Chris Ballard gave his end-of-the-year press conference this morning, and naturally the questions and discussion spent a great deal of time focusing on the quarterback position. As a position that is make or break for organizations, that is no surprise, and it is one that Colts fans will look at closely in this offseason.
Ballard began by taking on a lot of the blame for the team’s struggles himself. He stated that any time you go 7-9 you can’t stick your head in the sand and pretend everything is fine. This team has no illusion that they are good enough, and that starts with evaluating how he did himself. In terms of what that means for the roster, he stated it plainly, “When times like this happen, change occurs.”
What exactly those changes are remain to be seen. He mentioned a full organizational evaluation process that will extend to the end of January, at which point they’ll no doubt make some changes, or at least make decisions about things that will change in 2020.
The first question he answered about the quarterback position was with regard to Andrew Luck’s potential return. He was direct and honest, but didn’t offer much in the way of hope for those holding out for it.
On that topic he said, “Andrew’s retired. Do I talk to Andrew, yes, I do. But Andrew’s retired. I think we all need to accept that.”
From there he jumped right into dealing with Jacoby Brissett as their quarterback. Ballard takes a more nuanced view than most on Brissett’s year, and pointed to a positive start for him while recognizing his struggles as the season went on.
“Look, Jacoby did some good things. I think as a whole, our passing game has to improve, unequivocally. You have to be able to throw the football to win in this league,” Ballard emphasized.
Many will hear those comments and despair that Ballard is disconnected from the reality of the situation, or isn’t seeing Brissett clearly. His further comments indicate that this is not truly the case. About what exactly Jacoby is or isn’t, he said, “The jury is still out.”
There is a reason that the Colts gave Brissett a short-term deal, and Ballard cited that fact specifically. He also blamed himself for not providing enough weapons around Brissett to handle the slew of injuries they faced.
When asked if Brissett is their starting quarterback, Ballard laughed, pointing out that at this time last year he thought Andrew Luck was their starting QB. He then said that, yes, Brissett was their starting QB.
Essentially his point here seemed to be that this far out from the start of the season there are far too many unknowns. There is no sense declaring Jacoby as “not the guy” at this stage, because they don’t have someone else in the wings currently. Fans who were hoping for something more than that are perhaps expecting something a bit unreasonable.
So what does this mean for this offseason in terms of competition for Brissett? Ballard said that the position is no different than any in how they view it,
He said, “Any time we have a chance to acquire a player that makes us better, at any position, we’re gonna do it.”
That seems like a throwaway line, but he isn’t making that with a straight face with Andrew Luck as the quarterback. If you are looking for a tell that Chris Ballard knows Jacoby isn’t it, he just gave as much of one as you’ll get right there.
As far as how the team evaluates the quarterback position in the draft, Ballard said it would be largely unchanged.
He said, “Every year we focus on them. We always go through the process of studying quarterbacks. One, you never know when you’ll be looking them in the face and need to take them. Two, you’ve got to play them.”
This is not entirely surprising. I would expect that the evaluation process remains largely the same. It is how the position is addressed that will likely change, and Ballard was not giving anything up there.
He was asked if he would be willing to give up picks to move up for a player, and he laughed, saying, “Well I’m not gonna give that away!”
What he stressed repeatedly in terms of drafting a quarterback, was that the Colts will absolutely not reach for a QB unless they are confident, saying, “One of the biggest mistakes teams make is they force it. You can’t force the evaluation of a QB. Then what you do is you talk yourself into a guy and you set your organization back 4-5 years.”
While this may not be the comment you want to hear, it should be encouraging. This team is not going to sell the farm for Mitchell Trubisky. If they make a move, it will be for a guy they like, and one they have a great plan for.
When pressed on whether he thought there were any “real” guys at QB in the 2020 draft class, Ballard laughed, then said, “There are guys we like.”
If you were hoping the Colts would show their hand as far as the QB position goes, this press conference likely disappointed. But realistically, it showed that Ballard is aware of the serious need for improvement.
They’ll attack both the QB position and the WR position hard this offseason to make it better, in whatever ways are practical. However, if they don’t like the quarterbacks that are available, they seem far happier to wait a year than to reach for one they aren’t all in on.
It shouldn’t be lost on us that he cited Lamar Jackson, who was taken with pick 32. He mentioned coaching to the player’s strengths and spoke about the traits necessary at that position. It is going to be a very interesting offseason to be a Colts fan.