The roller-coaster season of the 2021 Indianapolis Colts ended in the pitfalls of a Week 18 upset. The team reacted this offseason by trading Carson Wentz and acquiring Matt Ryan, who is set to become the Colts' fifth starting quarterback in as many seasons.
Colts head coach Frank Reich isn't laying blame on Wentz despite the quick QB change.
"Carson played a lot of good football," Reich told NFL Network's Tom Pelissero during an interview at the Annual League Meeting on Sunday. "We did a lot of good things as a team, he did a lot of good things as a quarterback. Three quarters of the year we were one of the teams to beat, one of the teams everybody was talking about. And then we had a pretty big time collapse in the last two weeks of the season and we all take responsibility for that, starting with me as a head coach. What would be unfair is to make Carson the scapegoat."
Wentz started every game for the Colts in 2021, leading them to a 9-8 record after overcoming an 0-3 start. Wentz was never asked to do too much as the Colts heavily relied on the breakout season of Jonathan Taylor, who became the NFL's 2021 rushing champion. The six-year veteran QB ended his first campaign in Indy with 3,563 passing yards (62.4% completion rate), 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
The Reich-Wentz companionship was focalized in 2021 because of their past success in Philadelphia. Wentz was a bona fide MVP candidate in 2017 with Reich as his offensive coordinator with the Eagles, but a season-ending knee injury halted Wentz's best season after 14 Weeks. The Eagles went on to win Super Bowl LII with backup Nick Foles maintaining Reich's offense, which directly led to the Colts hiring him as their new head coach for the following season. Reich saw an opportunity to bring Wentz into the fold with a loaded roster waiting for its QB savior. It was going well enough for the 9-6 Colts through 16 weeks, before a two-game skid to close out the season was punctuated with a loss to the three-win Jaguars.
The Colts proceeded to trade Wentz to the Commanders even before landing Ryan, but Reich is confident his old QB will find success in Washington.
"I love Carson. He's a brother to me. I'll always love him, always pull for him," Reich said. "I know he's going to succeed. I believe a lot in him. It was just one of those things. You thought it was going to be a storybook finish where we kind of get reunited and he can kind of relaunch his career in a new place and that didn't work out. That's life sometimes. It's hard. It's hard, personally. As a coach, you get close to all the players and obviously at the quarterback position and because of my history with him. There's nobody who will support him more and believes he's going to succeed. I think Washington is a great fit for him and I wish him all the best."
When looking for a new QB of their own, Commanders coach Ron Rivera also pointed out Wentz's MVP-type season, but also considered the good things he heard from former teammates.
"You know, we had an opportunity to take a look at several of the quarterbacks that were available. And doing a lot of homework, doing a lot of research, one of the names that just kept being around the top was his," Rivera told NFL Network's Judy Battista. "I don't think people quite understand what his value is as a player. He's got quality numbers, he's done some good things. The year they went to the Super Bowl and won it, Nick Foles was the quarterback, but their was a stretch where he was 11-2 as their starter and very, very productive. He was having an NFL MVP-type year. That just stuck in my mind. And after we made the move and we acquired him, to hear what three of his teammates came out and said in a positive fashion about who he is, it just reconfirmed to us. So we really do believe we have the right kind of guy."