Let’s begin where Carson Wentz quit.
Wentz finally addressed the press Thursday afternoon, and admitted that he checked out of the 2020 season as soon as he checked out of the 12th game, replaced in the third quarter by rookie backup Jalen Hurts. By the time Wentz’s butt hit the bench in Green Bay, his heart was already in Indianapolis.
“Green Bay was probably the moment that I realized that this might not be it,” Wentz said. Incredibly.
When the going got tough, the not-so-tough couldn’t wait to get going.
Wentz spoke these words, words of heresy and betrayal, just after lunchtime Thursday during his introductory press conference as the Colts’ new starting quarterback. It was his first time he’d spoken publicly in 102 days. He’d been busy.
He’d gotten his head coach fired, he’d forced his way out of Philadelphia, and he’d left his franchise and his former teammates with a hole on their roster and in their payroll. But he’d gotten what he wanted, all the rest be damned.
Last month, the Eagles traded Wentz for a third-round pick in 2021 and a conditional second-round pick in 2022 — or, more accurately put, two guys who probably will never sniff a Pro Bowl. The Zoom videoconference happened Thursday because the trade only became official when the league year began, at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
For all intents and purposes, Wentz’s career as an Eagle ended long before that.
It ended around 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 6, when Hurts took his first snap as the Eagles’ new full-time quarterback. Wentz stood on the sideline with his hands on his hips, contemplating his future in these sorts of Midwestern environs. He looked humiliated. He looked outraged. He looked like an angry, entitled young man who’d finally been told, “No.”
Wentz began planning his exit with more than four games to go. The Eagles would remain in the playoff hunt for three more weeks. Hurts could have been injured at any time. But Wentz’s mind didn’t focus on improving in 2020, or competing for the job the next season, or, heaven forbid, becoming an overpaid backup in 2021. Such duty was beneath a person of Carson Wentz’s stature — at least, it was in Carson Wentz’s mind.
No; Wentz’s mind focused on leaving Philadelphia if he wasn’t given his job back.
“Any time you’re pulled, you don’t know what’s ... ‘Am I going to go out next week, next drive?’ I had no idea. All of those things go through your mind.”
This admission validates an ESPN report that dropped hours before Game 14, which was Hurts’ second start. That report was the first indication that Wentz would not stand for such treatment. It stated that Wentz had made it clear he would not return as Hurts’ backup.
A series of reports followed, all concerning Wentz’s discontent. The next dropped Jan. 3, hours before Game 16, and it said that Wentz’s relationship with Pederson was “fractured” beyond repair. Another, three days later, reported that Wentz boycotted his exit interview.
All of these issues helped speed Pederson’s firing the following week.
At one point Thursday, Wentz had the gall, the unabashed audacity, to insist this:
“I am a competitor.”
Then why not compete with Jalen Hurts for a starting job?
Why not help the Eagles compete in the woeful NFC East in 2021? They put almost $40 million in your pocket in 2020, money paid in advance of expected services for at least the next two seasons.
Competitors of character fulfill their obligations.
Wentz might consider himself a competitor, but, apparently, he will compete only on his terms. He will compete only with a strong team. He will compete only with a coach of his choosing, in a kinder, gentler city that maybe won’t hurt his feelings.
It doesn’t matter to Wentz that he left his former team and teammates with a $34 million salary cap hit in a year in which the salary cap decreased by more than $15 million.
Wentz admitted that he quit on all of them with 25 percent of the season remaining, but he wasn’t honest enough to admit much more.
Minutes earlier on Thursday, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman had confirmed that it was Wentz who asked for a trade; that the Eagles had no intention of trading him: “A lot of honest conversations with him and his representative about where he was and the feeling that maybe it was best to kind of move on.”
“I’m not going to delve too much into those conversations,” Wentz said, “but this is obviously where we’re at.”
The cowardice is palpable.
“At the end of the day, this was outside of my control.”
That whoosh you just heard was Pinocchio’s suit pants, colored the Colts’ speed-blue, catching on fire.
Mainly, Wentz said a lot of nothing, which, for him, was typical.
He did, however, utter one phrase dripping with truth; a phrase that could mean everything both for his tenure in Indianapolis and for his life beyond.
Wentz has been painted as an exclusionary teammate who plays favorites on the field, and who can be petulant and insubordinate to his coaches, ever since Nick Foles replaced Wentz and led the Eagles to the Super Bowl LII win after the 2017 season.
He generally does not dispute the accuracy of this portrait.
He does not want to be that person.
“I’m going to learn from it and try to be the best teammate I can be, and if any of my teammates out there don’t think I was the best teammate, I apologize,” Wentz said.
Better late than never.