INDIANAPOLIS – It was Chris Ballard talking about the quarterback position like he has never before.
Unprompted, Ballard went out of his way to routinely go back to Carson Wentz and the play of the quarterback throughout his 60-minute press conference in recapping the 2021 season.
The common theme was zero commitment to Wentz under center in 2022.
When offering up an evaluation of Wentz in 2021, Ballard said there was “some” good, but also “a lot” to work on.
One of the most damming Wentz discoveries in Ballard’s presser came when the GM was assessing the wide receiver group.
Ballard, unlike many, does not believe wide receiver needs a serious upgrade. He seems more than content about that group and its level of play.
So, if that’s the case, what does that say about how the GM thought Wentz performed with such a pass catching group in 2021?
If Ballard doesn’t think the wideouts were a major issue this past season, that puts Wentz in an even uglier light.
As you’d expect, Ballard wasn’t going to publicly comment on Wentz still being the Colts QB in 2022 (Wentz is under contract through 2024).
But he had some thoughts on the play of Wentz from this past season.
“When we made the move on Carson, at the time of the decision, we felt good about it,” Ballard said. “And I still don’t regret the decision at the time. Sitting here today, 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, not fair to any player.
“I thought Carson did some good things. And there’s a lot of things that happened that he needs to do better. Our passing game has to be better.”
With the offseason 72 hours old last week, Ballard sat down with Wentz for an exit interview.
The message from the GM to his quarterback?
Let’s make the layups. Make the layups.
It was clear the theme was about Wentz finding and connecting on simple better, with a 62.4 completion percentage last season ranking 25th in the NFL, not helping out a yards per attempt number of 6.9 (20th in the NFL). Those important efficiency and consistency metrics are not strong in the eyes of the Colts.
“The throw against Arizona (to Dezmon Patmon) was incredible,” Ballard said of Wentz. “It was incredible. There might be 2 or 3 other quarterbacks in the league that can make that throw. ‘Let’s make the layups.’ Those highlight throws are great.
“Carson wants to win. He has a will to win. Sometimes when you carry that burden where you think you have to go make that big play all the time, sometimes you need to let the team help you. Take the layups. Take the layups.”
With the 29-year-old Wentz, who is now entering Year 7, facing some clear improvements this offseason, Ballard wasn’t ready to say that these are conclusively fixable.
“That’s something we have to work through, something we have to work through with Frank and the staff,” the GM said.
Searching for Ballard’s praise of Wentz in his more than an hour presser is no easy task.
It appears the main things holding the Colts back from definitely moving on from Wentz centers around the lack of other realistic quarterback options and the financial implications for the QB in 2022 (Wentz has $15 million guaranteed).
Nonetheless, Ballard is ready to analyze it all.
“I think we will look at everything,” Ballard said when asked about looking into other QB options.
“There’s always a solution. Sometimes they aren’t ideal, but there are solutions. Sometimes they are long-term. Sometimes they are not. But I think we will look at everything.”
As Ballard heads into his 6th season, he has yet to have the same quarterback start just a single game in two consecutive seasons.
That isn’t loss on Ballard.
“You have to get stability at the quarterback position and that position has to play up to its potential to help the team win,” Ballard said. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m not sitting up here and blaming all this on Carson. I’m not. Because everybody else has to do their jobs, too. But the hyper-importance of that position is real. It’s real. You have to get consistency there. In the years we’ve gotten it, we’ve done pretty good. We thought we had it until the end of the season. That’s just something you have to continue to work on.
“I’d like to quit band-aiding (quarterback). I’d like for Carson to be the long-term answer or find somebody that’s going to be here for the next 10-to-12 years. It didn’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 you can to do what you can at the time and then you have to make the decision. That’s how you do it.”