At some point this winter as the Indianapolis Colts vetted a potential trade for Carson Wentz, head coach Frank Reich asked new senior offensive analyst Press Taylor a simple question: “Do you believe in the player still, and what is he capable of with everything that happened in his past?”
Taylor’s answer was unequivocal.
“That was a no-brainer for me,” he recalled during a video conference call Tuesday. “I absolutely 100% believe in Carson Wentz as a player. I’m excited about the opportunity for him here in Indy.”
Few coaches know Wentz better than Taylor. They were together the past five years with the Philadelphia Eagles, with Taylor moving steadily up the ladder from assistant quarterbacks coach to passing game coordinator while building a tight bond with the franchise QB.
Some have complained that bond was too tight. Of all the reasons given for Wentz’s unprecedented decline in 2020 — rampant injuries on Philadelphia’s offense, inconsistent mechanics and poor decision making are among the most common — the quarterback’s relationship with Taylor carries the most immediate importance for the Colts.
There was a line of thinking often reported in Philadelphia that Taylor took it too easy on Wentz. The idea is the pair had become too close, and Taylor was unwilling or unable to provide the kind of hard coaching Wentz needed.
Taylor admitted there are things he’d change if he had a 2020 do-over, but his personal relationship with the quarterback is not among them.
“At the end of the day, I’m very confident in my relationship with Carson,” Taylor said. “The way that I personally handled things, I feel good about it. Were there things I could do better? Absolutely. I would hope a lot of people would look back on the season and say something like that, especially a season that went as poorly as it did for us. So there’s a number of things that I’ll reflect on, hopefully will grow upon. But in terms of the professionalism, the way I handled that relationship, I do feel confident in that.”
Between Reich, Taylor and wide receivers coach Mike Groh, the Indianapolis coaching staff has a wealth of experience with Wentz. All three coaches were part of Philly’s Super Bowl championship season in 2017, when the quarterback was playing at an MVP level before a knee injury ended his run after 13 games.
Reich was the Eagles’ offensive coordinator that season, and Groh took over the role in 2019.
All that experience should provide Wentz with a sounding board in team meetings and an accelerator as he adjusts to a new home.
“Those two guys (Reich and Wentz), there is a true passion for football,” Taylor said. “I mean, when they get together in a meeting room, it’s going to be a lot of back and fourth, a lot of conversation philosophically, the minute details of a certain play, footwork and things like that because they are so passionate about it. They both have personal philosophies on the things they like, they don’t like. I think with their relationship, they are able to go a little deeper in those conversations as well, and that’s what helps with having a past with somebody.
“You come in here and they haven’t worked together in the past few years, but I think it’s going to be where they are able to pick up where they left off and keep moving forward in the relationship.”
Marcus Brady and Scott Milanovich have an extensive history.
Milanovich coached Brady as a quarterback in the Canadian Football League, and they later coached together for seven years. Brady was promoted to replace Milanovich as the offensive coordinator for the Montreal Alouettes when Milanovich became the Toronto Argonauts head coach in 2012. And Brady joined Milanovich as the offensive coordinator in Toronto a year later after Montreal head coach Marc Trestman left to coach the Chicago Bears.
In fact, Milanovich was Reich’s first choice for quarterbacks coach in 2018. But he was tied up with the Jacksonville Jaguars, so he recommended Brady for the job. Now Milanovich will serve as the Colts’ quarterbacks coach in Brady’s first season as offensive coordinator.
“He’s really a brilliant guy, just thinks through everything, very competitive in terms of just hates to lose, hates to be wrong,” Milanovich said. “He’s going to do everything he can to not let that happen. When he first became a coach (in 2009), I think his first two years we won the Grey Cup. It went pretty well for him from the start.
“I like the way he thinks of quarterback play because I spent so much time with him, and I think we think similarly about what it takes. I just had no doubt that, first of all, he’s a worker. No. 2, he’s really bright. No. 3, he played the position and I knew personality wise he’d be a fit for NFL talent.”
New running backs coach Scottie Montgomery can’t speak to the medical specifics of Marlon Mack’s return from an Achilles’ tendon injury, but he’s already seen enough to know the former 1,000-yard rusher will put in the work to come back as soon as possible.
That process should be helped along by a deep position group that includes Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins.
“It’s one of those situations to where the depth always helps because there is not an overload of work at certain points in times that you may run into in certain situations,” Montgomery said. “But when you have guys like Jordan and Nyheim and JT all in the room, we can spread the workload and we can also make sure we pay close attention to (Mack’s) process of being able to get back to 100% and getting back to the way he feels well running the football.”