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McFeely: Damaged goods in more ways than one, Wentz down to last chance

Former Bison quarterback will move to third NFL team in three years after being shown door in Indianapolis

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Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz signals to his team during an Oct. 31, 2021 game against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Jenna Watson/IndyStar
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FARGO — The list of damning stories gets longer, as do the odds Carson Wentz returns to the list of elite NFL quarterbacks.

The former North Dakota State quarterback, once the toast of the state and the NFL, had a bad Wednesday.

The team that appeared to be the perfect fit for the fragile psyche of Wentz, the Indianapolis Colts, is poised to shuffle him off to the Washington Commanders after just one season .

That'll make three teams in three seasons: Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Washington.

And the Colts essentially said, "Don't let the horseshoe hit you in the behind on the way out."

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The worst part for Wentz is that his NFL vagrancy isn't only performance-based, although that's part of it. Wentz has an irritating habit of trying to make "hero" plays — nearly impossible plays not worth the risk — even though his coaches keep telling him to stop.

Wentz, too, has a career filled with injuries. But it's not just that, either.

A bigger part of the Wentz story is that teams — teammates, coaches, front-office personnel, maybe even owners — just don't like him.

He is Kryptonite.

Two stories published Wednesday were particularly condemning.

The Philadelphia Inquirer had an article recounting an incident in the Eagles' Super Bowl season of 2017 that showed "character defects" in Wentz that alarmed the team.

That was the season Wentz played like an MVP before a late-season knee injury sidelined him. Nick Foles took over Philadelphia's starting quarterback job and led the Eagles to the first Super Bowl win in franchise history.

There had been indications that watching his backup win the Super Bowl by beating Tom Brady and the New England Patriots knocked Wentz sideways , and the Inquirer story confirms that.

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"Sometime before the championship game," the newspaper reported , "Wentz voiced his displeasure with the Eagles’ success to a group of other injured players, sources with direct knowledge of the incident said. One of the players immediately confronted him and the two eventually had to be separated."

He was upset because the Eagles were winning without him? Uff da, as they say in Bismarck.

An article by The Athletic offered the inside story on Wentz's fall from grace in Indianapolis and it was worse than previously believed.

While it was obvious since a disastrous loss to the putrid Jacksonville Jaguars ended the Colts' season that owner Jim Irsay, general manager Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich were strongly considering dumping the quarterback, The Athletic story says the franchise saw red flags before the season even started. Frustration only grew during the season.

"... some grew frustrated at what they deemed a lack of leadership, a resistance to hard coaching and a reckless style of play, which had a role in several close losses this year," the story said.

Those are familiar issues. They followed Wentz from Philadelphia.

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Doug Pederson's staff decisions, his offensive scheming and play-calling, his use of Jalen Hurts, and his messaging are too often in deference to Wentz.

"But this wasn’t just a football move. Wentz's play, inconsistent as it was to close the year, wasn’t the deciding factor. Colts' brass simply didn’t trust him to be the franchise quarterback moving forward, and they weren’t willing to bring him back in 2022 and hope for better," according to The Athletic article. "Thus, the decision was made swiftly after the Week 18 debacle in Jacksonville: Wentz wouldn’t return for a second season in Indianapolis."

Wentz tried to set up a meeting with Irsay, who was miffed the quarterback didn't get vaccinated against COVID-19 and missed time because of it, but was initially rebuffed, The Athletic reported. They eventually spoke.

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"According to one source, the Colts' divorce with Wentz this offseason was only a matter of time. All that needed to be decided was whether the team would trade or cut him," the website reported. "And the fact that the Colts were willing to move on from him without a viable Plan B in place — not to mention a thin free-agent class and no first-round draft choice — is especially telling. That’s how determined the Colts were in their decision."

This is all a bad reflection on Wentz. The Colts seemed to be a perfect landing spot for the quarterback because they played in a quiet Midwestern market and seemed Super Bowl-ready. Reich had a strong relationship from Philadelphia with Wentz. Instead, the franchise couldn't wait to unload him. That makes two in a row.

Washington will be Wentz's last chance to rescue his career as a starting NFL quarterback. If he misses this time, it will be his third strike. And you know what that means.

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Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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