WASHINGTON — Washington fans have seen this before. A well-known name gets a big press conference in front of local and national sports media complete with photo-ops, thanks to the team owner, and high hopes. But could Carson Wentz's introduction as the starting quarterback for the newly branded Washington Commanders lead to a different outcome for a beleaguered team and city?
The Washington Commanders held an introductory press conference for their new offensive leader Thursday morning, with the fanfare of a franchise looking to find a permanent solution at arguably the most important player on the field.
"I look forward to earning that respect [in the locker room]," said a smiling Wentz at the podium. "I know a lot about the defense. I competed against that stout defensive line. But the offensive talent, that's got me riled up."
Washington football has spent decades now looking for a long-term solution at signal-caller stemming back to their last Super Bowl victory in the 1991-92 season with Mark Rypien at the helm. Franchise hopefuls like Patrick Ramsay, Jason Campbell, Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins to name a few, have all fizzled out for one reason or another. But with a new name and a new season, comes new opportunity for fans and players.
"It's kind of stepping into something new... stepping into the Commanders, stepping into this new kind of era, it's exciting," said Wentz on what being in Washington at the start of a franchise rebrand means. "It's definitely given me a clear vision of where this organization wants to go and hopefully I can help get there."
Last off-season, the then-Washington Football Team agreed to a one-year deal with journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for $10 million. But hopes of the veteran leading the way to a second straight division title were dashed after just one half of game one, when a hip injury landed him on the Injured Reserve list and ended Fitz's season.
This led to playoff surprise Taylor Heinecke taking the reins. But he performed inconsistently with winning and losing streaks of 4+ games each defining the 7-10 season record, missing the playoffs for coach Ron Rivera's first time in Washington.
Wentz, on the other hand, also changed teams last summer after being traded from the team that drafted him, the Philadelphia Eagles, to the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts looked like a strong playoff contender with MVP finalist Jonathan Taylor in the backfield going into the last weeks of the regular season, before a late collapse dashed their playoff hopes.
"It was a year with highs and lows, ups and downs," Wentz commented on his year in Indy. "The way we finished, the way I finished was poor... I didn't play good enough."
Wentz will go back to his original number 11 that he wore in Philadelphia when he dons the Burgundy and Gold this season. The QB wore number 2 for the Colts last year.
According to Sportstrac, Wentz's massive current contract will count for over $28 million towards the team's cap this year, most of which is fully guaranteed. However, it is the last guaranteed year of the deal, meaning the team could part ways with him without taking dead cap penalties as early as next offseason, if things don't work out.
But its March, and the hope of future success is always at its peak in March.