Doyel: Carson Wentz was the best the Colts were going to do

Gregg Doyel
Indianapolis Star

On the one hand, it feels like the Indianapolis Colts just pulled off a magic trick. This is the trickiest, most competitive quarterback market in NFL history, and the Colts just landed a guy who played at an MVP level before and is just 28 now. They landed a guy with a winning record, a bazooka for an arm and a Big Ben body – 6-5, 237 pounds – and they did it for the low, low price of two draft picks, neither of which is a first-rounder at the moment.

On the other hand, his name is Carson Wentz.

How are we supposed to feel about this?

Insider:Source: Colts trade for Carson Wentz for pair of draft picks

Dec 20, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Relief, for sure. It’s over. After their search for Philip Rivers' replacement careened from Matthew Stafford to screen shots from some dude's wife, the Colts have their guy. Well, they have a guy. Their guy? Your guy, Colts fans? We’ll see.

But the Colts have someone, and there is comfort in that, because NFL franchises are playing musical chairs at quarterback, and when the music stops not everyone will have a seat. Someone out there will be stuck with the fossilized chair that is Ryan Fitzpatrick and hope he doesn’t turn to dust this season. Someone else, more than one team in fact, will gamble their next several years on a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft, and they will lose when that player is a bust. Happens every year.

Won’t happen to the Colts.

Neither will Sam Darnold.

You can see which way I’m leaning. Given the way this offseason could’ve gone, I’m calling the addition of Carson Wentz a victory for the Colts.

On the other hand.

Wentz: Savior, or locker room cancer?

New Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz has been injured. A lot. He hasn’t finished any of the past four seasons after suffering a torn ACL in 2017, a broken back (!!) in 2018 and a concussion that knocked him out of the 2019 Eagles’ playoff loss to Seattle. On the bright side, he wasn’t injured this past season. He didn’t finish it for another reason.

He was beaten out by a rookie.

Right. There’s a lot of information about Carson Wentz, most of it bad. There was a lot of information about Ryan Tannehill, once upon a time. Remember that? In 2018 he had a Jacoby Brissett-ian career passer rating of 87.0, and was coming off three consecutive injures. A knee, the first two times – he lost the entire 2017 season with a torn ACL – and a shoulder injury in 2018. His throwing shoulder. A train wreck, that guy.

And the 2019 NFL Comeback Player of the Year. And then the No. 5-ranked quarterback in the NFL in passer rating in 2020, when he led the Titans to the AFC South title. 

Could Carson Wentz be this year’s Ryan Tannehill? That’s what the Colts are hoping, even believing. They have their reasons, first and foremost the seasons Wentz had in 2017, ’18 and ’19. The narrative out there is that Wentz was an MVP-quality quarterback in 2017 before suffering that torn ACL, and that part is true, but the falsehood is that he fell off a cliff after that season. He did not.

2017: 3,296 passing yards in 13 games; 33 TD, 7 INT, 101.9 passer rating.

2018: 3,074 passing yards in 11 games; 21 TD, 7 INT, 102.2 passer rating.

2019: 4.039 passing yards in 16 games; 27 TD, 7 INT, 93.1 passer rating.

On the other hand …

You’d need a Sherpa to navigate his descent last season.

2020: 2,620 passing yards in 12 games; 16 TD, 15 INT, 72.8 passer rating.

By the end of the season Jalen Hurts was the Eagles’ quarterback, Doug Pederson was out as coach, Nick Sirianni was in – remember him? – and Carson Wentz was this hideous thing, this cancer, who had to be removed from the Philadelphia locker room. Wentz’s character was attacked in 2019 by completely anonymous sources for a mostly anonymous publication, and while the story was publicly refuted by teammates, that’s the word on Carson Wentz: Bad teammate. Selfish. Got to be true, because it was online.

Maybe it is true. Or maybe it was, in Philadelphia. The Colts’ locker room is a special place, with special people, larger-than-life leaders like DeForest Buckner, Darius Leonard and Ryan Kelly, who will be Wentz’s center. If you think Ryan Kelly will tolerate an instant of nonsense from Carson Wentz, you don’t know Ryan Kelly.

Even with all that, if Wentz even thinks about causing problems here, I submit two words of locker-room enforcement and back away very, very slowly to rest my case:

Quenton Nelson.

Least it's not Mitch Trubisky

But still.

After Philip Rivers retired last month, this isn’t the quarterback anyone wanted for the Colts. You know it. I know it. Matthew Stafford would have been perfect, but unlike the Los Angeles Rams, the Colts didn’t have a starter-quality quarterback to send to Detroit. You want Deshaun Watson? I want a pony.

The 2021 NFL free agent quarterback class is non-existent. Don’t start with me on Dak Prescott, and the next best option is Mitchell Trubisky. Haha no, not really, just threw that out there for a laugh.

Oh, wait. Trubisky really is the second-best option among free agent QB’s.


The 2021 NFL Draft quarterback class has two or three can’t-miss prospects (Trevor Lawrence for sure, and maybe Zach Wilson and/or Justin Fields) and a handful of other names that look good on paper (Trey Lance, Mac Jones and Kyle Trask), one or two of whom will probably turn out to be just fine, with the rest being just good enough to get his coach fired someday.

Finding a quarterback in the first round of the draft was never a serious option for the Colts, not sitting on the No. 21 pick, not with so many other holes to fill. After quarterback, the next four most important positions are left tackle, pass rusher, cornerback and receiver.

The Colts need at least one of each.


Acquiring a quarterback without having to give up a first-rounder in 2021, and perhaps without having to give up one in 2022 either – the Colts sent a conditional 2022 second-rounder to Philadelphia that could turn into a first-rounder, if Wentz plays enough – is a victory. It allows the Colts to pursue a left tackle or edge rusher at No. 21.

And of course there’s Colts coach Frank Reich’s connection to Wentz, whom he mentored as Philadelphia’s offensive coordinator during that MVP-caliber season of 2017. I’m also liking the presence of Nick Sirianni, the Colts’ former offensive coordinator, in Philadelphia. Sirianni and Reich are so close, there’s no way Sirianni would allow Reich to risk his career on Wentz if it was a can’t-win proposition. This trade is about two billion-dollar franchises and one $100 million quarterback, yes, but at the heart of it is the friendship of Sirianni and Reich. That’s truth.

So is this: As it relates to Wentz, there were better quarterbacks on the market this offseason (Stafford, Goff), and there will be better quarterbacks to come out of the 2021 draft. I’m not suggesting otherwise. But given the Colts’ specific needs and assets, Carson Wentz was the best they were going to get.

If that’s not enough for you, here: Their next best options were Sam Darnold and Mitch Trubisky.

Find IndyStar columnist Gregg Doyel on Twitter at @GreggDoyelStar or at

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