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Frank Reich: Drafting Jalen Hurts didn't send Carson Wentz into 'tailspin'

Frank Reich saw firsthand the once sky-high potential of Carson Wentz in Philadelphia.

He watched from a distance as Wentz lost his footing and, before long, his job in Philadelphia. Together once again, Wentz's former offensive coordinator with the Eagles and current head coach with the Colts sees Wentz's next step as a tremendous opportunity.

But first, let's address what led Wentz -- a former franchise quarterback of the Eagles -- to Reich just four years after the two were leading Philadelphia on a run that would eventually produce its first Lombardi Trophy.

It all seemed to begin, or at least intensify, with the selection of Jalen Hurts with Philadelphia's second-round pick in the 2020 draft. Then, there were the multiple injuries along Philadelphia's offensive line -- Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks and tackle Andre Dillard didn't play a regular season snap -- that made what was once a strong point of the Eagles a weakness. Add in Philadelphia still couldn't assemble a strong receiving corps around Wentz -- including the injury issues encountered by 2020 first-rounder Jalen Reagor -- and you have a less-than-ideal situation for the Eagles.

Still, though, a talent once seen as special as Wentz should have been able to maximize whatever potential the 2020 Eagles had, right? Well, in hindsight, no, because Wentz proved to the world in 2020 that the pressure (both pass rush and social) was too much to handle. By the time he'd hit the end of the season, he'd been benched for Hurts and sapped of the confidence that once made him one of the NFL's most promising players.

Reich was around for that fun time with Wentz. He believes Wentz isn't broken, wasn't negatively affected by the selection of Hurts, and can handle the pressure he'd crumbled under last season.

"I don't think that's the case. That's how I feel about it," Reich told Rich Eisen during an appearance on the Rich Eisen Show. "That's my opinion, that I don't think the drafting of another player sent Carson in a tailspin.

"I think it's complicated. I think it was a lot of different dynamics. When you win or lose in this league, everybody should share in the success and everybody should share in the blame. It usually doesn't work that way. The quarterback, head coach, whoever, GMs tend to be the focal point. So Carson took his share of being the focal point of the blame, and that's part of the process of being a quarterback in this league. And you've got to be a big boy and you've got to be able to take it."

Earlier in the interview, Reich was quick to point out that while Wentz was on fire before his ACL injury prematurely ended what looked to be an MVP-caliber campaign in 2017, he also had the support and strength of a rock-solid offensive line and a reliable rushing attack. This was not the case in Philadelphia in 2020, explaining his "everybody should share in the blame" line.

The test for Wentz is whether he's the aforementioned "big boy" who can bounce back. Reich, for one, is invigorated by the challenge for Wentz.

"Now is an opportunity to hit the reset button," he said. "It's an opportunity for the Eagles to [hit] the reset button. And ... there's nothing I want more than to see the Eagles succeed and this be a win-win for both teams -- that Jalen Hurts is successful, it's all good. I love great quarterback play, but I'm glad we got our guy."

Reich is one of the few coaches who can unquestionably state they know who Wentz is at his best, and what it takes to ensure Wentz can become his best version of himself. It's up to Reich and Colts general manager Chris Ballard to ensure they can create an environment conducive to Wentz's improvement, because he'll need it after his disaster that was 2020.

The challenge is directly in front of them.

"If you know Carson the way I know him, he's embracing that," Reich said.

Tune in to the 2021 NFL Schedule release at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, May 12, on NFL Network, NFL.com and the NFL app.

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