That’s because Indianapolis wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. already has the number and, as he explained Monday, he is of no mind to give it up to his team’s presumed starting quarterback.
“He actually texted me about two hours after the news broke [of the trade], and he just asked me how I felt about [the number],” Pittman said of Wentz on NFL Network. “And I told him that I was going to stay. He said that that was cool and that he would switch numbers, and it was that easy. I mean, he was a chill guy about it, so that was awesome.”
Of course, players in a variety of sports have been known to pony up all sorts of dough to get their preferred numbers on new teams — and, in the case of former Washington running back Clinton Portis, nearly gone to court over the issue. So Wentz, if he badly wanted 11, could theoretically dip into a bank account fattened by a $128 million contract extension he signed with the Eagles.
However, when asked Monday by TMZ Sports about the possibility that Wentz might try to sweeten the pot, Pittman said, “I don’t think there’s any deal that is going to be done.”
“Honestly, I wouldn’t feel right taking money from somebody over a football number,” the 23-year-old receiver added, “so I’m pretty sure that I’m set in it.”
Interestingly, Pittman wasn’t even set at No. 11 until just before the start of last season, his first with the Colts after they made him the 34th pick in the 2020 draft. While starring at Southern California, he wore No. 6, then initially donned No. 86 during the Colts’ training camp.
Indianapolis wide receivers, though, have something of a tradition of wearing numbers between 10 and 20, so Pittman eventually opted to go with the flow. While his 2020 statistics — 40 catches for 503 yards and one touchdown — weren’t as impressive as those posted by some other rookie wide receivers last season, his combination of skill and size (6-foot-4, 223 pounds) gave the Colts reason to get excited for bigger things to come.
Wentz had a comparably worse go of it while wearing 11 last season. He posted career-worst marks in completion percentage (57.4), interceptions (15), interception percentage (3.4), yards per attempt (6.0), passing yards per game (218.3) and passer rating (72.8). By the advanced metrics at Football Outsiders, Wentz had the poorest performance in 2020 of any NFL quarterback who threw at least 200 passes. He thus arrives in Indianapolis with plenty of questions, but at least he can answer one of them well before the season starts, when he chooses a new number.
With NFL quarterbacks limited to numbers under 20 — which Wentz wore in high school — we know he can’t have 18 or 19, because those were retired by the Colts in honor of Peyton Manning and Johnny Unitas. As with Pittman’s 11, several other numbers are already being used, although a few could become available following the free agency period, and not all Indianapolis players might be as adamant about keeping theirs as the second-year wide receiver.
The Indianapolis Star guessed that Wentz might go with 2, which is available and could represent a numerical connection of sorts between the 20 and 11 he previously wore. If he turns his career around dramatically under Colts Coach Frank Reich, the Eagles’ offensive coordinator when Wentz was at his best, the quarterback could even become the greatest NFL player to ever wear No. 2. By some accounts, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has the strongest case for that honor.
For now, though, Indianapolis would probably settle for Wentz simply playing as effectively as he did from 2017 to 2019, as opposed to the disastrous form he showed last season.
Pittman sounded happy with the addition of the 28-year-old quarterback, telling NFL Network: “I think that it’s awesome, because we get a guy who is young, we get a guy who has a big arm, a guy who is a proven guy, and a guy that led his team to a Super Bowl. So I think that he’s great for us.”
Regarding Wentz’s broaching of the jersey number subject, Pittman said: “He didn’t try to press me, or anything like that. He asked me very respectfully, and I just appreciated him for that. I think he’s a great dude, because lots of guys with his status, they would come in and, like, demand stuff like that.”
“It was a win for me,” Pittman added with a chuckle.