Coach Frank Reich will have a fifth, Carson Wentz, starting in 2021. It's the second season Reich’s starter will be someone he’s familiar with and had success with at a previous stop.
The coach spoke recently about the quarterback changes he’s had to endure with the Colts and what expects out of his next starter. But there was a catch.
He never said the words "Carson" or "Wentz." That’s because the trade for Wentz from Philadelphia doesn’t become official until the NFL year begins March 17.
“As you would expect me to say, with the relative news that has been out in the headlines recently -- you guys know the rules,” Reich said. “I am going to be unable to make any serious comments on some of that stuff.”
Reich didn’t specifically say Wentz’s name, but what he did was discuss why Wentz is a fit as the Colts look to replace Philip Rivers, who retired after helping Indianapolis to the playoffs.
There’s turnover in every sport each season. But the Colts, who had Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck as their starting quarterback for nearly two decades, have had a hard time finding stability at the position since Luck retired.
Wentz, barring some kind of injury, will be the fifth Week 1 starter for the Colts in as many years. It’s hard to win a Super Bowl with instability at the most important position on the roster.
"You always have that healthy tension of the quarterback position ... but the quarterback is just one man on the roster," Reich said. "We do believe that we have the right roster, we have the right culture, and getting good quarterback play is something that is necessary to win a world championship. Obviously here in this organization, the standard has been set. I feel like we have gotten good quarterback play in recent years -- in our three years -- here as well.”
In order to have that “healthy tension," Reich’s job is to get Wentz’s confidence back. It’s kind of similar, albeit not the same situation, to what Reich had to do with Luck after the quarterback had missed the 2017 season following several years of battling injuries.
In his first year as coach, Reich got Luck back on track in 2018. Luck acknowledged he was not happy with himself after battling years and years of injuries. And that was after owner Jim Irsay said in August 2017 they had to help Luck “emotionally, mentally, get his confidence and his endorsement.”
Wentz hasn’t been the same quarterback since tearing his ACL in December 2017, which was the same season he was an MVP candidate. His stay in Philadelphia ended poorly, as the once-franchise quarterback lost his starting job after he was sacked 50 times and threw 15 interceptions in 12 games last season. Reich was Wentz’s offensive coordinator for two seasons with the Eagles.
As good as Reich is in working with quarterbacks, a position he played in the NFL, this won’t be an easy fix.
Luck won Comeback Player of the Year in 2018 and Rivers, who struggled in 2019, cut his interceptions by nine last season. It’s unknown where Wentz is mentally or with his confidence, but something has to change in order for him to be the same quarterback who threw for 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2017.
“Everybody loses confidence for a moment,” Reich said. “One of the ways to build confidence back is you go back to the basics, you go back to the fundamentals and technique, you go back to your basic schemes and you build it one play at a time. That’s true for any of us. So that is the way we will handle every position.”
Wentz and Rivers both can throw the ball, with the soon-to-be former Eagle having a stronger arm, but the biggest difference between the two is Wentz is more mobile, which will allow Reich and offensive coordinator Marcus Brady to likely go a little deeper in the playbook when it comes to playcalling.
“It’s a challenge, but we all like challenges,” Reich said. “This is about putting the players on display. So as coaches we have a job to figure out how to do that. But at the end of the day we expect our players to outplay the coaching. ... As coaches we have a job to do and we have to exhaust ourselves to do that. So, is it a challenge? Yeah, it’s a fun challenge, but really the focus is on putting the player in the best position.”
Get Wentz back on track and the Colts will be able to stop the revolving door at quarterback and set themselves up at that position for years come. The quarterback is only 28 years old.
"Continuity, we all understand, is important, I just think for our whole team,” Reich said. “In one respect, we feel like we’re going to play whatever cards we’re dealt and we’re going to play the cards well. So, if we keep having a different starting quarterback every year, you do what you have to do. But obviously, the moves that we make in free agency are going to be designed to have a longer-term answer. That’s always been the goal: To have a longer-term answer at that position that you can build around and grow.”