Can Carson Wentz come into Indianapolis and be the quarterback that leads them to the promise land?
"Certainly, Carson Wentz has incredible talent. This season he was not very good, that doesn't mean he's not a good quarterback. There were some extenuating circumstances in Philadelphia this year that I think almost forced Carson Wentz to play poorly. We have to remember too; this was a pandemic year where a lot of things were upside down. I think in Carson Wentz, being reunited with Frank Reich, is very much a positive for the Indianapolis Colts. Clearly Frank knows how to coach, he knows how to coach Carson Wentz. Carson had his best year under Coach Reich, so I think it's really a good marriage."
If you're a quarterback in the NFL you're basically the CEO. I want to talk about Carson Wentz and his leadership qualities when he comes into the locker room.
"I have found it very strange the reports of this past season. With this being a pandemic year, we didn't have access to practice, to players, to discussions face to face with guys, so it's very difficult to get answers that – at least I've maintained a great relationship with Carson (Wentz) and of course the Eagles, but everyone has kind of been buttoned up on this situation. A lot of the rumors after the season were the 'unnamed source' and 'NFL insider' and whoever it may be, 'the janitor in the closet.' I have no idea where some of these things were started, but I do know Carson has never formally said, 'I want out of Philadelphia.' Maybe the actions of his agents have proven that, maybe some of his actions that we are unaware of have proven that, but I have never heard someone else say Carson said, 'Get me out of Philadelphia. I don't like what's going on there.' It certainly did deteriorate, there is no question of that, but I think at this point the Colts will look to the future as will the Philadelphia Eagles."
You had the COVID-19 pandemic, receivers dealing with injuries, you had dropped passes, the offensive line gave up more sacks than anybody in football – how much did that lead to Carson Wentz's poor production and poor season in 2020?
"I believe it was significant. I also am just a big believer in reps for quarterbacks. I think mechanics are so critical. You look at the guys who have had long careers in this game and this year was probably the best example with Tom Brady. You watch Tom Brady play; his mechanics are impeccable. He worked his butt off in the offseason, two days after the Super Bowl win, he was out throwing with his guys. You have to sacrifice and pay the price for greatness. This offseason – there really wasn't one, no offseason, no training camp, no preseason games and it started out with the opening game against Washington. He was very sloppy in his mechanics. I thought he would work through that once you get the reps in at practice and the season moves on, but he never really recovered from what I think is a terrible offseason as far as working out, getting reps in, getting the throwing in. I can just think back and personalize this, I always felt that in my 17-year NFL career, I made the most advances in the offseason. Throwing 35,000 to 36,000 balls in the offseason to my receivers, working on that timing, that hint, that indicator that is key that a quarterback and wide receiver develop through repetition. That didn't happen for Carson and it just ballooned when the injury started. He is not a bad player; he had a bad year."
When you watch the film, what happened to the mechanics? How did Carson Wentz's mechanics get so out of whack last season?
"I have been around this league since 1973 as a rookie. When I retired in 1990, I established what I think was a place for myself in the media world by actually looking at that boring coaching tape every single play, and I made my fame out of being a guy that studies the quarterbacks and I still do. I'm sitting in my office right now with my large screen TV with my computer looking at tape trying to get a feel for some of these young, college guys. I think the eye in the sky does not lie. What I saw with Carson (Wentz) – I mentioned that Washington game, the first interception he throws just before the first half was just a bad throw because the mechanics were bad. It was a closed left leg, almost like a slider from a pitcher, curves back to the inside and it's picked off. He was unbalance, just simple mechanical things like that that you pay for. These secondary players in this league are good and they will embarrass you if you are inaccurate and you throw the ball without consistence accuracy. You'll get humiliated in this business. Those are some of the little things that Carson had. Then you certainly look at (Dallas) Goedert gets hurt and Zach Ertz gets hurt and the whole receiving core and they made some mistakes in drafting players. The offensive line, which at one time was one of the best in the NFL, this year was one of the worst due to injuries – Lane Johnson, they lose (Jason) Peters and other guys on the offensive line. I thought to a certain degree, a guy that I really love a lot, Doug Pederson, the head coach, he was fired at the end of the season but he made some mistakes in his play selection this year. There was no balance and I think that's why I project Carson to play great in Indy because Frank (Reich) believes in balance. He believes in running the football and he was off-kilter becoming a pass-happy offense without the talent to run a pass-happy offense. I think it was a learning year for Carson Wentz."
Is this a top four or five team in the NFL now with the addition of Carson Wentz?
"I think Frank (Reich) and (Chris) Ballard have done a terrific job of building a football team. I have been around this league now for almost 48 years and I've seen demise of football teams and I've seen the growth of football teams and how the front office and ownership interacts with the coaching staff to build a football team. You don't have a magic wand and wave it and say, 'We're going to win.' It doesn't work that way. You have to put the time in to build the team with everyone working together. The Colts are clearly at that point right now. It's probably a Top 10 defense. The offensive line, arguable one of the best in the National Football League. Receiving core, we'll see how it plays with T.Y. Hilton but it's a good draft for wide receivers as well this year. The balance in the running game – when you look at Jonathan Taylor, a local south Jersey kid where I live. We're all very proud of what he has accomplished, and you look at just that overall Colts football team, there are no weaknesses. They are at a point right now, with a veteran quarterback with his playing level the first four years, the Colts will be a Super Bowl contender."
I want to know about your Atlantic City the Jaws Youth PlayBook Foundation Golf Tournament. It's coming up June 27*th* and 28*th*. Tell me about the tournament. What foursome did you have in your lifetime that you had to scratch your head and slap your face and say, "Wow, I'm here?" Who was that?
"I've had a lot of great foursomes to play with. Guys like Michael Jordan and politicians – I won't mention politicians because in this day and age you have to be careful what you say in regards to politics. I've always had the great pleasure of spending four, four and a half hours on a golf course with some amazing people. When you get time with someone on the golf course, play golf, shoot the bull, have a beer, it's the best four and half hours you can have. So, golf has been relaxation time for me. Thank you very much for asking about my tournament because I've been doing it now for 37 years which raises money for my foundation which benefits at-risk youth in their communities. We build playgrounds, ball fields. It's been a passion of myself now for 37 years."
When is the next time we will see you in Indianapolis?
"We'll see when the schedule comes out, we'll see what's going on. It's one of my favorite cities. I used to love going there when Peyton (Manning) was there. Peyton and I have been friends for a long, long time and because of that friendship, he would give me access to things that normally people wouldn't get. I used to love coming to Indy and spending time with Peyton, of course Bill Polian and the people that – when the Colts were in their heyday it was always a glorious visit to Indy, a great city."
Being the Eagles quarterback, you're loved, and you're hated. What was that like being in Philadelphia and being the man and being under the microscope?
"It's difficult. That's one question that I get asked a lot and in regard to quarterbacks in this town and head coaches of this town, it is a very difficult town. They are – I know they are passionate everywhere, but there is a different level of passion in Philadelphia because it plays from, 'We love you,' to, 'We hate you.' I remember starting a game, by the way it was against the Colts, probably in the early 80's and I completed my first nine passes. The 10th was incomplete, and they started booing. This is what you have to deal with, but I will say this about Philly fans – if they know, and probably most fans around the NFL, if they know you're laying it on the line, giving it all you have, you can look down that gun barrel, take a hit, they will love you no matter what the outcome. You have to play football in a gritty way. I believe I did that for 17 years. There were some bumps in the road, and you play this game that long you are going to get humiliated every once in a while. With fans, if they know that you're laying on the line for your team and your city, they will love you."
Look back at some of the best images of Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich and new QB Carson Wentz.