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Frank Reich did his best Tuesday afternoon to keep alive the possibility that Carson Wentz returns to the Indianapolis Colts as their starting quarterback in 2022.
The coach whose endorsement of Wentz helped convince his team to trade with the Philadelphia Eagles for Wentz and his big contract last offseason, wasn’t going to lie that Wentz will definitely be back for Year 2 in Indy.
But neither was he going to throw his guy under the proverbial bus.
“I know I believe in Carson,” Reich said. “I believe in him. I stuck my neck out for him. I was a big part of that decision to get him here. I believe he’s going to continue to have a lot of success at quarterback. That might be here, that might not be here. That decision has yet to be determined.”
Yeah, he gone.
It’s March and the Colts have had almost two months to evaluate the quarterback they had all last season but they would have you believe their evaluation is ongoing?
“I thought this year compared to 2020, we kind of got back on track — protected the ball well, made some good plays,” Reich said of Wentz. “Again, on the positive side we emphasize the touchdown to interception ratio and it was where you want it to be. It was a good step, it was a good step from 2020.
“So we’ll continue to evaluate. The process is ongoing. We know in this business everybody and everything gets evaluated every year. The second part of that process is head coach and quarterback are under the most scrutiny. So we’re in the middle of the process.”
Folks, this is the process: Wentz had a roller-coaster ride of a season and finished poorly, delivering his worst outing in the season finale against a terrible team with the playoffs on the line.
And on March 19, that inconsistent quarterback that is due a $22 million salary is also due a $6.294 million roster bonus. But trading him would clear all $28.294 million of that off the Indianapolis books.
So barring Wentz playing really well in all the games scheduled between now and March 19 (none), the Colts are going in another direction — by either cutting him or preferably trading him.
That raises another issue because the Colts aren’t going with a Wildcat or Wing T offense next year so they need a new guy to play quarterback.
And they need one who is preferably an upgrade.
“I think there’s a lot of things in the evaluation process, right, how he played, it’s dynamic,” Reich said. “It’s complicated, I should say, it’s complex. Nobody’s an island onto himself, it’s the whole picture.”
So the picture has to include a Wentz replacement. And the thing is that replacement will almost definitely be a veteran.
We know this because the decision to move on from Wentz would have to be made before the draft. And because Reich admitted Tuesday he’s done very little work in studying the group of quarterbacks about to come out in this year’s draft. And because Indy doesn’t even have a first-round pick anyway.
That means the new quarterback for the Colts, a team ready to win now, will be a veteran.
So we know how they Colts will replace Wentz. But how will they upgrade?
Will Indianapolis trade for Jimmy Garoppolo? It’s not a certainty the 49ers will absolutely move on from Garoppolo.
A Philip Rivers return? He had a good season for the Colts in 2020 but he’s 40 years old now and one year removed from his last game.
Nick Foles? Reich was his quarterback coach in Philadelphia when the Eagles won the Super Bowl. Foles played well as Philadelphia’s backup quarterback. But Foles has been a disaster each time a team has signed him to be their starting quarterback.
Mitchell Trubisky? This seems a more likely direction.
Trubisky never played up to expectations after he was selected No. 2 overall by the Chicago Bears in 2017. But he had a winning record as the Bears quarterback each of his final three years with the team.
And he seemed to rebuild his confidence and reputation around the league serving as the backup in Buffalo in 2021.
So this looks like the kind of move the Colts are set to make — signing an experienced backup as a free agent.
That would give the Colts their fifth starting quarterback in five seasons.
“Whatever ends up happening, whether it’s five in five years or if Carson’s back, however that decision ends up playing out, you play the hand you’re dealt,” Reich said. “And you just try play a winning hand…”