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Colts GM Chris Ballard Discusses How the Franchise Will Handle the Starting QB Position this Offseason

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Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard held his end-of-season virtual press conference on Thursday afternoon and provided an update on the state of the franchise’s starting quarterback position just ahead of the offseason—and the overall evaluation process:


Regarding Veteran Soon-To-Be Free Agent Quarterback Philip Rivers’ Future

“Alright, so here’s the discussion I had with Philip. And I’ve had it with Frank (Reich). And I’m talking with Mr. Irsay this afternoon. Do I think Philip can still play? Absolutely, I do. Philip and I had an hour talk yesterday. He’s going to take some time, and we’re going to take some time, and we’ll meet in about a month and see which way we’re going to forward.”

“Look, Philip has to make a decision for sure if he wants to play, so we need to go through that process.”

“Do I think that Philip Rivers is a winning quarterback that we can win with and go to the Super Bowl with? Absolutely I do.”

“I didn’t commit either way. What I told Philip was ‘We need to both take a month and decide on what direction we want to go.’ This was this afternoon, and he said ‘Chris, well I’m not a one hundred percent sure (to return),’ and well you need to be one hundred percent sure. So we’ll go that way. Do we want Philip back? Yes. I’ll tell you that. Yes. But I told Philip, we’ve got to go through the process.”

“I’ve got to do my job. I need to go through the process because look, if this was a 30 year old Philip Rivers, or a 35 year old Philip Rivers, we’re not having this talk. But this is a 39 year old Philip Rivers, who might have one, maybe two years left.”

“So I told Philip. I was honest with him. I need to go through the process. Do we want you back? Yeah, but I need to go through the process. And he needs to go through the process with him, Tiffany, and the family—if he wants to go and play again.”


Indianapolis Colts Training Camp Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

On Backup QB Jacob Eason’s Growth and Development

“We liked him when we drafted him. We think he’s really talented. I mean it was such a different year not having, usually you get an offseason, so we’d get a rookie mini-camp. We’d get May. We’d get preseason games to really get to evaluate them in the bullets, and we’ve still got to go through that.”

“But let me tell you this about Jacob Eason, he kept his mouth shut, and he worked. He was in a great quarterback room with a lot of experience and got to take all of that in. I visited with him for about 30 minutes the other day, and I asked him, ‘How did you grow?’ ‘What did you learn?’ And you know he had a great answer, that just watching Philip, and Jacoby (Brissett), and Frank (Reich), and Nick (Sirianni), and Marcus (Brady) talk football, how they carried themselves, how they worked, how they were professionals. All of that was something he absorbed. He knows he’s got to go to work this offseason, and I think he will.”

“But Jacob’s very talented. He’s extremely talented. ... It doesn’t take long to see he’s talented, now we just have to see him play.”


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The Colts Will Perform their Due Diligence on All Available Quarterback Options—But Clearly Won’t Force the Issue in the Upcoming NFL Draft

“We scout every quarterback in the league. . . . We scout the entire league. Quarterback happens to be a position that we scout too, and we do it in the draft. We’ll figure it out.”

“The one position that you cannot, just all of you go back and look at first round quarterbacks drafted over the last 10 years. It is not an exact (science), everyone just thinks you take one and you’re going to fix the problem.”

“Look, taking one will get you all off my ass for a little bit, but the second that guy doesn’t play well, I’m going to be the first one run out of the building.”

“I promise you we get the importance of the quarterback position, but the difference between just taking one, and taking the right one, is the key in our minds.”

“We’ll explore it. We’ll examine it. We’ll go A to Z on it. I promise you, that position never leaves my mind. And it’s something that we want to get fixed, but there’s got to be a little timing and luck that come into play when you get it.”


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Whether There Will Be an Available Rookie Quarterback Worthy of the Colts #21 Overall Pick in the First Round

“I doubt it. It’s a good class, I’ll say that. It’s a good class. They all get pushed up now. We’re seeing it. They all get pushed up. So a little bit of luck has to come into play.”


Summary:

The overall impression is that the Colts aren’t fully committing to Rivers at this juncture of the offseason, as the team will go through a thorough evaluation process. As such, it looks like the Colts will at least consider the possibility of other potential veteran quarterback upgrades—should they realistically become available.

The team will also need to know that Rivers is 100% in for the 2021 season—if he even chooses to return at all, electing for retirement instead.

The team isn’t willing to pencil in Jacob Eason as the primary backup quarterback quite yet, as Ballard wants to see him meaningfully play and practice more. However, the talent is present, his growth and development is ongoing, and he’s making continued progress.

Not mentioned earlier: Jacoby Brissett is reportedly still in the mix—at least for the lead backup role again, but his free agent market could ultimately dictate any possible return to Indianapolis.

Lastly, it seems like a longshot that Ballard believes a worthy first round rookie quarterback will be available with the 21st overall pick. That likely means that the Colts will be forced to trade up to get any worthwhile rookie passer—which could be costly in draft capital, and Ballard admittedly ‘loves them picks.’