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Even if Colts had made playoffs, Carson Wentz may not have been back

Colts GM Chris Ballard joins Mike Florio to talk about Indy's busy offseason, from the decision to move on from Carson Wentz to how the Matt Ryan trade came together to what the team saw in Cincy WR Alec Pierce.

It’s easy to assume that if the Colts had simply beaten the Jaguars in Week 18 of the 2021 season and qualified for the playoffs, the Colts would have kept quarterback Carson Wentz. That assumption quite possibly would be incorrect.

“I think we still would’ve had some hard discussions,” G.M. Chris Ballard said during a Wednesday visit to #PFTPM. “Just the way we played down the stretch, and we knew we needed to make some improvements in that area. The one thing I think [owner] Jim [Irsay] and I and [coach] Frank [Reich] are when we know something’s not a good fit, don’t just try to justify it. Let’s move forward. We all knew we were going to get egg on our face. That is what it is, but at the end of the day it’s about doing the right thing for the organization. I think even if we would’ve ended up in the playoffs, we would’ve had some hard discussions going forward.”

The candor is surprising, and impressive. It speaks to the deeper issues with which the Colts dealt in 2021. It also shows a willingness to admit a mistake and move on, instead of doubling down and potentially making things worse.

It couldn’t have gotten much worse for the Colts than it did in losing to the Jaguars, a team that wasn’t really playing for anything in the last game of the year.

‘I mean it stung, I’m not going to lie to you,” Ballard said. “I went into a dark place, too. I’ll tell you what losing does, and especially the way it happened. It really makes you take a hard look at everything you’re doing and probably makes some harder decisions that you might not have made. So really evaluating everything we’re doing from top to bottom. It’s a prideful group. It’s a prideful organization. An owner that really wants to win. An organization that wants to win. We think we have a good football team and needed some change and needed some tweaks. We think we were able to do good work this offseason to get us moving back in the right direction.”

It helped to have Matt Ryan fall into their laps. Ballard said they didn’t panic, they opted to be patient, and it all worked out. Ryan, the 2016 NFL MVP, could be exactly the difference maker the Colts need. But for their willingness to move on from Wentz, they wouldn’t have been in position to land Ryan.