Carson Wentz sat in front of a deep blue background in Indianapolis on Thursday, wearing a blue-checked suit, and told Colts fans via Zoom, “I’m a competitor. I want nothing here but to win.”
On social media, many Eagles fans took exception, given that their former franchise quarterback was reported to have sought a trade shortly after he was benched in December, Wentz replaced by rookie Jalen Hurts.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman changed course, after indicating at the end of the season that he wanted Wentz to work to reclaim his dominant role here. In February, Roseman traded Wentz for a third-round draft choice this year and a second-rounder next year that can be a first if Wentz thrives with the Colts. This was much less than Roseman had sought, and it would have seemed a pathetic return had Wentz been traded at any point before his horrific 2020 season. The popular narrative here has been that Wentz ducked out, unwilling to compete with Hurts this year.
Yet Wentz, after saying Thursday that this was not “the ending I desired,” and framing the trade as “outside my control,” in his first remarks since the trade, would not say that he wanted to leave Philadelphia. He also didn’t deny it.
“I’m not saying, one way or another,” Wentz said, when asked if he was saying he didn’t seek a trade. “There was a lot of conversations, a lot of things that kind of shook out, and as it played out, you know, this is what went down. I’m excited about it; I’ll tell you that.”
Just before that, asked why he didn’t want to stay and compete, stay and help the team rebuild from a 4-11-1 season, Wentz referred to “conversations that happened at the end of the year,” which he wouldn’t detail. “As far as being a competitor, I’ve never once questioned my competitiveness ... but at the end of the day, this was outside my control.”
Wentz indicated that his first thoughts about leaving came when he was pulled in favor of Hurts, during a 30-16 loss at Green Bay on Dec. 6.
In a Philadelphia news conference that overlapped with Wentz’s Indianapolis introduction, Roseman said that after the season there were “a lot of honest conversations with him and [agent Ryan Tollner] about where [Wentz] was and the feeling that maybe it was best to kind of move on.”
Roseman declined to discuss what Wentz said that made the Eagles decide they had to trade him, after making him the face of their franchise and granting him a four-year, $128 million contract extension in 2019. The cap-strapped Eagles will carry the largest dead-money figure in NFL salary-cap history this season, $33.8 million, as a result of parting with Wentz.
Wentz did say of the benching, “Green Bay was the moment I realized, this might not be it. Anytime you’re pulled, you don’t know what’s going to – am I going to go back out next week? Next drive? I had no idea. ... Those thoughts definitely creep in once you’re benched. That’s just how it unfolded.”
Wentz, drafted second overall in 2016 after the Eagles traded up twice, said that he appreciated “everything that happened in Philly,” and that “for five years, I gave everything I had, both on and off the field. ... I can sleep well at night knowing I poured my heart and soul and gave everything I had in that city, and we’re excited for a new start and a new opportunity.”
Wentz, 28, said he would work to fix the problems that caused his unprecedented regression last season, when his 15 interceptions led the NFL and his 57.4% completion percentage ranked 34th. He also made an oblique reference to reports that he wasn’t close to some teammates.
“I’m going to dive headfirst this offseason into improving those things. ... [As a teammate,] I’m not a perfect human being. I’m going to make mistakes. I’ve made mistakes in the past,” Wentz said. “As a man, you have to look yourself in the mirror and learn from it.”
Wentz said “you want to play detective” when you hear teammates have issues with you, but “you’re just not going to make everyone happy. As much as you want to, you can’t.”
Wentz said the decision to draft Hurts last year in the second round, 53rd overall, did not cause Wentz’s poor play.
“Jalen and I have a good relationship. I wish the kid nothing but the best. I think he’s got a lot of ability. I was impressed with how quickly he grasped the offense and really understood things, and how well he did, obviously. I would have loved to have been the guy playing the year out, there’s no mistaking that, but that’s not how it unfolded. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. ... God has a plan. He has a perfect plan. I can argue with it sometimes, but it ain’t gonna get me anywhere.”
Part of the reason Wentz ended up in Indianapolis is the presence of Colts coach Frank Reich, Wentz’s offensive coordinator his first two Eagles seasons, including 2017, when Wentz set the franchise record with 33 touchdown passes.
“Coach Reich, I’ll never forget when I was working out in Fargo, North Dakota, before the draft and he and coach [Doug] Pederson came out. ... We just had this instant connection. We’re both obviously men of faith and we were able to talk about our values and different things. It was natural.”
Wentz said their bond extended to “how we see the game, and how we can kind of have healthy discussions and disagreements but really challenge each other and ultimately make each other better.”
One of the criticisms of Wentz since Reich left the Eagles has been that he resisted coaching and clashed with coaches on such things as play selection.