By Lenn Robbins
Who else is in with me on a Colts-Eagles Super Bowl VLI?
Trust me, that was a tough sentence to type. The Colts have been a sworn enemy since disrespecting the Jets back in 1968. They should have listened to Joe Namath. They really should.
And the Eagles? How can one root for a team that plays in a city in which fans booed Mike Schmidt and punched police horses after winning a championship? No, the City of Brotherly Love is anything but when it comes to their sports teams.
Still, the Colts and Eagles combined to pull off the rare NFL trade that can be a win-win-win-win-win. With one big loss.
The Eagles traded disgruntled quarterback Carson Wentz to the Colts for a 2021 third-round draft pick (No. 85 overall) and a conditional 2022-second-round pick that could become a first-rounder, according to published reports.
- NFL FANS WIN: If these two teams make it to the Super Bowl it sets up a great storyline – the reclamation of not one but two quarterbacks. Nothing is better.
Wentz, the No.2 pick in the 2016 Draft from North Dakota State, took the NFL by storm as a rookie, completing 62.4-percent of his passes for 3,782 yards with 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He was even better the next season throwing for 3,296 yards with 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
He blew out his knee and watched Nick Foles lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl win over the Patriots. Wentz’s NFL peers were so blown away by the unknown from Bismarck, North Dakota and the FCS Bisons they voted him third best player in the league going into 2018.
Little could anyone predict that the injury would prove to be the beginning of the end for Wentz in Philly.
The player who replaced him for good this season, Jalen Hurts, knows exactly what it’s like to be unseated. He became the first freshman in 32 years to start at quarterback for Alabama in 2016. He threw 17 touchdowns and just one interception as a sophomore.
Hurts was 26-2 as a starter but he was benched at halftime of the National Championship game and Tua Tagovailoa led the Crimson Tide to a come-from-behind win over Georgia.
Little could anyone predict that Hurts wouldn’t even finish his career in Tuscaloosa, no less never start another game for the Crimson Tide. He transferred to Oklahoma and the Eagles took him in the second round of last year’s draft.
On December 8, 2020 – the careers of Hurts and Wentz collided.
Former Eagles coach Doug Peterson named Hurts the starter. The relationship between Wentz and Peterson was so strained that Peterson was fired after the season and Wentz demanded a trade.
Can you imagine the story line if Hurts and Wentz lead their teams to the Super Bowl? The parallels and differences in their careers will undergo more dissection than all the fetal pigs in the U.S.
Super Bowl LVI – The Reclamation Project.
- WENTZ WINS: Wentz was done in Philly. The fans had turned on him and he had turned on the franchise. There was little chance he was going to win back the starting job.
He heads to Indy, which has a quarterback-friendly coach in Frank Reich, who was his offensive coordinator in Philadelphia when Wentz excelled, throwing 49 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. The Colts have a terrific defense, exciting young skill players in RB Jonathan Taylor and WR Michael Pittman Jr. and a physical offensive line that needs to replace LT Anthony Castonzo.
- HURTS WINS: Through no fault of his own, Hurts found himself in the middle of a fractured locker room, courtesy of Pederson’s fumbling of the QB situation. He waited until late in the week at times before naming a starter, which pleased no one. Some Eagles reportedly favored Wentz; others liked Hurts.
Hurts was looking at an offseason in which his battle with Wentz for the starting job would have been the relentless, all-encompassing story. With Wentz gone, Hurts is the guy. This is his team for better or worse. Most think worse as Philly’s line and receivers are weak and the team’s cap space is a mess. But at least the first question Hurts won’t face is, “Who’s the starter?”
- EAGLES WIN: The Eagles signed Wentz to a four-year, $128 million deal in June of 2019 and suddenly they had a situation in which: A – Neither side was happy in the marriage and, B – The Lions got two first-round picks and a third for Matt Stafford, leaving Eagles fans foolishly hoping for a similar haul. That was never going to happen.
Yes, the Eagles take a $33.8 million hit in dead cap space, but they don’t have to pay Wentz’s $10 million roster bonus due on March 19 and they’re out from that albatross of a contract. A third-round pick is valuable and second-rounder next year that could be a first-rounder if Wentz plays 75-percent of the Colts’ snaps or he plays 70-percent and the Colts make the playoffs. A first and a second would be a huge win for Philly.
- COLTS WIN: The Colts are in win-now mode. One huge problem: With Phillip Rivers’ retirement, Indy had a hole at the most important position football. If Reich can get Wentz to play like he did before the knee injury in 2017, they certainly should make the playoffs next season. They made the playoffs this past season and, by keeping their first-round pick and second-round picks in this year’s draft, the Colts could be better.
If Wentz plays well and satisfies those trade kickers the Colts, still win. A first and second-round pick for a 28-year-old, dual-threat starting quarterback is a bargain, as is Wentz’s $22-million or more he’s due to receive through 2024.
- JETS LOSE: Oh, this hurts but the truth does sometimes. Any Jets fan thinking Gang Green could get a first, or even a second-round pick for Sam Darnold, needs to step back. Wentz has a career passer rating of 89.2. Darnold is 78.6. Wentz has thrown 113 touchdown passes and 50 interceptions. Darnold’s numbers are 45 and 39.
There are a group of teams that need a quarterback and probably won’t find their 2021 starter in the draft unless they move up – Bears, Broncos, 49ers, Panthers, Patriots and Washington. So yes, there is a market for Darnold. But Colts GM Chris Ballard just better defined the market value for quarterbacks on the trade block.
Yes, Darnold, 23, comes with a friendly contract and he’s five years younger than Wentz. But ask yourself: If the Eagles got a third-round pick and a conditional second-round pick, what is Darnold worth? Hey, nobody said a true ground-up rebuild would be easy.