INDIANAPOLIS – An excited Jim Irsay is something Colts fans are used to every offseason.
With a new quarterback leading his franchise, Irsay seemed extra eager on Thursday afternoon, as he met the media to talk Carson Wentz and the Colts start to the 2021 offseason.
“I really believe that you will see a golden era develop as we go into this decade sitting here in 2021,” Irsay said on Thursday. “I believe it with all my heart and soul. There’s good reason to believe it. And you talk to people around the league and people that know, they are going to agree with what I’m saying when you look at Chris Ballard and Frank Reich and the expectations going into this decade with them leading the team.”
Irsay said the Colts are hopeful to have full attendance inside of Lucas Oil Stadium this fall and they think training camp will be back to normal, although nothing is official on that front yet.
Here are some of Irsay’s comments on Wentz, the need at left tackle, T.Y. Hilton and the team’s approach to free agency:
–On the trade for Carson Wentz: “I really couldn’t be more excited. I wish all you guys could share in the excitement that I hear in the voices of our whole organization, mainly the coaches and Chris Ballard. We really feel that this is going to be a special match, having Carson come in, at his age of 28, be able to come in and we get to see a lot of the main, main pieces set for what I believe can bring us a Lombardi Trophy, and God willing, more than one, coming into this decade.
“There’s a lot of things that make this trade for Carson really special. I really feel that it’s a rare long-term answer that you are able to achieve through a trade. It doesn’t happen very much. There’s short-term answers that have been achieved through trades. Of course, there’s long-term answers, Brett Favre, others, that came in with a trade and set the tone for many years to comes with franchises. I really feel that with Carson coming in, he’s a veteran but he’s a young veteran. The excitement in the building and talking with Frank Reich, I wish you could hear his voice and the things we’ve talked about to this point. I really don’t see a lot of weaknesses in Carson’s game, his leadership and everything he brings to the table. They are all strengths. They are all the main reasons why he was the 2nd pick in the draft, a main reason he was really close to having that incredible year of being an MVP and a Super Bowl champion. The injury came in and those things happen. But he’s healthy and he’s very excited to be here and we are excited to have him.”
“We had some long conversations on why is he available? Is this some sort of trap for the franchise that might not be successful? You become very, very cautious and try to look at every direction to try and find the right answers to make sure you feel the direction you are going in is actually set up for us to have great success with this trade. I really do feel…I can’t emphasize strongly enough that Carson is the man for the job for the Colts, at this time. Believe me, there’s been a lot with the quarter back situation that has happened over the last three years and to get someone, and I really do believe this, after looking at this game for 50 years and seeing guys come and go at that key position, I really think that he can be that guy that is the centerpiece, and is the guy that is going to be around with the teams that we put together for the next decade that give the Colts a chance for greatness. I really feel that. And honestly, when you dig, dig, dig and you look for things that give you pause, it’s really hard to find those things. Carson is just viewed as an outstanding competitor, a great teammate. You talk to the equipment guys, the trainers, the people that really work day-to-day with the players. He’s greatly respected and is really just known as a guy with tremendous work ethic and character, and has all the skills…I want to emphasize, we had some long, long, hard conversations over this past month or so really trying to vet this thing through, if it’s the right direction to go in. In the end, we felt that it was. And once we made the trade and things have gone forward, we feel more than ever it was the right move. Of course, a lot of has to happen, but we really feel even better than we did 2 or 3 weeks ago.”
–On if the Colts will likely address left tackle in the draft: “I think we could go a couple of different directions. I think, ideally, in the draft, that direction that would be ideal. We’ve seen that process work through Tarik Glenn and Anthony Castonzo. And we’ve been blessed there with that sort of consistency and great play at that position. It’s not the easiest position to fill. I remember sitting with Howard Mudd right before we took Tony Ugoh, we thought that would be a good match for us. It didn’t work out as well as we hoped it would. There’s always that transition process from college to pro. But it would be excellent if we could get one in the draft and we could see there for a long period of time, as our left tackle.”
–On if T.Y. Hilton still could return to the Colts: “No question. We are looking at where the cap is at this point and it’s being reduced and how teams throughout the league, some have cap problems and have had to work hard just to get down to the cap, so I think it’s an environment where we see guys signing for different amounts and I think there’s going to be an opportunity for us to get something done with T.Y. I know I would really love to see T.Y. back. He’s a special, special Colt player. Whenever we could see a guy like that come out and play with Carson, to have our fans be able to embrace him for another year, because he’s really one of the most loved Colts players on the football field, period. We would love to have him back and we are going to work hard to have him back. But it has to fit in the context of the roster, what makes the most since for us to be the best football team possible. I know Chris is working hard at that and we have optimism there that that can happen.”
–On the Colts prudent approach to free agency: “First of all, I think Chris Ballard does an incredible job at finding ways to fill those holes the right way. In other words, also protecting the cap so you don’t get in a precarious situation down the road. I also feel very confident that as the time goes along, better deals come along that you can get guys done and fill some holes. I think there are some holes that need to be filled, tackle, corner. But then you get into more ideal situations when we had Bob Sanders and Dallas Clark. When Dallas came in that changed things a lot because he was such a dynamic player going with two Hall of Fame wide receivers and a Hall of Fame quarterback and a Hall of Fame running back. We are certainly looking for more dynamic players to give us greatness, dominance if you will…We are certainly looking at getting another dynamic player if we can find that on offense, besides just the tackle and the corner. There’s always needs there. If you can get a great young wide receiver or tight end that would certainly be exciting with the team that we have.”
“I think the great thing that Chris does is he walks away from deals. And sometimes your best deals are the ones that you don’t make. And he has that sort of discipline. He’ll go to a certain point, but we’ll talk in great detail on where we are at and more oftentimes than not, I might be saying, ‘Hey, maybe, we put a sweetener in there or something.’ Then he says, ‘No, let’s stay where we are.’ That’s what this deal should be. I really give him a lot of credit. Believe me, for general managers, it’s very, very hard to find a guy like that who is really disciplined right at that 11th hour and trying to pull off that big trade and you want to do it, and your head coach wants you to do it and your owner even wants you to do it, but you say, ‘No, let’s stay pat. We’ll be ok.’ I think that is part of what makes him a great general manager.”
–On if the pandemic has impacted how the Colts go about free agency: “I really love to win. Maybe it’s that I hate to lose too much. But I’m in it to win football games. I’m going to do everything I can in my power to make that happen. It’s never going to be a question of, ‘Are the Colts committing enough dollars to win football games?’ That’s never going to be the question. We are always going to be out there trying to do everything we can for greatness on the field. And at the same time, that’s still managing it so with the cap…you guys know one of the most important things is signing your great players that are going into their second contracts. That’s something that was critical in the era before so we always have a focus on that and making sure that we don’t have an in-balance, and that takes us by surprise. So that’s really important, but then it’s going out and being wise and using free agency, trades, to the best of your ability to do that…so Chris has done a really great job on limiting big mistakes that could come back and haunt us cap wise. Quite frankly, when we went into 2011 and finished that season and now 2012 was starting, we were in a dire cap situation just because that was one of the reasons and obviously having an older roster as well. We don’t like being in that situation like we were in 2012. It was more dire than I think people realize. But we are going to be out there doing everything we can to try and win. Through this pandemic, I think it’s an important to go out there and really help the community in any way you can help your franchise shine. It’s a good opportunity to show what the Colts are about and that’s important to me.”