INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Is quarterback Carson Wentz, less than 10 months removed from his trade from Philadelphia to Indianapolis, headed for a one-and-done ending with the Colts?
This is a complex question and the franchise’s potential pursuit this off-season of an improvement at quarterback over Wentz appears even more daunting.
On Thursday at his season-ending press conference, General Manager Chris Ballard fumed.
The embarrassing loss in Jacksonville. No AFC South Division Title for a fifth time in five years under his watch.
Just one playoff win to show for despite nearly five years of roster building.
“Ultimately, it falls on my shoulders,” Ballard said. “It is something that we will go to work and ask some very hard, tough questions over the next month, month, and a half to fix it… Every team can beat your a**. Every team can beat your a**. And they (Jacksonville) beat our a** plain and simple.”
Ballard and Head Coach Frank Reich were awarded five-year contract extensions ahead of the 2021 season. Colts Owner Jim Irsay believes in his two pillars and wanted stability consistent with the top franchises in the league.
Ballard, Reich, and the vast majority of the 2021 coaching staff will be back next season.
Wentz, meanwhile, was delivered no assurances of his future on Thursday.
“After Philip (Rivers) retired and we made the decision to make a move on Carson (Wentz), at the time of the decision we felt good about it. I still don’t regret the decision, at the time. Just sitting here today, just so you all know, I will not make a comment on who is going to be here next year and who is not going to be here next year. It is not fair for any player. I thought Carson (Wentz) did some good things. And there a lot of things that he needs to do better. Our passing game has to be better.”
The key phrase for Colts fans here will be “at the time.”
Today, how does the organization feel about the deal that sent this year’s first-round draft pick along with the 2021 third-round selection to Philadelphia?
By not publicly committing to Wentz, for now, makes this the league’s top soap opera hovering next to the NFL playoffs.
“I would like to quit Band-Aiding it. I would like for Carson (Wentz) to be the long-term answer for find, someone who will be here for the next ten to twelve years, sometimes it doesn’t work out that way, man. I can dream about it, wish about it, do everything I can to figure out the solution. But, you do the best in what you can do at the time you have to make a decision. That is how you do it.”
When asked directly about $15M cap hit if Wentz is let go will impact the Colts’ decision at quarterback, Ballard said “it is always an influence” but went on to applaud Director of Football Administration Mike Bluem’s salary cap savviness.
On Wednesday, Ballard and Wentz met for a one-on-one meeting. The two reviewed the highs and lows of the 2021 season, with Ballard leaving the sixth-year pro with this critique: “Make the layups.”
Ballard’s frustration happens to be a foundation piece of Frank Reich’s offense. In 2018 with Andrew Luck at the helm of the offense, and again in 2020 behind Philip Rivers, the rhythm of Reich’s passing attack was apparent and consistent.
This past season Wentz’s spectacular plays, specifically the late game-sealing touchdowns on the road against the 49ers and Cardinals, were bookended by a slow start and a turbulent finish.
The early season issues were expected, as Wentz missed essentially all of training camp due to a foot injury suffered during the second training camp practice.
Wentz’s final two performances of the regular season came off of missing the entire week of practice leading up the Raiders game due to a positive COVID-19 test. Wentz worked out away from the team beginning on Wednesday of that week, but on Sunday, the offense was out of sync the entire game leading to a Week 17 Raiders upset win in Indianapolis.
Still, the Colts controlled their playoff destiny heading to Jacksonville against the league-worst 2-14 Jaguars.
The nightmare unfolded quickly, with Wentz under pressure from the opening drive, ultimately being sacked a season-high six times, to go with an interception and a lost fumble.
In two weeks, the Colts were leapfrogged by three teams, falling from the top AFC wildcard spot to the first team outside of playoff contention.
“At the end of the day, we have a lot of great players and pieces,” Ballard said. “We have to get stability at the quarterback position, and that person has to play up to his potential. And don’t say I am putting this all on Carson (Wentz). Everyone needs to do their job better.”
If Wentz is gone, is there a better option realistically available? Don’t forget this part of the equation as this conversation continues ahead of next month’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis.