ASHBURN, Va. — Carson Wentz has seen the highs in Philadelphia: He was a favorite for MVP honors as an Eagles quarterback in 2017 and sparked that conversation again with his game in 2019.
And Wentz endured the lows: He suffered a devastating knee injury, was benched by the Eagles three years later and traded a few months later.
It was, says Wentz, a “whirlwind”.
What once looked like the stuff of a long, successful marriage abruptly dissolved.
Wentz, now with the Washington Commanders, will face the Eagles on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Fox) for the first time since being traded to the Indianapolis Colts ahead of the 2021 season.
Before he did, it’s worth remembering what this “whirlpool” looked like in Philadelphia.
2016: The repechage
Philadelphia traded with Miami, then Cleveland, to move from the 13th pick to the second. In the end, the Eagles gave up two players — corner Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso — and six draft picks.
But they did it for one simple reason: “A player can change your team,” general manager Howie Roseman told reporters after the draft.
They passed out in front of Wentz. Roseman told a story from a trip to Fargo, North Dakota — Wentz played collegiate at North Dakota State — about overhearing a dinner conversation. Roseman had briefly left a restaurant, and when he returned, he understood the end of an exchange.
“I saw the manager and the hostess talking to each other and being like, ‘Carson is just the best guy. He’s always so humble and he’s always so grateful to all of us here. And they didn’t know what we were doing. or why we were there,” Roseman said.
Then-Eagles coach Doug Pederson bragged about Wentz, telling reporters at the time that he had a Brett Favre-type mentality on the field.
“I like quarterbacks who are willing to take a chance, take a calculated risk on the field,” Pederson said. “Brett was like that, and I see the same in Carson.”
The love story had begun. On draft night, Wentz stood on stage wearing an Eagles cap and proclaimed, “I’m thrilled to be an Eagle.”
2017: MVP on injury
For the first 12 games of the season — and into the 13th — Wentz played the way Philadelphia envisioned. He entered a Week 12 game at the Los Angeles Rams third in total QBR and first in touchdown passes with 29.
He was a magician, especially against Washington. In the season opener on the road, Wentz capped off the first drive of the season with a 52-yard touchdown pass on third-and-12. Under duress, he began to slip away to his left then dodged two defenders and threw a perfect throw as he was about to be hit.
In Week 7, against Washington at home, Wentz did it again. This time in the third-and-eight of the fourth quarter with a one-touchdown lead, Wentz looked like he was sacked against a Washington blitz. Except Wentz broke free, ran for 17 yards, and the Eagles finished the drive with a touchdown to clinch a win.
“He was off,” said Washington corner Kendall Fuller, who played in that game. “It was [always] make games like that.
Six games later, near the end of the third quarter of an eventual 43-35 win over the Rams — and after throwing four more touchdown passes — Wentz tore his ACL and LCL in his left knee.
Her magical season has ended and another journey has begun.
As the Eagles marched to Super Bowl triumph — and assistant quarterback Nick Foles was winning a statue outside Lincoln Financial Field — Wentz began the long road to recovery. But he did so after finishing third in MVP voting that season; he led the NFL in total QBR at 74.4 and his 33 touchdown passes were only surpassed by Seattle’s Russell Wilson with 34.
2019: The extension
Wentz returned from his knee injury for Week 3 of the 2018 season and played 11 games before a stress fracture in his back ended his season. He threw for 3,074 yards, 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions and cemented his position with the organization.
The growing injury history didn’t stop the Eagles from granting him a four-year, $128 million extension ahead of the 2019 season. They liked what they saw of him in spring training and were confident. injuries weren’t a problem.
“We believe in this player,” Roseman said at the time.
Upon signing, Wentz said he didn’t think the city’s culture — and fan base’s passion — could “fit me better”.
He later posted a message to Eagles fans on Twitter: “From the moment I was drafted here, I knew this place was special. To be cemented here longer means the world to me… It will be a fun ride.
That season, the Eagles were plagued by injuries and were 5-7. Wentz then guided them to four straight wins and an NFC East title. In those wins, Wentz threw for a combined 1,199 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
In total, Wentz became the first quarterback in franchise history to throw for more than 4,000 yards and finished with 27 touchdown passes and seven interceptions.
The investment paid off. At least for a season.
Despite Wentz’s season, the Eagles decided to sign Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round. Roseman said the pick was not a statement about what they thought of Wentz’s ability.
“There’s no threat to Carson here,” Roseman told reporters.
He had told Wentz before the draft that they could take a quarterback. Roseman later pointed out that they’ve needed the backup quarterback to play in all six playoff games Philadelphia have appeared in since Wentz’s arrival — he was also knocked out of the 2019 playoff loss to Seattle with a concussion.
“It’s a tough call, but it was the right thing to do,” Roseman said of selecting such a high-profile quarterback.
He also told reporters at the time, “No one is going to look at a rookie quarterback as someone who’s going to replace a Pro Bowl quarterback, a guy who’s on the verge of winning an MVP.”
Wentz struggled, however. In 12 games, he threw a career-best 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He was sacked 50 times.
With the Eagles at 3-8-1, coach Doug Pederson benched Wentz for Hurts.
“I didn’t expect to be in this situation in April,” Pederson said.
He also remained confident that Wentz could return to the level he showed a year earlier. But reports quickly surfaced that Wentz would rather be traded if he wasn’t the starter in 2021.
As more and more reports expressed tension with Wentz and the organization, it became clear that a divorce was coming. But for several weeks, the Eagles denied they would trade Wentz.
After all, they would suffer a cap of $33.8 million, the largest in NFL history. When they fired Pederson, it looked like Wentz might come back.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie told reporters in early January that Wentz “is tireless. He’s got his heart in the right place and he’s really dedicated out of season, in season – he’s exactly what you want.
Five weeks later, the Eagles traded Wentz to the Colts in exchange for a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional pick that became a first-round pick.
The Wentz era had ended in Philadelphia.
“I definitely treasured my time up there,” Wentz said this week. “It was definitely a wild ride in many ways.”