The Washington Commanders’ decision to trade for Carson Wentz was met with widespread backlash from the national media. That criticism is unsurprisingly still prevalent. It’s just coming in the form of quarterback rankings and offseason grades; pretty much anything that isn’t a raw reaction to the trade.
The root of the disapproval, of course, is Wentz’s performance in the Colts’ late-season collapse that left them without a playoff berth after they had more than a 96 percent chance to qualify entering Week 17 vs the Raiders.
While fair, the scolding was wildly overblown, especially in Indianapolis’ Week 18 defeat to Jacksonville, when Trevor Lawrence posted his best game as a rookie and the Jaguars’ offense finished 7-for-15 on third down.
Another driving force of the Wentz bias? His supposed lack of leadership and willingness to caress the locker room. The narrative has followed Wentz from Philly (where it was probably somewhat justified) to Indy and now to Washington.
In an eye-opening revelation, however, Ron Rivera revealed in an interview with Albert Breer of The MMBQ that the wholesale support from Wentz’s now-former teammates helped drive the decision to trade for the quarterback.
Ron Rivera says the support from Carson Wentz’s Colts teammates drove the Commanders’ decision to trade for the QB.
Here’s what Breer said of Rivera’s pursuit of Wentz.
While Rivera wouldn’t dive into exactly what he was referencing, from Wentz’s experience with
the Eagles and Colts, it doesn’t take too much digging to figure it out. Questions about how he relates with teammates have dogged him since his play first went the wrong way, toward the end of his time in Philly. It was never, to be clear, that Wentz was a bad guy. More so, it was how, and really whether, he was connecting with the guys like a quarterback should.
What the Commanders’ coach would say is why, when Washington pulled the trigger back on March 9, he punched the gas where so many others were tapping the brakes on Wentz’s capacity to become again what he was through his first four or so NFL seasons. Specifically, Rivera points to comments he saw, after the trade, from Indy’s alphas—TY Hilton, Darius Leonard and Jonathan Taylor—on who the QB was as a player and as a person.
“Those quotes came out,” Rivera said, “And you were like, OK, there’s more to the story.”
Rivera’s not saying the support from Hilton, Leonard and Taylor drove the Commanders’ decision to trade for Wentz, but it definitely helped the cause. Some of the reports that came out of Indianapolis in the aftermath of the team’s Week 18 collapse were scathing and painted Wentz in a harrowing light.
In discovering that Indy’s decision to move on from Wentz had more to do with off-field particulars than on-field performance, you can’t blame Rivera and the rest of Washington’s front office for being reluctant to pull the trigger … especially when Colts owner Jim Irsay couldn’t run Wentz out of town fast enough.
Rivera and Co. deserve credit for not letting their opinion be swayed by what was clearly one-sided reporting aiming to take some heat of the Colts’ franchise altogether. “If we pin everything on Wentz and look to jettison him as soon as possible, our own failures won’t look as bad.”
Then, however, Wentz’s teammates came out in droves to share their support and wish him the best in his future endeavors. On top of Leonard, Hilton and Taylor, center Ryan Kelly and wideouts Michael Pittman Jr. and Zach Pascal all took to social media to post emotional farewells to their quarterback.
There’s something to be said that Rivera, a former nine-year NFL veteran and 11-year head coach, considered Wentz’s standing amongst his Colts teammates when mulling the decision to trade for the 29-year-old. Really makes you wonder who’d be QB’ing Washington if these farewells didn’t happen.