PALM BEACH, Fla. — Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich has left Carson Wentz, but he’s not changing what he thinks the quarterback can still become in the NFL now that he’s in Washington. .
“I really believe he can be a top-10 quarterback,” Reich said. “It’s not just a given. It has to be earned and proven, so we all hope that happens for him.”
The Colts traded Wentz to Washington Commanders earlier this month, a year after acquiring him from the Philadelphia Eagles. Washington traded second-round picks with the Colts and sent them a third-round pick as well as a conditional third. Washington also received a seventh-round pick.
Although Reich said the decision to trade him was unanimous, he remains convinced of Wentz’s potential. He was the offensive coordinator for Wentz’s first two seasons in Philadelphia, including 2017 when the quarterback was considered an MVP candidate before tearing his ACL.
“I love this guy, really. And I think he’s a really good quarterback,” Reich said. “He’s going to play really well for the COs and I’m delighted to see that. … As an organization we’ve enjoyed Carson a lot in many ways. Obviously we traded for him. But secondly, sometimes you can’ You can’t explain everything. You want to, but you just have to make a move that you think is right.”
Last season, Wentz threw 27 touchdown passes to seven interceptions and ranked ninth overall QBR. But the Colts decided to trade him anyway, a move that sent red flags to others about Wentz.
“Ultimately there was a consensus,” Reich said. “You don’t want to have seller’s remorse. We had already determined that wouldn’t happen. It was well thought out. It wasn’t a quick decision.”
But that doesn’t mean he’s changed his opinion of Wentz. Washington coach Ron Rivera spoke to Reich about Wentz and said the Colts coach called him after the trade to congratulate him and say he would love to coach him.
“They have a player who, first and foremost, is a very intelligent player, who can process a lot of information quickly. They have a guy who, physically, is a prototype NFL quarterback,” Reich said.
For Wentz to get back into the top 10, Reich said it was all about playing consistent, winning football. With a chance to clinch a playoff berth by winning one of the final two games of last season, the Colts lost both. In those games, losses to the Las Vegas Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars, Wentz posted a combined total QBR of 13.0, having completed 58.9% of his passes with two touchdowns and one interception.
“He was one of the top 10 quarterbacks in this league,” Reich said. “I think ’17 he obviously was. I think ’19, you could probably say, the way he finished that year was. He put the Eagles team on the back foot during the last four games of the ’19 season and did everything it took to make plays to qualify for the playoffs.This year we had some good times as well.
Within a week, the Colts had traded for Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan — who Reich said wasn’t on their radar when they traded Wentz to Washington.
“Lucky, blessed, whatever you want to call it, we’re grateful that Matt became available,” Reich said.
Reich had similar feelings about Wentz a year ago. The meeting did not go as planned. “It’s 2022. It’s not all a storybook ending,” Reich said. “These are the decisions that an organization has to make, that the leaders of an organization have to make. It was exactly the decision that we felt was best for our team at this point.”
Jacksonville coach Doug Pederson, who coached Wentz for five seasons in Philadelphia, also spoke to Rivera ahead of the trade. Wentz, the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft, led the Eagles to an 11-2 record before being injured in the 2017 season. Philadelphia won the Super Bowl with assistant quarterback Nick Foles. A year later, Wentz missed five games and the Eagles went 4-1, winning the last three to make the playoffs.
But in 2019, Wentz finished strong. In the last four games, all won, he threw seven touchdowns and no interceptions as the Eagles made the playoffs again.
Pederson refuted rumors about Wentz’s leadership style, saying among other things that he would involve young players in his off-season training. He pointed to Wentz’s work ethic.
“They have a terrific leader,” Pederson said. “They’ve got a guy who’s going to run this football team and he’s going to run this locker room. … I’ve only known him for a few years and it’s hard to talk about what he did last year in Indy and what he can do in Washington, but the guys answered him.”