Wentz’s Bittersweet Legacy

The Eagles have traded Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts. Wentz will be residing in the 317 area code, and the Colts will send a 2021 third-rounder and a conditional second rounder that may become a first rounder. Wentz gets his wish in reuniting with former offensive coordinator Frank Reich. Indianapolis is fresh off a playoff birth and the retirement of Philip Rivers. Indy was a supposed trade destination for nearly every quarterback looking for a new home. Trading for Wentz is a logical gamble for a team that seems to be a quarterback away from contention.

The Eagles were in an envious position three years ago. Confetti was floating through the breeze and poles were greased around the city. The Super Bowl core was intact. Both of their successful quarterbacks were returning. The Eagles were gearing up for consistent contention. For the first time since the early 2000s, the Eagles were going to be perennial NFC threats.

Fast forward three years and the organization has more questions than answers. The Eagles, along with their former quarterback, had a grotesque regression in 2020. If the Eagles went 6-10 or 7-9, we probably wouldn’t be talking about a franchise player’s trade or the need for a complete rebuild. Instead the franchise’s lone championship coach and QB1 are no longer in green, while the architect of incompetence is still overseeing football decisions. It’s a stunning timetable of events and one that has the Eagles knocking on the door to the outhouse. The optimism surrounding this team is just like Carson Wentz … gone !

The separation between Wentz and Philadelphia has been a forgone conclusion for weeks on end, but envisioning Wentz on a different team was difficult. Graduating from Bison Green to Eagle Green just looked natural for him. Howie Roseman masterfully pulled the strings in order to land Wentz. The acquisition of the second overall pick felt like the final puzzle piece.

A stone’s throw from an MVP trophy has devolved into a bottomed-out head scratcher. We witnessed the full spectrum of a franchise quarterback. There was delirious hope and pure despair. In an age of hot take sports media and on a larger media scale, polarization, evaluating Wentz’s legacy in Philadelphia is hard. I’ve wrestled with my final judgements, but I keep coming back to two contradictory ideas.

Prior to 2020, Wentz’s highest and lowest points were handled with the utmost class

Wentz made the Eagles fun again. The Chip Kelly tenure left the Eagles in a void and without an identity. Chip wanted to rule the roost and he fell woefully short. He rid the team of Andy Reid’s guys and was exposed as a fraud. There wasn’t anything or anyone to cling to for hope (Chip would have traded them away if there was).

In 2017, the Wentz prophecy looked to be nearing completion. He was the best player on the best team in the NFL. Wentz looked like everything we had hoped. Mentally, he was razor sharp. His pre and post-snap reads were surgical. His right arm was electric and his legs were dynamite. Every dropback had the chance of winding up with the ball in the endzone. The 2017 Eagles were the best all around team in football and Wentz was the wind beneath their wings. The idea that he did nothing to help the team achieve greatness is nonsense. An 11-2 record as a starter was critical to securing home field advantage, and he was the driving force behind their momentum.

The ACL injury he sustained in Los Angeles was gut-wrenching and ultimately served as an unfortunate benchmark in his career. Nick Foles led the franchise to a Super Bowl and Wentz has yet to consistently regain his elite form. In 2018, He played 11 games with a 5-6 record. A back fracture led to Foles usurping his role, and predictably leading them back to the playoffs. In 2019, he played all 16 games, including four wins in a row to capture the NFC East crown. Jadeveon Clowney ended Wentz’s playoff debut with a mindless, lazy cheap-shot, which led to a concussion and another postseason game what-if. Wentz deserved many more chances than he received. He worked his ass off to play games in January and was robbed through no fault of his own.

