Ashburn, Va. — Carson Wentz enjoyed his prime in Philadelphia: He was the frontrunner for MVP honors as the Eagles’ quarterback in 2017, and revived that talk with his play in 2019.
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And Wentz endured the lows: He suffered a devastating knee injury, was benched by the Eagles after three years and traded a few months later.
It was a “whirlwind,” Wentz said.
What appeared to be a once long, successful marriage was suddenly dissolved.
Wentz, now with the Washington Commanders, faces the Eagles on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Fox) for the first time since being traded to the Indianapolis Colts before the 2021 season.
Before he does, it’s worth remembering what that “Hurricane” looked like in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia traded with Miami, then Cleveland, moving from the 13th pick to 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: “One player can change your team,” general manager Howie Roseman told reporters after the draft.
They swoon over Wentz. Roseman posted a story from a trip to Fargo, North Dakota — where Wentz played collegiately at North Dakota State — about overhearing the conversation over dinner. Rossman briefly left a restaurant and when he returned, he was on the receiving end of an exchange.
“I saw the manager and the hostess talking to each other, ‘Carson is a great guy. He’s always so humble and always so appreciative of all of us here.’ They don’t know what we’re doing or why we’re there,” Roseman said.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson later bragged about Wentz, telling reporters at the time that he had a Brett Favre-like mentality on the field.
“I like quarterbacks who are willing to take a chance, take a calculated risk on the field,” Pederson said. “That’s how Fred was, and I see the same in Carson.”
A love affair had begun. On draft night, Wentz stood on stage wearing an Eagles hat and declared, “I want to be an Eagle.”
2017: MVP to injury
For the first 12 games of the season — and the 13th — Wentz performed the way Philadelphia envisioned. He entered the Week 12 game at the Los Angeles Rams third in total QBR and first in touchdown passes with 29.
He’s a wizard, especially against Washington. On the road in the season opener, Wentz capped his first drive of the season with a 52-yard touchdown pass on third-and-12. Under duress, he started to escape to his left, then outwitted two defenders and fired the perfect throw as he was about to score.
In Week 7, facing Washington at home, Wentz did it again. This time, on third-and-8 in the fourth quarter, with a touchdown lead, Wentz seemed fired up against the Washington blitz. Wentz broke free and ran 17 yards, capping the drive with an Eagles touchdown.
“He was lights out,” said Washington corner Kendall Fuller, who played in that game [always] That makes plays like that.”
Six games later, late in the third quarter of a 43-35 win over the Rams — and after throwing four touchdown passes — Wentz tore the ACL and LCL in his left knee.
His magical season ended and another journey began.
As the Eagles marched toward a Super Bowl victory — and backup quarterback Nick Foles was in the process of earning a statue outside Lincoln Financial Field — Wentz began the long road to recovery. But he finished third in MVP voting that season; He led the NFL in total QBR at 74.4 and was topped only by Seattle’s Russell Wilson with 34 of his 33 touchdown passes.
Wentz returned from a knee injury in Week 3 of the 2018 season and played in 11 games before a stress fracture in his back ended his season. He threw for 3,074 yards, 21 touchdown passes and seven interceptions, solidifying his position with the organization.
A mounting injury history didn’t stop him from giving him a four-year, $128 million extension before the 2019 season. They liked what they saw from him in spring workouts and were convinced injuries weren’t an issue.
“We believe in this player,” Roseman said at the time.
Upon signing, Wentz said he didn’t think the city’s culture — and the passion of the fan base — “could be a better fit for me.”
Later, he posted a message to Eagles fans on Twitter: “I knew this place was special from the moment I was drawn here. It means the world to me to be cemented here for this long. … It’s going to be a fun ride.
That season, the Eagles were plagued by injuries and posted a 5-7 record. Wentz led them to four straight wins and an NFC East title. In those wins, Wentz threw for 1,199 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
Wentz became the first quarterback in franchise history to throw for over 4,000 yards with 27 touchdown passes and seven interceptions.
The investment paid off. At least for one season.
Despite Wentz’s season, the Eagles decided to draft Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round. Roseman wasn’t a statement of how they felt about Wentz’s ability.
“There’s no threat to Carson here,” Rossman told reporters.
He had told Wentz before the draft that they might take a quarterback. Roseman then pointed out that they need a backup quarterback to play in the six playoff games Philadelphia has played in since Wentz arrived — he was sidelined from the 2019 postseason loss to Seattle with a concussion.
“It was a tough decision, but it was the right thing to do,” Roseman said of making a quarterback move.
He told reporters at the time: “Nobody’s going to look at a rookie quarterback as someone who’s going to take over for a Pro Bowl quarterback, a guy who’s going to win an MVP.”
Wentz struggled though. In 12 games, he threw 16 touchdown passes and a career-worst 15 interceptions. He was sacked 50 times.
With the Eagles 3-8-1, coach Doug Pederson benched Wentz for the Hurts.
“I didn’t expect to be in this situation in April,” Pederson said.
He also had hope that Wentz could return to the level he showed a year ago. But reports soon emerged that Wentz wanted to be traded if he wasn’t the starter in 2021.
As more reports revealed tension with Wentz and the organization, it became clear that a divorce was imminent. But for weeks the Eagles denied trading Wentz.
After all, they’ll take a $33.8 million dead cap hit — the largest in NFL history. When they fired Pederson, it looked like Wentz might return.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie told reporters in early January that Wentz was “tireless. He’s got his heart in the right place and he’s very committed season in, season out — that’s what you want.
Five weeks later, the Eagles traded Wentz to the Colts in exchange for a third-round pick in 2021 and a conditional pick in 2022, making it a first-rounder.
The Wentz era was over in Philadelphia.
“I definitely loved my time there,” Wentz said this week. “It’s definitely been a wild ride in many, many ways.”