INDIANAPOLIS — Frank Reich is doing it again.
It started with Philip Rivers last year, and now the Colts coach is getting the quarterback he wants with Thursday’s trade of Carson Wentz from Philadelphia.
But the addition of Wentz is a little different than the addition of Rivers a year ago. The Colts knew the aging Rivers was only hired for a year or two until they found their next quarterback.
They are now counting on their present and future with Wentz to solve what has unfortunately been a revolving door for the quarterback in Indianapolis over the past few years. Barring injury, Wentz will be the Colts’ fifth starter in week one in as many years.
The person responsible for delivering Wentz is the answer for the Colts?
The coach is putting his reputation on the line and believes he can bring Wentz, who was his quarterback when he was Philadelphia’s offensive coordinator, back to a level where he was considered an MVP candidate until the end of the 2017 season, when he suffered a knee injury.
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Coach Ring was Wentz’s main focus in 2017, when the quarterback threw for an Eagles franchise – a record 33 touchdowns – and his total QBR of 78.5 was 18.7 points higher than his entire career. Indianapolis receiver coach Mike Groh was Wentz’s offensive coordinator in 2018 and 19 after Reich left the Eagles to coach the Stallions.
The loss of Wentz will continue to eat away at a Colts franchise that has only made the playoffs twice since 2014 and cost talented All-Pros Darius Leonard and Quenon Nelson years.
But knowing Reich, he doesn’t hesitate to take an interest, as he did when he arrived as a reserve and became a star during his playing years at the University of Maryland and with the Buffalo Bills. Reich did not ask about Andrew Luck’s right shoulder injury during his interview for the head coaching position in the winter of 2018. He didn’t hesitate to bring Rivers to Indianapolis, even though the quarterback has committed to 23 rotations in 2019.
All Luck and Rivers did was play a good season under Reich and, most importantly, play a big role in leading the Colts to the playoffs. Rich couldn’t jettison Jacoby Brissett in 2019, which is why the Colts are in their current situation. But it happens sometimes.
Carson Wentz will be reunited with his former Frank Reich offensive coordinator, who coached the QB in his most successful seasons. AP Photo/Eric Gay
With Wentz, it may not be so easy.
It’s not clear where the quarterback stands, physically and mentally. Wentz would become the Eagles’ quarterback after being selected number two in the 2016 project and winning a huge four-year, $128 million contract extension in 2019.
But last season, he made 15 interceptions and was fired 50 times in just 12 games. He was benched in favor of rookie Jalen Hurts. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the last time a player reached these thresholds in terms of interceptions and sacks in a season was Blake Bortles with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2015.
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This is just the beginning of the worst season of Wentz’s five-year career. According to ESPN Stats & Info, no quarterback with at least 100 pass attempts in the 2019 and 2020 seasons has experienced a bigger drop in QBR than Wentz, who has dropped from a QBR of 62.8 in 2019 to just 49.6 in 2020. In addition, he only played all 16 regular season games twice in his career.
The foundation is there with the Colts to get it back on track and possibly make the franchise a Super Bowl contender in the AFC, where the road could lead to Kansas City or Buffalo in the near future.
The Colts have a talented defense, led by Leonard and defensive lineman DeForest Buckner. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo retired last month, but four of the five offensive linebackers from one of the NFL’s top units are back. Last season, the Colts allowed just 21 sacks, placing them second in the NFL, while the Eagles allowed sixty-five sacks in the NFL (no other team allowed more than 50 sacks). The Colts also have a 1,000 yard runner for the second year in a row, Jonathan Taylor, and a talented (and likely No. 1) receiver in Michael Pittman Jr.
The rest will depend on Reich and Wentz.
This decision should work for the Colts, because otherwise the pursuit of winning multiple Lombardi trophies, which owner Jim Irsay often talks about, will be further delayed and Reich’s reputation for producing better quarterback results will come to an end.
And it’s not just that Reich needs to get Wentz back, it’s that he has a mental obstacle to overcome.