Carson Wentz and Andrew Luck have followed strangely similar career paths

JACKSONVILLE, FL – JANUARY 09: Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz (2) walks back to the sidelines after Indy is forced to punt during the game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Jacksonville Jaguars on January 9, 2022 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, FL (Photo by Icon Sportswire)

When the NFL released its 2022 schedule in May, fans of the Philadelphia Eagles circled the Week 3 matchup in Washington. Their division foes are without a double-digit win season since 2012, and they haven’t won a playoff game since January 2006. Why the anticipation?

Carson Wentz hasn’t faced the Eagles since requesting a trade immediately after the 2020 season. Fans still harbor resentment after their expected franchise quarterback failed to take accountability for a bad season and instead forced his way out of town.

The multilayered situation between Wentz and the Eagles seemed unprecedented. No team had ever lost an MVP frontrunner at quarterback in Week 14 and won the Super Bowl with an extraordinary performance by a backup-caliber replacement like Nick Foles.

With distance from the situation and a big picture view, Eagles fans can find an unexpected parallel situation of a highly-touted prospect who never fully met expectations in Andrew Luck’s career with the Indianapolis Colts.

Andrew Luck in Indianapolis

Luck entered the 2012 NFL Draft as one of the top-rated quarterback prospects in the history of the league. His raw tools, football IQ, and incredible determination made him as close to a sure thing as you’ll find in the draft.

The Colts even released Peyton Manning, the greatest player in their franchise history, to clear the way for the next dominant NFL quarterback. As The Athletic’s summer podcast series on Luck covered extensively, injuries eroded the former Stanford star’s ability to invest a full commitment in the game of football. He shockingly retired in 2019 at the age of 29.

What does Luck’s story have to do with Carson Wentz and the Eagles? More than you might’ve thought. 

Hero Ball

The fitting phrase “hero ball” summarizes Wentz’s fatal flaw with the Eagles and in his 19 games since Howie Rosenman moved him to the Colts. The former second-overall pick doesn’t show the proper pocket awareness necessary to survive the unforgiving intensity of NFL defenses.

His tendency to stand tall in the pocket while the pass rush is coming hurts him more than it helps him. The likelihood of interceptions, fumbles, and sacks increases drastically in these scenarios.

Carson Wentz fumbled an astonishing 58 times in five seasons with the Eagles, which ranked fourth all-time among quarterbacks in their first five NFL seasons. He has put the ball on the turf nine times in 19 games since the trade.

The root of his fumbling issue is an overaggressive attitude and a forced determination to appear on the highlight reels when a smarter, routine play is available. Carson Wentz’s undying work ethic helped carry him to his greatest moments of success in the NFL, but he allowed his greatest strengths to become his greatest weaknesses.

One of the most memorable plays of Wentz’s career in Philadelphia came against Washington in Week 7 of the 2017 season. Carson Wentz turned a seemingly obvious sack into a 17-yard run. When the Eagles surged to the top spot in the NFC in a dream season in 2017, the young signal-caller looked invincible. When he took a vicious blow from Jadeveon Clowney in the NFC Wild Card Round after the 2019 season, the Eagles saw a prime example of how the reckless strategy could catch up to them.

When Luck rose through the ranks at Stanford University, the perceived intensity of the “Luck Truck” helped his reputation. A quarterback who played with the ferocity of a linebacker met the standards of a winner at the NFL level.

The Athletic even dug up instances when coaches had to correct Luck for chasing after defenders after he’d thrown an interception. A quarterback who wants to show accountability for a (rare) mistake holds a team-first attitude, but it might not be the best long-term strategy.

The aggressive style lent itself to injuries. Luck missed significant time with a torn abdomen, a ruptured spleen, and multiple shoulder injuries throughout his short NFL career.

Zac Keefer summarized the mental toll of the injuries and the drama that surrounded Luck’s status with the Colts, saying, “He lost his football innocence somewhere along the way…He came to resent the game and what it did to him.”

Alpha Personality

The narrative of Foles taking over as the starting quarterback and leading the Eagles to their only Super Bowl in franchise history contributed to Carson Wentz’s demise in Philadelphia. Even after Wentz reassumed the starting role to begin the 2018 season, he felt the pressure of a folk hero behind him.

Reports even surfaced last year about Wentz voicing his displeasure about the team reaching the NFC Championship Game without him after the 2017 season.

Foles’ ability to step in for another miracle playoff run in 2018 might’ve helped the team in the short term, but it damaged Carson Wentz’s ego further. Even after Foles left in free agency, Roseman’s priority for the backup quarterback position persisted. He selected Jalen Hurts in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Wentz looked over his shoulder despite repeated verbal and financial assurance that he was the long-term answer under center.

The alpha personality isn’t specific to Carson Wentz.

Robert Griffin III spoke on The Athletic’s deep dive about “forms of jealousy towards (former Colts backup quarterback) Jacoby Brissett” that Luck held while he sat out with injuries.

“For a quarterback, that weighs really, really heavily on you because we are all these alpha, type-A personalities who want to be in the mix, and it’s all territorial. So, I think for Andrew, that is part of what might’ve made him resent the game.”

Contrast Between Luck and Wentz

The idea of Luck resenting the game of football doesn’t apply to Wentz. Instead, the former North Dakota State star resented the complicated situation he faced in Philadelphia.

The success of Foles, the threat of Hurts, the bold (but objective) criticism from the fan base, and the lack of cohesion within the organization pushed Wentz to his limit.

The question of what professional athletes “owe” fans also adds a complex layer to Luck’s retirement. As one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL in the prime age of his career, he walked away from the Colts. The crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis even booed Luck during a preseason game in 2019 immediately after the news about his decision spread.

The defining difference, however, is Carson Wentz’s desire to move on without correcting the flaws that hurt him in Philadelphia. 

The comparison to the Andrew Luck saga sheds light on the pressure that NFL quarterbacks face and the difficulty of dealing with obstacles under the microscope of the highest scrutiny. However, it won’t change the fact that Eagles fans will see a fallen franchise hero as a new enemy in burgundy and gold in an NFC East rivalry game on Sunday.

Photo by Icon Sportswire