There are just a few coaches in the NFL -- if any -- that know new Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz the way Doug Pederson does.
Pederson coached Wentz for five seasons in Philadelphia from 2016 to 2020, a stretch that included three-straight postseason appearances and a Lombardi Trophy -- although Wentz did not play during the Eagles' 2017 playoff run due to injury. The partnership was broken up following a difficult 2020 season that ended with Pederson being fired and Wentz traded to Indianapolis.
Wentz's lone season with the Colts ended on quite the low note -- Indianapolis missed out on the playoffs after losing to a two-win Jacksonville team in Week 18. Many rumors about Wentz's leadership, character and appreciation amongst teammates have surfaced since, with many of those painted in a negative view.
Pederson, now the head coach of the Jaguars, does not buy into any of the negative rumors about his former QB.
“The [Commanders] are getting a tremendous leader, they’re getting a really good quarterback," Pederson said on Wentz on Monday when speaking with local media in Florida during the NFL's annual league meetings.
"They’re getting a guy that’s going to lead that football team and he’ll lead that locker room," Pederson continued. "He’s going to do everything on and off the field to help that team win."
As for what Wentz specifically has to do in Washington in order to win over his new teammates, Pederson believes the quarterback just has to be himself.
"Just be Carson," Pederson said. "Just come in there and lead like he knows how to lead, get everybody involved on offense, get the defensive guys involved. Just be him. He doesn't have to do anything other than that, really, and they're going to be OK."
Pederson also debunked rumors that Wentz was unable to get his teammates' support, saying that when the two were together in Philadelphia that Eagles players "responded to him."
"I only know him from a couple of years ago, and it’s hard to speak on what he did last year in Indy and what he can do in Washington, but the guys responded to him," Pederson said. "They’re getting a guy that will come in and work hard and try to turn things around."
It's also worth noting that Colts coach Frank Reich also met with local media on Monday and like Pederson, he spoke highly about the quarterback his franchise just traded.
"I mean, I love the guy," Reich said. "I really do. And I think he's a really good quarterback. I think he's going to play really well for the Commanders and I'm excited to see that."
Prior to coaching Wentz in Indianapolis in 2021, Reich spent two years as his offensive coordinator under Pederson in Philadelphia. During the second year of that partnership, Wentz was on his way to an MVP season in 2017 before suffering a torn ACL in Week 15 -- an injury that would end his season.
In 2021, Wentz played some of his best football since that 2017 season under Reich. But the way the year ended -- two straight losses to Las Vegas and Jacksonville to miss the postseason -- ended up being the writing on the wall for the Reich-Wentz reunion in Indianapolis.
During his introductory press conference with the Commanders, Wentz attributed the late-season collapse as to why he thinks his tenure with the Colts ultimately played out the way it did.
"It was a year that had highs and lows, ups and downs," Wentz said. "The way we finished, the way I finished was poor, And I think that definitely was tough to swallow and tough to finish like that. Especially when we thought we had a chance to really do something special and make a run. We just kind of collapsed and I didn't play good enough, well enough at the end there."
For Wentz, the Commanders will be his third team in as many seasons. The 29-year-old quarterback understands that if he plays poorly in Washington, his chances of being a starter in the NFL moving forward are slim.
But for the Commanders, it's a good sign that two of Wentz's former coaches openly praised the quarterback and still believe in him, even his past two teams as a whole ultimately didn't.
"The message to [Wentz], more so than anything else, is that we believe in him," head coach Ron Rivera said on March 17. "That's why we went ahead and did [the trade]. ... My intent was to make sure he knew it, make sure he understood it was because we believe in him, we want him here, he is wanted here and I think that helps make the transition a little bit easier as well."