Is this a make or break off-season for Colts GM Chris Ballard?
The Colts 2021 season has come and gone with no Playoff appearance for Frank Reich and Co.
While for much of the season this team showed great promise, Unfortunately they dropped the last 2 games of the season in which both games were a Win and Get In scenario that The Colts just couldn’t capitalize on. Even losing to the worst team in the league in Week 18 The Jacksonville jaguars. Chris Ballard emphasized “we got our ass beat, we embarrassed our owner, we embarrassed our city”.
Here are my 3 Takeaways from Chris Ballards End-Of-Year press Conference:
1. Colts will move on from Carson Wentz if there is a clear upgrade available
In the 2021 Off-Season, The Colts traded a 2021 3rd round pick and a 2022 1st round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for Quarterback Carson Wentz. Let’s just say that deal does not look so good after the epic collapse Carson Wentz had in the final 2 games of the season. When, Chris Ballard and Frank Reich came together to ultimately choose Wentz, they did so believing he would be the guy to deliver them a win in the biggest moments. When all seems to be going wrong, Carson was brought here to answer the biggest long-term question Colts fans have had since Andrew Luck retired. Who will our franchise Quarterback be? Unfortunately Carson Wentz only handed us a lot more questions that answers.
For Chris Ballard? “At the time of the decision, we felt good about it. I still don’t regret the decision at the time”. At the time? That sounds like a lot different than his comments about previous Colts quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Philip Rivers. Frank Reich and Chris Ballard are visibly upset at the production from the quarterback position. “Make the lay ups, we need better quarterback play”, Ballard emphasized better play from Wentz several times. That all leads me to believe if a Derek Carr, Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins, or (please god) Aaron RODGERS became available, Ballard is pulling the trigger to land one of them.
Carson Wentz has proven to be very stubborn and uncoachable to the point that Head Coach Frank Reich would NOT commit to him long term.
2. No Accountability
What an epic collapse that was at the end of the season. But for some reason Chris Ballard believes there should be no coaching changes after quote on quote “embarrassing our owner and our city”.
Colts HC Frank Reich has definitely had a couple of questionable moments but I’m not looking at him here. How can you have the season you just had and not hold 2 defensive coaches accountable? James Rowe and Alan Williams have done a great great job developing and teaching the secondary. The job that Linebacker coach Dave Borgonzi has done developing Darius Leonard and Bobby Okereke is second to none. Not to mention the growth E.J Speed showed on Christmas Day in Arizona playing starting snaps in place of Darius Leonard who tested for positive for COVID Those 3 coaches are excellent.
Matt Eberflus and Brian Baker are a problem. Yes I know he finished 2nd in turnovers, finished Top 10 in a few categories as Ballard defended on Thursday. But giving up 6…SIX go-ahead game losing drives in the final 3 minutes of the game is and should be unacceptable. A practice Squad Quarterback in Josh Johnson came in and put up 23 points on this defense with ease. In Week 18 Trevor Lawrence looked like Andrew Luck picking this defense apart. Then Chris Ballard backs up Flus who continuously gets beaten by above average Quarterbacks. Outside of 2 games against a pathetic Houston Texans team. The Colts don’t crack the Top 15 in any defensive categories. The top 2 leaders in turnovers are now at home and not fighting for a Super Bowl in Indianapolis and Dallas.
Brian Baker can’t develop anyone. All this talent Ballard has given Baker and he finished bottom 10 in sacks. Inexcusable and unacceptable especially for a GM who emphasizes and stresses “you win up front”. And for whatever reason. Ballard seems to be ok with getting your ass kicked against good teams on defense.
3. Ballard will use FA to add better depth
Pass rusher, Left Tackle, Tight End, and Wide Receiver, what do they have in common? Every single one of those positions needs help.
On Thursday, Ballard emphasized “I still believe you win the game up front, this is a passing league. You gotta get after and protect the quarterback”. Let’s just say Isaac Rochell isn’t going to be a critical piece to being a game changing defensive line anywhere. Al-Quadin Muhammad is a fine player but was your starter. Turay is what he is and Tyquan Lewis unfortunately blew his knee out in what looked like a great season he was putting together.
Those guys just won’t cut it for you moving forward. Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo look promising along with All-Pro DeForest Buckner. “You gotta have 8”, well Ballard you have 5 right now. So where will those other 3 come from? Names like Jerry Hughes, Derek Barnett, Hassan Reddick will be available and I gotta think Chris stands by his word and adds one of this guys.
Left Tackle was a disaster this year. Eric Fisher was awful in pass protection coming off of an Achilles injury he suffered in the AFC championship games for the Chiefs. He allowed a game changing sack in Baltimore on MNF and against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Colts were in control of both games until Fisher allowed a sack and constant pressure which ultimately hurts the colts in both games. Simply put, The Colts need to get younger and better at the position. “I’d like to quit band-aiding it and find the long term solution” Ballard said on Thursday. Matt Pryor whom the Colts traded for from the Philadelphia Eagles for a 6th round pick had a career altering season. The former TCU Horned Frog is set to be a Free Agent in 2022 but played critical snaps at Left Tackle, Right Guard, and Right Tackle where he performed fairly well against players like Nick Bosa, Yannick Ngakoue, and Corey Peters. This is the year to make upgrades at premium positions for The 5-year GM and Owner Jim irsay is not pleased with the 2021 season. Chris Ballard needs to dip into Free Agency where he Will have roughly $44M in Cap Space available to find answers…his future with the Colts just might depend on it.