Hallelujah, Colts are free of Carson Wentz! Worry about QB replacement tomorrow | Opinion

Gregg Doyel
Indianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS – Thank God he’s gone, you know? Carson Wentz, I mean. Gone. Traded to the Washington Football Team, where he’ll become a Commander in name only. Because the only thing Carson Wentz commands with any efficiency is negative attention. People inherently, instinctively, don’t like him. Kind of a bad quality for an NFL quarterback.

Can I say all of that? Starting with those first two words? That’s not blasphemous, is it, to praise the Lord? Carson does it. I’m doing it. Might be the only thing we have in common…

As for the rest of that first paragraph, and the rest of this story: Yes, I can say it all. I didn’t want Carson Wentz back, if for no reason other than this one: It’s hard to be a sports columnist in this town and openly loathe the Indianapolis Colts’ starting quarterback. But I’ve done that for more than seven months, since 2021 training camp, and haven’t kept it a secret. Honesty can make up for a lot of weaknesses.

The Colts just made up for a weakness at quarterback by being honest with themselves, and with you, and admitting: We screwed up. There were a lot of reasons not to want Wentz back, see. His dud of a personality, as I’d been writing for months and as Dan Orlovsky has put it earlier this week, was just part of it.

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Last offseason – which had a robust quarterback market in trades, free agency and the NFL draft – is when the Colts surveyed the landscape and decided Wentz was their guy. A brutally bad choice, but in real time we understood: Wentz played for Colts coach Frank Reich in Philadelphia and played well. Reich is so good at his job, and has such self-belief, that he wasn’t rolling the dice on Wentz; he was rolling it on himself. And in some ways, he was right.

Look at Wentz’s numbers last season: 3,563 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, seven INTs, a 94.6 passer efficiency rating. The yardage is wonky, small, but the rest of the numbers? Reich was correct: He did turn Wentz into a competent NFL quarterback, with some numbers – the TD-to-INT ratio especially – similar to his best days in Philadelphia.

Alas, not even Reich could reach down into Wentz’s sternum and massage some life into that heart, or get into his skull and insert some common sense. With his super arm but lesser heart and brain, all of it on display in the team's late-season choke, Wentz is like a Wizard of Oz amalgamation: he’s the Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man.

And he’s someone else’s problem now. I’m done writing about that guy. Thank God.

Besides, we have a new issue to address.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz (2) presses on one of his eye black strips during the second quarter of the game on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.

Carson Wentz gone, Jimmy Garoppolo incoming for Colts?

So where do the Colts go from here? They go to The Quarterback Store, obviously, but the prices are expensive.

The Russell Wilson trade shows the market for a great quarterback, and the Colts can’t afford it. They don’t have a first-round draft pick in 2022 to offer, thanks to … him. They do have a battalion of second-day picks to offer, including the two third-rounders they obtained Wednesday from Washington. What can you get with a bunch of third-rounders, perhaps a first-rounder in 2023 and an established veteran like linebacker Bobby Okereke or a promising young cornerback like Isaiah Rodgers?

You can get Jimmy Garoppolo.

You’re right, on the surface: Jimmy G doesn’t seem to be worth that much. But this is capitalism, and the price of a quarterback is whatever the market says it is. And right now, the market says a quarterback is silly expensive.

The Colts aren’t the only team trying to get a quarterback, whether it’s Jimmy G or Jordan Love or maybe even Kyler Murray or Derek Carr. That’s the thing to keep in mind: The Quarterback Store isn’t like The Gap or Target, where each item has a known price tag. It’s more of an auction, and the final price is whatever the cash register says it is when the bidding is done.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz (2) runs the ball during the second quarter of the game on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.

Whatever you’re thinking the Colts should offer San Francisco for Jimmy G … double it. Because after Seattle, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and a half-dozen other teams get finished driving up the bidding, Jimmy G will cost an obscene amount.

The Colts could always draft someone, but this year’s draft class is thought to be relatively weak. Time will tell, of course. Malik Willis of Liberty could become a Hall of Famer. So could Kenny Pickett of Pittsburgh and Desmond Ridder of Cincinnati. Or they could be serviceable at best. We just don’t know, but we know the analysts are in agreement:

The 2022 NFL draft is shallow at quarterback. Not a single sure thing in the bunch.

So now what? Do the Colts package their picks and throw in an enticing young player like safety Julian Blackmon to move up in the 2022 NFL draft and gamble on one of those college quarterbacks? Or do they make a bid for a known commodity, like Garoppolo or Carr, at a premium price? Or do they do a little bit of both and kick the tires on Love?

This is all Andrew Luck’s fault.

Andrew Luck started merry-go-round

And I like Andrew Luck. So very, very much. You can like the guy and support his right to live his life the way he sees fit, and still acknowledge that his decision to retire two weeks before the 2019 season crushed the Colts.

You’re right, it’s been three full NFL seasons since then, and you’d think the Colts could have fixed this by now. But they went about it with Band-Aids (elevating backup Jacoby Brissett in 2019) and hopes (38-year-old Philip Rivers in 2020) and dreams (a rejuvenated Wentz in 2021), and here we are. The NFL ripped off the Band-Aid to reveal Brissett’s ceiling as a serviceable backup. Rivers didn’t want to play more than a year. Wentz is more Tin Man-and-Scarecrow, less Lion.

So maybe it’s time for the Colts to do this the old-fashioned way: Find someone they believe in, develop him, build around him. That guy is either in the draft or sitting behind Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.

The judging of a quarterback, like a coach, is so much more than physical traits. There’s the unknown, the unknowable, of how a person will handle pressure in a new environment. Josh McDaniels collapsed here, because he’s made of rotting wood. The Las Vegas Raiders hired him and they'll find out, but that’s like Washington and Wentz: Not our problem anymore.

An NFL quarterback is a complete mystery. There was actual debate in 1998 over Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf. It looks absurd now, but back then, people were legitimately split. Nor was it unanimous in 2012 that the Colts should draft Luck instead of Robert Griffin III.

Look what became of the 2018 draft class, with Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold and even Josh Rosen being drafted before Lamar Jackson. You just don’t know. And Colts general manager Chris Ballard knows you don’t know. He has told us time and again he’s not going to draft a quarterback just to appease the masses.

“Taking one will get you off my ass for the time being,” he said after the 2021 season, “but the moment that guy doesn’t play well, I’m going to be the first one run out of the building.”

And it’s true. So give Ballard credit for recognizing the problem and making the hard decision to start over. Easier would’ve been keeping Wentz, convincing himself that the Colts just need another receiver and a better left tackle, and hoping for a playoff run in 2022.

After sticking out their necks in 2020 for Rivers and in 2021 for Wentz, Ballard and Reich just stuck out their necks in 2022 for a guillotine to be named later.

We’ll see how it turns out, but start right here: Carson Wentz is gone, and that makes this a day to celebrate.