- Previously worked at Indianapolis Star, covering the Indiana Pacers for nine seasons
- Also covered Vikings for St. Paul Pioneer Press
INDIANAPOLIS — Colts general manager Chris Ballard is not ready to fully commit to quarterback Carson Wentz as his starter for the 2022 season.
Ballard made those comments during his season-ending news conference just days after the Colts didn’t make the playoffs and Wentz played two of his worst games to end the season. Ballard’s comments are eye-raising considering the Colts gave up first- and third-round picks in the upcoming draft to acquire Wentz from the Philadelphia Eagles last offseason.
“When we made the decision, after Philip [Rivers] retired and we made the decision to make a move on Carson, at the time of the decision we felt good about it and I still don’t regret the decision at the time,” Ballard said Thursday. “Sitting here today, just so y’all know, I won’t make a comment on who is going to be here next year and who is not going to be here next year. That’s not fair to any player.”
When they acquired Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft, the Colts were hoping to stop the revolving door at quarterback that has been turning since Andrew Luck retired in August 2019. Wentz replaced the retired Rivers, who replaced Jacoby Brissett after the 2019 season.
“I’d like to quit Band-Aiding it,” Ballard said. “I’d like for Carson to be the long-term answer or find somebody who will be here for the next 10-12 years. Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. I can dream about it, wish about it, do everything I can to figure out the solution, but you do the best with what you can do at the time.”
The goal was for head coach Frank Reich to get Wentz back to playing the way he did when the two were together in Philadelphia when Reich was the quarterback’s offensive coordinator in 2017.
There was some good from Wentz this season, but the bad, unfortunately for the Colts, outweighed it. It was clear that they were a run-first team with running back Jonathan Taylor, who the led the NFL in rushing, but they also expected Wentz to be able to make plays when teams loaded up the box to stop the run. That didn’t always happen.
Wentz only completed 59% of his passes, threw just two touchdown passes and had two turnovers in the final two games of the regular season when the Colts only needed to win one to make the playoffs. Wentz, who continued his risk-taking ways, threw for at least 200 yards in only two of the final eight games of the season. In the upset loss to the Jaguars in the season finale, Wentz posted a career-low 4.4 Total QBR.
“Make the layups. Make the layups. Make the layups,” Ballard said. “Carson wants to win. He has a will to win. Sometimes when you carry the burden where you think you have to make a big play all the time. Sometimes let the team help you, make the layups, make the layups.”
The Colts have some core pieces on the roster in Taylor, linebacker Darius Leonard and the majority of the offensive line. But the possibility of making the playoffs and making a run in the postseason will continue to remain slim until they figure out who the answer is at quarterback.
“At the end of the day, I think we have a lot of really good players and really good pieces,” Ballard said. “You have to get stability at the quarterback position. That position has to play up to his potential to help the team win. I’m not blaming this all on Carson. I’m not because everybody else has to do their job, too.
“But the hyperimportance of that position, it’s real. You have to get consistency there. The years we’ve gotten it we’ve been pretty good, and we thought we had it until the end of the season. Something we have to continue to work through.”
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