Chris BallardPhoto: Getty Images
During Monday’s Colts press conference announcing former All-Pro center Jeff Saturday as interim head coach, GM Chris Ballard expressed dissatisfaction with several parts of the team, particularly the offensive line.
I want to look at the first half of this statement.
“You guys beat me up for years for not drafting wideouts, and all of a sudden I look up and we’re underperforming on offense.” That’s what Ballard said.
Anyone who can put two and two together probably understands what Ballard is saying. The Colts, and Ballard in particular, were mocked for years for not taking wide receivers. They’ve been thin in that department since TY Hilton missed almost half of the 2019 season and never recovered. After much public outcry, the Colts used their first pick of the 2022 draft to take on Cincinnati wide receiver Alec Pierce. The Colts could have taken Abraham Lucas (I know they need more help on left tackle than right, but if they wanted to strengthen their offensive line that much he would have been a fair stretch) or Nicholas Petit-Frere (same situation), but instead they designed Pierce. Now that the Colts’ offensive line is underperforming, Ballard wishes he could reverse that selection.
While Ballard isn’t upset with how Pierce is playing, he believes the team would be better off than it is now if he called up an offensive lineman instead of Pierce. That may be true, but it wouldn’t solve the problems plaguing this team. No one in the 2022 draft would have saved this team from the treadmill of mediocrity they are currently riding. Why? Because 2022 is an amalgamation of several issues that had piled up since the end of the 2020 season, all thanks to Mr. Ballard.
G/O Media may receive a commission
Let’s talk about this offensive line. The left tackle position has been in shambles since 10-year-old vet Anthony Castonzo retired after an injury-ravaged 2020 season. Did the Colts design a tackle to replace him? no They passed on elite prospect Christian Darrisaw and took Kwity Paye with them. At this point, Julie’n Davenport, who was and still is considered one of the worst tackles in the NFL, was the only tackle on the Colts’ roster. Paye, meanwhile, was set to replace Denico Autry, who ran freehand earlier in the offseason. why did he run Because the Colts knocked him out. He even threw shade at the Colts for not giving him what he was worth after signing with division rivals Tennessee.
Paye was a good player, but if the Colts had teamed up and given Autry what he deserved, they could have called up Darrisaw. Also, Autry wouldn’t decimate his ailing offensive line twice a year like he does now. But that’s okay. The Colts got their spare left tackle left and signed former Kansas City No. 1 boss Eric Fisher to a one-year contract. That sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, Fisher just had an ACL injury, which is why he couldn’t play Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl. Essentially, the Colts failed to pay for one of their better pass rushers, tried to replace him in the draft, and thus neglected their offensive line backup. One of the worst tackles in the league was the Colts. That checks out.
Fisher wasn’t a bad run blocker last year. With passport protection, however, you noticed that he wasn’t who he used to be. He had lost a stride and given up seven sacks and 11 quarterback hits, both most of his career since 2014. His pressure rate was up over three percent since 2020 (8.37 percent in 2021; 4.84 percent in 2020 ). it was clear that he wasn’t her long-term solution. Lo and behold, he’s not on the team in 2022.
Meanwhile, Darrisaw kills it as a left tackle in Minnesota. In eight games, he allows a little more than one pressure per game. He currently has an 84.6 pass blocking grade from PFF. That’s absurd. The Colts could have had him, but the decision to let Autry go clouded their judgment. They needed to find a replacement pass rusher as soon as possible. So if anyone neglected the offensive line in Indy, it was Ballard ahead of the 2021 offseason.
Now Ballard wants to get on his high horse and say “Neener, neener! I have told you everything! I didn’t want to draft a wide receiver, but you all made me!” Sure, maybe the team would be better off with a rookie tackle than Alec Pierce, but let’s not pretend the moves leading to this point also all were committed by Ballard.
The sheer awfulness of these moves is only compounded when you realize the Colts neglected their left tackle position just before the trade for Carson Wentz. Wentz is under pressure as one of the worst quarterbacks in the league. One would think that the acquisition of a young, much-vaunted left tackle would be a little higher on the Colts’ to-do list with this decision.
Also, it’s not like Ballard was forced to draft numerous wideouts. He designed a…singular…in this latest draft. A wide receiver, but is that the decision that ruined it all? Man, what kind of reverse statement was Ballard trying to make?
Obviously, Ballard is just upset about the consequences of his own actions. Luckily, by just playing a little game of cause and effect, we can see right through its facade. The Colts are a bad team not because they drafted Alec Pierce, but because they made numerous terrible personnel decisions after the 2020 season. That’s the bottom line.