Did Carson Wentz really want to get traded? Ex-Eagles quarterback on when he knew he wasn't returning
Carson Wentz was all smiles, resplendent in his blue-and-black checkered blazer as he held his first press conference with the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday.
He appeared refreshed, ebullient even, and well past the turmoil that ended his fifth season with the Eagles, when he was benched for the final 4½ games.
It was the first time Wentz had spoken publicly since that benching in the second half against Green Bay on Dec. 6, when rookie Jalen Hurts replaced him.
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After reports starting surfacing that Wentz wanted to be traded, the Eagles finally obliged and sent him to the Colts last month for a third-round draft pick this spring and a second-round pick in 2022 that can become a first-rounder.
The trade became official Wednesday.
There were also reports that Wentz's relationship with former head coach Doug Pederson was "fractured beyond repair," and that he still wanted to be traded even after Pederson was fired and Nick Sirianni was hired to replace him.
But for Eagles fans hoping for clarity on those issues, well, let's just say that Wentz was much more forthcoming about why he decided to switch uniform numbers from No. 11 with the Eagles to No. 2 with the Colts.
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More on that later.
After all, this is about the Eagles, and Wentz was supposed to be the franchise QB for at least a decade when the Eagles traded up twice in 2016 to draft him No. 2 overall, and then gave him a four-year, $128 million extension in June 2019.
Wentz's response was somewhat curious when he was asked about wanting to get traded, and that the perception was that he didn't want to compete with Hurts for the starting job.
"For starters, there are a lot of conversations that happened at the end of the year, with my agent, with everybody, and I’m not going to delve into the specifics on that," he said. "As far as being a competitor, I’ve never once questioned my competitiveness. But at the end of the day, this was outside of my control."
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That seemed strange considering that Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said Wednesday that Wentz's agent told him: "Maybe it was time for him to have a fresh start, that he was looking forward to a fresh start.
So that sparked a follow-up question about whether Wentz wanted to be traded or not.
"I’m not saying one way or another," Wentz said. "There were a lot of conversations, a lot of things that kind of shook out. And as it played out, this is what went down. I’m excited about it, I can tell you that much."
It's understandable that Wentz would be excited about a fresh start, especially when he was coming off by far the worst season of his career, when he ranked near the bottom of NFL starting QBs in completion percentage at 57.4 and passer rating at 72.8. He also led the NFL in interceptions thrown with 15 and in sacks taken with 50 – despite missing those last 4½ games.
The perception was that Wentz's downfall began last spring when the Eagles drafted Hurts in the second round, less than one year after Wentz's contract extension, and while he was supposed to be entering the prime of his career.
"I said it last year after they drafted him that I trusted Howie and the ownership there to make the best decisions for the team, and they showed me nothing but confidence and trust from Day 1, really," Wentz said. "For me to start questioning them after so many years, new contract, all those things, it just wasn’t right ... Things just didn’t go how we wanted it to go."
Wentz did admit that he felt his time as an Eagle was coming to end when he was benched against the Packers.
"Green Bay was the moment when I realized this might not be it," Wentz said. "Any time you’re pulled, you don’t know what’s (going on)? Am I going to go back in next week? Next drive? I had no idea. All of those things go through your mind, but I tried not overthinking."
Soon after, there were more reports that some teammates felt Wentz was selfish, that he had poor practice habits.
Wentz said he didn't know where that came from, adding: "It doesn’t matter. Whether someone feels that way or not, that’s what’s out there, so how can I learn from that at the end of the day? I think I’ve learned in this business, in life, that you’re not going to make everyone happy. As much as you want to, you can’t."
So now, he'll have to form those bonds with the Colts. He said he's excited about working with Colts coach Frank Reich, who was the Eagles' offensive coordinator for Wentz's first two seasons. Wentz was on his way to winning the MVP award in his second season when he tore his ACL in a December game against the Rams.
Nick Foles took over and the Eagles won the Super Bowl. Wentz called that "a special year that we’ll never forget."
Now he's looking forward with the Colts. That included choosing his new number. He said he approached wide receiver Michael Pittman, who was wearing No. 11, and Pittman told him he wanted to keep it.
Wentz said he was fine with that and went with No. 2, saying that he wore No. 20 in high school. In the NFL, quarterback numbers have to be between 1 and 19. Wentz then said he always wanted to wear No. 2 in college in North Dakota State, but it was taken so he went with No. 11.
"No. 2, I think, is really back in my mind, back in my heart, what I always wanted to be, so we’re excited," he said. "Hopefully, people think I look good in 2. If not, who cares? My wife does, so that’s all that matters."
Then Wentz laughed, something that he rarely did during a final tumultuous season with the Eagles.
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.