This past week brought an end to the long-running saga of the Carson Wentz trade, as the Eagles finally agreed to send him to what might have been the only suitor: Indianapolis. Jenny and Gary discuss whether the Wentz–Frank Reich marriage will work in Indy, and more than that, why the Colts ultimately had to act with urgency to get the QB.
Right now the QB market is thinning out for teams who don't have a top 10 pick, as the Colts got their guy, but the Patriots, Washington Football Team and Bears, among others, are still looking for answers that might not be there. How a thin veteran market, and a projected weak group of QBs for 2022, are putting some teams in a bind. And why it makes it even more obvious that the Texans will have to give in to Deshaun Watson's trade demand sooner rather than later.
Plus, Michael Fabiano stops by for the weekly SI Fantasy segment.
Gary Gramling: Let's just talk about Wentz at this point. So I guess if you looked at this as an optimist, if you are the Indianapolis Colts, we’re getting the reunification of Carson Wentz with Frank Reich. And now do you get sort of the 2017 form of Carson Wentz where obviously he was firmly in the MVP discussion before he had the torn ACL? And I guess if nothing else, you certainly have a very good offensive line in Indianapolis. You have some pretty good weapons and they’re all unlike in Philadelphia—they’re all healthy. So I guess is it right to be bullish or does this feel kind of like a desperation move? I mean look, when you step back, the Colts were in a position where they probably weren’t going to ... I mean, yes, they could have spent a fortune and moved up 15 picks and gotten in the conversation for some of these rookie quarterbacks. But what are you getting there? They didn’t really have options for getting an upgrade at quarterback outside of Wentz. And then the question is, is Wentz an upgrade?
Jenny Vrentas: Right, and these rehabilitation projects for quarterbacks have mixed results. But what gives you optimism is Frank Reich knows exactly what he’s getting. So it isn’t another team taking a stab on a player who’s failed somewhere else and thinking that team didn’t know what they were doing, etc. Well, Frank Reich might think that ... but he knows that it’s a player he has direct intimate experience with, he already has a relationship with. I think what we’ll see this season will answer some of the questions of what the heck happened in Philadelphia because we still don’t have a full story. Why did things go so far south? There were reports over the weekend that Pederson and Wentz weren’t communicating this past season, and it became clear that Wentz wanted a fresh start. But then they fired Pederson, and Wentz still wants a fresh start. So how do you go from that MVP candidate in the 2017 season, to being traded with the Eagles and getting little in return. And so I think when we see what happens with Wentz in Indy this season, it will give us a clearer sense of, was there mismanagement of him as a quarterback in Philly? Was there broken trust between him and his teammates? Was there not enough of a roster built around him? Was the inadequacy of that roster a reason for his failure? I think this will perhaps answer some of the questions that we all have, because when you see a quarterback have that steep drop-off, it’s always just so confounding and you have a lot of variables to sort through. But seeing how he performs back under Reich in Indy will give us a lot of clarity, I think.
Gary Gramling: I know it’s especially confounding because it’s not like this is a 36-year-old guy who was good 10 years ago. He’s 28 years old; he was really good four years ago. It was largely the same system they ran there. And I kind of look back on the 2019 season when they had all these injuries at receiver and it was easily the slowest receiving corps in the NFL by the end of the season, it probably was the worst—it was in the conversation of being the worst. And yet he made it work. He played well in 2019. It’s almost like to me, the mystery is less about his MVP-caliber season of 2017 to 2020 and what happened, it’s almost like what happened between 2019 and 2020? Why did this get just exponentially worse as the season went on? And it was just really confusing to watch. And I mean look, it was probably a confluence of things. It was the offensive line issue, which was far more injured than it had been in recent years, it was the poor skill position players, bad play-calling, etc. But it just all added up to a guy who just didn’t trust what he was seeing, and then after a while, they couldn’t trust him because a lot of his turnovers last year were just a matter of extending plays and just doing ridiculous things.
Jenny Vrentas: Yeah, when they went to the Super Bowl, the offensive line was a strength of the team. And over the years, guys get older, injuries pile up. It got to the point where last year it was one of the weaknesses. So that was certainly a factor. But you also just wonder psychologically, the moment that Nick Foles takes over as a backup and wins the Super Bowl and Wentz is pushed to the side for the end of that season, did that sort of make it inevitable that he would need a fresh start at some point? I think watching that unfold, we had a curiosity, like how will this affect Wentz? Because I think most of us could think, not certainly as an NFL quarterback but just what that feeling would be like. You’re in a position and something knocks you out of this position and then the guy behind you comes in and wins a championship or gets some great success. I mean, I think a lot of people can think, Oh my gosh, that would be an awful feeling. And certainly there were a lot of reports about Wentz losing the locker room in the subsequent years and that he wasn’t the guy that they believed in. And did that crack his confidence further? Did that not allow him to retake that role? So there were a lot of things that happened in the subsequent years, but certainly one of the more bizarre falling-offs or declines ... I don’t want to say decline because again, he’s so young and it was a short period of time.
Gary Gramling: I mean, gosh, when you step back, Wentz’s entire run in Philadelphia was just ... the twists and turns were incredible. I mean, he comes out of North Dakota State, he ends up getting the starting job Week 1, which surprises everyone; they move on from Sam Bradford. And then he goes MVP season. I mean, the old saying is the most popular guy in any city is the backup quarterback. And the backup quarterback steps in and wins the Super Bowl. And then he has to come back from that, and then he gets benched a second time. And all by the age of 28. And it was just such a wild ride when it was all said and done. And maybe if nothing else, you just find a certain level of stability in Indianapolis where I mean look, Jacob Eason is probably not pushing him for the starting job any time soon. I was honestly wondering if they would bring Jacoby Brissett back, because Jacoby Brissett (along with that, I personally very much like Jacoby and think he should be starting somewhere), but Jacoby Brissett has this reputation of being the mayor of that locker room, like the most popular guy in that locker room. And it’s just kind of like, do you want to tempt fate again? Especially if you’re factoring in ... Conor Orr had written about this, that there’s an escalator on that 2022 pick. If he plays 75% of the snaps or if he plays 70% and they make the playoffs, but if they’re sitting at 6–8 or something, does that change your calculus now?
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