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Why Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich still believes in QB Carson Wentz

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Orlovsky's voice goes up an octave defending Wentz (1:55)

Dan Orlovsky cannot believe an argument is being made that Jimmy Garoppolo is an upgrade over Carson Wentz. (1:55)

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich is not supposed to be in this position.

Not after playing an integral part in quarterback Carson Wentz being one of the favorites for NFL MVP in 2017 when they were with the Philadelphia Eagles. And not after proving in the past he can get quarterbacks back on track.

But here Reich stands, knowing Wentz’s time in Indianapolis could be coming to an end just a year after his arrival to the Colts organization.

And for all the mistakes Wentz made and plays he didn't make, it’s Reich who will be criticized the most as the Colts appear to have made a mistake in acquiring the quarterback from the Eagles.

“I believe in him,” Reich said last week during the NFL combine. “I stuck my neck out for him. I stuck my neck out for him last year. I was a big part of that decision to get him here, and so I believe he’s going to continue to have a lot of success at quarterback -- that might be here, it might not be here. That decision has yet to be determined, but I still believe in the person, and I still believe in the player.”

Colts general manager Chris Ballard said last week the franchise had not decided the fate of Wentz, who cost the Colts first- and third-round picks in the trade. But the writing continues to be on the wall: The Colts would like to move on from Wentz if possible.

Ballard is not blaming Reich for Wentz’s struggles and why they’re in this current predicament.

“We have a really good head coach in Frank, who’s had to navigate some pretty tough situations at the quarterback position, and he’s been tremendous,” Ballard said. “I think we’re 11th in wins since he got here [in 2018], and four starting quarterbacks? That’s pretty good, man. I think he’s a really special dude.”

The reality is, the Colts aren’t sold on Wentz as their franchise quarterback or they would have committed to him at the end of the season.

The best way for the Colts to get something of value in return for the quarterback would be to trade him to one of the many quarterback-needy teams. However, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that there was “no momentum from the combine that a trade is in the works” for Wentz.

Wentz will get $15 million whether he's on the Colts' roster or not next season, but the team can save about $13 million if it releases him by March 18. His contract runs through 2024, though there is a potential out after 2022.

“I’m usually pretty objective in sitting back and not making a panic move,” Ballard said. “And we won’t. We will not just make a panic move to make a panic move. Y’all can kick me in the face 100 times, and I promise you ... I am who I am. And I have a lot of confidence in myself.”

It’s understandable why Reich, who was the Eagles' offensive coordinator in 2016 and 2017, stuck his neck out to get Wentz. Reich also helped Andrew Luck and Jacoby Brissett post career highs in completion percentage in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Philip Rivers had the second-best completion percentage of his career in 2020.

Wentz threw 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2021. His future with the Colts may not be in question had they made the playoffs but he faded at the end of the season.

This is a quarterback-driven league, and the Colts need to find an answer at the position, especially when some of the best at that position are playing in the AFC, like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Joe Burrow.

“Carson did show flashes,” Reich said. “And of course I did see those in the past, but ultimately we want to form the kind of team where, sure, it’s great if the quarterback can take over the game. We also want a team where the defense can take over. … But if you’re going to win a championship, you need great quarterback play. That’s the ultimate prize, and that’s what we’re building toward.”

It’ll be hard to get there though with another starting quarterback added to the tally.

“Whatever ends up happening, whether it’s five [quarterbacks] in five years, or if Carson comes back, you play the hand that you’re dealt,” Reich said. “You just try and play a winning hand. You make the most of everything you have, and you know playing that hand, you believe you’re going to win that hand. That’s just the way I feel.”