Colts GM-Chris Ballard walks down the sideline before the game starts.
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 12: Indianapolis Colts GM Chris Ballard is seen before the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Chris Ballard Notebook: GM Holds Season-Ending Press Conference

INDIANAPOLISWith the results not at the level the Colts are expecting, Chris Ballard wrapped up his 5th year as general manager with an hour-long season-ending press conference on Thursday.

Ballard fielded all questions, knowing that the reality is the Colts are coming off arguably the most embarrassing performance in franchise history to end their season.

Here are the highlights of what Ballard had to say on Thursday:

  • On the loss to the Jags: “It’s not acceptable and we won’t accept it. The expectations are higher, especially where we are with Frank (Reich) and I being together for 4 years and been building this. The expectations are higher, and we accept that.”
  • On missing the playoffs: “Ultimately, we didn’t get it done. I’ve thought a lot about this. We live in a day and age where when you fail, you are done. We cancel everybody’s ass out when they fail at something. We won’t run from the failure, but what we’ll do is we will grow from it. Your greatest moments of growth, in anything you do in life, come from failure. They don’t come from your success. It’s easy when it’s sunny outside. That’s when everybody jumps on board. But when you have a moment of failure, that’s where you really find out who is with you internally, if what you are doing is right. We will examine all of that. And you can also have your greatest moments of growth if you use them. You have to use them. You have to accept who you are. We are 9-8 football team. That’s who we are. That falls on my shoulders.”
  • On looking for answers: “That’s the great thing about this league, there’s always a solution. There is. It’s our job to problem solve and find the solution. It might not be the perfect solution. It might not be perfect. It might not be the long-term solution, but there’s a solution every year. There’s a little timing and luck of sometimes getting the long-term solutions to certain positions but there’s a solution for that year coming up. But that’s what we have to work towards.”
  • On the job Frank Reich has done: “Good head coach. Good football coach. He only had the one losing season, 7-9 (in 2019). That was my doing, not his. We’ve had a different quarterback every year and we still find a way every year to be really competitive and a good football team. I think he’s really good, really good as a head coach. I think anybody that questions that…this guy is good. He’s a leader. He has a plan. He’s flexible. He’s aggressive, but also knows when to dial it back. We are lucky to have him. I promise you. We are lucky to have Frank Reich.”
  • On having an NFL-best 7 Pro Bowlers and still missing the playoffs and what that says about the job of the coaching staff: “No. We weren’t perfect. But I definitely have my hand in this. We have a good coaching staff. They do a good job. I think you can tell. (Matt Eberflus) is interviewing a couple of places. People are noticing the work that he’s doing. Seven Pro Bowlers, that’s great. Those are individual honors. At the end of the day, team. It comes down to winning, getting into the playoffs and trying to win a Super Bowl. We didn’t get that done.” On if he expects staff changes: “Not right now. We are still evaluating through all that. A lot of change going on through the league. We will work through that.”
  • On his approach to free agency: “I think you all know my philosophy on free agency. I think it all depends on who the player is. Does he fit us? Just to go sign a free agent because you all are clamoring for one, I think we know some of the suggestions in the past. Those would have been really good. I think it’s a case-by-case basis of what we want to do. I don’t think signing big-name free agents always equates to winning. It’s signing the right free agents that equates to winning.”
  • On the trade for Carson Wentz and if he will be the 2022 starter: “When we made the move on Carson, at the time of the decision, we felt good about it. 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.”
  • On if the team will look into all avenues at the quarterback position: “I think we will look at everything. 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.”
  • On Wentz’s improvements: “I talked to Carson about this yesterday, ‘Let’s make the layups. Make the layups.’ The throw against Arizona (to Dezmon Patmon) was incredible. 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.” Is that fixable? “That’s something we have to work through, something we have to work through with Frank and the staff.”
  • On the fundamentals of Wentz: “That’s a good question. When Andrew Luck was here, we spent a lot of time with Tom House. When he talked about accuracy and throwing, it all made sense to me that it wasn’t as much in the arm slot as it was the head, when your head gets on and off. I think when you watch the really accurate quarterbacks in this league, they are really fundamentally sound. So I do think the accuracy (of Wentz) can get better. You can drill it, drill it, drill it, but when you get into a game, you usually revert back, unless it’s just been something you can really change. Can he get better? Yes.”
  • On if the $15 million guarantee for Carson Wentz in 2022 influencing the QB decision for next season: “That’s always an influence. But we’ve done a really good job in that area. (Colts cap specialist) Mike Bluem has done a great job with our cap.”
  • On potentially having a 5th straight different QB for opening day: “I’d like to quit band-aiding it. 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.”
  • On the potential retirements of T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle: “I haven’t talked to T.Y. yet. But I love him. He’s an unbelievable Colt. He’s an incredible person. He’s grown. He’s been unbelievable. Neither of us have talked or made any decision about what his future is going to be. Jack Doyle and I did talk. He’s going to take a week or two, think it through. He’s a very valuable member and he can still play. But he’ll make a decision moving forward on what he’s going to do.”
  • On the QB position with roster building: “You have to get stability at the quarterback position and that position has to play up to its potential to help the team win. 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.”
