Colts' Chris Ballard 'Went into a Dark Place' After Season-Ending Loss to Jaguars

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVMay 6, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAR 01: Chris Ballard, general manager of the Indianapolis Colts speaks to reporters during the NFL Draft Combine at the Indiana Convention Center on March 1, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

It was all right there for the 2021 Indianapolis Colts.

After starting the season 0-3 and 3-5, they battled back into playoff position at 9-7 through the first 16 games. Even with a Week 17 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, all they needed to do was defeat the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars that have now picked No. 1 overall in each of the last two NFL drafts to clinch a spot in the postseason.

And they lost 26-11.

It was the type of loss that sticks with someone, as general manager Chris Ballard explained to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk: 

"I mean it stung, I'm not going to lie to you. 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."

Carson Wentz was the quarterback for the Colts that game and went 17-of-29 for 185 yards, one touchdown and one interception with a lost fumble. The touchdown came in garbage time and was frankly a reminder of what he didn't do when the season was on the line.

It may not be a coincidence, then, that Wentz is no longer the team's signal-caller. Instead, he is on the Washington Commanders, and 2016 MVP Matt Ryan is prepared to take over for Indianapolis.

He will be tasked with not only helping the franchise get over what was a stunning seventh consecutive road loss to the Jaguars but also returning to the upper echelon of the AFC.

Indianapolis went to the playoffs 12 times in a 13-year span from the 2002 season through the 2014 one and advanced to two Super Bowls during that span. It has just two playoff appearances and one playoff win in the seven seasons since with last year's failure arguably the most difficult one to accept.

There is reason for optimism with Ryan under center, Jonathan Taylor in the backfield and a strong defense, but it may take until that first win of the 2022 campaign to fully get over the latest Jaguars loss.