INDIANAPOLIS – With words all we have to go by at this point in the Colts abrupt start to the offseason, Frank Reich’s thoughts on Carson Wentz sound a whole lot more Jacoby Brissett-like than Philip Rivers.
Does that mean Wentz won’t be the Colts starting quarterback in 2022?
Reich was non-committal on Monday with that answer when asked directly at his season-ending presser.
“As far as Carson, I mentioned this the other day with individuals, we loved the team we had this year,” Reich began when asked if Wentz will be the team’s starting QB in 2022.
“Everyone we brought in this year, we expected to play winning football. Next year’s roster will be next year’s roster. I’m not going to evaluate or talk about anybody. I’m just not going to open it up with one player and then start talking about all of them. So…”
In weighing that answer compared to past season-ending pressers, that tone sounded much more like Reich’s answer on Jacoby Brissett (who the Colts then replaced two months later with Philip Rivers) following the 2019 season, than it did Philip Rivers from last year.
For a refresher, this is what Reich said about Rivers following the end to last season:
“Yes, as I sit here right now, yes I want Philip Rivers to be my starting quarterback next year,” the head coach said.
Reich added that he thought Rivers could take the Colts to “another level” if he returned in 2021.
From how Reich has approached the Wentz topic over the past year, Monday was easily the most reserved the head coach has been towards the quarterback.
Wentz finished the season with a major dip in play, as the quarterback did not get much help from his pass catching group to close out the season either.
The efficiency of Wentz and the passing offense took a serious nosedive late in the season. Wentz’s accuracy waned in so many critical moments.
When asked on Monday about the play of Wentz late in the season, Reich pointed to his earlier answer in not wanting to get into individual evaluations.
Reich said that the rhythm of the run game impacted the flow of the “below standard” passing game, as striving for a dynamic offense remains the goal.
“I think in some ways, Carson made some good progress this year,” the head coach said. “I think there’s other things that he’s working on, we are working on as an offense. Obviously, we know the quarterback gets too much credit and too much blame. We know it’s a hard position to play. We know the quarterback position is very dependent on everybody else. Not escaping any of that, just dealing with the reality that we all need to be making incremental improvements at every position, as coaches and players.”
Reich’s presser on Monday came after a multiple-hour meeting on Sunday night called by Jim Irsay. The Colts Owner wanted to meet with Reich and Irsay just hours after the embarrassing loss in Jacksonville ended the season.
The fourth-year head coach called the meeting “supportive, yet demanding of accountability” from the Owner.
When that accountability word comes up for Reich’s relationship with Wentz, does that cause for any blurred lines for the head coach?
“First of all, I like that question, it’s a natural question,” Reich said on Monday when asked about his affinity for Wentz impacting his on-field evaluation. “I can honestly say I have an affinity for a lot of our players, certainly because of Carson and I’s past relationship working together and because the quarterback thing. But I was with Carson for 2 years in Philadelphia and I’ve been here for 4 years with many of these players. So, I feel a connection to these players that’s very deep. And I do feel a deep connection with Carson. And I do check myself on that kind of stuff all the time, with Chris. He’s great in that regard. He’s not ever going to sugarcoat.
“Secondly, I can honestly say I’ve probably been more critical and coached (Wentz) harder this year than I did in the first two years I was with him in Philadelphia.”
While Reich’s words on Monday steered away from unwavering support of Wentz starting next fall, the options to fill such a potential void aren’t crystal clear, particularly with the Colts no longer having their first-round pick for April.
Financially, it would make sense to retain Wentz for one more season, with his guaranteed money drying up after next season.
Still, in Reich-lingo, the words from the head coach on Monday were a clear disappointment in the passing offense.
Does that mean the Wentz experiment will last just one year?
Would the Colts really have a different starting quarterback for a 5th straight season?
Let the offseason debate begin.