The Colts’ Week 18 collapse won’t be forgotten any time soon, especially not by the team’s general manager.
Chris Ballard spoke at length with reporters Thursday following Indianapolis’ stunning, season-ending drubbing at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was blunt in his assessment.
“Every team can beat your ass,” Ballard said. “And they came out and beat our ass, plain and simple.”
The GM refused to make excuses, acknowledging his club will “evaluate everything” while admitting “we screwed things up.”
Identifying the causes of Indianapolis’ collapse isn’t an easy task, but can start with quarterback play. Carson Wentz’s first season with the Colts was undoubtedly tumultuous and far from what Indianapolis hoped it would receive from its reclamation project. Instead of helping Wentz rediscover the success of his early years in the NFL with the Eagles, the quarterback proved to be unreliable, occasionally throwing the Colts to victory (as he did in Week 16 against Arizona) while also lacking the mental toughness to fight through struggles and come out a winner.
His final performance of 2021 — 17-of-29 passing, 185 yards, one touchdown, one interception, one fumble lost and a season-high six sacks taken — left a sour taste in the Colts’ mouths. Ballard’s Thursday tone was filled with disappointment when discussing both Wentz’s performance and the outcome of Indianapolis’ season.
“We got on a roll there and were playing really good ball until the final two weeks of the season,” Ballard said, via The Athletic’s Stephen Holder. “We have processes in place. I’m not going to overreact. But I’m pissed. We embarrassed ourselves.”
Still, Ballard said he didn’t regret the trade that brought Wentz to the Colts. He also didn’t sound confident Wentz was the answer, telling reporters the Colts will “look at everything” and that he wouldn’t “make a comment on who is going to be here next year and who is not.” Ballard also recounted his Wednesday conversation with Wentz with one repeated phrase: “Make the layups.”
“Our passing game has to be better,” Ballard said. “It just has to be.”
Wentz struggled with accuracy and an ability to make the proper decisions under duress in 2021, something Ballard said he isn’t certain Wentz can overcome at this point.
“The really accurate QBs in this league, they usually have really, really good mechanics,” Ballard said, via Holder. “Can he get better? Yes. But usually when you get in the game, you revert back. But he can get better.”
If Indianapolis does move on from Wentz, it will be an admission of failure on the part of coach Frank Reich and his staff in attempting to turn around a once-promising future for the former No. 2 overall pick. That doesn’t mean Reich’s job is in jeopardy, though. The Colts have proven they’re built to contend now; they just need better production from the game’s most important position.
“He’s a good head coach,” Ballard said of Reich, via Holder. “He’s had one losing season, which was my fault, not his… I think anybody that questions that, look, this guy’s good. He’s a leader, he has a plan, he’s aggressive. We’re lucky to have him.”
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