Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard said the franchise was likely to move on from quarterback Carson Wentz regardless of how the 2021 NFL season played out.
The Colts' collapse at the end of last season to miss the playoffs was often cited as a reason for Wentz's trade to the Washington Commanders, but Ballard told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk on Wednesday the wheels were already in motion behind the scenes based on conversations with team owner Jim Irsay and head coach Frank Reich:
"I think we still would've had some hard discussions. 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 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. 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."
Ballard's comments are in line with details provided about Wentz's brief one-year tenure in Indianapolis following his trade to Washington in March.
Zak Keefer of The Athletic reported the Colts' problems with the former Philadelphia Eagles starter "stretched back to before the season began" and the team became frustrated with his "lack of leadership, a resistance to hard coaching and a reckless style of play."
For his part, Wentz said he wasn't expecting a trade despite "a year that had highs and lows, ups and downs."
"Definitely surprised," Wentz told reporters in March. "Any time you're in a new place, you want it to work out. You want to be there, you want to do the best you can for that team, that organization, that fanbase, and God willing it works out for a long time. It didn't."
Wentz didn't perform poorly from a statistical perspective with 27 touchdowns and just seven interceptions in 17 games with Indy, but the outside evaluation of his play wasn't as favorable with a mediocre 70.9 overall grade from Pro Football Focus.
As he heads to Washington for another fresh start, the Colts move forward with longtime Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan as their No. 1 QB following a separate March trade.
Ryan, a 14-year veteran, was voted the NFL's MVP in 2016 and put together another strong year in 2018, but his numbers have trended in the wrong direction since that point. He ranked 21st in ESPN's Total QBR last season.
That said, he's always been viewed as a consummate professional and the Colts will hope his numbers bounce back within an offense where he'll be asked to shoulder less of the burden thanks to the presence of running back Jonathan Taylor.
Meanwhile, Indianapolis will host Washington during the 2022 season, and the return of Wentz is going to add plenty of intrigue to that matchup.