Zwiller: The curious case of Carson Wentz
Thomas Zwiller | Tuesday, February 23, 2021
In my columns detailing the state of the quarterback market, I had connected the Colts to Carson Wentz, saying that dumping him was the best move for the Eagles. However, I thought it would be a poor signing for the Colts, as they might have to give up too much to get him. I ended up being partially right; Wentz went to the Colts on Thursday, but the Eagles didn’t get all that much — a third round pick and a conditional second — much less than I had thought. Adam Schefter of ESPN said that the reason the price was so low was that no one but the Colts had wanted Wentz. A better deal never came in, and he went cheaply to the Colts.
Now, the reactions to this have varied from person to person. Dan Orlovsky of ESPN has said that Carson Wentz makes the Colts Super Bowl contenders and likened the trade to the Rams’ move to get Matthew Stafford. Only one thing is certain; nobody can seem to agree as to how well Carson and the Colts will do next season. I’m here to project how well Wentz does next season.
First, I want to start with why the Colts felt the need to go out and get a QB: Philip Rivers’ departure. Philip Rivers left the LA Chargers to come to the Indianapolis Colts for one last run at a Super Bowl on a team that is more of a contender. The expectations were reasonably low for Rivers; he had regressed the year before, and people thought he would continue the poor play. He had a solid season, but the Colts lost to the Bills in the wild card round. Rivers retired shortly after the loss.
Why did I want to start with Rivers? It’s relatively simple; he is coming from a similar, if not identical, situation to Carson Wentz. Both played on poor teams, with both having questions surrounding their play. Both went to the Colts, a massive upgrade in O-Line, weapons, and defense. Rivers had a solid season; he had a 2% increase in accuracy, improved his TD/INT from 1.15-1 to 2.2-1 and took half as many sacks. Rivers passed for less yardage, but he was passing more efficiently; he had 50 fewer attempts.
I don’t think that Rivers’ statistics jump is coincidental with changing teams; the leap in statistics is due to the change in teams. I have a system that I use to evaluate individual players’ value (it’s how I make my NFL picks), so I applied these equations to the 2019 Colts and 2019 Chargers offensive units.
Let’s do the numbers
The Chargers were rated 451.2, and the Colts were rated as 490.8, so not a significant difference, but I think it is substantial. To confirm that the Rivers got better due to being around better talent, I ran his 2019 and 2020 numbers. In 2019, Rivers’ value was 150.0 points, and in 2020 he jumped to 194.9 points. Again, a noticeable jump, but it isn’t a massive change (For context, this season’s MVP Aaron Rodgers’ rating is 287.4, and the Packers offense a 613.7).
If you accept my calculations as proof that Rivers improved because he was around a better team than his previous team, then I think the same thing holds for Carson Wentz. By taking the 2020 season and dividing it by the 2019 year, I got the percent change. This system is by no means perfect, but I think it will give a decent projection of Wentz statistics for next season.
Using this method, I came up with Wentz having a 3,000-yard season, throwing about 20 touchdowns and cutting the interceptions down to eight. The sacks Wentz took dropped down to 35 from 50, and his accuracy went up to 60%. These all seem reasonably accurate, and to me, at least, reasonable.
Let’s revise the numbers
There are a few adjustments I would like to make to Wentz’s stat line, however. I think that the accuracy will go up at least a few more percentage points, maybe 63-65%, mainly due to a lack of drops. I also want to kick his yards up a notch, more like 3,500-4,00, primarily due to the weapons upgrade. I’ll only adjust the TD/INT ratio; slightly, I think he gets 25 TDs and only throws 6 INTs.
The Colts arguably have the best O-line in football, whereas the Eagles had one of the worst. So I don’t think Wentz will have 35 sacks because that O-line will be that much better. Nor do I think he will have as many as Rivers. Rivers is an incredibly stationary QB, scrambling once all season. So despite a quick release time, he was going to get sacked. Wentz ran 22 times, gaining an average of 8.3, so Wentz could be sacked only 10-15 times.
What does it mean?
Now I know what Colts fans are saying: We traded a third and second round pick to get an average stat line? And he’s getting paid how much to do it? I don’t think that that stat line is as average as it would first appear. The Colts are a QB away from being favorites to win the AFC; they have it all: the O-line, the run game, the weapons and the great defense. Do you know what recent situation comes to my mind?
The 49ers, who went to the Super Bowl in 2019. In 2019, Jimmy Garoppolo (the 49ers QB) threw for 3,978 yards, 27 TDs, 13 INTs, 69% accuracy and took 36 sacks. Now, look at the hypothetical stat line created for Carson Wentz. Say he is on the higher side of my forecasts. He would throw for 3,750 yards, 25 TDs, 6 INTs, an accuracy of 65% and take 13 sacks. That isn’t all that different from Jimmy G.
I’m not saying that the Colts are a lock to win the Super Bowl. I will say their ceiling is a Super Bowl berth, contenders for the AFC and the AFC South’s best team.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.