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Why The Eagles Had To Get Rid Of Wentz — And The Colts Had To Take A Chance On Him

The Carson Wentz soap opera in Philadelphia is finally over. On Thursday, the Eagles shipped Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts for a third-round draft pick and a second-rounder that could potentially turn into a first-rounder if certain conditions are met. In an offseason notable for its tumultuous quarterback carousel, this latest turn is not unexpected — but it does have plenty of implications across the league.

Philly certainly did not get the same return for Wentz that the Detroit Lions received in exchange for Matthew Stafford last month, proof of how far Wentz’s stock had fallen since vying for the MVP during the Eagles’ Super Bowl run in 2017. But the trade does allow Philadelphia to unload Wentz’s contract and move on at QB with either Jalen Hurts or another option down the road. Either way, the Eagles’ Wentz Era has officially met its end.

The Colts’ Wentz Era is just beginning — and they offer the embattled QB an intriguing destination. Their coach, Frank Reich, was Wentz’s offensive coordinator in Philadelphia during Wentz’s first two seasons in the league (including that banner 2017 campaign). Although former Eagles coach Doug Pederson struggled to put Wentz in a position to succeed as their partnership went on, Reich might be the best remaining option to help his new/old QB rediscover the form that has eluded him in recent seasons.

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And Wentz should get an opportunity to make good right away. Former Colts starter Philip Rivers retired in late January to coach high school football in Fairhope, Alabama. Rivers’ backup, Jacoby Brissett, is a borderline starter-level QB and an unrestricted free agent who’ll probably be moving on as well. Barring more moves, Wentz is likely to be the Colts’ fifth different opening-day starting QB in as many seasons.

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To that last point, the Colts’ own recent game of musical QBs has already been historic. According to, they haven’t had the same primary passer (i.e., the team leader in passing yards) in back-to-back seasons since Andrew Luck in 2015 and 2016. That’s not necessarily too weird — ask the Cleveland Browns and their infamous QB jersey about real turmoil under center — but what is unusual is that the Colts have found some success across all of their quarterback changes. They’ve gone exactly .500 (32-32) over the four seasons where they changed primary passers every year, including a pair of double-digit win seasons and two playoff appearances.

Relatedly, the Colts have also gotten at least 10 points of Approximate Value (AV, which is Pro-Football-Reference’s system of assigning a single-number value estimate to every player) from their primary passer in each of those seasons. That’s the first time since 1960 (as far back as AV goes) that a team went four straight seasons with a primary QB change each year and still got 10 or more AV from the position every season.

The Colts have shuffled QBs with historic success

Primary passers (and their Approximate Value) for the Indianapolis Colts by season, 2016-2020

Season Primary QB Diff. from Previous? Approx. Value
2016 Andrew Luck 16
2017 Jacoby Brissett 11
2018 Andrew Luck 15
2019 Jacoby Brissett 11
2020 Philip Rivers 12
2021 Carson Wentz? ?

Indianapolis from 2017-20 became the first team to change primary QBs every year and get 10+ AV from them each year over a four-season stretch.


Can Wentz make it five in a row? Well, he did have 14 AV in just 13 games during his strong 2017 campaign, and put up 12 as recently as 2019 — even though his passing efficiency had already fallen off quite a bit by then. Wentz has cracked a double-digit AV in three of his five NFL seasons, but his 2020 output (4 AV) was easily the worst of his career.

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Whatever happens from here, both the Colts and Eagles begin a new chapter at the game’s most important position — and the NFL’s wild offseason QB carousel spins on.

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Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.