INDIANAPOLIS – Ron Jaworski has watched Carson Wentz’s career arc, from that spectacular Pro Day at North Dakota State in 2016 to the MVP-caliber ascension in 2017 to last season’s crash-and-burn.
He foresees the next chapter in Wentz’s football life being another upward spike on the graph.
“Carson should probably be the happiest guy in America right now because he’s going into an awesome situation with the Colts,’’ Jaworski said Thursday.
A relocation that seemed inevitable as the weeks unfolded became a reality when Indianapolis Colts’ general manager Chris Ballard sent two draft picks – a third-rounder in April’s draft and a second-rounder in 2022 that elevates to a first-rounder if play-time levels are reached – for Wentz. The trade isn’t official until March 17, the start of the NFL’s new league year.
The Colts got their latest QB1 a month after Philip Rivers announced his retirement, and Wentz was deemed expendable by the Eagles following a disastrous season for the player and team. Philly finished 4-11-1, and Wentz suffered 15 interceptions and 50 sacks, both league highs, before being benched after 12 games.
Jaworski spent the first 10 of his 15 NFL seasons in Philadelphia as the Eagles’ quarterback. He still resides there, maintains close ties with the organization and watched as Wentz’s season disintegrated. But he never bought into the notion Wentz is a broken quarterback incapable of being fixed.
“I think they’re getting a quality quarterback, although you probably wouldn’t think that if you looked at (2020),’’ Jaworski said.
“He had a bad year. He’s not a bad quarterback. I remember when Peyton had his off year in his third or fourth year.’’
Manning led the Colts to consecutive playoff berths in 1999-2000 before enduring a difficult fourth season. An injury to two-time league rushing champion Edgerrin James contributed to a 6-10 record in 2001. Manning passed for 26 touchdowns but suffered 23 interceptions.
“Things happen for a variety of reasons,’’ Jaworski said. “At the end of the day, you’ve got to work through it. You’ve got to accept the challenge. You’ve got to work your butt off, and you’ve got to take coaching.’’
That’s another reason Jaworski is confident the relocation will benefit Wentz, 28 and the 2nd overall pick in the 2016 draft. He’s being united with Frank Reich, who was his offensive coordinator in 2016-17, his first two years with the Eagles.
In ’17, Wentz was considered a front-runner for MVP – a franchise-record 33 touchdowns, seven interceptions, a 101.9 passer rating – before tearing two ligaments in his left knee in the 13th game against the Rams.
Has Wentz missed Reich, who was named Colts’ head coach in 2018?
“I miss Frank Reich,’’ Jaworski said with a laugh. “I just think he’s a great football coach. He has people skills. That quarterback room’s gotta be good. They’ve all gotta share the same mission no matter who the starter is. It’s gotta be, ‘We’re all in this together.’
“I know for a fact Frank had a great quarterback room in Philly, him and John DeFilippo. It showed in the performance of Carson Wentz. I have the utmost respect for Frank. I think he’s a terrific coach.’’
Jaworski believes the uniqueness of 2020 did Wentz no favors. The COVID-19 pandemic eliminated all offseason work, condensed training camp and wiped out the preseason. Wentz, like so many quarterbacks, needs the repetition of practice.
“I think that hurt Carson last year, I really do,’’ Jaworski said. “There were some mechanic issues that were just off with his game. I won’t say things snowballed, but there was never any consistent rhythm you have to have week-in and week-out in the NFL.’’
Injuries decimated the Eagles, cutting deep into their depth at the skills positions and the offensive line. They would start 14 different offensive line combinations. Philadelphia’s offense ranked tied-24th in total yards, 28th in passing, 9th in rushing and 26th in scoring.
Along with the 15 interceptions, Wentz had 16 TD passes, completed 57.4% of his passes and had a 72.8 rating. All were career lows. As if the 50 sacks in 12 games weren’t bad enough, he also was hit another 71 times, according to NFL game books.
The next phase of Wentz’s career unfolds with a franchise that believes it’s on the cusp of being a championship contender. The Colts feature one of the NFL’s top offensive lines, a top-10 run game, a receiver corps that probably needs another playmaker and a young, developing defense that ranked 8th in the league a year ago.
“He’s going into a really good situation,’’ Jaworski reiterated. “You know they’ve done their homework. Chris Ballard and Frank Reich do a phenomenal job. You know they did what needed to get done to get to this point. They looked into everything people are saying to see if they are true or not.
“Trust me, Carson has all the physical tools. (The Colts) are getting a better quarterback than Philip Rivers, at this moment. Philip Rivers is phenomenal, but Philip didn’t have the arm strength, didn’t have the mobility.’’
No one should question Wentz’s arm strength, he added.
“Carson still has a howitzer on his shoulder,’’ Jaworski said. “He can make every throw. He can get the ball down the field with a flick of a wrist. And he does have mobility; maybe not like he had before the injuries.
“Philip Rivers is going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but they’re getting a young quarterback, a little fresher body. I think it’s a trade up when you get a Carson Wentz.
“He has big upside.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.