Caleb Zuver is a third-year journalism news major and writes for the Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
“We cultivate winning cultures, we cultivate toughness, we live by integrity, and we don’t expect any more than we expect from ourselves.”
Colts Owner Jim Irsay’s message to the media after one of the most chaotic days in the franchise's rich history.
Let's forget Monday for a moment. This entire season has been a masterclass on dysfunction in the NFL. Let’s just take the last three weeks, to keep it concise.
It started with the benching of Matt Ryan Oct. 24th, a quarterback who the Colts had given up multiple draft picks to acquire.
A week later, they fired offensive coordinator Marcus Brady and traded Running Back Nyheim Hines.
And now this week. They fired Frank Reich, who finished with a 41-35-1 record, and two playoff appearances in just over four and a half seasons as Colts head coach.
Then, to top it off, Colts ring of honor member and former pro-bowl center Jeff Saturday is going to come out of the high school coaching ranks with no NFL coaching experience and be the interim coach for the rest of the year.
All of that led to Monday night’s press conference, where Irsay, General Manager Chris Ballard, and Saturday gathered to speak to reporters.
Let’s break down the quote Jim Irsay uttered in his opening statement, and let’s look at it through the lens of the Frank Reich and, more importantly, the Chris Ballard era.
“We cultivate winning cultures.”
The Indianapolis Colts are currently 3-5-1 and in a tailspin. In 2020, they made the playoffs. Last year, they missed it by one game. By the end of this year, they will be battling for the number one pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
They haven’t won a season-opening game since 2013. They haven’t won a division championship since 2014.
So obviously the winning culture has been waning for years now. So firing the coach makes sense.
The players need to take some of the blame too.
“We cultivate toughness,” Irsay said.
That used to be what this team was built on. Those behemoths up front carried them to the best rushing attack in the NFL and kept their quarterbacks clean in years like 2018 and 2020.
Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly and Braden Smith all remain from those golden years of the Ballard-Reich era. They’re the highest-paid offensive line in the league, but statistically the worst this year.
The left tackle and right guard position are a huge hole that has made it incredibly tough on everyone else up front, and the unit has been horrible all year.
So yeah. The players share the blame too.
“We live by integrity.”
The audacity to say these four words, while sitting next to the general manager who has been silent this whole season.
Let’s be fair though. Chris Ballard knows talent. He drafts extremely well. And develops talent at a high level.
But it’s been proven that just relying on this philosophy of building through the draft, while other teams snatch pro bowlers away in free agency, is flawed.
And through the quicksand that this season is quickly falling into, Ballard hasn’t spoken to the media once. But Monday night was the chance for tough questions to be asked.
At one point he was asked why this team looks as far away as they ever have and was posed the question “what is going on?”
He answered it by saying the defense is great and where it needs to be, but the offense still needs improvement. And added that while the media in Indy wanted him to draft a wide receiver all these years instead of an offensive line, the team all of a sudden has offensive line problems.
None of these answers actually answered the question, but they instead spotlighted Ballard deflecting, instead of taking a bigger responsibility for everything that is going on.
When Jim Irsay was asked questions, he brought up his resume, and how he’s never hired a losing coach.
Is that what integrity looks like? Hiding in the shadows for most of the year, making Frank Reich answer the tough questions week after week, firing him, finally showing your face, and spouting your resume to justify your decisions?
And through it all, Jeff Saturday is walking into a blitz that he couldn’t even block his way out of the back when he was in his prime.
Everything that took place on Monday is a microcosm of what this organization suffers from at this juncture: Scapegoating, knee-jerk reactions and deflecting blame.
If the people at the top of the Colts organization really expected more from themselves than anyone else, they would look in a mirror and be upfront and honest.
The Indianapolis Colts are a dysfunctional football team from top to bottom. Everyone is to blame.