceptions in his six starts) and didn’t push the ball downfield when the time seemed right. It has led to a conclusion by many people that he needs a complete reset to his career.
“He needs a reboot,” the personnel man said. “He needs to get with somebody like an Andy Reid-type who can be really hard on him while also rebuilding his confidence … We all see the physical talent, but the head and the body aren’t in synch right now. Not even close.”