INDIANAPOLIS – Press Taylor has been there from a beginning that oozed potential and energized an entire franchise to last season that was an absolute train wreck and forced that franchise to hit the reset button.
And now he’s here for Carson Wentz 2.0.
Taylor had barely settled into his office at the Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance Center in early February when he was pulled into an internal conversation that once again could energize a franchise.
Was it worth pursuing a trade for Wentz, whose once skyrocketing career with the Philadelphia Eagles had crashed and burned during an error-filled 2020?
General manager Chris Ballard and coach Frank Reich were seeking meaningful input from anyone and everyone. Philip Rivers had retired, and a suitable replacement was absolutely needed. The roster might have been playoff-caliber, but it lacked a QB1.
Taylor was one of Reich’s offseason additions to his staff – senior offensive assistant, which is vague in title but likely sweeping in nature – but had an extensive relationship with Wentz: assistant quarterbacks coach in 2017, Wentz’s rookie season; quarterbacks coach in 2018-19, passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach in 2020.
“We have a lot of history through the years,’’ Taylor said Tuesday on a Zoom conference call.
Ballard and Reich kept peppering Taylor with questions as they considered getting serious about trading for Wentz.
What do you think?
What happened in 2020?
“Ultimately, Frank asked, ‘Do you believe in the player still and what’s he capable of with everything that happened around him?’’’ Taylor said.
There was no hesitation.
“That was a no-brainer for me,’’ Taylor said. “I absolutely 100% believe in Carson Wentz as a player, and I’m excited about the opportunity for him here in Indy.’’
Again, no one probably offers more complete perspective on Wentz than Taylor.
“I was there the day Carson came in for the pre-draft interview process . . . and I was in the room the day he got there,’’ he said, “so we’ve been in the room together for the last five years.’’
He was hands-on during a promising rookie season: 7-9 record as a starter with 16 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and a 79.3 passer rating.
He was right there in year 2: 33 touchdowns, seven interceptions, a 101.9 rating and front-runner for MVP honors before Wentz tore two ligaments in his left knee in week 13 against the Rams.
He had a hand in shaping Wentz’s first four seasons, the first three of which convinced the Eagles to give their QB1 a four-year, $128 million extension: 97 touchdowns, 35 interceptions, a 32-24 record as a starter, flashes of playmaking brilliance.
And Taylor was there for 2020.
“We didn’t do anything well as an offense, as a team,’’ Taylor said, reflecting on the Eagles’ 4-11-1 record. “You win four games, there’s a lot to look back and say things didn’t go well for us.
“Certainly everything around him didn’t go well. I think he would tell you he didn’t play his best last season.’’
Injuries decimated the Eagles’ offensive line and skill positions, and Wentz was unable to lift what remained. He suffered 15 interceptions and 50 sacks, both league highs, before being benched in favor of second-round draft pick Jalen Hurts in week 13 at Green Bay.
Warranted or not, Wentz was the epicenter of everything that went wrong in Philly. That included coach Doug Pederson being fired – he was replaced by former Colts’ offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni – and ownership deciding to part ways with the player they traded up for and selected with the 2nd overall pick in 2016.
“It’s like a lot of quarterbacks,’’ Taylor said. “When they’re in a situation where a lot of things are going good around them, how are you going to evaluate them in that situation? When things aren’t so good, how do you evaluate them?
“And obviously 2020 was not our best season.’’
Taylor insisted it’s risky to focus too keenly on 2020 and ignore what preceded it.
“You take their whole career into context,’’ he said.
That’s why Taylor never hesitated to endorse the pursuit of Wentz. Yes, he saw Wentz at his absolute worst, but he witnessed so much prior to that.
“I’ve seen him when he’s playing at his best, when the pieces around him are working well and what he can do to elevate those around him as well,’’ Taylor said. “I go back to 2019, kind of a playoff run we made at the end . . . when we were piece-mealed together with the injuries we had, and the way he played at the end of that season, the way he played when he was fully healthy, the way he played even coming off an injury in 2018.
“Ultimately, it comes down to I think he makes the Colts better. I’ll stand on the table for a player I think makes us better and contribute to what we’re going to do here.’’
Reich did extensive video study of Wentz, and believes the Colts have added a player capable to being their long-term answer. He was the Eagles’ offensive coordinator during Wentz’s first two seasons.
“Obviously, I know him well, think very highly of him as a player, as a teammate, as a leader, what he can do for this team,’’ Reich said. “The quarterback position’s very important, but it’s one player on the team.
“But we think he can make a big impact. He’s highly intelligent, he’s big, strong, can make all the throws on the field that you need to make to be a big-time NFL quarterback.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.