Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was irate after the season ended with his team missing the playoffs. Those bitter feelings still linger, and it’s clear from Irsay’s comments a change from quarterback Carson Wentz had to be made.
Speaking Tuesday from the NFL’s Annual League Meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, Irsay talked at length about the reasons behind trading the QB after one season.
“I think the worst thing you can do is have a mistake and try to keep living with it going forward,” Irsay said, via the Indy Star. “For us, it was something we had to move away from as a franchise. It was very obvious.”
Irsay noted the season-final loss to the three-win Jaguars as the last straw. The 26-11 defeat that kept the Colts out of the playoffs was a sad affair that wasn’t even as close as the final score.
“No disrespect to Jacksonville, but I mean, they’re the worst team in the league. You play well and hard for the first quarter or so, and they’re looking to go to their locker room and clean it out. I’ I’ve never seen anything like that in my life,” Irsay said. “You say, ‘My God, there’s something wrong here.’ It needs to be corrected. I think that we feel like we did.”
It’s clear that Irsay blamed Wentz for the team’s inability to rise to the occasion.
“Your guy’s gotta pick you up and carry you through Jacksonville,” Irsay said. “He has to do it. Not an option. Has to. No excuses, no explanations.”
Irsay’s dismal view of Wentz had less to do with the quarterback’s on-field struggles — though those certainly came to light down the stretch of the season in which the QB threw for under 230 yards in each of the final five games. For Irsay, Wentz lacked the leadership in the locker room the owner desires.
“You search for the right chemistry with any team,” Irsay said. “In football, it’s as important as any sport that there is. If that chemistry is off, if it isn’t there, it can be extremely detrimental and lower performance to a degree that is stunning and shocking.”
Added Irsay: “For us, the fit just wasn’t right. I don’t know why. A lot of times you don’t know why, but you know it isn’t, and it was important for us to move in in different direction.”
Both with actions and words, Irsay laid the blame for the disappointing season at Wentz’s feet. Significant changes were promised after the season imploded, but the only major change the Colts made was at quarterback. The coach and GM both returned.
In the end, Indy found a taker for Wentz and somehow convinced Washington to send a third-round pick and an extra conditional third-rounder back for a quarterback that the Colts seemed likely to cut.
“I think it was really quite remarkable and a great tribute to Chris, to generate strong trade interest and get the deal done with Washington,” Irsay said. “I don’t lose the fact that it was a pretty big blessing from the football gods, where we were and where we could be if things don’t materialize to that level. You end up cutting Carson, and we’d get nothing .”
Stumbling into Matt Ryan was a bonus for Irsay and the Colts. They’ve gone from a player whose locker room presence was suspect to one whose reputation among teammates is nearly spotless.