  • On if Ballard feels that tweaks are needed to his roster building: “That’s a good question. I’ve thought a lot about that. I still believe you win the game up front. I think that’s proven. That is something I don’t think will ever change in my belief system. You have to be good on the O-line and D-line. You have to be. You have to get good quarterback play. Then the rest of your playmakers have to do their jobs. You can move forward with deep connection that you have. I was listening to somebody talk the other day and I thought it was really good. You can have really deep conviction in how you think things need to be built and run and also have the curiosity and flexibility to change along the way. I think we’ve done that. Because we are a very curious group. We ask questions. We want to grow. And I think we’ve had some flexibility moments. I know people feel we haven’t done anything. But we traded for (DeForest) Buckner, we’ve traded for Carson (Wentz). We’ve made moves. Whether they were right or wrong, we’ve made moves to make the team better being aggressive. So we will examine that. But one thing I will not change on is you win up front, O-line, D-line. I thought it was showing until the last two weeks. It’s hard to overcome when those two things aren’t there.”
  • On the pass rush: “Other than Kwity (Paye) this year, and we think Kwity is going to be really good. We think he’s going to develop and be really good. I feel really good about the pick. Everybody else was in the second round. Do we wish they would have been a little bit more productive? Kemoko (Turay) has the injury issues. He ends up with 5.5 sacks this year. Tyquan (Lewis) is having a pretty good year, he picks a ball off and blows a knee and a fumbles, when we are up 14-0 against Tennessee and worst case we are about to go up 17-0, maybe 21. Next play they score and it’s 14-7. That’s when you know you are just not getting the right luck at the time. It’s something we will look at. You have to have 8 (defensive linemen) and I failed us. I didn’t do a good enough job to make sure the right 8 this year. You have to have 8. To think the next one is going to be the next Dwight Freeney or Robert Mathis, I don’t know that’s always being the most realistic. It’s something to shoot for, yeah. We drafted two guys last year who we think both have upside and we like them and they played pretty good football this year but we have to be better rushing the passer.”
  • On the tight end position: “Tight end needs work. Depending on what Jack does (retirement decision). Mo Alie-Cox is (a free agent). We like Mo. We’d like to get Mo back. And then we have a young kid in Kylen (Granson), who we thought showed some things and he will continue to grow.”
  • On the wide receiver position: “(Zach) Pascal is a good football player. He had over 600 yards two years in a row. T.Y. Hilton, he had 750 the year before. Unfortunately, he had the injury. T.Y. is one of the smartest football players I’ve ever been around. And he still knows how to play. We have some young players in (Dezmon) Patmon who made the play in Arizona. (Ashton) Dulin has had his moments of making some really big plays for us this year. And Michael Strachan has really good upside. I think we have good, young talent. I think when we committed (to the run) and you look at the number of passes that we have, you saw some of the production fall off. Nyheim Hines is a good player that we need to get more involved. We have to get him more touches. His catch total went from 63 to 38. We have to get him involved.”
  • On if he thinks the wide receiver position needs to be upgraded: “No, I feel like we have good, young players. You all didn’t think Pittman was going to be pretty good and all of a sudden he’s pretty good. I remember you all questioned that. I think every year we are trying to upgrade every position. Would I like two or three dynamic (wideouts)? Absolutely. Absolutely. But I think we have some good young players to work with.
  • On the left tackle spot: “The left tackle is what the left tackle is. We short-termed fixed it. We still have to be looking for a long-term solution. If we have to short-term fix it again because the long-term solution doesn’t show up, that’s what we will do. We need to find a long-term answer. Like I tell you every year, I could draft one just to make you all happy and you’d say, ‘Here’s the long-term answer.’ But it has to be the right guy. Same as quarterback.”
  • On the defense: “We have to add to our defensive line. We need 8. You need a wave. Just to get through the attrition of the season. (Tyquan) Lewis was a big loss for us. He was really coming on and playing good football for us..”
  • On the linebacker position: “We have good linebackers. I feel good about that.”
  • On the cornerback position: “Then at corner, you are always going to be looking to add. I thought our guys played good football. I thought Rock (Ya-Sin ) took another step. I thought Isaiah (Rodgers) grew up. Kenny Moore had a really good season. Probably didn’t play his best ball at the end but he played really good football.”
  • On giving Quenton Nelson a contract extension (Nelson is under contract through 2022): “Yeah, we will work through these contracts. Quenton is a Colt. I want him to be a Colt long-term. When we do the contract, we will work through that.”
  • On if Nelson is an option to move to left tackle long-term: “No. Why would you move a Hall of Fame left guard to play left tackle? (Laughs) That just makes no sense to me. No sense. And look, he has a ways to go to be a Hall of Famer. But why would you move a great player to left tackle. No, we are not doing that.”
  • On Eric Fisher: “I know he had some struggles late with pass pro. But he fights his ass to get back off the Achilles. He ends up playing pretty decent football without an offseason, without being here. He was really good in the run game. We are asking him to do different things from a pass protection standpoint that he really didn’t get a chance to work on. I think Fish will tell you that there are moments in pass pro he should be better. Fish has a lot of good football left.”
  • On rookie Mike Strachan not playing much in 2021: “Just wasn’t ready. Really talented guy. We have high hopes for him. I think the year off (didn’t play college football in 2020), small school. I think the one position that is hard when you come into the league is wideout because these corners are really good and then the defensive coordinators are really good at disguising the coverage. And in our offense the adjustments you have to make on the run, it was just all new to him. Like him. He has upside. We think he has a bright future.”
  • On the kicker situation with Rodrigo Blankenship and Michael Badgley (free agent): “Rod gets hurt pregame in Baltimore. He has a bad game because of it. It is what it is. He missed the extra point. He missed the game-winning field goal. He got his field goal blocked. We put him on IR. We bring (Michael) Badgley in. Badgley ended up having a pretty good season. I wouldn’t say elite, but it was good. We will work through it. We still think Rod has good upside and I like Badgley. It’s too early to say what exactly what we will do, but we like both of those guys.”

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