INDIANAPOLIS – Things sure have changed in the Indianapolis Colts‘ quarterback room over the past year.
Can Wentz stay healthy?
Can Wentz get over the mental hurdle of being benched in his final season with Philadelphia?
Why are the Colts going with unproven backup Jacob Eason — a 2020 fourth-rounder who had never taken a pro snap — instead of acquiring a veteran behind Wentz?
Now, in 2022?
And the backup quarterback?
The Colts aren’t playing this time around. They signed veteran – and familiar face to coach Frank Reich – Nick Foles to back up Ryan.
“What [general manager] Chris [Ballard] and I said was in a perfect world, you get a proven backup, but if it doesn’t happen, we’re not going to chase it,” Reich said. “We’re not going to overpay. We’re not going to do something crazy that could hurt the team long-term.
“I wanted Nick since I’ve been here to be on this team because I think he’s that good of a player. I think he’s the perfect backup quarterback. It literally fell into our lap. We didn’t chase it. If it wouldn’t have worked out, we would have been happy with Sam [Ehlinger], but we’re really happy we got Nick.”
Having stability at quarterback is one less concern for the Colts, who have legitimate expectations to win the AFC South this season.
Last season, there were times they had more to worry about at quarterback than Wentz’s inconsistency. Wentz missed an extended period of time in training camp with a left foot injury that required surgery. Then he sprained his left ankle in a Week 2 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
And you can’t forget about the unvaccinated Wentz getting COVID-19 late in the season when the Colts were in the playoff hunt. Although he played in Week 17, he didn’t practice all week, and the Colts lost 23-20 to the Arizona Cardinals.
It got to the point that Reich even put in a call to former starter Philip Rivers to see if he had any interest in coming out of retirement to play for them.
Foles, if pressed into playing time, is familiar with Reich’s offense after they, and Wentz, were together in Philadelphia, where Reich was the offensive coordinator. After Wentz suffered a torn left ACL late in the 2017 season, Foles stepped in and led the Eagles to a Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots. Foles was on the receiving end of tight end Trey Burton‘s touchdown pass on the legendary ‘Philly Special’ trick play in that game.
“You’ve got a guy in Nick Foles who has proven that he can do it at the biggest level and the biggest stage, in any kind of weather, in any kind of moment,” Reich said. “I like to think of it that sometimes there are backups that can come in and manage a game and squeak out a win or two, and there are some that can throw for 500 yards and win a game. That’s what Nick has proven he can do. He can win a shootout. He can win the shootout, and he can win a close game, make the key plays in a close game.”
Foles hasn’t been as effective since Reich left the Eagles to become the Colts’ coach after that Super Bowl. He is a combined 7-10 as a starter in his final season with the Eagles (2018) and stops with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears. The Bears released Foles earlier this offseason, which caused him to really think hard about where his next stop was going to be. He had no interest in just jumping ship to his sixth different team during his NFL career, which started in 2012.
“I was going to be picky and be smart about it because I have two little kids and one on the way, and I’m not going to move my family just to go to work,” Foles told reporters this week. “Like, I want to enjoy the grind.”
Foles knows his role in Indianapolis: back up Ryan, help provide insight in the quarterback room and step in and play if needed.
It’s not a complex situation.
“This is Matt’s team,” Foles said. “He’s the leader, and he’s running the ship. … I think any time you have a QB room like this, you’re excited to go to work every day. You’re excited to work alongside an MVP.”
The Colts’ mantra has always been that it’s not just about the quarterback, but they’ve realized that it’s hard to win when they don’t have stability and trust in that position.
They have it now in Ryan and Foles.