Could QB Wentz wind up like Luck?
PHILADELPHIA — News of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck’s sudden decision to retire at age 29 stunned the NFL community on Saturday night and had to make more than a few Philadelphia Eagles fans think about certain parallels with Carson Wentz. You know, a talented quarterback in his athletic prime who’s always getting injured and missing time and constantly rehabbing one thing or another.
After losing Peyton Manning, the Colts rebuilt their franchise around Luck, who just kept breaking down and finally decided he couldn’t carry the weight of the franchise on his considerably broad shoulders anymore.
The Eagles are following a similar plan with Wentz, building their franchise around him in the post-Chip Kelly/quarterback du jour era of 2013 through 2015.
They first committed to him in 2016 by trading up to select him with the second pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, then renewed their vows this offseason by locking him in with a lucrative contract extension and adding to an already strong offensive line by drafting left tackle of the future Andre Dillard in the first round.
Wentz, in turn, committed himself to a new training and diet regimen that reshaped his body into one that he and the Eagles believe will be most resistant to soft-tissue injuries. Furthermore he understands the value of protecting himself by taking fewer sacks and getting down quicker as he continues to balance the risk-reward factors associated with extending plays.
It’s a perfect relationship. There’s no disputing it.
Still, there are no guarantees in the NFL, where change so often happens in the blink of an eye — with no warning.
Wentz can control only so much.
The rest is fate, and if, say, another catastrophic injury should follow the wrist injury that forced him to miss most of his senior season at North Dakota State in 2015, the broken rib that kept him out of action for almost the entire preseason as a rookie in 2016, the ruptured ACL that landed him on injured reserve in 2017 and the stress fracture that forced him to the sideline again last season, it probably shouldn’t be surprising if he concludes that his Audience of One has a different plan for him.
To be fair, comparing Wentz to Luck might not be so fair. Luck has dealt with far more serious health issues and has missed more time than Wentz. Luck has had virtually no luck. He had a lacerated kidney at one point, for goodness sake. On top of that, he wasn’t afforded the same kind of protection from his team, to hear analyst Warren Sharp tell it.
Sharp contends that former Colts general manager Ryan Grigson “killed Andrew Luck’s career,” by neglecting the offensive line from 2012 through 2015, resulting in 16 pressures per game during Grigson’s tenure. That was the most in the league during that span.
Even after the Colts rebuilt their line following Grigson’s departure in 2017, coach Frank Reich decided to fire offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo this January, following a season in which they ranked No. 2 in pass blocking and No. 4 in run blocking, according to Football Outsiders. This, after Luck was named NFL comeback player of the year for leading them to the divisional round of the playoffs.
The Eagles have had no such issues (other than some of their offensive linemen getting injured and, in Lane Johnson’s case, suspended) since drafting Wentz.
Still, it’s not unreasonable to project an early retirement if this four-year trend of injuries turns into five or six or seven.
If it did, there’s no question his teammates would understand, based on their reaction to Luck’s decision.
“He’s got to do what’s best for his body and his mind,” said defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway, a former teammate of Luck. “So you’ve got to understand where he’s coming from.”
Tight end Zach Ertz also was a teammate of Luck’s. They played together at Stanford.
“It’s not an easy decision to make,” Ertz said. “But this game is tough enough to play as it is. And it’s impossible to play if you’re 50% in and 50% out. It’s not good for yourself, it’s not good for your team.”
Ertz complimented his friend and former teammate for the way he handled himself.
“To kind of see him be so vulnerable, be so open … I’m proud of him,” Ertz said.
Meanwhile, Eagles coach Doug Pederson has to wonder about what more injuries could mean for Wentz, and it’s not unreasonable to think those thoughts came up during the conversation he had with Reich, his good friend and former offensive coordinator, after Luck announced his retirement.
“Obviously, I won’t get into that,” Pederson said Sunday before practice. “It’s a personal nature, but we have talked, yes.”
Whenever one coach’s biggest fear becomes a friend’s reality, details aren’t even necessary.
The Eagles and Wentz are doing everything they can to ensure Wentz enjoys a long career. There’s nothing they can do to guarantee it.
That lesson was underscored for approximately the 71,299th time on Saturday night, so no sense worrying about it any longer.
Morning Call reporter Nick Fierro can be reached at 610-778-2243 or [email protected]
Carson Wentz has battled injuries since his senior year in college.