Commanders

Would Wentz still be a Colt if they made playoffs? Indy GM not sure

Commanders
Carson Wentz

The unofficial end to the Carson Wentz era in Indianapolis began in Week 17 of last season. The 29-year-old quarterback struggled during the Colts' final two games of the season, a pair of losses to Las Vegas and a previously two-win Jacksonville team that kept Indianapolis out of the postseason.

After having "hard internal discussions" with owner Jim Irsay and coach Frank Reich, general manager Chris Ballard made the decision to trade Wentz to Washington in March -- fewer than 14 months after the team originally acquired him from Philadelphia.

The Colts' end-of-season collapse -- particularly in Week 18 to Jacksonville, where a victory would have clinched a playoff spot -- is what many believe led to Indianapolis ultimately making the decision to move on from Wentz. Yet, Ballard believes even if Wentz did lead the Colts to the playoffs, Indianapolis still would have traded him this offseason anyway.

"I think we still would’ve had some hard discussions [about moving on from Wentz]," Ballard said in an interview with ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio. "Just the way we played down the stretch, and we knew we needed to make some improvements in that area."

According to the Colts general manager, Indianapolis' brass of him, Irsay and Reich had already begun questioning Wentz's long-term fit with the team even before the team's late-season shortcomings.

"The one thing I think Jim and I and Frank are when we know something’s not a good fit, don’t just try to justify it. Let’s move forward," Ballard said. "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.”

 

Earlier in the interview, Ballard said the Week 18 loss to Jacksonville "stung" and it put him in a "dark place." Yet, the GM feels that since the Colts' 2021 season ended in such a brutal fashion, it allowed him, Irsay and Reich to have the hard and uncomfortable conversations about the outlook of the organization he feels were needed.

"It’s a prideful group. It’s a prideful organization. An owner that really wants to win," Ballard said. "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.”

When the Colts traded Wentz to Washington in mid-March, the team had no current plan in place for his successor. At the time, the move showed Indianapolis' strong desire to move on from the QB despite no guarantee his eventual replacement would be any better.

Of course, former MVP Matt Ryan became available a few weeks later as Atlanta made a hard attempt to acquire Deshaun Watson from Houston. Although Watson ended up being traded to Cleveland, Atlanta's pursuit of the QB led to Ryan becoming available. Days later, Ballard and his staff found their new quarterback in 'Matty Ice.'

Since trading Wentz to Washington, Ballard and Irsay have mentioned the need to move on from the quarterback multiple times. They haven't exactly hidden their true feelings about the quarterback, either, with this interview being the latest example.

Despite Wentz's messy breakup with Indianapolis, Commanders head coach Ron Rivera has publicly expressed his excitement and belief in the team's new QB. Rivera has made it clear that Washington is Wentz's team and hopes the 2016 No. 2 overall pick can be the franchise's long-term answer at the sport's most important position.

"The message to him, more so than anything else, is that we believe in him. That's why we went ahead and did [the trade]," Rivera said about Wentz in March. "My intent was to make sure he knew it, make sure he understood it was because we believe in him, we want him here, he is wanted here and I think that helps make the transition a little bit easier as well."

Wentz, who's now on his third team in as many seasons, understands that the opportunity he has in Washington might be his last at proving he's a franchise quarterback. 

 

After going through rocky endings with both the Eagles and Colts, Wentz is relieved to be with the Commanders -- a place he knows he's valued.

"Knowing that you're wanted and feeling that support from everybody in the organization means a lot," Wentz said in March. "It allows you to go play confidently freely, which I think ultimately will allow me to play my best ball and try and elevate everybody around me to the full extent that I can. And I look forward to doing that."