Wentz handled the aftermath of the Super Bowl with dignity and character. He was complimentary of Foles and worked feverishly to recover from his injuries. It would have been easy for him to become pouty and frustrated. Josina Anderson, formerly of ESPN, had an “anonymous Eagle” who liked to sprinkle breadcrumbs that maligned Wentz. All signs pointed towards Alshon Jeffery being the rat and he was still on the roster. There were anonymous reports on his attitude towards his teammates and coaches. Wentz was a team captain. You don’t get a “C” on your jersey if half of the locker room hates you. He didn’t say one derogatory word about anyone, when he could have lashed out. There were no cryptic tweets or subtle jabs. Wentz never made himself a distraction.

Howie Roseman drafted J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Jalen Reagor, signed no free agents, and just said “figure it out”. The offensive line was a decimated revolving door in 2020. Nobody in the NFL was sacked more than Carson Wentz. Instead of devoting a second round pick towards something beneficial for the quarterback, Roseman drafted … you guessed it … A QUARTERBACK ! The front office has routinely failed to facilitate the development of Wentz through his supporting cast.

The messy breakup between the Eagles and Wentz was started by the front office failing to upgrade after the Super Bowl. Between the; anonymous sources, the injuries, the management blunders, and watching your backup win the Super Bowl you were meant to be in, Wentz handled himself in a manner that many star quarterbacks would find to be impossible.

Image via Sports Illustrated

In 2020, Carson Wentz QUIT

Carson Wentz is quitting on the Eagles. Let’s make that very clear. He had an abhorrent season and is blaming the team more than himself. He does not want to be part of the solution. We can all agree the Eagles have failed to properly support him beyond 2017, but Wentz is not a victim.

Matthew Stafford and DeShaun Watson requested trades from organizations known for being career graveyards. Stafford was being wasted away in Detroit in the same vein as Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson. Watson is a tremendous talent who had Bill O’Brien and mindless management hold him back. Stafford and Watson are elite quarterbacks avoiding atrophy in organizations that don’t know how to win. Wentz played worse than nearly every single quarterback in the NFL and is looking for the door. As cheap as anonymous reports are, the ones questioning his accountability, look like they’re right. 

There were Wentz reports leaking constantly leading up to the trade (most of which were probably semi, but not all the way, true), but did anyone hear anything Wentz going to Lurie or Roseman and giving his input on how to right the ship ? He got the most guaranteed money in NFL history. Don’t you think that player usually has input on coaching/personnel hires ? A new regime would have been the perfect opportunity to have a greater voice in football decisions. Wentz made it loud and clear he wanted out no matter what. All it would have taken for this trade talk to go away was him walking into Roseman/Lurie’s office and saying he wanted to compete for his job.

Wentz doesn’t want to change, he wants his environment to change. The Eagles showed Wentz 128 million reasons why they trusted him. He played himself out of his own job and should have been benched earlier than he was. The disgruntled, fractured relationship never happens if Wentz doesn’t play terribly. All season long in his post game pressers, he talked about feeling confident in himself and his team to turn things around. He now wants to leave the team.

Image via Philadelphia Inquirer

Week 17 against Washington was the last time Wentz will ever be on the Eagles sideline. He didn’t dress. Nate Sudfeld backed up Jalen Hurts and the Eagles embarrassed themselves on national TV. Hurts was the starter because Wentz was benched and Sudfeld dressed because Wentz made it known he wanted to move on. That’s an ill-fitting end to a tenure that should have been so much more.

The Eagles and Wentz need to take long looks in the mirror. Their partnership fueled a city hungry for gridiron glory and it ended with wondering what went wrong. The Eagles need to be ashamed they mismanaged their star player and their star player should feel embarrassed he dragged an organization down. It’s difficult to digest and its sad no matter how its sliced.

Wentz deserves to be remembered for illuminating a franchise and being the spark that started a Super Bowl. He’s a great person that helped out the Philadelphia community and those in need. Philadelphia was lucky to have him, but the way things ended its hard to not feel resentment towards him.

One day Wentz will return to the Linc in a different jersey. He’ll be greeted to cheers and boos and he rightfully deserves both.

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