The 2021 campaign ended disastrously for the Indianapolis Colts. Frank Reich's Colts entered Week 17 with an astounding 98% chance of qualifying for the postseason. A three-point Week 17 loss at the hands of the Las Vegas Raiders put the Colts in a precarious position while still being in control of their own destiny. The Colts simply had to march into TIAA Bank Field and defeat the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars in their regular-season finale. The end result? The Colts were thoroughly dominated by a Jaguars squad that clinched the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. The disappointing and unacceptable 26-11 loss paired with other results around the league shockingly eliminated the Colts from playoff contention. In what qualifies as one of the weirdest stats in today's NFL, the Colts have failed to win in Jacksonville since the 2014 season. Reich was a strong contender for Coach of the Year. Breakout running back Jonathan Taylor was a frontrunner for MVP. A league-leading seven Colts were named to the Pro Bowl, signaling that they were viewed as legitimate contenders to reach Super Bowl LVI. They'll now wonder how they embarrassed themselves in such a manner. There is plenty of blame to go around for Indianapolis' untimely demise, but one player in particular must shoulder the majority of the criticism. Starting quarterback Carson Wentz was abysmal throughout their final two soul-crushing losses, completing just 33-of-56 passing attempts (58% completion percentage) for an average of 166.5 yards per contest, two touchdowns, one interception, and one lost fumble. Wentz was sacked seven times across the two games and averaged a mind-bogglingly low 5.95 yards per passing attempt. Wentz's epic failures, when it mattered most, should force general manager Chris Ballard to acquire another quarterback this offseason either via trade or the draft in the interest of creating a true competition for the starting job ahead of the 2022 campaign. Acquiring Wentz in the offseason was always viewed as a sizable risk. Ballard sent a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional second-round pick—which later became a 2022 first-round pick—to Philadelphia in exchange for Wentz's "services." It was a risky reclamation project that ultimately blew up in their faces and left Indianapolis without a top-32 selection in April. Ballard and Reich hoped Wentz could build upon the momentum found during last season's 11-5, playoff-bound campaign, but it all ended so disappointingly with a mediocre 9-8, playoff-less finish. Releasing Wentz in the offseason isn't a particularly realistic option. It would cost the Colts $15 million in dead cap space. The Colts could look to trade Wentz, but finding a willing taker would likely prove difficult following his colossal end-of-the-season breakdown. Reich was seemingly and curiously non-committal when asked about Wentz's future in Indianapolis on Monday. “Next year's roster will be next year's roster," Reich said. "I’m not going to evaluate or talk about any—I don’t want to just open it up with one player and then start talking about all of them.” It’s hardly a stamp of approval. Ballard and Reich must carefully evaluate the state of their roster following Sunday's debacle. Improvements must be pursued aggressively and made. They should start at the quarterback position.
- Sep 18, 2023
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