Carson Wentz says he appreciated the opportunity to play in Philadelphia.
He’s also ready for a change of scenery.
A little more than one month after hearing he would be traded to Indianapolis and just one day after the deal became official, Wentz finally spoke publicly about how it all went down — being benched, being critiqued and being dealt.
“After the season, obviously, there were a lot of conversations with my agent that went back and forth,” Wentz said on a Zoom call Thursday. “It wasn’t the ending I envisioned. Obviously, this is where we’re at and we’re excited for a fresh start.”
For Wentz, it’s been a quick and harrowing descent from being the No. 2 overall pick in 2016 and the third-place finisher in the 2017 MVP voting.
When the Eagles gave him a four-year, $128 million contract in June 2019, it appeared Wentz would be the undisputed franchise quarterback for years. But when Philadelphia took quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round of last April’s draft, the questions started.
Wentz said he trusted the front office and ownership because they had shown trust in him over the years. Then as the Eagles — and Wentz — struggled through a challenging season, Wentz was benched in favor of Hurts in early December. Wentz never took another snap.
“It wasn’t fun,” he said. “It was difficult, but I did everything I could to support Jalen. I went out there every day on the scout team, it was weird, but I did everything I could to give them good looks.”
And it was just the start.
Reports soon surfaced that questioned Wentz’s competitiveness, whether the 28-year-old who the Eagles traded up twice to draft was fixable — even his ability to get along with teammates.
Wentz tore two knee ligaments diving headfirst into the end zone for a touchdown that was nullified in Week 14 of the 2017 season. He stayed in the game and threw a go-ahead TD pass before walking off the field and later having season-ending knee surgery. He watched from the sideline when Nick Foles led Philadelphia to a Super Bowl win over New England.
The opinions blindsided Wentz, who wouldn’t say Thursday whether he wanted to be traded.
“Anytime you hear those things you want to play detective and figure out who said it. But it really doesn’t matter,” he said. “If it’s out there, then you have to ask yourself how can I learn from it. It’s unfortunate people have those opinions and if any of my teammates didn’t think I was the best teammate, I apologize. I wish I could have been better.”
Colts owner Jim Irsay acknowledged he had some long discussions with general manager Chris Ballard and coach Frank Reich about the critiques. Eventually, though, the Colts were not dissuaded.
They sent two draft picks — a third-rounder this year and a conditional second-rounder next year — to the Eagles. The second-round pick will become a first-rounder if Wentz plays 75% of Indy’s snaps in 2021.
Irsay also said since making the deal Wentz has proven to be extremely competitive and a good leader. In fact, Wentz has already been throwing with two second-year receivers, Michael Pittman Jr. and Dezmon Patmon. Irsay also wouldn’t rule out re-signing free agent receiver T.Y. Hilton, a four-time Pro Bowler, after bringing back running back Marlon Mack on a one-year deal worth $2 million.
But the Colts’ long-term success will rest in Wentz’s hands.
“I can’t emphasize how strongly I feel Carson is the man for the job for the Colts at this time,” Irsay said. “I really think he can be that guy that’s going to be the centerpiece for the next decade who can give the Colts a chance at greatness.”
Wentz fills Indianapolis’ most glaring need.
Though he will be Indy’s fourth different opening-day quarterback in four years, his contract could give the Colts stability at the position for the first time since Andrew Luck missed the entire 2017 season with a shoulder injury.
Wentz also will be playing behind an offensive line that yielded just 21 sacks last season, compared with the 50 he took in 12 games. And perhaps most important, he’ll be reunited with Reich.
The duo teamed up for Wentz’s first two seasons in the league when Reich was Eagles offensive coordinator.
“Working with Frank, first and foremost, and seeing what he’s been able to do here,” Wentz said when asked why Indy was an attractive destination. “The offensive line, the skill players, what they were able to do last year and being right on the verge of being able to do something special, the area and community.”
As for saying goodbye to Philadelphia, Wentz was reflective.
“I know for five years I gave everything I had,” he said. “It didn’t go the way we all desired it would go, but I poured my heart and soul into it for five years.”